March 29, 2013



The Jewel Resort, Runaway Bay Jamaica


St. Mary's Harbor

St. Mary’s Harbor

I joined a group of friends one evening, in the Christmas season, at a Caribbean restaurant in Southern Queens, New York.  The music system played such favorites as I saw Mommy kissing Dreadlocks, and the Little Reggae Drummer Boy.  I leaned over and mentioned, that we were the only members of the group without Jamaican roots.

“Speak for yourself,”  Eric said, he grew up in Jamaica.

I grew up on the Flushing side of Union Turnpike, so technically I was the only who had no ties to Jamaica..

Of course our Jamaica got cold in the winter, had a series of subway trains and bus terminals and yeah mon only got you strange stares from the recipient.


Noel Coward, Firelfly

Wednesday we flew from Jamaica, New York to Montego Bay, Jamaica.    We are staying in the Jewel Resort, and have a room with a private swimming pool, all the liquor and food we can consume and round the clock entertainment.  But today was overcast and when Eric asked the Dive Shop for the third time, if they anticipated running a dive trip, they suggested he consult with the excursion desk.

We booked a trip to Firefly, the mountain top home of Noel Coward.  We invited another couple, Dan and Kathleen, two college professors from Buffalo, and we hired a driver .  Bugsy arrived with a Toyota bus capable of carrying at least ten more people, but the excursion manager told us that Firefly was a beautiful trip but she hadn’t booked it years.  We had Bugsy and the bus to ourself for a price.

We drove, disconcertingly, on the let side of the rode.  The driver from the airport had told us that in Jamaica the right side was the wrong side, and the left side was the sui-side.  I dug out my seat

belt and buckled in.


We passed the ruins of an old sugar mill, too quickly to get a picture, and a bauxite plant as we made  our way toward Firefly.  Bugsy  gave us a short history of the Island, but the conversation in the back and the frequent ringing of cell phone kept it pretty short.


We past James Bond Beach and Ian Fleming airport, our companions recalled Ursula Andrews emerging from the Jamaican  sea-surface and an hour into the ride we reached the turn off for Firefly.

The road up the mountain competes with excursions in Belize and Mexico for our trip up the most unpaved road of our travels.  We passed a gasoline truck on the wrong side or sui-side,making me tighten my seat belt our driver insisted it was- No problem.  Somehow arrived safely at the top of the mountain where the museum guide met us. I am not sure if it was the harrowing road or the assumption that Jamaica tourist attraction require water sports and beaches, but we again had the place to ourselves.

Noel Coward bought the property in 1956 for 150 British pounds and designed Firefly himself. He worked with local carpenters who built him the mountain retreat where he spent three to six month a year until his death in 1973.  He died and is buried there.


The floors of Firefly

The house  today, is a museum run by the Jamaican government.  It remains as it did when Noel Coward lived there, decorated with his paintings and photos of famous who visited him there including the Queen Mother.  I did not take photos of painting or photographs, though no one was prohibiting he practice, so much faded I did not want to aid in the decline.


Inside Firefly


The house had a small kitchen with equipment that hardly looked dated to me but the guide assured us it was only for warming food,  all meals were prepared in town.  The second floor contained the famous room with a view.

Even on a gray and overcast it is to see why.

We wandered around the grounds which afforded one spectacular view after another.




The Living Room at Firefly




We pose in front of the view


Back down the road, we returned through the village of St. Ann, and got to see how people who don’t spend there time in Five Star Hotels, live. Earlier in the day Bugsy had us that there is no need for lawn mowers,  in Jamaica, people just sen the goat out.  When one of our traveling companions asked if they don’t disappear he told us, no they are trained to come home.  He explained when a kid is born she is sent out to graze with her mother and learns to go home at the end of day and so the tradition continues.  As we drove through the town we passed lines of goats going home.  It was 4 o’clock.  No human kids traipsing home in school uniforms, it was Good Friday.









We stopped in Scotches for traditional Jamaican food, (something- living in Queens, we are not unfamiliar with) before we returned to the hotel and the life of a pamper tourist


The Jerk Grilling





We spent the remainder of the vacation mostly at the resort.  I did realize at one point, that we spent almost the majority of our time lying around.  I reported that to the security guard at the front of the hotel, who looked quite jealous, but reported it was safe to walk either left or right.


A fishing device

The first day we went left.  We went down a little alley and there nestled between the over the top resorts meant for the tourist was, what was left of a Jamaican fishing village.P1010053

The end of March and the Easter weekend provided a spate of kite flyers. We watched a variety of  flying and almost flying objects, some made with pieces of garbage bags and some purchased from pop up street vendors.

The next day we went to the left.  The beach on the far side of the resort’s boundary was filled with people enjoying the Easter Sunday free-time.  The smell of barbecue emanated from many different steel drums.   A short walk past the beach we met a young man with a small propane tank carved out to work like the large fifty gallon drum barbecue only  in miniature .  When we passed him the first time, he said something I could not make out, so we gave him a dollar and moved on.  Then we passed him on the way back.  This time I got the gist of his communication.  He wanted enough money to buy meat to grill on his baby barbecue.

So we gave him four more dollars.  Hey, we’re venture capitalists.

We spent the rest of the vacation of the vacation enjoying the resortP1010085


The Silverbird steel drum band.



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