I loved all the places we visited, but I think I loved Jamaica the best. We went to Ocho Rios, and took a trip to Brimmer Hall Plantation (more in a moment). We got to see some of the back roads and rural countryside. It is a beautiful place, almost breathtakingly so.
Isn't that gorgeous?! Wow. I loved the beauty of the mountains (where they grow the famous Blue Mountain coffee), and the lushness of the countryside. Brimmer Hall is a working plantation (a nice surprise, because I thought it was a historical property), and while the kids initially thought it would be lame, I think we all ended up learning something. Whenever and wherever we go on vacation, we try to learn about the area and the history of the place, whether it's New Orleans or Vegas. There is always something to learn! At Brimmer Hall, they grow bananas, plantains, cocoa beans, sugar cane, coconuts, and pineapple. Oddly enough, we found out that pineapple does NOT like water--how can something so juicy not need water? But no, the ditches they dig around the pineapple plants are to direct water away from the plants, rather than for irrigation. Fascinating! (Feel free to call me a geek at this point.)
We also got to eat some sugar cane (sweet, obviously) and some fresh coconut. Yum, it's a completely different taste from the shredded stuff you buy in the store. It's crunchy goodness!
After the plantation tour, we headed back to Ocho Rios to go to Dunn's River Falls. [Note: There was major highway construction going on. We think our construction zones are crazy, just take a bus trip on a Jamaican highway. Holy cow. They don't just shut down a lane or two and do those...they tear up the entire highway and start from scratch.] One of the things we noticed on our trip was that there were lots of homes that looked half-finished or abandoned. The outer shell of concrete block (no wood homes due to termites) would be there, but it would be just that and nothing else. We asked our guide about it, and she said that Jamaicans build homes as they get the money. I.e., they'll accumulate some money and build what they can, then stop. When they get more money, they'll do a little more. Some of the places looked abandoned for some time, but I suppose in a tropical climate, things grow so quickly it would look like that.
Anyhoo, Dunn's River Falls. We hiked down to the beach, and from there we went UP. Yep, we got to climb a waterfall! It was so beautiful, but a little more strenuous than we were led to believe! We were fine, although it was a challenge for me in some spots (when you're not quite 5 feet tall, some of the rocks made for a stretch on my part), but there were some younger kids and some older folks that struggled a bit. It was a neat thing to do, and all the people who said it was a must-see in Jamaica were right.
We also met a nice couple on our Jamaica excursion, Kirin (spelling?) and Francesca from Gibraltar. (I know very little about Gibraltar. Note to myself: read more about it.)
Writing about Jamaica made me decide to make Jerk Chicken tonight. As they say down there, "No problem!"