WESTMORELAND, JAMAICA, May 17, 2012 – Regardless of how far you go, travel can still be stressful. The car and driver fail to show, resulting in a mad 0:30 dark dash to the airport. You leave your wallet on the plane, failing to notice until after you clear customs.
Your luggage is lost, you miss your connection, the TSA screeners burst out laughing when you go through the scanner.
It could all be a recipe for ulcers. Except when you get here. When you get here, you’re in Heaven, and all the stresses of your trip are washed away into oblivion.
“Here” is Jamaica. More specifically, it’s the Bluefields Bay Villas at Westmoreland parrish.
Everything here is on Jamaican time. That is, it is when it is. It is all “irie, mon.” No problem. Time ebbs and flows to the rhythms of your heart, not to the metronome beat of a watch.
The only constants are the pounding of the surf and the generosity of the people.
The lost luggage, missed connection, and mirthful TSA screeners were, this time, just in the fevered imagination of a frequent traveler. The trip to the airport, sans the car service, was real, but it worked out, just barely.
Bruce at Montego Bay International Airport figuratively held my hand while keeping my spirits up with assurances that all would be well, and my wallet was returned safely and intact with broad smiles and wishes for a good day.
And then there was Percy, the driver from Bluefields Bay Villas waiting patiently for the forty-five minute drive to Westmoreland.
The end of that drive fully justified everything that came before. The drive itself was a pleasure, and we arrived at Bluefields with a thorough education in island horticulture, stopping to look at gardens, orchards, and native plants.
The Bluefields Bay Villas are six unique homes along a private waterfront. Each villa has its own stretch of beach for swimming, snorkeling or cloud watching, and each has its own personality. Largely designed inside and out by owner Debbie Moncure, the homes have open air designs outfitted with island and British influences, including antique Jamaican pieces that make Bluefields Bay the largest repository of such rarities in the in the world, according to A. Houston Moncure, our guide for this visit.
Learning that the inlaid wood table you just plopped your suitcase on is a priceless antique is unsettling, at least it was for me. But the table is there for you to use and enjoy, a useful feast for the eyes and hands.
This vacation spot lets you have as much privacy and solitude as you wish. If you want to sit down by the sea for some nude sunbathing, you are within you own private domain where no one will intrude unless you invite the intrusion. And if as you sit naked on that beach (but do keep a towel handy) you feel a sudden desire for pie, it will be delivered by Marvin, freshly made with natural local ingredients by Chef Rose.
Details take this place a step beyond fabulous. The Bluefields Bay Villas are all about the little things, the extra and unnecessary touches. Here your senses are treated by the antique embroidered napkins and table clothes set in the open air dining room, the hibiscus flowers in the baths and on the beds.
If anything else is wanted, it will be provided by an attentive and friendly staff that is there to ensure you are well fed, comfortable, and having an extraordinary day. On Jamaican Island time, of course.
Having three home-cooked, beautiful and delicious meals served to you every day adds a level of relaxation and family time to your vacation you just won’t get in hotels that cater to large numbers, no matter how efficiently they do it. Here food is lovingly cooked, and the variety is wonderful. Rose and Sharon are artists of the stove and skillet. Their masterful hands create meals that are balanced, beautifully plated, and filled with the flavors of the island.
This is Jamaican home-cooking with style. Marvelous Marvin (well, I think he’s marvelous), the house headman is there to prepare a daiquiri, a snack, or bring you a bit of ice cream
The lunch that met us on our arrival was delightful and foretold of culinary delights to come. We were served a sesame chicken with a bit of island allspice and a shredded potato crepe. The crepe was crisp, yet still managed to sop up the juices from the chicken, which had been stewed with onions and green peppers
Take a walk along the ocean after your meal. There you’ll find Nicholas and yet another Rose, ready to massage the stresses of the journey from shoulders made tense by carting luggage, a body made sore by hours on a plane that squeezes passengers and luggage into every cubic inch of space, seating passengers at uncomfortable angles with not an inch of personal space.
All of this, the stress and even its memory, is erased from muscle and soul to the sounds of cooing doves and crashing waves. The gentle strength of Nicholas’ hands wipes away all that was wrong with the day.
An afternoon thunderstorm creates a perfect excuse for a nap on the romantically netted four-poster bed. The room’s large double doors are open to the sea, letting in the gentle roar of the waves and the crash of thunder.
And so we begin our weeklong experience to learn more about Bluefields and Westomoreland, a once-thriving fishing village fighting its way back to self sufficiency as farmers and fisherman learn to live, once again, from the land and the sea. We will meet Patrick, a Peace Corp volunteer who has spent the last two years helping the area farmers and fisherman learn to grow, fish and sell foods and products in ways that are sustainable, while repairing the damage that was done in the past.
We will learn how one family, the Moncures of the Bluefields Villas and Washington, DC, works to provide not only an unparalleled vacation experience, but also to be a force for good within their Jamaican community.
Through their support of growth programs for local businesses, the local elementary school, and programs that encourage environmental awareness and sustainable fishing and agricultural methods, the Moncures seek to create livelihoods for families, development in their community, and to improve life for all.
It was tough getting here, but once we slid out of Percy’s van, all that had happened became secondary to what we know will be coming.
Part Two: Food and family Jamaican Style - Cooking Jerk Chicken with James
BlueField Bay Villas are about 45 minutes, by car, from Montego Bay International Airport.
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