Sunday, January 31, 2016

Bump Grave: Resting Place For Jamaica's only National Heroine

Jamaica is filled with historic landmarks and memorials but one of the most meaningful Jamaican sites that I've visited is the final resting place of Nanny of the Maroons. She was an 18th century freedom fighter and brilliant military strategist who fought for independence from the British  High up in the Blue Mountains of Portland, Nanny Town was established as a settlement for Nanny and maroons, or Africans who escaped and fought against slavery  Dating from when a truce was signed with the British in 1739, Nanny Town has remained an independent community that retains the language and customs of  their Ghanaian ancestors. The current leader of  Nanny Town, Colonel Wallace Sterling guided my group to the enclosed park that houses Bump Grave.  I'll explore more about Nanny Town and its history in another post. The Jamaican government erected a monument to recognize Nanny's resting place and it overlooks the dense mountains of Portland, symbolizing the freedom and strength of Nanny and her people.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Jamaica's Historic Devon House

Enveloped in 11 acres of lush gardens and courtyards, in the heart of Kingston, Devon House  represents Jamaica's proud heritage. Constructed in 1891 by Jamaica's first black millionaire, George Stiebel, the Georgian-Jamaican architecture reflects both British and Caribbean influences. Stiebel made his fortune from Venezuela gold mines and many of the accessories of his luxurious Victorian era life still fill the mansion, including Italian chandeliers oil paintings and carved mahogany beds.

Devon House was declared a National Heritage Site in 1990 and strolling the halls supply a fascinating glimpse into a rarefied life during Jamaica's colonial times. Although the landmark is one of Kingston's most popular destinations, many visit just for the famous Devon House I-Scream, which is considered the best on the island. There are actually lots of restaurants, cafes and boutiques on the property, which I'll cover in another post but my favorite part of Devon House was the "Miss Lou" poem recited by the guide. Louise Bennett was a famous Jamaican poet and folklorist who championed the use of the local patois dialect. Her use of local phrases and terms peppered with standardized English brought Jamaican culture to life and hearing her words in Devon House made it even more memorable.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Relaxing At St. Lucia's Malabar Beach

It's the heart of winter in Chicago. Snow and ice covers the ground. The "Hawk" is out everyday, blasting a frosty wind down the streets. A gray, gloomy cast covers the sky. I see all of this but I'm not really here to feel it. Mentally, I'm in St. Lucia, sitting on the sands of Malabar Beach in Castries, listening to the waves rush back and forth to the shore. The sun gently sets, creating a rosy glow in the sky. It's a soothing scene that beats cozying up with Netflix. Join me if you like.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Travel Favorites of 2015

What a whirlwind of travel experiences that 2015 ushered in! As I look back over the year, it feels like I stuffed two years worth of adventures into one. I traveled to 11 different destinations and I'm grateful for the sights, sensations and memories that will always be with me. I can't adequately list every single favorite experience because there were so many but here are the standouts: Walking through the cold and rainy cobblestone streets of the Czech Republic and being dazzled by the fairy tale scenery, like in the UNESCO town of Telc, pictured above. I strolled through castles dating from the 9th century,ate dinner with singing Czech miners and explored the oldest and best preserved Jewish quarter outside of Israel. And that's just a few of my Czech memories.

The colors and vibrant culture of Guatemala immediately grabbed me, there was so much history and life, everywhere I turned. I climbed my third volcano, sampled classic Guatemalan ciusine and met Liria, shown above, a Mayan Nana (female shaman) who delivered a message from my grandmother that I will carry with me for the rest of my life.

I returned to my sweet Jamaica and had the honor of visiting Bob Marley's Kingston house and Nanny Town, the Maroon Village high in the hills of Portland that was settled by Jamaican freedom fighter and national hero, Nanny. 

I sailed a stalled cruise ship (stuck for 24 hours) and landed on the Bahamian out island of Bimini by sea plane. The striking blue of the sea and sky surrounded everything on the island, including the homes of Adam Clayton Powell, Ernest Hemingway and the legendary Fountain of Youth.

My first trip of the year unfolded in Stockholm, where I learned about Swedish design and culture and met fellow journalists from India, China, Japan and Turkey. It snowed every day but Stockholm was still warmer than Chicago.

Memphis is always a good idea and I gorged on music history with visits to the Stax Museum, The Blues Hall of Fame, Beale Street, The Rock N Soul Museum and the newly opened Tina Turner Museum, shown above. The museum is located inside the one-room schoolhouse that Tina attended,

I will never get enough of St. Lucia and this year's visit allowed me to see another perspective of the stunning landscape with a stay at the iconic Anse Chastanet Resort which boasts only three walls, for up-close views. I also hiked Tet Paul Nature Trail, which rewarded me with visions like the one above and went jungle biking for the first time.

The wild and beautiful landscape of the Yukon will always be symbolized for me by Caveman Bill, shown above. I wandered the streets of Dawson City with Aussie blogger Lorraine, searching for the elusive local who lives in a cave. We found him and he took us in a boat to see the cave he's lived in for 20 years. Only in the Yukon. Here's to more adventures and fascinating new friends in 2016! What were your favorite travel memories for 2015?

Friday, December 11, 2015

Living High in St. Lucia

One of the most unforgettable experiences that I've had in St. Lucia is being enveloped by the beauty.  Being surrounded by turquoise-colored water,soaring mountain peaks and lush vegetation all at once fills all of my senses. I never have to do anything in St. Lucia, just partaking of the natural wonders is enough. So when I was invited to Anse Chastanet, the famous St. Lucia resort carved into cliffs, I was ecstatic. What better way to experience the island's assets than up close and personal?

Besides offering stunning views, many of the resort's rooms have only three walls, so that you can be completely connected to the landscape. This was my room, complete with a swing and a homemade bottle of T-punch in the fridge. I think staying in this room was the closest I've come to being hypnotized. I sat on the swing, sipping punch and gazing out at the view for hours.

When I managed to tear myself away from the view, I just wandered around the lovely room. I've slept under mosquito netting before but never on a four poster bed with billowing panels that close on both sides. I was completely wrapped in the netting with a fan on the roof of the bed. It was such fun, although it took me several attempts to find the opening in the netting to get out of bed!

But the coolest thing about my room besides the singular view, was the tree in the middle of  the shower. The room was built around the tree, which rose up through the roof. Birds hung out in my bathroom and when a storm started, raindrops from outside poured down the sides of the shower, sprinkling the plants. It was like living with the landscape but way better than camping. I'm not usually focused on hotel accommodations because I like to spend as much time as possible connecting with the destination but at Anse Chastanet, the destination and the accommodations are one.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Secluded Paradise on St. Lucia's Anse Mamin

St. Lucia is an island that epitomizes the idea of paradise. From striking views of the Pitons twin peaks to lush rain forests and surreal beaches, this island overflows with natural beauty. So I guess I should have been prepared when I arrived in the village of Soufriere at Anse Chastanet Resort and was greeted with a three walled room that showcased the vistas up close. I'll do a post about my room later but non-stop gazing out at that stunning landscape made me think that I had absorbed all the perfection possible. I was so wrong. After hopping a water taxi to Anse Mamin, about 10 minutes north of Anse Chastanet, my mouth dropped. A tiny black sand beach surrounded with cerulean waves and only a handful of people unfolded before me. It looked like a Gauguin painting, it was so unspoiled and tranquil.

An open air kitchen served up what was reported to be "the world's best burger," to be enjoyed under palapas with views of the sea. I ordered the fish burger on traditional johnny cakes doused with banana ketchup and accompanied by plantain chips.

I honestly don't remember what it tasted like. I think it was good but the beach was such a distraction that all I could do was take a few bites so that I could finish and dive into the water. And I remember what the water was like. It was warm and enveloping, with only a few fish joining me. The canopy of palm trees waved as I floated out of the water and laid out on the soft black sand. It was paradise indeed.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Next Stop: Lovely St. Lucia

I'm so grateful to be returning to one of my favorite islands--stunning St. Lucia. This time, I'll be focusing on wellness and active adventures on the island. I'll be trying Snuba and jungle biking for the first time and re-visiting the Soufriere mud baths. I'm also really excited about going back to the legendary Gros Islet jump up street party, I have lots of fond memories of the music and warm locals there. Hopefully, I'll also get a chance to talk to an herbalist about traditional Lucian remedies. My press trip is sponsored by the St. Lucia Tourism Board, which has re-vamped their travel focus since I was last on the island two years ago. I expect to have many new discoveries at this charming locale so please stay tuned!