Day 1 – US – Duncans Bay, Trelawny
I have some trip notes, I doubt I’ll think of everything at once so this may be a more scattered sort of report than I often write, but if you care to read it anyway, stick around.
This trip to Jamaica was my 20th or so. My first trip was in 1987, have had many since then but not for over 2 years until this. Friends invited me to share a villa in Treasure Beach with them and I built a trip around that week – 2 nights in Duncans Bay, 2 nights in Kingston, the week in TB, 2 nights in Negril, 2 nights in Runaway Bay.
It was a lot of moving around but that is EXACTLY my kind of trip. I can’t stand laying on a beach or by a pool for more than a few hours. There is so much I want to see in Jamaica that I haven’t yet seen, so many people I want to visit, so many friends I like to return to and see again.
But this is the first time I’ve moved so much without my own rental car and without a travel companion. I met up with new and old friends, was rarely alone, but my husband and kids did not come this time.
So it was quite different.
I took off early in the morning of Nov 1st and arrived in Miami to change planes. Here I was surprised to see that i would use the steps to exit the plane, walk on the tarmac and take a shuttle bus to the airport. Knowing this no longer happens in Montego Bay, I was glad for the experience.
In Miami I had enough time to exit the secured area and locate La Carreta, the Cuban restaurant at the airport. I am so glad I did – the tamale hit the spot and the rest of the food looked amazing. It was packed with airport employees and flight staff, it’s the only non-chain in the airport that I saw (other than the hotel sushi bar) and the only one with authentic Cuban food. Check it out sometime, it’s worth waiting to get back into security.
I heard a lot of horror stories about delays in Miami but all went well and we arrived in Montego Bay a few minutes early. Immigration and customs took maybe a half hour total, maybe less. The immigration hall was full but the line moved quickly.
My old friend Lee met me outside and we hopped in his car and headed east. He stopped in Ironshore for me to get a new SIM card for my Jamaican phone, the 1,000 minute US call plan, plus about 500J for local calls. This was maybe $40 US total and worth every penny. I called home as often as I wanted, received calls from home and JA for free and used the phone locally to make arrangements and check in many times.
We reached Duncans bay pretty quickly. It might be 40 minutes from the airport but it is a world away from the highway…a tricky turn inland might lose many casual visitors but if you know the way you will be rewarded with one of the loveliest parts of Jamaica I have ever had the pleasure to spend time in.
I came here to visit Jamaica Jewel, a home and guest house built by a longtime internet friend. I’d watched her, virtually, build onto the house and was eager to see it for myself.
Lee and I arrived in Duncans Bay and didn’t immediately see the house. Lee’d lived here for a few months so knew the general area so we drove for a minute until we passed an older rastaman walking on the road. We asked him if he knew the house. As it turns out, in Duncans Bay everyone knows the house – it is the church house or Barry and Cher’s house or Jamaica Jewel but everyone knows the house because everyone knows everyone else. He pointed the way and we found it in a minute.
From the road it is hard to miss, a beautiful coral color. Barry and Cher came out to greet me and we walked into their little bar…so cozy and breezy, with a lovely mural and flags and bamboo. Lee visited for awhile as I got the tour of my incredible apartment. It has a full living and dining room….kitchen with fridge and stove and oven and storage…lovely bath with thoughtful tiling and décor…a large bedroom with a drop dead gorgeous 4 poster bed, AC, lovely decorative touches, and not one but tow balconies. One looked to the sea with comfy wicker furniture. The other had built in stone couches with comfy cushions and pads and was THE curl up and read a book spot. I was in heaven.
Lee said goodbye and headed back to MoBay. B&C gave me a cold red stripe and I settled in to chat with them. We talked of the upcoming election – a lot of excitement about that in JA, internet sites and people, life. After a bit I changed and we walked down to the beach. Barry came along to show me the way. Though the beach is directly across the street from the house, the public beach entrances are a minute or so walk down a very quiet road. One entry is a path that works fine if it hasn’t rained a lot recently (it had), the other is a street lined with 5-6 houses. Lovely homes, but small yards, I already prefer Jamaica Jewel.
The beach is absolutely gorgeous. Long and wide, backed by low grassy sand dunes. A few houses along it but it is public, with a park-like feeling. Trees are set in planters with stone benches around them. Grass is low and soft and the beach is clean. The water is crystal clear and blue, with few rocks. It’s shallow for a nice while but gradually becomes deep enough to swim. On one end is a fishing beach with old style canoes and a bar called Leroy’s that serves drinks and later on will have live music.
It’s hard to describe this beach because it reminds me in some ways of so many…the Hamptons with the homes and dunes, but without the pretense and haughtiness. Cape Cod, but the architecture is Caribbean. I guess what it evokes in me in every neighborhood, cool, friendly beach I have ever been to…but it is that beautiful blue-green with white sand that is nowhere in the US. There are few people around but the ones we have passed I have been introduced to by Barry. I’ve been welcomed into this community and I’ve only been here for a couple of hours.
No one has, or will have by the time I leave two days later, offered to sell me anything.
After a nice swim we return to Jamaica Jewel to relax and eat dinner before a night out. You see this is Saturday, and in Duncan’s Bay on Saturday there is one place to be: Leroy’s bar on the beach.
Cher serves a delicious dinner of fish with a papaya sauce. Eating here is very reasonable and is served outdoors or indoors, with your hosts or without them, in your own room or porch…wherever and however you want it. You can use your kitchen to cook for yourself as well if you wish, but I chose to eat with them outside in the bar area.
Friends of theirs stopped by through the afternoon and evening. This bar has been private for guests but is now open to the public – if Barry and Cher know and like you, that is, as it is inside their gates. I enjoyed talking with everyone I met.
While I am very social and prefer to mingle, it is entirely possible to spend a week at Jamaica Jewel and never do that, the apartments offer lovely private spaces and separate entrances and you can hang out by yourself if you choose.
Around 7:30 I feel like it is 11PM as this was a travel day for me, but Cher brings out some iced coffee and I am as good as new, ready to check out the nightlife, such as it is in Duncans Bay. We all head down to the beach as a group to Leroy’s. Leroy is a bar owner and also a musician. His band plays every Saturday night and there are DJs too. It seems like the entire community has come down to hang out and Barry and Cher say that is for the most part true. Not only Duncans Bay and Duncans but people from the surrounding areas too. But no strangers, at least not to my hosts. I am introduced to everyone it seems…the British lady who owns the house down the road and her visiting brother…the proudly 81 year old “oldest fisherman on the beach” who still fishes alone…local guys and women who have come to play in the band or dance…everyone is very friendly and very proud of Duncans Bay. I am introduced as B and C’s “guest” and I am treated as such by everyone.
I am tired from traveling so opt to perch on an upturned boat on the beach and just chat with folks as they arrive or pass by. As a woman who appeared to be single I fielded a polite inquiry or two as to my interest in dancing or talking more, but never more.
I had a wonderful time and when it was done, I gratefully headed back with B&C to have one more drink and fall into that huge, comfortable four poster bed in my room that was calling my name.
I uploaded a video walk through the two apartments available at JaJewel:
I am not sure what you would call this place…a rental villa – it is that…self catering apartments – it is that too…a guesthouse – for sure also that.
I am sorry I didn’t do this when I arrived but when I left, so things weren’t as perfectly clean as when I arrived. But I think it gives a good idea anyway.
Some photos of Duncans Bay:
A view from the house:
Another view from the house:
Here is, I think, my favorite beach photo:
Here is Leroy’s (by day):
Looking back to the beach from the water:
Spot to put clothes and towel and whatnot:
Looking into the water…sandy bottom, clear and nice:
Park on the beach:
Looking to leroy’s and the fishing beach:
One of the little streets off the beach:
Continue reading this series:
All Around Jamaica Again: Day 2 Cockpit Adventure