I’m not a Mom. Yet everyone in Jamaica thought I was. My friend and I learned that when standing next to each other, one might indeed think me a Mama. She is petite and sported a frilly bikini, I’m Amazonian and donned a Marilyn Monroe bustier one-piece.
“Is she your daughter?” men would ask. “No, we’re the same age!” we would exclaim, to their confused stares. But in Jamaican style, I decided to just go with it. To do what does not come naturally to this New Englander… relax. “Are you her Mom?” came the inevitable question from a flirtatious onlooker.
“Ya mon, not bad, huh?” I responded. [wink, hair toss]
We landed in Montego Bay (MoBay) and jetted to the Royal Decameron, an all-inclusive resort right on the water. This was an adjustment for two gals accustomed to a very different kind of vacation. I’ve fled from crazy packs of monkeys in Thailand, and my friend has narrowly escaped bullets, literally, in Central America.
We quickly adjusted to the beach lifestyle, but yearned to explore outside of the resort’s confines. The walk to downtown Montego Bay was scenic; we paralleled the water, passing several fruit stands and a quaint cemetary along the way.
Unlike the beach at the resort, the ocean we passed was free of motorboats advertising overpriced snorkel excursions. We found a cove of paradise, where locals escaped for a discreet rendezvous.
We knew we were approaching downtown Montego Bay as increasingly more young men approached us, each offering to “be our personal guide.” Their efforts were soon thwarted by Bernadette, a tourist official built like a linebacker. “Do you know these men?” she demanded, “These ones who are walking by you?”
“Uhhh, no we don’t,” I stammered, intimidated. She proceeded to lead us directly into the heart of downtown Montego Bay, where locals jumped out of her way to let us pass.
We were surprised when several bubbly teenage girls ran up to us and hugged Bernadette. “My niece and her friends,” Bernadette explained, a smile spreading across her strong face. We softened a little, pleased to see the softer side of our protector. After a warm exchange of pleasantries, Bernadette seemed to instinctively know the sight we wanted to see.
St. James Parish Church is one of the finer structures on the island, and we had the pleasure of watching local military practice drills on the lawn in front of the church. They had no problem breaking formation to come and take pictures with us. “Are you afraid of our guns?” we were asked.
“I’m not, are you?” came the response from my petite partner in crime. The soldiers were speechless.
One of the highlights of downtown was Sam Sharpe Square. Sam Sharpe was the leader of a peaceful slave rebellion in 1831, which turned into violent conflict after word of his planning spread through the region. More than 1000 slaves were killed. Sharpe lost his life as well, and was subsequently named a national hero.
There was no shortage of wooden carvings and island t-shirts at the colorful stores dotting Gloucester Ave.
Who knew that days spent snorkeling, playing tennis, and joining impromptu reggae dance sessions on the beach would make one tired? Fortunately, the savvy architects at the resort had planned ahead and created a hammock area. Just for us.
Before leaving the island, we wanted to explore not only on foot, but in a vehicle. Our kindly driver gave us a tour of Northwestern Jamaica, including the famous Dunn’s River Falls. The Falls are known for several films being shot there, including “Cocktail” and the James Bond film “Dr. No.” Typically, tourists ascend the Falls in large groups, while holding hands. However, I would recommend that you find the most unpopular day of the year to visit the Falls, and only go then.
We had a few laughs while climbing the falls, and our tour guides were very friendly. However, the experience was as packaged as it got, and would be more enjoyable in a very small group, or solo.
Natural wonders are of interest on any trip abroad. However, the mundane can be of equal interest. In Jamaica, there was a grittiness that was an effective counterbalance to the laid-back atmosphere.
But returning to the laid-back, for a moment. What vacation would be complete without swinging on a vine, Tarzan style?