Published: August 8th 2010June 28th 2010
Mangoes in the garden
This is how they grow, or higher up.
After 9.5 hours travel from London, we arrived at Norman Manley airport, Kingston, Jamaica. We were picked up by my colleagues T & C, and got our first lessons in what Jamaica is like. A strange fruit was sold just outside the airport terminal, and that was a "jelly" coconut, a not yet fully matured coconut that you enjoy with a straw, and perhaps a knife, if you have somewhere to put the fruit's meat.
Some five minutes away from the airport in T's car, we had our second lesson: we got hit from behind! Luckily, us Swedes had our seat belts on
and it wasn't at any high speed, so no-one was hurt (but the car itself). Also, the guy who hit the car stayed at the scene, so we were soon at Rockfort Police Station! Not what we had expected from our first day, but nevertheless interesting (and we were very happy that no-one was hurt).
When the sun was setting, we realised our drink with my colleagues was not happening, so they kindly drove us to our home away from home, The Durham
, in north-east Kingston. This place turned out to be a very friendly and
This coconut palm also grows in the back yard of The Durham. Didn't try these out, though :-)
good place to stay, so we were happy to have chosen it for our first few days, to get rid of jet lag and get used to the heat and the Jamaican atmosphere. It also turned out to be very conveniently located, close to supermarkets, a pharmacy, restaurants and other good stuff - and in the back yard, there was a mango tree, so there were always fresh mangoes to eat!
On our first day, we ventured into Kingston to see what there was to see. Kingston is not a touristic city, there are comparatively few sites that are famous, so to see most of them was easily done in a day or two. Due to a combination of jet lag and that the sun rose at about 6 to 7 o'clock, we were early birds. Of course, we started walking
through the city - since we were on the right side of town anyway, close to some of the more interesting sites. But before anything else, we needed breakfast, so we headed for "Juici Patties" close by. This is a fast food chain that sells jamaican "patties" (sort of similar to Swedish piroger) and other such stuff. They
One of the few famous buildings in Kingston, a once private home from the 19th century. Nice park to relax in.
didn't have any veggie patties, so we took a "soy loaf" (bread with a spicy cooked piece of soy "meat" inside) and the national dish ackee and saltfish
. It tasted OK to be fast food, but the pineapple juice to drink was the best! Luckily, we would get better food later on.
Our first pit stop was Devon House
. It's a 19th century mansion, hence really a bit too modern for our taste
but nevertheless a piece of history. The reason for it to be famous is that it was built by (the money from) Jamaica's first black (of skin, that is, don't know about the money) millionaire, and it's the only one that is now open to the public. The guide that provided us with a tour inside wasn't the best we've heard (sounded like she was reading from a paper), but the interior was quite impressing, and the first of several similar houses that we would see later on during this trip. The four poster beds and the tea locker table were my immediate interests, whereas my beloved managed to get a picture of a painting of one of the persons he's been writing about in
Ok, when I get old and rich, I'll get a bed like this! This one stands in a room at Devon House, Kingston.
his thesis. So it was a rewarding tour after all, but if you're not into anything particularly historical, interior decorations, furniture or the like, it might be more useful to check out the small gift shops and ice cream or chocolate shops in the old stables. These turned out to be among the better ones we saw, actually.
Then we continued along the very hectic Hope Road, with all its traffic, horns sounding and heat. We wanted to see St. Andrew's Parish church, the oldest in Jamaica still standing, and the official church for the parish of St Andrew
here means something bigger than in some other countries, and it's a very important part of the Jamaican identity to tell you which parish one's from (also because some smaller town names exist in more parishes, so it's easier to know which town you're talking about if you mention the parish too). To me, this was an original piece of work, but then, I haven't been to many churches in the UK. I liked the dark but high ceiling and the plaques all over the walls in remembrance of people of past times. Most of them, if not all,
In previous times, tea was expensive, so they had to lock it up in special tea box tables like this. The lid is then closed and locked. And yes, I'd like on of these too, please.
white people, but still.
By now the heat was becoming a bit too much, so a tour into the closest "plaza" (= place where there are several shops at once, and within a building, like a mall or a Swedish "galleria") where we could find some fans, if not air conditioning, was compulsory. Once again, we hadn't learned how to find proper food, so we went for another fast food place, "Island Grill". Not particularly recommended, and once again, the drinks, Ginger beer
(stronger ginger taste than ginger ale) and Ting, Pepsi's grapefruit drink made in Jamaica, were the best parts of the meal. Here we tried our first "festivals"
. These are cornmeal and wheat flour-based fried sort of bread, that are served with several Jamaican dishes. I haven't been able to find out the origin of this wonderful name, but I can assure you that the Island Grill's festivals weren't festive in the least. Neither were their bammy
wedges (please note that the wikipedia article tells you that they are dripping with fat, but most ones we got were very dry). But this did not stop us, grandchildren of Viking raiders. We headed into the more central part
Since we learned during this trip that "roots is roots", this sculpture in the park around Devon House seemed appropriate. Don't ask why roots is roots, it just is. Yea mon.
of "New Kingston", or Uptown, to check out the Tourist Board's office (which was a disappointment, they had information, but nothing to take with us), and then Emancipation park
. The park has public restrooms! This isn't very common in Jamaica, so it might be worth noting if you're going there. This park is made as a monument to Emancipation day, Friday, 1 August, 1838, when the Emancipation Act was finally made law and all slaves were free. This was proclaimed in the then capital of Spanish Town, in the parish of St. Catherine, where we will go later. After some more walking, we came back to Hope Road and the Bob Marley museum
. We are not that much into Bob's music, so we decided that a drink at the museum café was good enough for us. Like many other countries where tourists generaly have a much higher income than the average native, Jamaica has a policy of sometimes adopting a differentiated rate for tourists than for residents. This is the case here, and from what we heard, if you are really into Bob Marley and his music, it might be worth the 20 USD it costs for non-residents.
St Andrew's parish church
The oldest church still standing in Jamaica, and a beautiful one, too. St Andrew is patron saint for the "parish" around Kingston.
following day, we made a suggestion to our Dutch friends at the Durham to join us in going downtown and take a look at Coronation market
(link goes to Lonely Planet review, I couldn't find any better website for the market). They provided us with a ride, since they were taking one for other errands anyway, so we got down to the market with a local (and I am so sorry I can't remember his name, but I'm really bad at names). This was Tuesday, and the business wasn't as hectic as during weekends, but it was interesting, and gave us a good idea about the markets around the country. This one is the country's largest, mind you. Then we waved "later" to our friends and wandered off east, to look into the old, colonial parts of Downtown Kingston. We found the National Library (of course), and my beloved got another Library card to his collection
and found a possibly interesting manuscript to dig into later. The National Library really had a special atmosphere to it: old (but not THAT old), dusty and a but crowded with stuff. No fancy chairs, nothing fancy whatsoever, really. Just books. More like
St Andrew's church, interior
I hadn't been inside a lot o churches built in this fashion, so to me, it seemed original with its dark wooden ceiling and otherwise white walls, of course filled with plaques remembering dead people.
libraries in the 1970:s, or perhaps some ten years before that.
Now we were close to the sea, so we headed down to the harbour. Here we got our first sugar cane! Apart from being pressed into sugar and rum, it's also sold cut up in small pieces, to chew on. And it's delicious! Not as sweet as you might expect, but really refreshing. A stroll along the water, pelican watching, and then we were fit to find the National Gallery
. After looking around on the wrong side, we finally got to it, the address os Ocean Boulevard, but the entrance is on Orange street. This was a pleasant surprise! They had a new exhibition with young talents, which was really rewarding. Art that also came with a message seems like a rare thing these days, but this was intruiging. One of the interesting ones was Marvin Bartley
, who seems to live a sort of double life as a photographer and artist - really weird photos on one hand, and proper modelling photos on the other. There were interesting artists in the permanent exhibitions, too, so ut's definitely worth a visit, more than the other sites in Kingston, if
Bob Marley museum
This is the other reason a lot of people go to Kingston. We didn't go into the museum, since we hadn't heard any good reviews and it was expensive (20 US dollars!), but we did take a fruit punch in their cafÃ©!
we have a say.
Then it was time for the National Heroes' Park, where the national hero(ine)s of Jamaica are buried. There's obviously someone missing from the bunch here, but evidentlly, the Marley family didn't want their Robert buried there, but I haven't been able to figure ou the background. We took a closer look at the compulsory father
Manley monuments, and Nanny's of the Maroon
monument, but totally missed that Louise Bennett
was also buried there. Ah well, her memory lives better in her books
. Well worth a visit, if you're not already dead tired, because the park is quite large. We were very tired after this, so we decided to try out a city bus. It turns out that the Kingston city buses are being replaced at the moment, so several of them are brand new, with air conditioning and really comfortable. There was a bus from Orange street to the Liguanea plaza, close to our place, so we paid the 90 Jamaican dollars and got onboard. Lovely AC
And we started to get the hang of Jamaica: at the buses, the driver plays music, whatever he feels like (I assume), so everyone can hear. Not
A rather typical street in the old centre of Kingston, now known as Downtown. Several houses from the colonial era still stand, but might be hard to recognise.
just by himself, but in all loudspeakers. And if you want to sing along, just go ahead. That gives quite a nice atmosphere, albeit not Swedish in the least …
We now felt that we had deserved a good dinner, so we headed out for Starapples
. A good choice, with good food, very nice staff, very well (if not even TOO well) functioning AC, and … beetroot juice. I had to try it. Beetroots with cane sugar, lime and water. Hrm. Well. It was absolutely drinkable, but nothing I'd buy again. The food was very good, though. Then, it was time to sleep, since we were moving out the next day.
To be continued … when I get the time!
There are more photos below