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Posts Tagged ‘Caribbean’

The Boston Globe Newspaper’s Travel Show heats up a Chilly Weekend

giveaway-banner-azoresGive away twenty-four vacations and promise untold discounts to vacation hungry and they will come, and they did come.  The winter season provides the inspiration to the masses and the purveyors of varieties of travel near and far produce.  The anchor vendors to the 2014 Boston Globe Travel Show on February 7th, 8th, and 9th on the harbor front bring the warmth of the Caribbean, Europe offbeat retreats, Asia and the Pacific, while New England regions champion the cultures of food, the sea and mountains and day trips away to inns.

The hunger for taste and drink sets the stage.

07_NSTourism_010924Nova Scotia, Canada may be imposing in the dead of  winter but the heart and humor of the province comes through in the culinary specialties of the near neighbor. The taste of the sea and the wealth of the vines combine to give the attendees flavors that excite. Chef Jason Lynch of Le Caveau Restaurant and sommelier Amy Savoury of Tidal Bay Wines take you on a culinary journey featuring Nova Scotia scallops and wine.  Nova Scotia is now recognized as a culinary tourism destination and the trade has stepped up to provide. Local cheddar cheese, seafood and white wine round out the preparations with samples for the many throngs eager to partake.photo4

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Pan seared Atlantic sea scallops served over a wild beet puree, beure blanc sauce and a hint of creme. The  wine was white and crisp.

Your coupon may just be the ticket.

Area 2 bustles with dozens of Travel Booths dedicated to the warmth of the Caribbean Sea.  Salsa  music lilts  in the aisles and the Dominican Republic triple booth has swarms with activity.  Winning drawing gifts of bottles of Brugal Rum and on-site hand-rolled cigars, as well as island vacations under palm trees is good reason for the buzz.  Attendees sign up at the many terminals and the business is brisk.

The Boston Globe Travel Show offered a  successful season to present the best of values and creative ideas for winter weary vacationers.

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Copps Hill Burial Ground      My travel to a new destination is not complete without a journey to a local cemetery.  You may call me bizarre, as others have noted this trait as unusual.  I generally see that the culture of a land and the knowledge of an age long past is before my eyes upon walking past those gates.  A somber reflection, in a dignified manner, into the lives of those departed, opens my eyes to the needs to respect the dead.  The payment of homage and need to glorify the memory of a family member takes on so many differences in the cultures of my travel.  From an early age I found the monuments to the dead intriguing.  The walks through the cemetery take on a peace of their own.  Ancient or modern in design, open wide or grown over set a tone.  The maintainers of the gravesites add to the culture.  My earliest remembrance came from a Victorian era matured cemetery in Connecticut, USA.  Though not in a New England wealthy town, the deceased  retained many beautiful and massive stones over their graves.  Many monuments reflected the touch of the sea with anchors and granite crosses adorned with cherubs and dolphins.  The cedar and cyprus trees were so mature that the shadows fell across most graves in a cloak of sadness.  Pools of fresh water in the hollows on the grounds drew weeping willow branches toward the reflections on the water and tears of leaves  floated down in the breeze. The families of the late 1800’s felt the sadness of loss of the loved ones and those graves clearly let the living feel the grief.

    sabagraveIn the heat of the noonday sun, no cemetery was more striking to explore than the Hassell Cemetery on the 5 square mile  island of Saba in the Leeward Islands of the Caribbean Sea.  This island is an upside down ice cream cone with a population of 2,000.  The lilliputian villages are populated by ancient seafaring Scot families and Carib/African descendants. The families had etched a space over several generations to bury the dead.  Volcanic in nature, the land required the above ground vault mausoleums.  These were not like the historic New Orleans, LA style, but more low-rise, in a dense plot of graves.  The island seaman would travel the world and return with glass and ceramic tiles from every culture.  Those tiles were then used to pave every inch of every vault in every color and mixed pattern. The reflection in the sun and the intensity of the blend is a vision of ingenuity.  Most crypts sport an oval photograph of the deceased imbedded on a raised head stone. Like a hotel washroom, the tiles are scrubbed and shined gleaming by the  families.  They were so proud of their graves.

  GreeceChurch On the road to the last vestige of land of the mainland before touching the deep blue Aegean Sea and the islands of Greece, the villages of the Peloponnese area, known as Mani, gives us the color of a proud culture.  These fierce people from ages long past retain the memories of stoic, no, Spartan times in history. This culture retains religious veins of intense respect for the dead.  The honor of the departed parent is most evident here.  The graveyard of Greece is a family place and many times attached to the family’s own individual church. These churches serve as the last resting place.  Black-shawled women tend the grave/vault near the cubic whitewashed structure.  Within a glass-doored wooden tombstone are put vessels of  “holy water” and olive oil, photographs of family, incense, dried flowers, toys, “toma” or the pressed religious icons of silver, painted icons of saints, candles of golden bee’s wax and the list goes on.  The touching sadness of the stuffed toy puppy and the photo of the dark curled haired toddler speaks of this culture.  These are glimpses into a respect for life and the prayers for the departed.  The life of the village revolves around all in the Mani mind-set.

     These and the many chances to walk the paths that the mourners have walked have opened my eyes to a respect for the timeless  museum of granite, marble, slate and the wood.  I place my hand on the chiseled words and feel the warmth of the stone and drink in the sound of the wind through the monuments that draw me to the land of the lost.  The land of the living becomes most real. 

GreeceMani

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Sunkist2 Island Traveler

This page gives you a little insight of my Travels through my lens.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Escape

The phone does not ring. The messages are eliminated.  The ambient sound is bubbles.

 Negril,JAM1 Image5   Image8 IMG_2203 IMG_2277Image6Image7
 

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peace

compliments of PhotStock

Ocean Elders convene to save the Caribbean
The Necker Island, British Virgin Islands’ retreat, serves as the location of a symposium for corporate leaders and government officials to save an industry. That industry is the 80 Billion dollar tourism and fishing trade of the Caribbean Islands. The perceived destruction of the infrastructure that supports the ecology of the region and the blatant disregard for the preservation of the most visible sea life is the highlights the discussion.

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compliments of PhotoStock

Led by Virgin Group Ltd, Chairman, Sir Richard Branson and co-chaired by the Prime Minister of Grenada, The Right Honorable Keith Mitchell, lead a group of industry stalwarts of Disney, Starwood Resorts, Sandals Resorts, The Nature Conservancy and a host of Caribbean Goverments. The outcome is promised as a significant agreement to preserve the island water’s resources. These “Ocean Elders” from St. Kitts, Jamaica, Barbados, Puerto Rico, Grenada and more gather to hammer out the desire of the G-20 the save the pelagic species that are so rich to the draw of over 25 Million Visitors each season.

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Shark Reef, Bloodybay, Jam

A start is the ban on the hunting and fishing of those species at most risk. The prohibition of shark hunting and the fishing of the eagle and manta ray for two years are to kick off the moratorium. The management of energy ecology will be considered. Regions near the breeding grounds of whales could be directed toward marine reserve status. Waters off of Haiti have been recognized as breeding grounds of the sperm whales. As the tourism industry promotes the Caribbean sea and build the vessels to carry 4000 at one time to the ports, the stresses are evident. These and further discussions of Goverments and leaders, Ocean Elders, if you will, are imperative.

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Idyllic and tranquil are the two regular descriptions of Jamaica’s Western point of Negril.

This exposed region hosts a seven mile beach of white sugar sand and the proverbial “gin clear water” of this reef protected district.  Negril beach and the nearby West End Cliffs supports a number of small family run hotels and a few larger all-inclusive resorts. October 21, 2012 5:00PM local Kingston television news began reporting the stalling of the 90 L weather front at 200 nautical miles due south of the island, the name Sandy was uttered.  Mid-October brings the usual tropic afternoon thunderhead cloud formations to this part of Jamaica.  They build with a light sea breeze and the Westmoreland Parish mountains beyond the Great Morass wrings the moisture out of the passing formations with a dense soaking at two or three PM each day. All are prepared for a ten minute rush to shelter from the front and then back to the most gorgeous late afternoon sunsets.  October 24th was no different. Yet this day. the tone changed at two o’clock.

I spoke to the hotel owner, who had anxiously walked the beach near the moored dive boats and non motorized watercraft. He asks: “Do you believe the reports?”  I had been monitoring several online weather services and the numerous models. Stormcarib.com has become a staple for me.  We both knew the answer. One hour later all his boats had steamed east to the town of Lucea, and the safeharbor sheltered up the nearby river.  The beachboys, 15 in total, organized and hauled the windsurfers, pedalboats, hobiecats and all to the grassy areas well beyond the beach. Next came the chaise lounges numbering in the hundreds.  When the season is in full swing these chaises reach from the cocopalms to the water’s edge and carpet the several hundred yards of frontage. In the three hours before sunset, all were stacked and stored beyond the hotel’s buildings. Tensions began to mount as several communications of the storm preparations were placed under the hotel room doors. Occupancy was at 79% and the staff at 100%.  The beach scene was an eerie vision: light waves lapping the shore, a glimmer of sun filtering down through intermittent breaks in the purple-gray thunderheads and a handful of humans roamed the water’s edge. The lighter side of the whole circumstance came when all was secured by the beachboy staff.  The soccer ball was produced and the goals drawn in the sand for a rollicking game by the most hearty staff.

Soon the Ground’s Keeper crew emerged, as they proceeded to pull the weakest limbs from the cocopalms and surrounding vegetation. The tractor and wheelbarrows were filled. These precautions included the open air dining rooms, where the potted planters were brought in from the perimeter of the exposed regions.  These folks knew their jobs and silently all were carried out. The night of October 23, Tuesday, the diners found wonderful meals and rum punches flowed.  The eyewall of Sandy stood a mere ninety miles south of Kingston, Jamaica.  All models determined a direct hit at hurricane strength within 20 hours.  As the gusts of winds began to pick up to 25 tp 30 knots, I knew the beach was prepared to take the brunt on the next day.

Wednesday, October 24th started with a break in the overcast and the sun poured onto the beach. Sadly, there were no chaise lounges. All was packed in preparation. The Beach Vendors were absent. Typically a vendor would pass every several minutes, but they were long gone.  The Health Club was boarded up tight and the Spa had sent all home to their families.  Lunch and dinner were sanctioned to the buffets in the two largest dining halls.  A memo under each door required the verandah furniture to be brought inside of each room.

THE CALM BEFORE THE STORM

Negril is a low land area, more like a sandbar between sea and swamp.  The saving grace is the reef offshore approximately 3 KM out and sheltering most of the Seven Mile Beach and Bloody Bay. On a calm day, no waves break on the coral several feet beneath the surface.  On the morning of Wednesday, October 24, the gusts were picking up, and the seas were encroaching the sands.  The guests were gathered at the one swim-up bar; it was an active site. The beach bars were long closed and secured down.  Kingston TV reports were on full storm mode; anchors were taking the reports of the police and field reporters.  Sandy was making landfall in the eastern portion of Jamaica and east of Kingston was experiencing the  hit at 80 mile per hour winds.  In Negril, the winds rose and the seas churned higher, but the rain that was promised did not come.  Mudslides have ravaged the slopes of the hills in other areas in past storms.  Folklore prevails here in Jamaica.  There is a perception, call it a destiny, that storms with female names will pass-over the island. Hurricane Gilbert, Ivan and others lingered with infamy.

By 4:00 PM the rains came and the seas rolled, the cocopalms bent in the 60 mile wind gusts and the night concluded with sand blasting across the ground and walkways.  Most guests braved the elements to find dinner and then return to the security of their rooms. Thursday, October 25 let the world know that Sandy was focused and raging to the north. On Negril beach the licking was to begin.  The Jamaicans explained it perfectly: Hurricane Sandy was a ” Woman with a Tail”.  The seas continued to build and the reef did its best to protect.  Yet the waves threw fifteen foot monsters against the West End Cliffs and the Seven Mile Beach was strewn with seaweed and erosion swept away sand and shore. Negril still fared the best on this Birth of Sandy.  Other parts of the Eastern Regions did not do as well.  St. Anne Parish, Portland, Ocho Rios and Port Antonio all had disaster events and loss of life. Electricity, roads and bridges were out.  Still, Negril never lost power and the roads stayed open.  This was a blessing to an area of the world that evokes peace.  The path of Sandy could only have hoped for that fate.

Port Antonio to the East on Jamaica

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Flying in to Sint Maarten, W. I.Sometimes I think back to a short time before the 1995 Hurricane Luis hovered over Sint Maarten for those thirty-six immeasurable hours and I have to roll my closed eyes back in my nodding head and sigh,”What a waste.” An exposed and windy place is this point of land. No, it looks more like a jagged little island. It is connected to the ironshore coast, but the razor sharp edges of each foothold prevent any temptation to test a pair of Keds. The waves that suck under the hollows on the extreme verticals to the open sea leave the bellowing of the humpback’s long deserved breath. This is a rugged and exposed place. It does not invoke comfort. It is also the touchdown point of the island’s international airport.

When the bohemians found paradise, the Dutch side of this Sint Maarten/ St. Martin tiny island prospered. Small comfortable enclaves sprang up in the secluded nooks and bays. Not fancy, but club-like, these refuges built a following of word-of-mouth guests, who could not think of any alternative. Caravanseri began as this and continued to thrive through the nineteen eighties tourist boom while keeping the intimate character- a home in the tropics.

This brings me to the Pirate of Sint Maarten.

As my little de Havilland Twin-Otter aircraft hovered yards from touch down on the beach front landing strip, waving below was J.J. and the gang outside the villa at Caravanseri. It was a long day on the island of  Saba and my throat was begging for more than those steel cylinders carrying that beautiful air all during a scuba day at 100 feet below on  Saba’s ocean gardens.  At Caravanseri I knew my destination: the open air octogonal restaurant; the Bar, manned by Moncel and the “Pirate”. Fifteen mintutes later, having been hosed down with the villa’s outdoor shower and with a fresh linen shirt,  I was ready to roll. Moncel was ready. Two glasses in hand, and a grin on his face, he began to perform his magic.

THE PIRATE

1 OZ BRANDY
1/2 OZ GALIANO
1/2 OZ B AND B LIQUOR
1/2 OZ CONTREAU LIQUOR
1 OZ VODKA
2 TBLSPOONS CREAM
2 TBLSPOONS COCOCREAM
NUTMEG SPRINKLE
SHAKE ON ICE, SERVE IN A REAL TALL GLASS.

Hurricane Luis for 36 HoursThat year it was all gone ; just a nice piece of barren land with great waves crashing over those jagged rocks. All blown away; villa, octogonal bar, Moncel? (hope not); everything!  But you know, we still have the Pirate, though, we can leave Hurricane Luis for another two hundred years. Enjoy.
UPDATED from October 1999
The hotel was rebuilt under the name Millennium, only to be devastated once more by the 1998 storm: George.  After three months of repairs, it opened to be renamed Caravanseri with 75 rooms and a repaired restaurant on the cliff. Sadly a freak October 1999 storm again destroyed this hotel, shutting it down completely. Thank you Mother Nature!
UPDATE-September 2012 season   A time-sharing hotel of several stories and  re-named Caravanseri is on the location.  The octogonal restaurant is back in the islands. Where’s Moncel?

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 Still feelin’, Hot, Hot, Hot!

RegGay Blast Off RecordIt seems like ages, but only four years have passed since losing Byron Lee, an icon of the West Indian Culture, and five years from sitting  next to him on a Jamaican Air flight.

At 30,000 feet above the Caribbean, it is not hard to imagine the lilting sway of the coco palms to the music of the islands.  I was on my way to Jamaica and my thoughts drifted to the luxury and pampering I was to receive at a beautiful refuge on the Negril coastline of Jamaica. Yet, while sitting in the airplane seat next to Byron Lee of the orchestra Byron Lee and the Dragonaires, the heart and the rhythm of the islands came alive. Byron Lee, a legend of island music, had made his final tour before his death the following year in November, 2008.

During those past 43 years, Byron Lee had made an indelible mark of cultural style to world music.  On heading back to Jamaica from a September tour of the States, airliners were his lifeline to his home, family, and roots.  Calypso music enhanced with island soca style has infiltrated all parts our lives.  Byron Lee and a few others were the early pioneers of this now contemporary hit. Having finishing a 37 city tour, Byron’s focus was on the newest of over 52 recordings.  “Caribbean Sty-Lee” on V.P. Label was his fusion of the sounds of Bahamas, Trinidad, Belize, Barbados, and of course Jamaica.  That recording “flirts” with reggae, French souk, soca, and a Latin pulse.

Much of Byron Lee and the Dragonaires’ performance schedule included the regional Caribbean carnival scene and Mardi-Gras.  His tours took him to the heart of carnival in Trinidad and on though the season to St. Maarten, St. Croix, and St. Barth.  He toured each island and country while maintaining a band of 14 performers of trumpets, trombones, sax and singers, all backed by that unmistakable calypso sound.  North America has embraced the carnival and the Dragonaires toured to the cities of Toronto, Winnipeg, Miami, Atlanta, Orlando, and Brooklyn in NY.  Each city has a carnival to rival the best.

If  “Hot, Hot, Hot”, written by Byron in 1983, has not gotten you up on the dance floor, nothing could.  Other notable hits included “Dollar Wine”, written by Collin Lucas back in 1991, and Byron’s “Tiney Winey” in 1985, also preformed by Arrow.  The music transcends all ethnic lines.

What is the future for Byron Lee’s legacy?

Byron in the 80sHe leaves his family at his Jamaican home, “Sweet Music” in Stony Hill outside of Kingston, while sharing his successes with his grown children.  His concern for the music industry was strong.  As he related, the damage from piracy on the small label hurt the third world artist the hardest.  Fifteen to twenty percent loss to bootleg and piracy is difficult to overcome.  Artists need the support of the fan.  Wise words from an artist who got a break-through to perform several songs in the James Bond movie, Dr. No. in 1961.  When I asked him of his greatest fear, he mentioned the vague concept of retirement, and he turned with admiration to the memory of Ray Charles, who worked into his 70’s, for that lasting inspiration.

The Airliner A-320 was over azure blue sea and descending.  Byron Lee summed his career for me, “My music is a vitamin; it cleans the heart of hunger.”

The band has continued since Lee’s death at 73 years of age, with the name slightly altered to Byron Lee’s Dragonaires. Look for his music on V.P. Label or Atlantic or visit the website at http://www.byronleemusic.com/ and be sure to enjoy the legacy of Byron Lee’s art.

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