Computer is giving me problems and can't send any photos just now, so words will have to suffice until I get a wireless signal I can use....
Spent a great morning at Half Moon, A Rock Resort, outside Montego Bay. Look for more on their equestrian program in a future edition of Star Travel, for sure. After that it was a lunch stop that failed to disappoint: the famous Scotchie's.
It's a roadside attraction of its own near the Montego Bay Airport. You line up at an open-air counter and place your order for jerk chicken or pork or, on some days, ribs. There's also breadfruit and yams and something called festival - long, skinny pieces of flour and cornmeal together, I think.
You sit outside at giant, round tables under a thatched roof, so it's quite cool. It's great jerk, but I was surprised it wasn't spicier. I was dipping mine in the fiery yellow hot sauce for some extra kick and was shocked my tour guide/driver wasn't doing the same. But then he explained the main part of Scotchie's makes things a little more mild for tourisits and that the locals usually get their fix by pulling over on the way home and that they get the spicy stuff.
A fun spot and a good deal; only a few bucks for a whole chicken. There's no gift shop that I spotted, but give it time....
ON TO THE "HIP STRIP"
For two days I'd been telling folks I was going to stay the night on Montego Bay's hip strip. I hated saying it as it sounds so stupid. But part of the travel gig I have is doing things I wouldn't normally do. So yesterday it was time to check out the action on Montego Bay's big tourism strip, Gloucester Road.
It's a bit like Wasaga Beach meets Clifton Hill in Niagara Falls; tacky and garish but hard to take your eyes off of. There are a million shops selling a million Bob Marley t-shirts and flags and key chains and what have you. And, of course, millions of bottles of Appleton Rum and hot sauce and Rasta hats and caps with fake dreadlocks and t-shirts reading "Ja-mai-ca me so crazy" and other kitschy stuff. There are a lot of ganja jokes and sex-related themes to the shirts, as well as tiny statues of small men with Rasta dreads and those big yellow, red and green hats and GIANT penises. I spotted two schoolgirls of about eight or ten years old walking past some of the statues,then pausing to point and giggle. Oh, well.
I checked out Doctor's Cave Beach, which costs $5 to get in. It's nice, but there are too many guys selling junk, including "Cheap Charlie" with his necklaces. I only heard one guy mention the word "smoke" so that's not bad. Anyway, everyone was having fun in the water and jumping on off-shore trampolines and proudly strutting their stuff on the beach. There's a nice little bar/restaurant called the Groovy Grouper where you can sit and sip a $3 beer and watch the action. Definitely a good spot, although the service is terrible.
Over at Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville, they'll line you up near a giant shark's head and pour double shots down your throat if you're so inclined. Or reclined, I guess you'd say. I don't get the attraction. I like a good drink but I'd prefer to be sitting down or standing and to sip my alcohol, not be force fed. But I don't think I'm in the target group...
Margaritaville is one of the hippest spots on the strip, packed late at night they say. It was busy during the day as a Carnival Cruise LIne ship was in port. There were dozens of people on the top deck, sunning and drinking before storms rolled in. They have a giant water slide that goes from the top deck down to the water two floors below, where they also have a floating dock like those in cottage country, and two yellow and blue trampolines for bouncing, just in case the alcohol didn't have enough of an unsettling effect on your brain.
I got there at 5:30 and the guy manning the slide's entrance said he usually would be closed at 5 but was staying open a bit longer. I dashed down to leave my camera and wallet at a locker but there was nobody there, so I ran back to my hotel, the fine but forgettable Wexford Court, and dropped it off in my room, then ran back. I had given the guy three bucks U.S. to keep the slide open. But when I got there there was a sign saying closed. I asked around for the guy but couldn't find him. I started to leave but he spotted me and said he had been looking for me. He promptly opened the slide and down I went. Damn, it was fun. Very, VERY fast, and then you're suddenly splash down in the Caribbean. I swam out to the trampoline but only had a second before being called back.
Definitely worth doing if you're in the 'hood.
After that it was a killer sunset at a pub called The Twisted Kilt, where the t-shirts read "What's Up Yours?" Another $3 Red Stripe, thank you, this time on draught. Much better than out of the bottle, I think. And then dinner at a renowned, casual place called The Pelican, where the emphasis is on fish. I had a very good conch chowder and local fish that was fried and then sauteed with onions, carrots and Scotch bonnet peppers. Only a tiny bit spicy but very nice. There were four people across from me who were, I think, British. One guy was a big dude with a bright red, sunburned face and bleached white hair that was all teased up as if he was in a Billy Idol look-alike contest. They all ordered steaks, medium-well. Ugh.
I had planned something of a pub crawl after that, heading out to check the night action. But my being of a certain age and all, it was only 8:15. I heard some commotion at the park across from my hotel and wandered down to see a group of 70 or 80 folks gathered in a square, playing a counting game that looked like a stand-up version of musical chairs. Quite enjoyable. But I felt like a voyeur, so I slunk away towards the Hip Strip.
My first stop was The Blue Beat, a very chic martini bar. There were very cool, wavy seats and lots of blue lighting and red pillows and tv screens showing sexy videos and a Beyonce concert. Not my kinda music, but the girl can put on a show. I ordered a Passion-tini with passion fruit puree, vodka, pineapple juice and Cointreau; yum. But, again, being on my own I felt like a goof so I was outta there in a half hour. There were two people at the bar when I went in and that's all there was when I left.
I wandered back to Margaritaville, a few steps away, and arrived at 9. Okay, now I can mingle a bit, I thought. Nope, there were four or five tourists on stage, dancing, and about six people in the restaurant/bar. I killed a few minutes in the gift shop and came out to find about the same number of folks, including a couple I had seen at dinner and six folks from Philadelphia who I had taken a photo of at the Twisted Kilt.
I gave up. My decadent pub crawl was over at 9:06 p.m. I walked back to the hotel to type up my notes for the day and sort through the 457 photos I took in the day (it might have been more than that, actually) and hit the sack at 10. I would've liked to stay out longer, I really would, but when you're on your own it's not much fun and I didnt' feel like making any new friends.
Of course, I woke up at 2 a.m. and a club down the street was at full throttle. I could hear the beats pounding even with my Shoppers Drug Mart trusty ear plugs in and a pillow over my head. I got back to sleep okay, but couldn't help wondering how it was I never went through a stage where I wanted to slurp back shots or stay out until two or three in the morning.
Me? I like to get up when I'm someplace tropical and enjoy the cool mornings and have a couple cups of coffee and get started on the day. I've been up for sunrise, around 5:30 or 6 a.m., every day since I got here. It's a glorious time of day if you can manage it.
On today to Negril to scope out more of the action and the beaches. My aim is to live on the edge tonight and maybe even be at a bar after 10 p.m. Woo-hoo!