Sunday, September 7, 2014

Day 5: Portland – a Writer’s Hideaway

Whenever I travel anywhere a thought that always comes to mind is, “I wonder if I could live here?” I’d enjoyed every day of my stay in Jamaica at this point and certainly could see myself visiting all of the same places, but it wasn’t until we arrived in Portland that I had that feeling – I could live here. At the very least, it would make a great writer’s retreat or backdrop for a story.

When my cousin and I were first planning what we’d do when I got to Jamaica, she suggested we spend a day in Portland. I’d said, “Okay…what’s there? What are we going to do?” Andrea had replied, “It’s beautiful. You just have to see it. Maybe you’ll get some inspiration for your next book.”
Riding along the coast

Grove of coconut trees

Right she was. Portland is indeed beautiful. Located on the northeast coast, it was quite a hike from Mandeville, but well worth the drive. The streets were quiet the morning we set off, as people prepared to celebrate Jamaica’s Emancipation Day. We passed through St. Anne’s Parish, also known as the Garden Parish where you’ll find the majestic Dunn’s River Falls (if you have never climbed the falls, it is definitely something you must experience). Passing through this parish already had me in a mellow mood, but when we got to Portland I definitely felt a level of peace and comfort that exceeded what I’d experienced so far. The houses on the hill had perfect views of the sea and even those closer to the road had the same advantage.  I could imagine sitting on a balcony somewhere enjoying my morning tea and watching the sunrise above the rippling sea as I tapped away on my laptop. Yes, it’s really that nice.

House overlooking the Rio Grande

So what to do once we arrived? Well that question was easily resolved. When I was a child my parents had lots of reminders of Jamaica around the house, including a wall hanging with various depictions of Jamaican life on it. One of the pictures was of a man rafting on the Rio Grande, so when we saw the sign for this, we knew what we were going to do.

Rafting on the river was everything I thought it would be. The sun was warm, but not too hot and the water was a clear, vibrant turquoise blue. We had two raft captains for our group and they were contrasting characters – Trevor didn’t say much, except to point out the occasional duck or other attraction. Roy was quite talkative and every once in a while he would slow the raft he was guiding to share some interesting trivia with us - apparently many celebrities like to raft here too.

Halfway through our ride we stopped near the shore to take a dip in the cool water. All I can say here is, “Ahhh! Very refreshing.” On the way back our captains let us take a turn rafting. I did pretty well if I do say so myself. I was sorry when the ride was over – we did the one-hour tour and it seemed way too short. We will definitely go back and take the three-hour ride at sunrise. I’ll be bringing a good book and my notebook with me too.

After the Rio Grande we were torn between Somerset Falls and the Blue Lagoon (yes, the setting for the Brooke Shields movie).  Our river raft captain suggested Somerset Falls.  I must confess I did want to see the place that shared a name similar to my novel title, Somerset Grove, though it is not the actual setting for my book.  Somerset Falls is a gathering place where you can take a swim in the pool, grab some jerk chicken or fried fish and relax while a deejay plays a mix of hip hop, R&B and dancehall tunes.  Since it was Emancipation Day, Somerset Falls was filled with local families enjoying the day off. We had plans to celebrate too, so we headed back to Mandeville.

By late afternoon, the preparations for Emancipation Day were in full swing. Every small town we passed through on the way back was abuzz with activity as sound systems set out by the roadside pumped out smooth reggae beats.

Mojitos Café was the spot for us that night. The café owners had taken over the entire plaza, draping it with white fabric throughout and filling the air with a blend of old and new hits. Again, the vibe was easy as people mingled and relaxed. I was tired from the long day, but I didn’t want it to end, knowing I would be going home in two days. I finally gave in around midnight. I guess I can’t hang like I used to, but it was okay. I’d had a great day and yes, I was inspired.  

Up next: Manchester Reunited!

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