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Half Moon Resort Jamaica

Half Moon Resort, Jamaica

International, ROAM By May 27, 2015 Tags: , , , , , No Comments

It’s taken me an awfully long time to write about Half Moon Resort, Jamaica. It’s like part of me wanted to hold it inside because once it’s out there, it’s gone. This property is by far the most wonderful family destination I had ever had the honour to visit. A private dolphin cove, a kids club with villas specializing in certain skills, an equestrian centre and countless pools, I was shocked that I’d been invited to a place where British royalty has stayed.

HalfMoon_Resort_SunsetIn my own ocean-side villa, one memory replays in my head. After long days that one experiences on press trips that garner little sympathy from friends watching on facebook, I dropped my camera, laptop and bags on my doorstep, followed by my clothes. I did have a bikini on, but I would have done the same without. I ran into the warm ocean while the sun nodded into the water and I am not sure I have ever been so relaxed in my life. Going back into my room I smiled at the furniture made on property, covered in rich upholstery and called my kids from the sitting room. The bedroom smelled of jasmine and fresh Blue Mountain coffee that the resort had left as a gift. Could tomorrow be more magical?

Well, yes. Because after a day of touring I was writing by the bar and happened to meet Rohan Marley. Son of Bob. And owner of Marley coffee. We chatted. I was in awe. Spitting image-awe.

Half_Moon_Kids_AreaThe next morning I experienced the spa. Yes, you may hate me. Gentle, skilled esthiticians recognized what I needed and even gifted me a bag of leaves to take home. The leaves were a tea for a foot bath that would drain out the toxins. I bought ergonomic flip flops and wanted never to leave. 

Half_Moon_Resort_Jamaica

Meals at the resort were taken in the main restauraunt or on the patio just outside while overlooking the ocean. Breakfast could have simply been the exquisite natural juices from fruits I’d never heard of, but they insisted on bringing more and more food, both traditional and Jamaican-inspired.

One evening we meandered on the property and attended an outdoor dinner that showcased local fare. WOW! I spoke to locals about spices, customs and regional flavours, and couldn’t stop eating. (No bikini photos from this point on).

The Sugar Mill restaurant is the jewel of Half Moon. And if you can manage it at all, try to connect with David Barber over dinner – the General Manager who exudes passion for travel and a true love of Jamaica. The food was subtle yet bursting with taste, and I learned from another travel writer (Laura Manske of Parade) how to properly light dishes for photography using the flashlight of a cellphone.

You must go. You may spot a royal. Or you may just have a life-changing moment in the ocean with the property’s dolphins after meeting one of Bob Marley’s sons.

Disclosure: UrbanMommies was hosted by Half Moon Resort on a media trip to Jamaica. 

Jill Amery

Jill Amery is a mom of 2 small boys and the Publisher of UrbanMommies, a stylish digital lifestyle magazine filled with fitness, style, health, recipes and savvy mom advice to help you through pregnancy, birth, and raising your kids.

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Jamaican Bucket List

International, ROAM By January 22, 2015 Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , 1 Comment
Jamaican Bucket List
Travelers looking for a memorable vacation should look to the Jamaica Tourist Board’s intriguing  Jamaican bucket list. Inclusive of both well-known and under-the-radar experiences, accomplishing this list will generate wonderful memories with friends and family for years to come.
“From biking in the majestic Blue Mountains, to swimming with charismatic dolphins, visitors are just getting started with experiencing all that Jamaica’s diverse and exciting tourism product has to offer,” said Paul Pennicook, Jamaica’s Director of Tourism. “Jamaica is always open to accommodating singles, couples and families looking for unforgettable vacations of a lifetime. In addition to the highlighted activities, Jamaica has truly unique hotels and resorts worthy of a trip to our island.”
  1. Swim with the Dolphins – Travelers of all ages can befriend a dolphin at Jamaica’s Dolphin Cove. The Dolphin Encounter will give visitors an introduction to dolphins in shallow waters, while the Ultimate Swim will allow visitors to swim with two trained dolphins. Visitors can also enjoy live reggae music, bottomed boat tours, and shark and stingray excursions in the cove.
  2. Bike in the Blue Mountains– Jamaica’s Blue Mountains are home to a lush, cool environment. Biking is the best way to experience the mountains, and possibly get a glimpse of life on a coffee farm, where some of the most delicious coffee in the world is grown.
  3. Be one with 007 – Ian Fleming made his home in Jamaica where he wrote the very first of the famous James Bond novels.  Guests can stay in GoldenEye Resort’s villa where Fleming found his inspiration for the famously smooth spy character.  To truly summon the spirit of 007, visitors are encouraged to stake out the spots where some of the main Bond movies were filmed.
  4. Swim in the Luminous Lagoon – Also called Glistening Waters, this phenomenon is a must-see. Microorganisms thrive in the waters where salt and fresh water combine, and emit a bluish glow. Visitors can jump into these waters off of the coast of Falmouth at night, and experience an otherworldly marvel.
  5. Go Caving – In Jamaica, there are plenty of ways to accomplish a caving adventure.  Cockpit Country’s Windsor Caves are best suited for the spelunking type of traveler, with helmets, flashlights and ropes. In the most extreme of subterranean tours, one can be underground for four hours in pure darkness, with only a large group of bats for company. To experience caves at a leisurely pace, or with the family, Green Grotto in Discovery Bay is the best bet.  These caves are a prominent natural attraction, known for the algae-covered green walls and a sparkling lake in the innermost cavern. There is one more way to go “caving” in Jamaica, but it may not be the most traditional – The Caves Resort in Negril. To stay in pure luxury at The Caves may not be anywhere close to spelunking, but the cliff-side accommodations and cozy in-cave dining definitely counts for a check off the bucket list.
  6. Meet the First Female Master Rum Blender – The Appleton Estate is home to Jamaica’s oldest sugar factory and rum distillery and is where some of the best Caribbean rum is made.  Visitors can take a tour and sample rum blended by Joy Spence, the industry’s first female Master Blender.
  7. Find the Nicest Jerk – The best and most delicious jerk chicken, pork, and seafood is found in Jamaica.  Boston Bay in Port Antonio is the birthplace of jerk, the flavor that sets tongues on fire with the iconic pimento and scotch bonnet pepper seasoning combination.  The Boston Bay Jerk Centre is where one can sample the best jerk on the eastern end of the island. On the west end, visitors can try Murphy’s West End Restaurant.  Murphy provides tours of his property, showing diners the exotic fruit trees.
  8. Shiver Your Timbers in Port Royal – In the 1600s, visitors would have been prey to infamous pirates in Port Royal, known at that time as “The Wickedest City on Earth.” However, a major earthquake sunk most of the city of Port Royal deep into the Caribbean Sea. The underwater city that resulted is a pending UNESCO World Heritage Site and the many shipwrecks make the area an incredible scuba diving location for those who gain permission.
  9. Connect with Bob Marley – No bucket list is complete in Jamaica without a little reggae.  Kingston is home to the Bob Marley Museum, located on the site of the legendary musician’s former home.  Visitors can experience that as well as a tour of the Jamaican Music Museum, a visit to the Rockers International record store and a hands-on experience at the Dynamic Sounds studio. Here, guests can embrace their inner Marley and even make their own vinyl record.
  10. Go Bamboo River Rafting: The Martha Brae River provides the ultimate opportunity for relaxation. Two people can sit pretty on a bamboo raft while they glide along, catching all the sights at the edges of the tropical river banks.

So, what are you waiting for? If you want to enjoy some of these activities and add/cross them off your bucket list, its time to book your trip to Jamaica. To plan your Bucket List trip, and to add even more adventures, go to www.visitjamaica.com.

 

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Travel Like Your Favorite Movie Characters

International, ROAM By September 29, 2014 Tags: , , , , , , , , No Comments

Travel Like Your Favorite Movie Characters

James Bond, Luke Skywalker, Indiana Jones… What do they all have in common (besides being character’s in fabulous action movies)? They all got to travel to incredible, exotic locals. Want to travel like your favorite movie characters? (I know I do!) Check out Holidays for Humanity. With trips like James Bond’s Jamaica, Luke Skywalker’s Tunisia and Indiana Jones’ Jordan they will appeal to the movie buff inside of you all while exposing you to some of the most amazing locations around the world.

Holiday’s for Humanities is also good for your soul. By working with partners that promote sustainable and eco-friendly practices they offer a range of travel options including eco resorts and hotels, health and wellness, volunteering abroad, cultural and culinary and expeditions and tours.

What movie would you like to climb into?

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Jamaica

Things to do in Montego Bay, Jamaica

International, ROAM By August 21, 2013 Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , 5 Comments

I was a virgin to Jamaica.  And with a crazy hectic schedule I hadn’t had the time for preliminary research.  (I actually prefer it this way.)  I go in blind, with no feedback or opinions and can allow my artistic personality to sense everything without bias.  At first I was taken aback by the similarities with West Africa: corrugated steel, cement blocks and a native economy that was more advanced than I had seen in Liberia but not quite New York. My best advice?  Go off the beaten track in Montego Bay, Jamaica. And watch your children flourish.

The second thing that thrilled me were the people.  They are phenomenally vibrant.  Visceral.  Kind.  One New Yorker on the trip said that she longs to have a Jamaican nanny to care for her kids someday.  And now I see why.  I long to take my children to the island just so they can experience the care and spirit of the citizens.  I would hope that it rubs off on my kids.

I will tell you about the resorts and activities, but what needs to be talked about are the people.  The history.  The island.  Founded by Christopher Columbus in 1494 and ruled by the Spanish until the English took over in 1655, the history is rich and deep.  Slavery.. sugar cane.. plantations.. voodoo.. rastafarians.  And the history of the flag.  Originally it meant something slightly different than the current interpretation.  Green: lush vegetation, yellow: sun that always shines and black: the strife and hardship of the people.  Now, the black signifies strength.  I get tingles.  Jamaicans have been through so much and still thrive.

manta ray and camel jamaica
I stayed at Half Moon Resort and the Grand Palladium and would happily return to either property.  Half Moon exhibited the finest attention to families and children that I have ever experienced and must write about it in a fully separate article.  As much as I could have relaxed on either of the resort grounds, I instead familiarized myself with the unexpected activities offered in Jamaica.  After riding a camel at Dolphin Cove, I pet a stingray (the kind that killed Steve Irwin) and then got kissed by dolphins.  (In the photo above, try to peel your eyes away from our stingray guide and note the camel in the background).  On another day, Chukka Adventure Tours took me riding on horseback past Prince Charles’ polo grounds before I rode bareback into the Carribean ocean atop my swimming horse.  One of the top ten memories of my life.

A self-proclaimed foodie, the trip to Scotchies excited me to no end.  There is no replacement for authenticity.  Picture a wooden firepit, grates covered in 6-foot long, 3-inch diameter pimento wood with chicken set directly on top.  The whole thing is then covered with the corrugated steel that many Jamaicans use for housing elements.  The taste cannot be replicated with a powder or sauce.  The only downside is that they don’t ship directly.

The nightclubs of Montego Bay start ‘going’ at about 2am.  The dancing is phenomenal, as are the fashions.  As a dancer I can say I’ve never seen women or men isolate different body parts in such a sensual yet innocent way.  When I return I will sleep for a day so that I can dance all night.  The locals are so kind and warm that I’d place bets on getting some great dance lessons.

Marley and Me
“Don’t worry about a thing.”  The song played silently in my head and affected me greatly.  I always worry.  I have a hard time relaxing.  And in Jamaica the easy-going attitude is infectious.  Running into Bob Marley’s son Rohan was a mesmerizing experience.  Managing the Jammin’ Java Coffee enterprise as well as playing music along with his brothers Damian and Ziggy, I would think he has many reasons to be stressed.  But he’s not.  He’s also warm, open and fun.  But then again, he’s Jamaican.

I ended up at the market in Montego Bay on a Saturday.   We were all craving authentic Jamaican patties and went into a raw, stimulating corner where young men sold produce and cellular phone cases.  On the corner was Juici Patties, which served these decadent treats in take-away paper bags. The beef.  The spice.  There was cheese in them.  A perfect mystery cheese never to be duplicated at home.  Amazing.  Perfectly satiated, our dapper Jamaican Tourist Board guide took us to see Pablo Palair, his custom tailor.  Bespoke.  Jamaica may be classified as a third-world country but Tom Ford may have a bit of an international challenge.  Form fitting shirts with detailing on the cuffs and neck would make stylists for GQ do a double-take.

Rose Hall Great House
Rose Hall is a perfect place for the thrill-seeker.  Or pessimist.  You will both be equally challenged.  An original great house on a plantation manned by slaves, Rose Hall is rumoured to house ghosts and ill-will.  The rumour says that Annie Palmer murdered three husbands, each in a different room, and abused her slaves horribly.  Her slave lover one night decided to murder her, and the ghost of Annie Palmer still walks the premises.  You may visit Annie’s grave and see photographs of oodles of people who developed their photos were developed (in the old-school way) and were convinced that a ghost had appeared in the mirror or shadows.  In the 21st century we may attribute it to a ‘flash’, but you never know.  Regardless of your belief in ghosts, the ‘great house’ and antique reproductions are stunning, and lead your mind to question an era of slavery and passion that exists across so many cultures.

Montego Bay Market
Children are blessed on vacation in Jamaica.  But my gut feeling is that they must leave the resorts.  Check out the Rastafarian Indigenous Village.  The cuisine of Kingston.  And of course the dolphin, horse and stingray excursions. 

As with any travel experience that involves children, I would encourage parents to find someone you trust and explore.  Get a driver for a day.  Take a taxi with a destination in mind that you don’t find in a tourist guide.  You will raise your children to travel differently in the future.  To become little citizens of the world.  Even better?  Jamaica has developed a program called ‘Meet the People‘.  Ever want to spend a whole day with Usain Bolt and his family?  Or perhaps a third-generation Jamaican who cooks incredible delicacies daily?  You can.  The program, implemented in 1968 allows tourists to explore authentic experiences while on vacation.  Do it.  Quick.  It’s the opportunity of a lifetime and I have a feeling that Jamaica’s popularity is about to skyrocket because it is so unique, with beauty, cuisine, heritage and kindness.

Halfmoon Resort Sports
Jamaica is a true country.  And a culture.  Like in university when I wanted to wear the logos and emblems of my alma mater, Jamaicans (and tourists) revel in the green, black and yellow.  Jamaicans wear it all daily.  With pride and style.  At the airport I spoke to a couple who didn’t even experience jerk chicken.  They were sad that they didn’t go off their resort grounds.   Especially when traveling with kids, you have a perfect opportunity to teach them to recognize different cultures and cuisines instead of just remembering a stunning beach or pool and forgetting where they saw it.  In my experience, it bodes the traveler well to enjoy the amenities of a resort and then choose a way to experience the real country.

And don’t worry about a thing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jill Amery

Jill Amery is a mom of 2 small boys and the Publisher of UrbanMommies, a stylish digital lifestyle magazine filled with fitness, style, health, recipes and savvy mom advice to help you through pregnancy, birth, and raising your kids.

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