2011 Carnival – Trinidad and Tobago – Pictures

Here are my favorite pictures from Carnival 2011 in Trinidad and Tobago

2011 Carnival – Trinidad and Tobago

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2011 Carnival – Trinidad and Tobago – Play ‘Mas

Carnival Sunday – Dimanche Gras

The first of the final three days of carnival! We’re going to the Savannah again tonight – for the finals of the King and Queen of Carnival and the Calypso Monarch. My friends Jennie and Pam offer me a crash course on the history of the monarch competitions.

Jennie and Pam

Calypsonian Growling Tiger won the first monarch competition in 1939 with his commentary on The Labour Situation in Trinidad and Tobago. Since then, with the exception of the war years and two years in the 1950’s, there has been a competition annually. Calypso, also called kaiso from one of the Nigerian languages brought by the enslaved Africans, presents social and political commentary often using double entendre. Only two calypsonians – Chalkdust and Sparrow – have won eight competitions. The Mighty Duke won all of his four titles consecutively between 1968 and 1971. The first female monarch (which forced the name change from Calypso King to Calypso Monarch) was Calypso Rose in 1978. Twenty-one years later, in 1999, Singing Sandra, the first of the next three women monarchs won. Karene Asche was crowned Calypso Monarch at this Dimanche Gras following Dennyse Plummer who won in 2001.

Carnival is the textbook for learning aboout the culture of T & T. Like the other island nations in the Caribbean there is a colonial past that includes the French, British, and Spanish. There is also the shared history of extinct native Amerindians, enslaved Africans, indentured workers from India and China, as well as immigrants from Syria, Lebanon and other nations. This amalgam of cultures is reflected in the carnival activities with the Chutney Soca Monarch – featuring songs of East Indian origin; Groovy Soca Monarch that focuses on the melody and Power Soca Monarch that emphasizes the lyrics.

Machel Montano wins the 2011 Power Soca Monarch competition with Advantage

Kes The Band wins the 2011 Groovy Soca Monarch competition with Wotless

Carnival Monday – J’ouvert Morning

Dimanche Gras goes on for hours and hours. As the audience spills out of the Grandstand and the Northstand there is some question about why Benjai, whose two songs were popular with the crowd, placed 10th among the ten contestants.

Once the concensus was reached that his songs were more soca than calypso, and that each has only one stanza, the focus shifted to where we would jump j’ouvert. From the french, the term means daybreak. Masqueraders take on the darker elements of the culture and history for this parade through the streets of Port-of-Spain.

The Midnight Robber uses poetry rather than song for political commentary

 Some people will say they’re playing “dirty mas'” as bodies are covered with mud, chocolate, paint, . . .  anything messy. So I was prepared for the hugs that ensured that my top and arms would no longer remain spotless.

Playing mud mas on jouvert morning

 The morning ends with breakfast of accra (codfish fritters), buljoh (shredded saltfish with peppers, spices, and olive oil), coconut sweet bread (thanks Miss Betty!), fried shark, and bakes, and . . .

In a normal situation, breakfast signals the beginning of the day after a night of rest. This time however, breakfast on j’ouvert morning means you’ve partied all night and must eat before going home to sleep for an hour or two then come back out to “chip” with the bands, with or without costume. Remember now, that a band is not a collection of musicians playing instruments. A band is a grouping of masqueraders coming together around a theme. Bands can be of any size, with several sections reflecting differing aspects of the theme. “Chipping” is an energy conserving way of moving for hours with the music.

Chipping in the band

And chipping is distinctly different than wining.

Wining in the band

 

Carnival Tuesday – Playing “pretty mas'”

For most people, the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday is the day most associated with carnival. It is the day for the Parade of the Bands. The day that the judging takes place to select the Band of the Year – won by Macfarlane’s band this year. Another competition is going on as each band crosses the stage at the Savannah. As the masqueraders in the band perform their way across the stage, the truck with the music drives alongside the stage playing a song. The song that is played most frequently as bands cross the stage willbe dubbed Road March song of the year. This year it is Machel’s Advantage, also the winner of the Power Soca.

Another popular soca was Town Ting

It is six days of non-stop partying!

Play mas' . . . play mas'

This party can't done!

Check out the National Carnival Commission of Trinidad and Tobago’s website and watch that countdown to next year’s carnival February 20-21, 2012.

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2011 Carnival Trinidad – Carnival Saturday

Kiddies Carnival is a must on Carnival Saturday. The bands (a group of masqueraders with music provided by massive sound systems on equally massive flatbed trucks) wend through the streets of Port of Spain hitting several competition venues  including Independence Square, Ariapita Avenue,Victoria Square, on the way to cross the final judging stage in front of the Grand Stand at the Savannah. Bands compete by age groupings and by gender as well as in general categories. Having fun, being creative, and demonstrating the dexterity of these young stilt walkers is what makes the Kiddies Carnival such a unique experience.

From Kiddies Carnival its back to the Savannah after a lime (think of a gathering of friends and drinking buddies exchanging jokes and scintilating conversation) for Panorama.

Panorama

Steelpan and Trinidad are synonymous. So too is calypso with Trinidad and Tobago. However while steelbands might be used in some calypso songs, they are not always the instruments providing the musical accompaniment. Panorama on Carnival Saturday is the culmination of weeks of competition where small (no more than 50 players), medium (no more than 75 players) , and large bands  (no more than 100players) demonstrate musicianship, presentation, and interpretation of other music forms. With fascination I watch the dexterity needed to maneuver groups of drums on motorized dollies on and off the stage. Each band has an identifying banner that also states the name of the song to be performed. Sounds of the song to  be played by the upcoming band fills the intervals between breakdown and setup as the deejay keeeps the audience jumping. Come by 6:30p to secure a good viewing seat in the Grandstand. Buy bake and shark or doubles from the food vendors, or bring your necessary vitals in your own coolers. Whatever the choice be prepared to stay for hours and hours as 10 bands in each category will get the results close to dawn of the next day, Sunday.

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2011 Carnival – Trinidad and Tobago – Fantastic Friday

Friday night of Carnival Week is dedicated to soca and the crowning of the Soca Monarch. There is Groovy Soca that requires the use of props and other voices, then there is Power Soca that can be solo performances. Winners were Kres in the Groovy Soca and Machel in the Power Soca. Cash prizes of $500,000 TT and $2 million respectively were awarded.

My Fantastic Friday adventure involved a Maxi Taxi and a missed stop. In an attempt to get from the National Library and Information Services downtown to meet my host on the University of West Indies, St. Augustine campus.

The directions given were explicit:
1. Go to the bus station
2. Take the Maxi Taxi (the difference between the Maxi Taxi and the bus is that there is no standing on the Maxi. Once all seats are filled no other passengers are allowed on. For this comfort the fare is $6.00, $2.00 more than the bus.
3. Sit directly behind the driver.
4. Ask the driver to put me off at the second set of gates on the campus.

And I followed all, except #4. I asked the driver IF he stopped at the campus.

I settled in, enjoying the scenery and all the community names reflecting the Amerindian heritage – Arouca, Chaguanas, Curepe. So 50 minutes later I’m noticing that the landscape is changing from commercial and urban to farmlands and rural.

I leaned over the driver’s seat, tapped him on his shoulder and asked how much further to the campus. To my dismay he said that we had passed UWI about 20 minutes ago. In fact we were now in Arima, the end of the line.

In true Trini style he said “Why you didn’t tell me you didn’t know where you going?” And then offered to let me off at the correct stop on the way back.

Sure enough 20 minutes later, I arrived safely in St. Augustines. Yes, if any one asks, I’ve been to Arima. Have you?

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2011 Carnival – Trinidad and Tobago – Terrific Thursday

Calyspo at carnival was a man’s world. In fact there was the Road March King, the Soca King, the (you name it) king . . .  until 1977 when Calpyso Rose, the first woman to win a title in any of the carnival competitions. From that year forward the winner’s title became “Monarch”.  At 71 years old, Calypso Rose, born McArtha Linda Sandy-Lewis, in Tobago is recognized as the trail blazer for women in the calypso and soca worlds. She was the guest of honor Kaiso-rama at the Savannah on Carnival thursday. Carnival Thursday, Terrific Thursday, is the night of competitions in several areas of calypso and soca.

Here are some interesting points to note: 

First, a definition. Kaiso is another term for calypso.

Second, the categories of competition provide an education about life in Trinidad that would be hard pressed to come by so succintly in any other forum. There was the ex-tempo calypso where the contenders had to select a topic, while on the stage, and create a four-stanza commentary immediately. The fun part was during the semi-finals and finals where the competition was a “debate” in song between pairs. Yes, there were times when a “guide” was needed for the non-Trinbagonians to fully understand the satire and nuances, but the alacrity, wordsmithing, phrasing, and command of the stage was amazing! Indeed, I felt as if I was at the University of Queens Park Oval on the Savannah while in the grandstand.

The categories included political commentary, social commentary, and most humorous! Information on all the finalists for every category of competition will be available from the National Library and Information System at the end of the Carnival season.

Of course it would be criminal of me not to mention that there is a Calypso and Carnival Competition for the incarcerated. Yes, the female inmates had their own carnival with competitions in all categories -for trophies and prizes. Only in T & T!

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2011 Carnival – Trinidad and Tobago – What do you know?

Every year the crowds get larger and larger. Nationals living in other countries, return home. Alums from the university come back. Tourists flock for this once in a year event. Yes, it is carnival time in Trinidad and Tobago! No, it is not the only place in the world where everyone attempts to get one last chance to dance and prance before the piety of Ash Wednesday and the subsequent 40 days of self-denial. It is however, the best carnival bar none!

 

For many, carnival is steel pan music, masqueraders, shark and bake on Carnival Tuesday at the Savannah in Port-of-Spain, then Maracas Bay beach on Ash Wednesday. Others, more in the know, consider carnival to be six days beginning the Thursday immediately preceding Ash Wednesday. However, usually it is only the participants and native Trinidadians and Tobagonians who really know that the staging begins immediately after Christmas with  the multi-level of competitions, at the junior and adult levels, leading up to the selection of the National band, King, Queen, Monarchs, and song of the year on Carnival Tuesday.

Remember also that these events are part of the festivities accessible to residents and visitors alike in more than 55 locations across the twin islands of Trinidad and Tobago managed and coordinated by the National Carnival Commission. It is important to note also that although the steel pan as a musical instrument was created in Trinidad and Tobago, it is now played internationally, so development and promotion of all the pan players is organized and supported by Pan Trinbago. Pan Trinbago began in the 1950s as a trade union organizing in the interests of the makers and players of the steel pan. In 1986, the government saw its work as much more than labor related and through an act of Parliament, it was chartered as an internationally recognized cultural organization.

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Jamaica – Once you go you know

Boston Bay

Pimiento Tree - wood and berries used in jerk cooking

You are on the run, in the midst of guerilla warfare, centuries before granola bars and beef jerky, up in the heavily wooded mountains, pimiento groves mostly, and, the pigs are plentiful. You can cook them, but caution has to be taken to be sure no fires or smoke is seen. Aha, you dig a huge hole in the ground, line it with the pimiento wood then think about how to make this pork tasty. The paste of pulverized onions, herbs, bird and scotch bonnet peppers that all grow wild in the low bushes is poked into holes in the meat before placing it on the low, slow burning wood fire that has to be hidden, so you think of closing up this hole with the scooped out dirt – but first the meat is protected with leaves from the branches of the pimiento trees. The meal is now a spiced meat cooked over smoldering wood deeply infused with the pimiento. That’s right, you are a Maroon, so named because you are a self-liberating enslaved African from one of the many plantations in Jamaica, and you have created jerk pork! And, you are from Charles Town, in that section of the Blue Mountains in the parish of Portland, a descendant of Nanny, the only female listed among Jamaica’s historical figures.

Jamaican $500 honors Nanny, the only female and only Maroon, among the seven National Heroes.

Portland is on the northeasterly tip of the island, made popular to the world by luminaries like Ian Fleming, Errol Flynn and Noel Coward who all owned homes and produced significant works there, and by Margaret Cezair-Thompson who fictionalized their life stories in The Pirate’s Daughter. While the island exploits of these and other luminaries make tantalizing reading the experiences of this ordinary traveler is all about sensory awakenings through culinary delights and understanding the cultural context from which they emerge. And, it is a road trip, because, as of now, the only ports of entry by plane are Montego Bay and Kingston.  The road trip from Montego Bay to Port Antonio, the capital city of Portland, a few miles from Charles Town, is all along the beautiful coastline, and a five-hour journey. The two-hour ride from Kingston offers a mixture of mountains, rivers, and coastline. Let’s enter in Kingston and leave through Montego Bay. So, it’s the two hour ride first.

Annotto Bay, St. Mary, is a seaside town - once bustling wharf for banana and sugarcane export - about a 1 hour drive from Port Antonio.

Most airlines are not offering meals these days so with the shortest flight to Kingston being one hour and forty-five minutes from Miami, it is expected that you’ll arrive famished, no matter your port of embarkation.  Depending on the time your plane touches down and how long it takes you to traverse that long walk to the immigration and custom officers, then collect luggage you might be ready for breakfast – a full Jamaican breakfast requiring time to savor several dishes solo or in combination and sip freshly ground and brewed Blue Mountain Coffee or hot chocolate tea (Did you know that Jamaicans append the word “tea” to any and every hot beverage, or that hot chocolate is not from the instant powdery stuff but home-made from the locally grown and prepared cacao seeds?); lunch of “fast food jerk something” or a delectable uncooked concoction;  dinner that reminds you to live local but eat global assuring a mélange of local products used for exotic interpretations of global cuisines; and the heady infusion of fruits into a non-typical “I Scream” dessert . Your stop for breakfast and most meals in Kingston will probably be in New Kingston, the “new” commercial center about 25 minutes from the airport in one direction, and from downtown Kingston home of the seventh largest natural harbor in the world in another direction, and 20 minutes from the foot of the Blue Mountain range gateway to the northeastern parishes of St. Thomas, St. Mary, and Portland.

The Blue Mountains - longest mountain range in Jamaica, peaking at 7,400 feet above sea level

With jerk being the most popular known preparation of Jamaican food, and its close association with pork and chicken, vegetarians might feel left out – but that’s not necessarily so. Rastafarians, a significant segment of Jamaica’s citizens, and largely among the entertainers, eat only Ital food, freshly cooked, with no meat, so there will always be vegetarian options   So, where do you eat? Both the Jamaica Pegasus, around for more than 37 years, and the Wyndham Kingston, formerly the Hilton Hotel, offer full Jamaican breakfast buffets – ackee and salted codfish, steamed callaloo, escoveitch fish, fried dumplings/johnny cakes, roasted breadfruit, fried sweet plaintains, boiled yellow yams, sautéed kidneys and or liver, and run down with herring or mackerel, amid a cornucopia of fresh local fruit and juices from local fruits.

Typical Jamaican breakfast

Fast food lunch of festival (comparable to hush puppies) and patties – beef, chicken, shrimp, lobster, soy, vegetable, ackee; soup – fish, beef, vegetable; are available at Island Grill and Juici Patties – chains/franchisees found all over the island. For those not eating meat, the choices are plenty at all of these establishments; however, there is a place, a unique place, Mi Hungry, in the Courtyard, a food court of upscale restaurants with no mall in sight, offering sun-cooked cuisine and organic, natural juices. Have you thought of making fruit juices where the only liquids are freshly squeezed cane juice (low glycemic index and helps fight cancers) or fresh coconut juice (promotes proper digestion)? The foods, like pizzas and pies, have crusts made solely from nuts and seeds then layered up with fresh fruits, of varying textures, showering the tongue with unexpected and unusually tasty bursts of flavor. 

June Plums - with its prickly seeds, are used by Chef Iwara to make a healthy, delicious drink

The Courtyard

Chef Iwara - owner, Mi Hungry, raw food restaurant, The Courtyard,Kingston

Dinner often begins with soups such as gungo/pigeon peas served full-bodied, non-pureed, allowing each ingredient to be savored for its own texture and taste, created by chef Richie Richards, at the Gallery Café, in New Kingston’s newest hotel, The Spanish Court, designed by a local architect and adorned with wood of the native Blue Mahoe.

Richie Richards, chef, Spanish Court Hotel was trained in Jamaica at HEART - Jamaica's National Training Agency for the hotel industry.

Three miles away, a smooth cream of pumpkin soup hinting at a relationship with the scotch bonnet pepper is served at the Grogge Shoppe, Devon House, mansion of Jamaica’s first black millionaire, George Stiebel, built in the late 19th century, restored in 1968, and designated a national monument in 1990. Shopping at the boutique establishments is another draw, but most visitors and local residents alike, will succumb to the compulsion to leave home, come by after the movies, at the end of the work day, or after skipping dessert where dinner was eaten for an “I Scream” in guava, mango, Guinness stout, or other sweet ending on a cone or in a cup. Sweet plantain filled tarts or light airy coconut macaroons prepared to order by My Elite Grocer owned by foodie blogger Gale Peart, are for those with caloric allowances beyond a cone and double scoops of ice-cream.

Plantain tarts and coconut macaroons beautifully gift-boxed from Gale Peart's My Elite Grocer

So, well-fed and on the way to Portland, there is a desire for that beverage often consumed multiple times each day, seeking that perfectly roasted bean, brewed just so – coffee, Blue Mountain coffee! A tour of the Craighton Coffee Estate, its 200 year old mansion loaded with antique furnishings of different periods, is a first stop in the mountains.

Craighton Coffee Estate, Irish Town, St. Andrew

The Master Coffee Roaster, 14 years on the job, explains the eight types of roasts that unfortunately very few coffee drinkers have taste buds attuned enough for complete discernment.  Be aware, he warned, that all coffee grown in Jamaica is not Blue Mountain Coffee. That distinction goes only to those beans, each ripe one harvested individually, primarily by the hands of women, grown in volcanic soil at a minimum of 2,000 feet above sea level on a 4o mile wide mountain range, and requiring 9-11 months for full maturity. In fact, like fine wine, Jamaica’s green coffee is shipped in oak cask for preservation of the characteristics and flavor – the only coffee in the world to be shipped that way.

After careful roasting at closely monitored temperatures, the coffee beans are released for cooling.

With roasting complete, the beans are ground and weighed by the Master Roaster

With stops like these the pre-determined two hour ride expands into a unique gastronomical adventure. Back on the bus, speeding past dense vegetation, riding perilously close to sheer drops minus guard rails, attention turns to identifying the various items used in preparing several dishes previously enjoyed and items never seen before. Opportunities for up close touching come as independent vendors erect stalls along the side of the road displaying fruits, vegetables, spices, and tubers for sale.

Jackfruit - flesh as well as seeds (after boiling) are edidble

Papaya tree laden with fruit

Roadside vendor stall

And, there is street food purchased from the corner shops and food stands and small Mom and Pop establishments.

Breakfast Menu

Is there really a difference between KFC (Kentucky Fried Chicken) and OFC (Oriental Fried Chicken)?

OFC - definitely not KFC

Are there additional nutritional benefits to vegetarian red peas soup when raw peanuts are cooked in?

Lunch Choices at the Soup Man, Junction, St. Mary

Fish and seafood are fresh caught, fruit and vegetables are harvested from local gardens or back yards – so all organic. Meals are cooked daily, as leftovers are not favorites in the Jamaican household, in the vernacular of the Rastafarians “no food broug ht forward” from the previous day.

Freshly caught crab - from the Caribbean Sea

From the sea directly into your lobster pot


Food security for the 2.8 million citizens, with a per capita income of US $4,500.00, is very high on the agenda of the Jamaican government so there are several programs, in partnership with local and international organizations as well as institutions of higher education to improve the standard of living by improving production of, and marketing strategies for agricultural products, lowering dependency on the importation of basic items like rice and cereals, and increasing versatile usage of current diet staples like the breadfruit, which hails from the Malay Archipelago and was brought to the island by Captain Bligh between 1780 and 1786 as food for the slaves.

Breadfruit on the tree

The road wends along the Hope River, gushing in some places, trickling in others, before following the coastline into Boston Bay tightly packed with jerk stops, about 5 minutes from the center of Port Antonio.

Hope River - one source of water for Kingston and St. Andrew

Shaggys Jerk Shop - owned and operated by a third generation Maroon

Shaggys Jerk Stop, run by the grandson of the founder, a Maroon, uses both the wood and leaves of the pimiento tree, and a secret jerk sauce mixture to prepare jerk pork, chicken, fish, and l obster, served with homemade juices – pineapple, and june plum – spiced with ginger.

Shaggys Jerk Lobster

The jerk stop is a communal spot, mostly for the men, so the slapping of domino pieces provides a backdrop to the din of conversations among old friends catching up. 

Dominoes at Shaggys - It's a Jamaican thing!

Friends forever - hanging out at Shaggys

Breathtaking views of Ian Fleming’s Navy Island and the calm, emerald green waters of the sea – the Caribbean Sea, one of the world’s largest salt water seas, lapping the shores of 22 islands, Cuba, Hispaniola (home to the Dominican Republic and Haiti), Jamaica, and Puerto Rico being the largest four – elicits oohs and aahs. Climbing the hill, on the way to the final meal of the day, a cooking demonstration/food preparation under the guidance of chef, artist, and co-owner of Mockingbird Hill, Barbara Walker evokes questions of the “what” and the “how” of the meal.

Looking out onto Navy Island, once owned by Ian Fleming, from Mockingbird Hill

Arriving in time for afternoon tea, a daily ritual of the hotel confuses those ignorant of the English tradition adhered to no matter what the outside thermometer reads. It is welcomed, paired with another use of the herring, in a pickled pate spread thin on wafers topped with sliced tomato, grown less than 65 miles away. Started 18 years ago, with co-owner Shireen Aga, Mockingbird Hill, a 10 room luxury hotel nestled in 6 acres of terraced gardens, was voted Best Accommodations for the Environment at the 2010 Virgin Holidays Responsible Tourism Awards; is solar powered; is a member of the International Slow Food Movement committed to a sustainable community; develops local talent and observes meatless Mondays. Did you know that nearly 20% of man-made gas emissions come from the meat industry?

Solar Panels - Mockingbird Hill Hotel, Port Antonio, Portland

Never served is a meal or drink using ingredients not indigenous to Jamaica, out of season, or having to travel more than 100 miles. That’s right, lobster is not served from the beginning of April to the end of June. Being off the beaten path, visitors are offered pampering massages; a homemade or locally produced jam/jelly/sauce each night of the stay; interactions with nature and local customs through a series of hikes; bird-watching; exploration of nearby pristine falls and/or rafting on the Rio Grande, one of Jamaica’s largest rivers, sans the bananas the rafts formerly transported. A focal element of the Mockingbird Hill experience is the New Jamaica cuisine, the novel utilization of local ingredients to create artisanal meals, in an atmosphere of “we’re home in our own kitchen” sipping on a Red Stripe beer or a Ting, in the green glass, not plastic, bottle, as guests cook and chat with each other, kitchen staff, and owners. The secrets of jerk sauce revealed!

All ready to make Jamaican Jerk Sauce

Fresh snapper marinated in jerk sauce, wrapped in banana leaves and grilled! Who would have thought that whole pimiento seeds could be placed in a pepper mill and ground just like whole peppercorns? Who knew that one could make run down, delicious run down without any mackerel or red herring? Vegetarians are ecstatic! Who knew that the secret to a healthy festival is to eliminate the sugar commonly used by others and substitute ground pimiento instead? And, bread pudding with pineapple and white rum? Only a dash, right? Yum!

Fresh snapper to be marinated in jerk sauce and then wrapped in a banana leaf for grilling. Yummy!

All satiated, the drive back down the hill offers no views of the sea, just the twinkling of stars in the darkened sky, no street lights, just the light of the silvery moon, a full moon. It’s a short drive to the place of rest, Goblin Hill, a complex of 28 one- and two-bedroom villas. Morning views show San San Beach within walking distance,aquamarine waters beckoning snorkelers, Princess Nina’s island – received as a wedding gift from her husband, hammocks, and lookout points with peeks into the bottomless Blue Lagoon, location site of the Brooke Shields’ film of the same name. A personal chef for each villa, individualized menu planning daily, shopping for the ingredients together, enjoyed on patios opening onto wide expanses of lawns. A perfect setting for a breakfast integrating the universal omelet with the local ackee (did you know it came from West Africa sometime around 1778?), fried dumplings, the ever present fried plaintains, and . . . cheesecakes and pastries gifted by the pastry chef at the Wyndham Kingston and securely guarded until this moment!

Princess Nina's Island - what a birthday gift!

An invitation to stay awhile in this hammock at Goblin Hill

Ackees - reddish pods, black seeds, and inner membranes are removed before cooking.

Departures are from Montego Bay, so the 5 hour drive along the famously known beaches of the north coast, has to be made. Annotto Bay, Port Maria, Oracabessa, major town in the parish of St. Mary known for having the fiercest freedom fighters during the enslavement period and where food markets range from open-sided buildings to the beds of pick-up trucks; Ocho Rios, Runaway Bay, Discovery Bay where excavations are uncovering artifacts from Christopher Columbus’ two year stint at nearby Rio Bueno;

Marker -Columbus Park, Discovery Bay

Falmouth, Trelawny awakening from slumber to debut as port of call for Royal Caribbean’s megaships Oasis and Allure;  and Montego Bay, really Jamaica for many visitors.  The roads are in good condition, no hills to climb, bordered by exclusively luxurious hotels and golf courses. Partnerships between these establishments and communities extend beyond employment to include the building of schools and support for early childhood education. It is another street food day – the quest for ice-cold coconut water, the traditional snack/lunch of patties sandwiched in light, buttery coco bread, sampling large sweet tangerines not picture-perfect orange colored as seen in the supermarkets . . .

Tangerines - succulent and oh, so sweet!

stopping in local markets seeing that most people are purchasing fresh, non-processed, high-fiber, complex carbohydrate foods and lots of fresh fruits.

Market day - no stall, just the bed of a pickup truck!

Beverages, like the sorrel are home brewed avoiding much of the preservatives and additives found in bottled purchased drinks. Somehow those purchases seem to balance the fun snacks of coconut drops (main ingredients: sugar and diced coconut), pucker powered tamarind balls (main ingredients: tamarind pulp and sugar), and the jaw-breaking bustas (main ingredients: shredded coconut and molasses).

Sorrel - Christmas drink, but good all yearlong!

And the humor, never far from the surface, erupts: a local entrepreneur spoofs one of the world’s major retailers . . .

Jamaica's Wall-Mart - move over Sam Walton!

preconceived ideas about the delivery of room service are shattered.

Room service on the way

So, tired but energized, arrival at Secrets, St. James, Jamaica’s newest all-inclusive hotel 15 minutes from the airport, 9 restaurants, is greeted with glee.

Secrets, St.James - Jamaica's newest all-inclusive hotel

Culinary expeditions are so much more than the food. Food items, ingredients, and preparation processes are so deeply steeped in, so deeply influencing, culture. Yes, as they say “Jamaica, once you go, you’ll know!”

Giant Koi - Outdoor garden, Wyndham Kingston

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