It was the Easter weekend and I attended a lovely Church gathering on Good Friday accompanied by both husband and son. This was the “right start” for me for this particular holiday at this time of year. So I felt GOOD (as opposed to guilty) as we drove out from Kingston on the Junction Road, on a bright and beautiful day, headed for San San in Port Antonio, Jamaica. There is natural beauty to be found almost everywhere in Jamaica, but this North Eastern Coast is bounteous in its beauty, and is truly an area of “wood and water”. We drove by Giant Bamboo stands, interspersed with tall, tall coconut trees.
The road surface was good and only getting better as we passed through Castleton Gardens and over a wide, solid steel bridge crossing over the Wag Water river. Driving along this river gorge, the Wag Water River meandered some 30 to 50 feet below us. Large, smooth, black Igneous rocks the height of two storied buildings dotted the river bed at intervals. Volcanic rock over 50 million years old, moved from the hills to the river bed by the force of water! As we descended towards Annotto Bay and crossed over another bridge we suddenly realized we were on the coast and the Wag Water river was rolling rapidly and joyously into the Caribbean sea.
We entered the District of Epsom, the home of Banana plantations, notably Agualta Vale Estate. Tall, thick interlocking trees and bushes formed a natural wall protecting the frail Banana trees from the elements as well as from plunder. Coconut trees, mango trees, almond trees and tall bread fruit trees, God’s rich abundance everywhere! On a hill side in the town I spied an old Anglican Church and recalled having visited that same church in the not too distant past to celebrate the life of a family friend. The church yard has tomb stones dating back to the 18th century as this area was settled at that time by British Planters and has its’ relics and ruins to explore. Mention was made of an old regimental hospital built to care for the soldiers of the then British army housed in the area. Driving into Buff Bay, the old Methodist church stood solidly dead ahead. Further along lay St Margaret’s Bay and “Waterloo”.
My own personal and upsetting “Waterloo of the moment” took the form of a police inspection point. Did I see it? No! The vehicle ahead of me slowed (having seen the cops) ,and so I went around it ( not having that focused vision). And so I ended up with a ticket for crossing over an unbroken white line…Well, I absolutely HATE getting police tickets, so after this hubby drove and tried to tease me out of my temporarily deflated spirits.
Port Antonio is one of the most beautiful natural environments on God’s earth! As you enter, the newly built Resident’s Magistrate Court house stands solid and beautiful. A cut stone building making a statement. Another, less noticeable land mark is the Coronation Bakery. This relatively small building is responsible for producing Coronation Easter bun, a very popular brand of Easter bun. Easter bun, along with cheese, is traditionally another MUST at Easter. Driving by the old and new Marinas, passing old “name brand hotels” hidden away on the sea side. Passing through Folly, where clear, shallow water beaches lay adjacent to the road and a cricket match was in full swing on the “Folly Oval”. Making our way into the district of San San, driving into the parking lot at San San Tropez guest house.
A pretty archway grown from bougainvillea bushes crosses the entrance to this guest house. A Jamaican “youth” directs us inside, where we are greeted by the young European entrepreneurs who currently manage the guest house. We were escorted to our room past a tidy dining area, a swimming pool, a bar and a wide lawn area with ornamental shrubs. The suite actually consisted of accommodation for a family as there were two rooms housing a queen sized bed and a double bed, a single bathroom ,a table with a chair, and a mounted TV. A rustic balcony with growing vines over looked a garden and road.
San San Tropez is a one and a half acre property with fruit trees, a garden and open spaces where wedding receptions are held. There are nine suites, all named for fruits (banana, mango, pineapple, guava, strawberry, etc). The suites are equipped with TV, A/C and King, queen or standard beds. Internet access was available in the lobby. Jamaican and Italian cuisine is available on request. Through out the Guest house are strategically scattered oil paintings depicting typical Jamaican scenes by the Jamaican Artist Ken Spencer.
I spoke with a young employee, Mr Ricardo James, who is a chef and the Food and Beverages supervisor for the guest house. Ricardo, who is an attractive and well dressed young man, sat with me under a tree outside on a back patio and shared his experience at San San Tropez with me. Ricardo is a” local “ from the district of “Nonsuch” who was hired on at San San Tropez as a waiter nearly ten years ago. Before this he had “ waitered “at the Palace Hotel (in Port Antonio) for three years. Due to his interest in cooking he learned to cook Italian from the in-house chef as Italian cooking is the specialty cuisine at this guest house. I learned that San San Tropez is owned by an Italian Gentleman, Fabio, who was off the island at the time we visited and managed by Andre, another Italian. Fabio Favelli is an Italian who visited Dragon Bay nearby some twenty years ago and fell “in love” with Jamaica. Fabio purchased a residence (Ginger Hill) and converted it into his own tropical paradise, San San Tropez.
The guest house sees a fair amount of Italian and European guest traffic. Ricardo said that “working at the Palace was straight business but here (San San Tropez) is “family”, like home. He finds Fabio (owner) easy to work with and said that Fabio loves gardening and could often be found in the garden, clipping flowers and weeding. Ricardo likes cooking Pasta best and recommends the Carbonar pasta (pasta sautéed with eggs and bacon). Another favourite was the “Blue Lagoon pasta” (lobster and shrimp in tomato sauce). Also popular is baked lobster sautéed with Jamaican over proof rum! Homemade lasagna and pizzas are “par for the course”.
Setting out from San San Tropez later that afternoon ,we traveled to attend the famous Boston Jerk Festival to sample Jamaican “jerked” meats from the original source of “jerked” foods. We parked at the top of a significant traffic snarl and walked down to the huts where the traditional “pit” cooked jerk meats were being cooked before us and were available for purchase. We visited “Davids’ Place” where we met the owner ,David, and his partners “Treasure” and “the Dread”. Treasure told us that their jerk stand has been in operation for over 18 years! We purchased Jerk pork, lobster, a vegetable sausage ,a jerked chicken sausage and roast bread fruit.
Leaving the hurly burly market venue we headed back to San San, stopping at the San San beach to eat our purchases. This is a quiet, peaceful place with beautiful white sands curving through the bay. A jetty “walked” out into the sea, a yacht was moored some distance away and a small, densely forested uninhabited island was visible within swimming distance. We sat in the covered dining area where we met Mary (also called Miss Mac), a tall , lovely Jamaican woman who manages the beach property. She is an export from Kingston who is also “in love” with Port Antonio and has lived there for several years. She spoke with us in a friendly manner, serving us our ordered Red stripe beer and rum punch drinks and informing us of places of interest to visit while we ate our jerked lunch.
Back at the guest house later that night, I dressed elegantly for dinner in my “leopard spotted on black” outfit and high heels and headed out on the town with my husband for dinner and dancing at the “ Anna Banana Restaurant”. Unobtrusive and easily missed while driving, this thatched roof building opened into a large airy space, filled with rattan weave and wood furniture and tables set at different levels around a central bar area. Well lit areas, well attired young, energetic, beautiful employees. The sea side with tables set on the sand, a raised stage with a thatched covering where the resident band with vocalists Ernest Wilson and Cassandra made their contributions. Their rich, full, mellow voices exhibited that raw Jamaican talent that the island is so well known for. Ernest Wilson, formerly of the “Clarendonians”, a reggae group from Clarendon birthed at the same time Bob Marley was hitting the charts, reminded me of “Fats Domino” with his heavy, full resonant voice. Cassandra must have noticed how much we enjoyed her music as she dedicated one of her selections specially to us. We were well served with our shrimp in garlic sauce dinner by Alvaries Baugh a young, pretty waitress who introduced us to the Head waiter, the charming Jermaine Jaipaul . We ate, good food, we chatted, we danced, we listened to good music, we were well attended to by the staff. Anna Banana is a fine place to dine at in Port Antonio!
Late to bed, later to rise, but the next morning I still found time to visit Frenchman’s Cove Beach facility ,which is directly across the road from the San San Tropez guest house. The beach is a beautiful spot where a river runs directly into the sea. High cliffs covered with green vegetation and dotted yet hidden guest houses surround a white sand beach. This day the sea was rough with tall waves rolling in to spume white water against the rocky cliff sides. Swimming wasn’t possible at this time though there are days when the sea surface is as calm as glass. Instead I stood my ground in the sea water and let the heavy waves beat on me for a time then lay on a beach chair and enjoyed reading a good book.
Later that afternoon, as we made our way back to Kingston with hubby driving to make sure we remained “ticket” free, I sighed in contentment. A good holiday, fine food, and the very best beaches. I thanked God for real and present blessings.
Author Arna J Morgan