Category Archives: Travel & Leisure

In Luxe with Terra Nova

Visiting Jamaica is always a pleasure; in the last few years there has been a spate of renovations and upgrades to some of the established hotels in Kingston, making them ideal choices to for business travellers or visitors staying in the area; popular with locals for dining or partying, hotels such as Terra Nova have redeveloped with international standards and style, cleverly combining the history of the original with a modern chic aesthetic.

Terra Nova All Suite Hotel Kingston Jamaica

Once a stately home, the Terra Nova Hotel is a lush little spot in Kingston, Jamaica; there is a feeling of space, as foliage is used to separate different areas and walkways.  Nature creates ‘walls’ surrounding the conference rooms, pool, spa & gym, with sculptures with an equine theme (a rearing stallion!) in front of the hotel, with the backdrop of the blue mountains. Gardens and grounds Terra Nova Hotel Kingston Jamaica Art is clearly an important element of the hotel – stunning life-like masks by Nakazi Tafari adorn the walls, can be found buried in amongst the plants in the gardens and hanging, surrounded by vines. Caribbean art by Nakazzi in Jamaica Terra Nova is an all suite hotel that goes the next step with lovely touches – complimentary fruit plates, water, coffee & tea; each day a fresh bottle of water with a chocolate – the little things that make us feel good!  The showers were incredible – after a long day returning to our rooms was a welcome respite before venturing out again!  We loved the elegant decor and luxurious details. Design decor Terra Nova Kingston Jamaica One of our party had been assigned the Presidential Suite – upstairs from the lobby, it is fit for a king with it’s own terrace looking out over the grounds and private staircase downstairs; it has it’s own wet bar conveniently hidden behind screen doors and enough space to host our entire group…….the wine and a fruit bowl as a welcome gift was quickly opened and shared! Lobby at the Terra Nova Hotel, Jamaica The lobby’s cozy seating in rich colours with comfortable chairs, grand piano and what can only be described as sheer temptation at the patisserie – a gorgeous display of macaroons with other yummy delights was hard to ignore; it was the crossroads to a plethora of choices: two dining rooms and the hip Regency bar and lounge with the most spectacular wine wall display where those-in-the-know collect and connect.   The food was simply delicious; the breakfast buffet made us put on a few pounds while the dinner menu was full of lip-smacking choices that we could barely finish!

While walking off the food, we discovered two European fashion stores on the ground floor and outside the back entrance a classic casino/gaming lounge with all the one-armed bandits and gaming machines you could want.  On top of all that – the staff were always helpful and friendly, despite our many questions!

www.terranovajamaica.com

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5 a Day: Our Must-Do’s in Kingston, Jamaica

So you’ve arrived in Kingston, Jamaica.  We know the list of things to do are endless – so here are our recommendations for 5 essential must-do’s if you have a day free to explore:

1.  As you depart the airport building, our first recommendation is to hit the nut – the coconut, that is!  Cool down at Going Nuts.  Right outside the arrivals area, it’s a perfect way to refresh yourself after a flight.  Go au naturel – remove the straw and use the coconut as your glass!

Norman Manley Airport, Kingston

coconut vendor kingston jamaica
Get your fix at the airport – cool, fresh coconut water! Great jet lag fix!

2.  Grab a taxi and hit the road – 56 Hope Road to be precise!  The Bob Marley Museum is a mecca for any fan of Bob Marley and reggae music – where you can get a glimpse into the life of the legend.

Bob Marley Museum - Kingston, Jamaica
Bob Marley Museum – Kingston, Jamaica

A life-size statue of Bob stands in front of the house, next to stone lions; the house tour was fascinating, giving insight into the man himself and his rasta lifestyle, with iconic items on display (including the famous denim shirt he wore on tour framed on the wall), the bullet holes from the assassination attempt and a even a view into his bedroom.  We could have spent hours reading the press clippings that adorned the walls from floor to ceiling in one room but there was still so much to see!

Bob Marley Statue Jamaica
56 Hope Road

From the multitude of music awards won by both Bob and his family, to the studio in which much of his music was created, it was informative and interesting – the tour guide certainly knew her stuff. The official tour ended with a documentary showing in a small cinema which was a real treat.  There’s a lovely gift shop where you can get all Marley’d up, murals painted on walls around the grounds and a cafe serving Marley Coffee no less – as if one needed more encouragement to stop and linger for a while….

Murals Bob Marley Museum
Murals at the Bob Marley Museum

Bob Marley Museum, 56 Hope Road, Kingston 6

Tel: +1 (876) 927 9152

3.   If you time it right (close to lunchtime!), head over to Scotchies for a taste of some quintessential Jamaican cuisine – Jerk Chicken and an ice cold Red Stripe.  Here’s a tip: if you get there early, like we did, you’re first in line when the crowds arrive.  This place is chipping with customers all day.  The amazing smells alone were worth the wait, as we watched the guys in the ‘jerk room’ cooking the chicken on massive BBQ pits with grills made of bamboo and covered with a piece of paling.  It’s also a popular place to stop through after a late night of partying!  FYI there’s also a location in Montego Bay & Ocho Rios.

Scotchies Jerk, Halfway Tree Road, Kingston

Scotchies and Devon House - explore Kingston in a day
Scotchies for Jerk & a Red Stripe; dessert at Devon House for I Scream!

4.  Onwards to the historic Devon House for dessert at the infamous I Scream – an almost overwhelming choice of 27 flavours of rich, creamy and delicious locally made ice cream, all made from fresh local ingredients.  Some of the more unique flavours included Coconut Cream, Devon Stout (not sure about that one), Rocky River and our favourite, Soursop.  A waffle cone comes packed to the brim with huge scoops of yumminess that we almost couldn’t finish.  Almost!

I Scream, Devon House, Hope Road, Kingston

5.  One of our favourite stores for a bit of retail therapy is Kerry manwomanhome – a unique boutique on South Avenue in Kingston that’s a haven for local fashionistas.  It looks deceptively small on the outside, but once you step in the door the space opens up to reveal room upon room with beautiful displays and floor to ceiling shelving showcasing a carefully curated selection of fashion, swimwear, jewellery, accessories, footwear, beautiful coffee table books, art, body products and gift items from both local and international brands.  Kerry manwomanhome store Kingston Jamaica

Retail Therapy at Kerry manwomanhome!

It’s a great place to find pieces by local Jamaican designers such as Lubica and Designs Bimi although the brands do change each season.  Owner Kerry-Ann Clarke is also a stylist for none other than Tessanne Chin and Yendi Phillips.  Tip: if you visit during opening hours and it seems closed – don’t worry – just ring the bell!

Kerry manwomanhome, 18 South Avenue, Kingston 10

Tel: +1 (876) 929 2096

 

 

Jamaica’s Calabash Goes Globalishus

Calabash Literary Festival Jamaica 2014 GlobalishusFrom auspicious beginnings, Jamaica’s Calabash Festival has become THE literary event to attend in the Caribbean, attracting some of the biggest names in literature from around the world and inspiring the development of regional literary festivals in islands such as Trinidad, Barbados and Dominica.  Caribbean Bazaar spoke with Calabash co-founder Justine Henzell to find out more about how the “greatest likkle festival” has earned it’s stellar reputation.

There is a tale, often repeated, of how the first Calabash Literary Festival in 2001 was heralded by the arrival of yellow butterflies as the event opened, then disappearing as soon as it was over, as if the spirits of writers gone before were sending their blessings.  A labour of love, Calabash has been built purely through the tireless work of volunteers and co-founders into a must-attend event for aspiring and published writers and authors where there are not only readings but seminars and workshops, all free to attend.

Co-founders of Calabash - Colin Channer, Kwame Dawes, Justine Henzell
Colin Channer, Kwame Dawes, Justine Henzell: Co-founders of Calabash Literary Festival

The idea for Calabash was sparked by the frustration felt by friends and authors Kwame Dawes and Colin Channer as they embarked on a disastrous book tour in the UK.  Recognising that there was a opportunity, their “crazy idea” was to stage their own literary festival in their homeland of Jamaica.  Realising they needed someone on the ground, Colin contacted his friend Justine Henzell, a freelance film producer with a predilection for crazy ideas and a family owned hotel called Jake’s.  So the journey began……

Held every year for the first decade, Calabash is now a two-day biennial event held on even years, welcoming authors, writers, poets and musicians to the beautiful surroundings of Jake’s Hotel at Treasure Beach, a tiny fishing village in the south of the island.  “It’s a heavy workload to put on an event like this every year.  Holding it every two years makes it easier on everyone” acknowledges Justine. It was a practical decision,  not just for the volunteers but also for sponsors and funding, which they have found to be the most challenging aspect.

“People thought we were crazy and insane – not only for developing a literary festival but also because of it’s location” Justine explains.  “We started with 300 people attending and are now getting 3,000.”

One of the attractions of Calabash, she explains, is that “it’s not a staid and stuffy event.”  The vibe is relaxed and casual, readings are framed with a gorgeous oceanfront backdrop; the stage is simply decorated with flowers and calabash gourds; the lectern is made from bamboo and uses rocks as paperweights.  There is a feeling of authenticity, of genuine appreciation for the work being shared – the ambiance is that of a friendly hangout, where everyone mingles together.  It goes without saying that reggae music is an integral part of the whole event, with performances from artists at the end of each day – Justine could not have conceived Calabash without it: “Music is a big part of it organically – every day ends with music” she says.

Calabash Literary Festival at Treasure Beach Jamaica
Images via http://www.susumba.com

“We aim to share a good balance of literati [at Calabash]” says Justine, revealing a line up that includes representatives from Asia, India, Kenya as well as the Caribbean.  For 2014, Salman Rushdie heads up a delicious roster of names including Jamaica Kincaid, Zadie Smith, Robert Antoni, Karen Lord, Albert “Prodigy” Johnson, Ngugi Wa Thiong’O, Mervyn Morris (Jamaica’s first Poet Laureate inaugurated this year) and K’wan Foye to name just a few of the nearly 30 invited to participate this year. calabash-2014-lineup

Indeed, previous participants wax lyrical about their experiences at Calabash. “I can’t tell you how many authors say to us it’s the most responsive/respectful audience they have ever had.  [The audience] are sitting there…..they are not silent…….they are responding to what is being read, they are not chatting amongst themselves.  Simultaneously responsive and respectful.”

When co-founder Colin Channer made a decision to resign from the board officially in 2012, many speculated on the reasons why.  Justine is unfazed by the so-called controversy: “Kwame and Colin are best friends, even when we launched….[the 2014 event] in Kingston, Kwame referred to the ghost of Colin Channer that was hovering with us.  Colin is not actively a member of Calabash but he is absolutely there ….if we need to bounce something off him, he is still there.  Colin was such a huge force and part of creating the festival….the festival is imbued with him.  It is hard to separate Colin from the festival.  The three of us worked very, very closely to make this happen.”

The benefits emerging from cultural events held throughout the Caribbean often go unstated – for Calabash, being located so far south in the parish of St Elizabeth has enhanced and generated not only international interest but has also encouraged internal tourism.  “It’s not a place you would pass by”, says Justine.  “You have to be going to Treasure Beach.”

The influence of Calabash on the literary culture in Jamaica and the Caribbean is undeniable.  “Local authors refer to B.C and A.C (Before Calabash and After Calabash).  It has exposed our writers to such wide, diverse styles and forms.  Many now published writers have emerged from our workshops, such as [award-winning Jamaican writers] Marlon James and Ishion Hutchinson.”  In order to keep the event fresh, the Committee, led by Kwame Dawes, are discerning about who is invited and seek to promote a diversity of voice and genre, with 2014 seeing the inclusion of sci-fi and fantasy fiction for the first time.  Participants are chosen not only for their brand appeal; other criteria include having a book in print within the last two years and ensuring a roster that includes emerging Caribbean writers alongside internationally acclaimed names.  Invitees can only attend once every three events.

From the start the Calabash team have been very particular about the organisation and timing during the event, having been described as a “drum & bass mentality with Swiss precision.”  Events start on time, which is sometimes lacking at Caribbean festivals and many would say that’s simply the Caribbean way.  Justine disagrees: “[you] can be…..vibesy and rootical and start on time and have a PA system. It is not at odds with our culture to be punctual.”   Having firmly established itself as a significant event on not only the literary calendar, but also as one of the major Caribbean cultural festivals, Calabash continues to raise the bar.  All costs related to the staging of the event are raised by sponsorship as well as direct support from Jake’s Hotel, which closes down for a week to host the participants and attending press.

“Most challenging – without question – is the money. Everything else is a joy. Raising money for the arts..[is difficult] when people don’t get it. 12 years later they now realise [the opportunity].  We have proven it can work.”

Unlike the US and Europe, voluntary support of the arts is not a culture in Jamaica or indeed the Caribbean as a whole.  “It’s another cultural thing that we are trying to champion.  We are committed to keeping the festival free – with voluntary support it can work.” Now a registered non-profit in the US, donations can be made directly through the Calabash website or via cheque to Calabash International.

In it’s 12th year, Calabash is going from strength to strength, and has built a legacy with tremendous impact on the Jamaican and Caribbean literary landscape.  “I am incredibly proud,” Justine shares, “Calabash is like my 3rd child.  No matter how challenging, I feel truly, truly blessed to spend a weekend in one of the most beautiful places – with 30 of the most interesting people in the world.”

Thanks to Justine Henzell for her time.

Images via Calabash Festival, Susumba

It’s All About The Happy!

Pharrell Williams’ hit song “Happy” has taken on a life of it’s own – this infectious tune has taken over youtube.com with versions of the video created by people around the world representing their countries and tagging with the hashtag #happyday.  The Caribbean islands also created their own videos for this worldwide craze, getting in on the fun and sharing some Caribbean happy!  Have a look and let us know if we’ve missed any!

Jamaica

Barbados

Bermuda

Guyana

St Maarten/St Martin

Bahamas

Trinidad

Martinique

Curacao

Antigua

 St Barths

St Vincent & The Grenadines

 Cuba

Anguilla

Caribbean Writers Lit Up at Trinidad and Tobago’s Bocas Festival

Trinidad Bocas Literary Festival 2014

2014 looks like a stellar year for Caribbean writers, with a steadily growing calendar of literary events taking place in the region and gaining momentum as they expand beyond their immediate island shores to show the talents of Caribbean writers & authors to the world.

Although it only launched in 2011, Trinidad & Tobago’s NGC Bocas Lit Fest has created a name for itself as not only a celebration of Caribbean books, writers and writing but also as a environment that showcases emerging new talent, giving up and coming writers the opportunity to be seen and heard by a wide audience.

At the heart of the NGC Bocas Lit Fest are a series of readings by some of Trinidad and Tobago’s and the Caribbean’s finest writers of fiction and poetry — from authors of books already considered contemporary classics to prizewinning newcomers.

Running from 23-27 April 2014, this five day festival (find the Bocas Lit Fest schedule here) is packed full of more than 60 events including readings, performances, workshops, and discussions; while authors read excerpts from their books, talk about their work and have Q&A’s with the audience, participating booksellers have books for sale and there are book-signing opportunities as well.  In the months running up to the festival there are several smaller events, from experimental readings (such as Five By Night: New Fiction from T&T) to poetry slams and even a mini-festival on the island of Tobago at the end of March.

Bocas Literary Festival authors, writers, poets
Bahamian author Marion Bethel; Jamaica’s Olive Senior; Trinidad’s Danielle Boodoo-Fortune and Jackie Hinkson at Bocas Lit Fest 2013 (Photos by Maria Nunes, Official Festival Photographer: Facebook/bocaslitfest)

Each year the winners of major regional literary awards are announced, including the OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature; the Hollick Arvon Caribbean Writers Prize, supporting an emerging Caribbean writer in completing a book; and the inaugural Burt Award for Caribbean Literature, a new prize recognising Caribbean writers of young adult literature.

Three Caribbean authors have made the shortlist for the OCM Bocas Prize for 2014 from a field of ten titles being considered – in the fiction genre, Trinidadian Robert Antoni, with his novel As Flies To Whatless Boys; Poetry – Jamaican Lorna Goodison’s Oracabessa and in non-fiction, fellow Jamaican Kai Miller with Writing Down The Vision: Essays & Prophecies.  The winner receives a US$10,000 prize.

Bocas Literary Festival Caribbean Literature
Shortlisted books for the OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature 2014

Details:

www.bocaslitfest.com

Facebook/bocaslitfest

Images courtesy Bocas Literary Festival/Facebook – Maria Nunes (Official Festival Photographer) 

Romero-me Jamaica!

Director of Makeup Artistry and 22-year veteran at MAC Cosmetics, Romero Jennings, returned to his roots for the MAC Cosmetics SS14 Trend Presentation in Kingston, Jamaica.  The beautiful Devon House was a spectacular location for the welcome reception, followed by dinner on the terrace at Guilt.

Devon House Guilt Restaurant, Kingston Jamaica
The Location: Devon House and Guilt Restaurant

At the reception we had a chance to catch up with the M.A.C team, media friends from around the Caribbean and meet the models for the following day’s presentation – none other than Kerrie Baylis (Miss Universe Jamaica) and Gina Hargitay (Miss Jamaica World).  Both Kerrie and Gina shared their desire to use their opportunities to step beyond just beauty to represent Jamaica in impactful ways.  More to come on both of these ladies in the near future!

romero jennings jamica novia observer
Romero Jennings & Novia McDonald-Whyte – Lifestyle Editor, Jamaica Observer
Gisel Cavillo romero Jennings Kerri Baylis
Gisel Calvillo – Senior Artist MAC, Romero Jennings – MAC Director of Makeup Artistry, Kerrie Baylis – Miss Universe Jamaica

A delicious menu created for specially for the occasion featured a selection of canapes accompanied by a signature cocktail with Red Stripe (yes, beer….!), orange, cherry & ginger; highlights of the four-course menu included a divine pumpkin & ginger bisque and the finale trio (we love our desserts…..quite frankly we’ll pass on the mains once the dessert is worthwhile!).

dinner guilt restaurant Kingston, Jamaica
Our faves from the delicious menu – no surprises, dessert made the cut!

Our table included the man of the moment himself, the effortlessly chic Novia McDonald-Whyte (Lifestyle Editor, Jamaica Observer), Jamaican PR maven Odette Dixon Neath (CGR Communications) and the gorgeous Gina Hargitay.  Romero reminisced about his childhood in Jamaica (he moved to New York at 6), his mother’s remedies, ginger tea; Gina shared how her life has changed since winning, and her work with the UN.  As the evening went on, each course was instagramed and tweeted; the fabulous and fun ladies from M.A.C joined us for coffee, duly snapping selfies while (we confess) some photo-bombing took place amid much merriment and laughter.

Romero Jennings Gina Hargitay
Romero Jennings & Gina Hargitay – Miss Jamaica World

The team from MAC, as always, went above and beyond to host a delightful fun event!

 

Jamaica’s Blue Mountains Come Alive

It’s reggae month – what better way to celebrate the music that has become an intrinsic part of our lives, than with a two day music festival?  The hills above Kingston will come alive over the weekend of 22-23rd February as the inaugural Blue Mountain Music Festival kicks off in the Blue & John Crow Mountains National Park, Jamaica.

No ordinary ‘Caribbean music festival’, this epic two-day event has an enviable backdrop – surrounded by the stunning landscape of the Blue Mountains, with panoramic views of Kingston and the ocean.  The Festival encompasses the original Misty Bliss annual cultural event with a Reggae Party, combining music, culture and outdoor activities to create an event that, according to Executive Producer Roshaun ‘Bay-C’ Clarke, is “music meets art meets nature” and promises an experience synonymous with the legendary Woodstock.

Blue Mountain Music Festival - Holywell, Jamaica
Blue Mountain Music Festival – Holywell, Jamaica

This is no one-off event, however, and with a vision to evolve the festival to include different genres of music as well as expand the range of attractions on offer, the Blue Mountain Music Festival will no doubt become one of the must-attend festivals in the Caribbean.

The roster of performances spread over the weekend features some of Jamaica’s most well-known musical acts such as reggae icons Third World (who will be paying tribute to founding member Bunny Rugs, who recently passed away), international dancehall superstars T.O.K, Tanya Stephens, Chronixx along with a seemingly endless list of Jamaican artists and musicians.

Holywell - home of the Blue Mountain Music Festival, Jamaica
Holywell – home of the Blue Mountain Music Festival, Jamaica

With hiking, yoga, massage, poetry, story-telling and more on the schedule for this year, it’s already gearing up to be a weekend jam-packed with things to do and experiences to be had.  And we haven’t even got to the performers or the food!  Just remember that up in the Blue Mountains it can get a bit chilly – but never fear, there will be brightly coloured blankets on sale at the event with proceeds going to charity.

Stunning views from the Blue Mountains - what a location to hold a music festival!
Stunning views from the Blue Mountains – what a location to hold a music festival!
Stunning scenery surrounds the location for the Blue Mountain Music Festival
Stunning scenery surrounds the location for the Blue Mountain Music Festival

Jamaica has so much more to offer than the cliche of ‘sun, sand and sea’ – the interior of the island is simply breathtaking, and in true festival style, there are camping facilities available on site, with bonfires and stargazing.  What an adventure!

There will be shuttles to and from the events on both days – have a gander at the Blue Mountain Music Festival Facebook page to find out more information about the event along with videos of the acts on the roster or visit the Blue Mountain Festival website.  You can also stream or download an audio track on soundcloud featuring the musical acts.

The organisers will stream the festival live via ustream for those who cannot attend – so bookmark this link!

Follow the Blue Mountain Music Festival on Twitter: @bluemountainmf

*Photos courtesy Blue Mountain Music Festival