Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Jamaica 2016 Day 1. Montego Bay

About six months ago I was flying Southwest and, bored to tears, I opened the magazine the airline provides when I saw that Southwest now had some international destinations, one of which was Montego Bay. Hmm, I thought, “I have never been in Jamaica. How could I possibly miss the other of the Greater Antilles?” So as soon as I got home I let my fingers do the walking and combined my summer visit to my parents with an 11-day exploratory visit to this Pearl of the Caribbean. The trip encompassed flying from  Sacramento to San Antonio, where I landed at 1 am, sleeping in a bench at the San Antonio airport, an hour flight to Houston, and finally a 3-hour flight to Montego Bay, on the north shore of the island (I lay a blanket of silence over the many hours delay caused by bad weather in Texas).

Montego Bay is where Columbus landed in 1494 (second trip to the new world?), but the British took over the island in the 1650’s and hung to it until its independence in 1960. The economy in those early years was supported by African slave labor to work vast sugar cane plantations, and to date most Jamaicans are of African decent. Yes, they speak funny and in a low volume that forces you to lean forward and ask for a repeat, which is very embarrassing, but to judge by my first few hours they are a friendly helpful folk.

A taxi from the airport brought me to my hostel, Togetherness, which is perched on the hills overlooking the suburbs and the waters of Montego Bay. It is really a beautiful villa that the owner, Future, has opened to budget lodgers. A short 20 minute walk brought me down to the shopping center, where I could finally get to an ATM and have dinner at a Burger King (I feel so ashamed, but, honestly, there was not a local eatery nowhere in sight). The uphill walk was a bit more strenuous, and the gentle drizzle reminded me that June is hurricane month in the Caribbean.

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