Almost exactly 4 years after our last true photo adventure on foreign soil , It was time for Cassie and I to branch out and fill our creative wells with new experiences, scenery and perspective on life. After several years working away in Athens, it was just in time. Wanderlust had set in, and despite a lot of diverse experiences over that time, there has been one thing truly missing. Travel. So in an effort to beef up our travel photography and fine art print work , we decided Jamaica was the perfect place to experience a truly unique culture–one defined by natural beauty, vibrant music and a laid back attitude you will find no place else.
Just to set the mood, here’a great live performance from one of the most talented, soulful musicians to ever walk this earth – Peter Tosh.
Being our first trip to the island, I’ll admit the only real impression I have gotten of Jamaica over the years, has been that it's a beautiful and exotic – yet dangerous place. The only reason I bring it up – is so I can contrast this notion with our actual experiences interacting with the sweet, outgoing Jamaican people. Sure the country has had some serious issues, but an overwhelming majority of crime is limited to small pockets in the big cities.
After researching a bit, we were able to locate a few areas where you wouldn’t need to sacrifice scenery and fun for safety. After all, we would be carrying as much camera equipment as we could squeeze into two overstuffed carry on bags. We decided on Treasure Beach in Saint Elizabeth Parrish after reading a slew of great reviews on the area , made our reservations at Jake’s Hotel and it was all set.
Upon touching down in Montego Bay, making it through customs and weaving our way through a barrage of way-too-willing tour guides and ganja salesmen, we met our driver, Andre – who would carry us right through the heart of the island, all the way to our destination on the South coast.
It should be noted we have no images to document this drive, for one very important reason: the instant we set foot off the plane, Cassie informs me her week long cold has developed into Bronchitis. This turned what would have, under normal circumstances been one of the most fun and exciting days of our life, into something resembling a nightmare. After making one of a few nausea/freakout moment stops on the road, the locals looked quite intrigued by this lovely, green-colored american girl looking at or near death.
Finally knowing we were nearing Treasure Beach, the excitement took over and we were riding high on the idea of simply having somewhere to sit down, have a drink – and relax.
Here is our first view of Treasure beach, a small fisherman’s village in one of the more rural areas of Jamaica’s South coast. They have really invested in the people of their small beach town, bringing to life the idea of community tourism, where the locals are invested in to carry the weight of their hospitality industry and share in its successes. No high rise resorts, no outside corporate interests, just the “Real Jamaica”, as it was described so many times in the reviews I previously read about the area.
A big part of the success that Treasure Beach has experienced, is due to the people behind Jake's Hotel. From the lush and splendidly quirky grounds, to the overwhelmingly kind and professional staff, they are doing something truly special here.
One of the members of the staff that truly needs to be introduced is Dougie. He has been running the bar here for 26 years, serving up what I would describe as the most perfectly crafted rum drinks I have ever experienced. Just watching him work is to see a true master, a perfectionist, dare I say artist – testing the drinks by putting a drop on his palm, tasting – adding a little more sugar, a little more lime or whatever necessary until you are sitting with the most balanced, fresh and beautiful cocktail you could imagine.
We heard a rumor Dougie retired a week or so after we got home, so we would like to formally congratulate him on a retirement well earned.
Our drink of choice on this trip was the Caipirissima.
The bar is lit with energy as sunset overwhelms the horizon.
It fully sinks in that we’re truly in paradise.
This being January, the greenery surrounding our room provides a stark contrast to what we left mere hours ago. A symphony of birds chirping and the ever present crash of waves was just what we needed. Walking the grounds at Jake's provides spectacular beauty on a level I can’t imagine seeing every day. It awakens fantasies of finding a way, any way, to do this more often.
Each structure here is unique, with its own distinct style. We chose a deluxe garden room for our stay and were not disappointed. With impeccably crafted architectural elements and great Jamaican art throughout, we knew the owners must have a real creative investment in the property. Turns out, the matriarch of the Jake's family is an extremely talented artist herself and has a say in all of the creative details that make the properties so exceptional.
The overall feel of our room was just awesome,
warm light filtering in through the many windows.
Here is a view from the grounds directly in front of our room. Tropical plants exploding with bright hues, reflecting the diverse culture Jamaica has to offer. You can really see how red, yellow and green became the colors locals have adopted to represent to the island.
All in all, we couldn’t have found a more suitable place to come to get away from it all. Such a positive, easygoing atmosphere in an unbelievably beautiful part of the world. We hung out on the grounds, chatted with the staff and locals and had an all around great time. There are two on site restaurants. Jake’s and Jack Sprat, both providing awesome meals; with Jake's being a farm to table spot and little more formal, and Jack Sprat serving traditional Jamaican food (plus Pizza – which was actually pretty excellent), and being the local hangout.
One thing we were happy to notice, was that all of the local animals were treated really well and looked fat and happy – but of course still more than willing to share your lobster with you. Cassie, being the animal lover she is, saved every last scrap of leftover food to bring to this little one.
End of day two and Jamaica will just make ya' feel better. Optimistic about the adventures ahead. We’ve got a lot to see still, and next post we’ll be taking you to see stunning YS Falls and some great local food spots. We look forward to taking you along.