Sundays are for fresh fish in Port Royal

Sundays; we all hate them, right?
Usually hungover from Saturday night, terrified to look at your Snap Chat story and last dialled list, and generally dreading another mundane Monday.
But since moving to Jamaica, Sundays don’t look like that for me anymore.
And I’m not bragging at all, because some weekends I’d love nothing more than to be nursing a hangover in my old bed, in my old apartment, more than likely ringing 37 Dawson Street to see if they found my handbag and my dignity.
But since moving to a tropical island, I don’t want to waste a single moment having a lie in or feeling sorry for myself lying on the sofa crying over the Notebook.
So now my Sundays often look like this.

And this actually.

This was last Sunday with beautiful friends in a beautiful little sleepy fishing village called Port Royal.
It just so happens that said sleepy little fishing village is home to one ofthe nicest seafood restaurants I’ve ever eaten at.
And this is what I actually love most about Jamaica. The fact it’s so raw and unpretentious.

Because the local places spend no time fussing over whether their crystal chandeliers match the crystal cocktails glasses. They spend all their time making sure you eat like a king and feel right at home.
Gloria’s in Port Royal is a hidden gem you have to see.
It’s what my mum would call rough and ready.
We ate at a plastic table, sat on plastic chairs and served ourselves drinks out of the fridge.
In fact, it’s so popular that there were no tables when we arrived. So instead of being told to wait or come back another day, they just took a table out of some storage shed and plonked it down close to the other makeshift tables.
Yes, the outdoor dining area is kind of just a road – but that’s what made it even more special.

I wouldn’t go there hungry, especially on a Sunday, as you will have to wait.
But because Jamaica is so laid back, I’ve gotten used to waiting – and thankfully I’ve become a lot more patient.
Anyway, when my shrimp arrived and I tasted my first bite, every second of that wait was worth it.
Plus what is a few hours in the sun on a lazy Sunday afternoon chatting with friends after a lovely morning on the beach?
The true beauty of Gloria’s is that we were sitting eating less than a stone’s throw from where our fish came in off the boat.

And we sat and watched as it was washed and cooked on the street corner.

Being here has given me a much greater appreciation for, and awareness of, what I’m eating.
When something isn’t in season, you can’t have it. Full stop.
Sort of makes you wonder how supermarket shelves in Ireland are basically full of everything all year round.
You can’t imagine how mouth-watering it is to eat a mango that you’ve just picked off the tree in your garden, or to drink out of a fresh coconut some fearless man climbed a tree to pick for you.
And forget your meals in fancy restaurants (I do love a fancy restaurant and a ridiculously overpriced cocktail, don’t get me wrong!).
But wait until you’ve tasted the chicken off ‘chicken man’ as we affectionately call him.
Sitting on a Friday night eating the most delicious chicken with ketchup out of tin foil, washed down with a Red Stripe.
I usually share so much luxury from dream trips in exquisite hotels, which we’re lucky to have on our doorsteps.
But it’s the late-night dashes to chicken man, the coconuts from the roadside and the jerk shacks that make Jamaica truly exquisite and unique.
And they’re the parts I’d miss the most.

GoldenEye is my jewel in Jamaica’s crown

What do Jamaica and James Bond have in common? If you’re an avid Bond fan, you probably know the answer to that.

If, like me, you only became a Bond fan when Daniel Craig stepped into the tuxedo and bow tie, then you may not be so sure.

So here’s the answer – Ian Fleming.

Let me elaborate. Fleming was a commander in the English navy during World War II.

In 1942, he was sent to the Caribbean to investigate reports of Nazi U-Boats in the crystal clear waters – an operation dubbed GoldenEye.

Like everyone who comes to Jamaica (myself included), Fleming fell head-over-heels in love with the blissful island. And so when he found 15 acres in the picture-perfect banana port town of Oracabessa, Fleming snapped it up.

And so, hidden away behind the walls and enchanting forest of the estate he called GoldenEye, he dreamed up the world’s favourite spy, 007.

And it’s from this magnificent location that he wrote all 13 of his Bond novels – three of which are set in Jamaica. I mean, who doesn’t know the famous scene where the gorgeous Ursula Andress walks out of the water in Dr. No? And yes, you can go to Crab Key and try to reenact it!

Then enter stage left… Chris Blackwell, the founder of Island Records – the label that brought reggae to the world and, thankfully, Bob Marley and the Wailers

Blackwell became a location scout for Bond movies (he chose the beach where Andress emerged from the water like a goddess) and in 1976, 12 years after Fleming died, he bought GoldenEye – otherwise known as my FAVOURITE place on the planet.

Over 30 years since buying GoldenEye, Blackwell added another 25 acres to the original 15 Fleming lived on, and transformed it into the chic, secluded and unrivalled paradise that it is today.

It’s hard to put into words how somewhere so low key can ooze such elegance and glamour from every crevice. But that is perhaps the true beauty of GoldenEye, that it can’t be defined.

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Bond himself is famous for his sophisticated style. So no wonder GoldenEye oozes opulence and a certain ‘je ne sais quoi’ from the moment you find the secret entrance off the main road into the sprawling estate.

The tree-lined drive up to the resort itself creates as much intrigue as any James Bond plot.

Continue reading “GoldenEye is my jewel in Jamaica’s crown”

Home is where the 💗 is

Home is where the heart is, isn’t it? It’s where we feel safe, love and appreciated.

But I’m not sure ‘safe’ is always a positive thing. How many of us go through life never stepping out of our comfort zones, never challenging ourselves to take a risk and never doing the very thing that scares us most?

I was one of those people until I woke up one day – aged 33 – and realised I was an adventurer at heart and I wanted to take the risk and take the flight and find out what was waiting for me far away from home.

And turns out it wasn’t so scary after all.

It was the toughest decision I’ve ever made to quit my job and leave all my beautiful friends and family and my ‘safe’ life in Dublin behind.

But I knew the opportunity awaiting me in Jamaica was one I had to grab with both hands. And so I went.

And I haven’t looked back. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t get homesick. Sometimes all you long for is familiarity, a cosy night in your PJs sipping tea out of your favourite mug on your favourite chair not having to think too much about anything because you’re ‘safe’.

Even when you have beaches and lagoons and breakfast parties and white sands on your doorstep.

But homesickness is not an actual physical illness, it’s a state of mind. And so to banish the down days, you have to be proactive and keep yourself busy.

And luckily I live on one of the most beautiful islands on the planet – so it’s not entirely difficult to find something to do!!

Yes there’s lots of idyllic trips when we swim in waterfalls for example – like the YS Falls in St Elizabeth below.

Or we take a boat ride on the Blue Lagoon or the Black River

Or we stay in a tree house for the weekend and eat breakfast in the clouds

But I’m not actually on vacation here – I live in Kingston where I do normal things like go to work every day, food shopping, dentist appointments, brunch with the girls, walks by the reservoir and sweaty gym sessions in the evenings.

It just so happens that my new normal is a little bit more amazing than anything I’ve ever known.

Many of you will have heard bad things about Kingston; that it’s dangerous, there’s nothing much to do, there’s no beach – so best avoid it.

But trust me. To avoid it is to miss out on a little taste of heaven.

Yes, there’s some danger. This is a third world country and crime is rife.

But is there really anywhere in the world where you’re totally safe?

Despite the headlines, I want to give you a glimpse of the beautiful, eclectic, culture-rich Kingston I now call home. And am very proud to do so.

Staring up at the idyllic Blue Mountains, Kingston is like nowhere else I’ve ever been. Perhaps like nowhere else on Earth.

And the Blue Mountains – famous for the coffee – make for the perfect day trip.

Even when it’s sweltering hot in the city, parts of the mountain trail are so shaded that it’s cold and very spooky – like this!

It’s also rare that you get a clear enough day to see the fantastic view – but the trek is worth the risk!

Other weekends we just brunch and lunch like anyone else in any other place in the world.

There’s lots of choice – which I’ll elaborate on in another blog post – but Fromage on Hillcrest Avenue is one of our favourites.

The fish in the Caribbean is to DIE FOR!

So are the cocktails!

I’m lucky enough to live round the corner from the Bob Marley Museum on Hope Road, where the legend himself lived. And to be honest, a morning spent there was one of my best experiences to date.

We all know of the legend that was Bob Marley, the godfather of reggae.

But as I learned on the fantastic tour of his former home where he was once shot alongside his wife and manager, I really didn’t know anything about him at all.

Bob was much more than a reggae artist, he was a cultural icon, a God-type figure in Jamaica and beyond, and definitely one of the most gifted and enlightened men, arguably, ever.

Then sometimes we head to the National Stadium and watch some of the best track and field athletes in the world compete. The same stadium where Usain Bolt ran his last race last year. He’s my neighbour now you know.

But other days we just sit in and watch a movie, grab a coffee and sit and read in the sunshine, or be really Irish and watch the GAA on TV and pretend we’re at home in Croke Park with a packet of Tayto and a Club Orange on our laps.

When really we’re sipping out of a fresh coconut and chomping on a mango that just fell off the tree in our garden! (Jealous much??!)

But we still miss the Tayto!

Because there really is no place like home, but there is a very big world out there waiting to be explored.

And home will be waiting for you when you get back.

So cheers to life, and adventure, and making new memories, new friends, and new homes.

Wagwan from Jamrock!

In case you don’t speak patois, ‘wagwan’ is a common greeting here in Jamaica. For all my Irish homebirds, it literally translates as ‘what’s the craic?’ Although it’s much more tropical I think you’ll agree. Just one of the many tropical new words I’ve learned since packing my bags and moving to Jamaica last November. Work took me to Kingston, the capital of the beautiful island that is affectionately known as Jamrock. And hence the very fitting title of this, my inaugural blog post on my irie adventure. Wagwan from Jamrock!

This blog will quite literally be a treasure trove of my travels and musings during my crazy journey from Camlough to the Caribbean.

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And here are just some sneak peeks at what’s in store…

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My new home:

blue mountains

Yip, I live at the foot of these. The Blue Mountains. Famous for coffee, and hikes and the most stunning views of Kingston.

Living my best life:

dolphins

I’ve ticked so many items off my bucket list since moving here. This little fella swam up alongside our boat in Treasure Beach – my happy place. This remote village is for me the real jewel in Jamaica’s crown and a must-visit for anyone who’s ever dreamed of genuine peace and tranquility in paradise. But more of that later.

Weekends typically look like this:

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These are just some of the amazing people I have met since my big move and the crew I couldn’t do this without. Oh, and I met the love of my life here too. Maybe our paths really are laid out for us.

Jamaicans throw the BEST parties:

carnival

Just a normal Sunday in Kingston! This was in fact carnival Sunday, when the streets of the capital become a sea of feathers and glitter in all the colours of the rainbow. After experiencing carnival, I honestly believe everyone should get a taste before they die.

So that’s just a little taster to whet your appetites from the land where goats are curried, breadfruit isn’t bread or fruit and rum flows free.

They say the best memories are made in flip-flops, and I can’t wait to make many more.

“The biggest adventure you can ever take is to live the life of your dreams.” – Oprah Winfrey