Saturday, February 2, 2013

Falmouth, Jamaica

One of Jamaica's oldest towns, Falmouth, founded in 1769, is today a place of contrasts. Old and broken-down: cleaned-up and new. One of the first places with town water, earlier than New York: bustling traffic with nowhere to park: quiet streets, with only sleeping dogs for company. Hundreds of American tourists on one short street: a beach with fishing boats and a few ocean-weathered men.

Huge cruise ships dock very close to the town's renovated Water Square, and for several hours the streets are thronged with white-or-sunburned tourists, and local street vendors, selling all kinds of souvenirs: brightly-coloured clothing, carved wooden fish and animals, rasta beads, Usain Bolt t-shirts. The street from the dock to the centre is massed with people. Tourist police in white pith hats ask if you're going to the ship, or not. The cruise ships tower over the town, like floating city blocks, mobile skyscrapers, huge. I have to wonder what it is like, to rely on an influx of strange people, several days a week, for income. The cruise ships bring revenue, and are helping the town financially; but how strange it must be, to have your home streets full of strangers for a few hours, a few days a week, and then go back to your own private lives.

But within a couple of short blocks, the boat people seem to have disappeared: whisked away by bus, or taxi, to some tourist destination, busily spending their on-shore seven-or-so hours rafting, or snorkling, or sitting on a beach somewhere else?

Water Square is renovated and restful and clean and beautiful. We stopped at a tiny restaurant for coffee. Jade had a sandwich, and we both sampled Otaheit Apple. It's delicious

The town is being restored. The cruise dock is very recent: money from the cruise company is helping rebuild. "Three years ago it was a ghost town... now it's a police state!", we heard, told with a grin, and referring only to the new parking laws that mandate one-way streets and the purchase of a ticket when you stop your car.
We wandered away from the centre, checking out the Wednesday flea market, and walking through streets of Georgian-style homes and simple bungalows, some restored, some awaiting help. Dogs lay in the shade, sleeping through the midday. Away from the tourist streets, the town is quiet, sleepy, the homes small and reserved, pastel in the sun. Ackee fruit ripen on the trees. Bouganvillea overflows garden fences.

At the beach, fishing boats lay on the sand, and the pile of conch shells was enormous. A brown pelican perched on a boat; a family of white egrets stalked the beach. The sea was, as usual, limpid blue. Boys played football close by the beach at lunchtime.

Back in the town, we sat street-side at a restaurant, watching the world go by. Young men sat closest to the street, taking advantage of wireless for laptop and phone. A few cruise people ate inside, in the dark.

It's hot. People rest in the shade, rooflines extended to give shelter, narrow dark alleys. I bought a bag of jerk chicken necks from a man with an oil-drum barbeque. They were good. A man gave Jade a gap-toothed grin and a love-sign. My friend with the orange T-shirt and a tennis racquet kept appearing, cheerful greetings. Schoolgirls and boys walk past in uniform. Little girls with braids and beads in their hair. People who smile, and say hello.

I liked Falmouth, very much.

More photos:

No comments:

Post a Comment