I’ve stayed on Negril’s West End now for the past seventeen years in a row. I love the West End – the vibe is local and quiet and it splits itself off into smaller neighborhoods with distinct characteristics and characters as you meander up West End Road. For the past seven years I’ve made one of those neighborhoods my home.
One of my least expensive and most cherished excursions are simply a walk in the hood. When I leave my gate, whichever way I go – left, right or straight ahead, I find beauty, joy and the singing passerby – “bless, bless”. Lets take a walk.
Walking straight ahead, we leave West End Road and head up Hylton Ave. For the most part, Hylton Ave. is a quiet residential neighborhood. I know many of the folks living there and the first building we pass is our friend Wynn’s cook shed. In the evenings, usually during high season, you’ll find Wynn in there cooking up wonderful fried chicken or steamed fish and if you are really lucky he’ll have made a pot of conch soup that day. We sit by the glow of the one street lamp above and a candle nestled in a Red Stripe bottle we enjoy our meal and the great company that goes with it. Most times one of Wynn’s beautiful daughters is there with him, thus there with us. Tonight its Alana, growing so big and so much to say!
Further on up the road, after the paving, after the Marl, you start to see a tower looming over the tree line. That is our friend’s house – we call it, well…The Tower. After Hurricane Gilbert flattened this man’s wooden tree house he set out to build a bullet-proof home, reinforced with rebar, solid cinder block and concrete and five stories tall our friend built this from top to bottom with his own hands and from his own design.
When we turn right we are heading south on West End Road. This area is lovingly called “Deep West End”. We are still primarily residential here – the residents a good mix of expats and Jamaicans. There are a few small hotels and guest houses scattered about and the recent addition of the large Moondance Cliffs Resort has now opened the Deep West to the general tourist population. On our walk we might stop in at Moodance for a drink or a swim in their pool. We might take a walk out through their moonscaped path to the sea and look at our yard from a different point of view.
Across from Moondance we stop in at Hermine’s Bun Bun Shop. The Bun Bun shop has cigarettes, the Bun Bun shop has beer, the Bun Bun shop has soft drinks. Best of all though, the Bun Bun shop has Hermine and her family, original Negril residents always smiling and always with a great story. If you are lucky and get there on time the Bun Bun shop also has Hermine’s fried chicken.
Further on up the road we stop in at Tingalaya. A visit to our friends at Tingalaya is always a treat. Jube has magnificent gardens sporting peppers, cabbage, carrots, sorrel – and lots more. The grounds are landcaped magnificently. Jube raises turkeys, chickens and rabbits (for the poop). We visit the pens, admire the flock and then head across the street where Tingalaya now has a small beach and a wonderful sea pool.
Turning left the neighborhood goes from mostly residential to a mix of businesses catering to the visitor. We walk past the Lighthouse, a landmark for all Negrilians – is it past the lighthouse? The lighthouse grounds make a lovely place to visit for a while, to check out the sea, the ancient cannon protected the shore and the huge cotton tree that is hundreds of years old. Then there’s the lighthouse itself, probably the tallest structure in all of Negril. Never been up there but I bet the view rocks.
As we walk north we’ll pass Murphy’s Park, a great new jerk chicken place across from the lighthouse. We’ll pass the exclusive Caves Resort, owned by Chris Blackwell and sporting VIP guests such as Harrison Ford, Gwyneth Paltrow and Lennox Lewis. There are a bunch of small bars, stores and restaurants the density of which get thicker as we approach LTU. All roads lead to LTU and we find ourselves ending up there just about at the end of every outing. Practically next door is Rick’s Café but before you reach Rick’s Café you’ll see an empty lot, surrounded by a colorfully painted wall. I slipped in there and lo and behold – this is where everyone else goes to watch sunset. The view south is Villa Sur Mer, LTU and Citronella. North – the hub-bub of Rick’s Café. Its teeming with people, its cove filled with boats. My perch in this little un-named spot gives me not only a magnificent view of the sunset but also a birds eye view on the activity over at Ricks.
Negril is best known as being divided – the beach and the cliffs There are beach people and there are cliff people; and cliff people, while living in their own neighborhoods, share that special feeling overall – we’re all West Enders. So while my favorite activity are those leisurely walks through the neighborhood I also enjoy just popping around the West End in general. I love spending afternoons at Canoe which is closer to the roundabout and lower to the sea – so much lower to the sea that they have their own special beach. I love spending evenings at PeeWees and the No Limit bar and hanging with the folks in that neighborhood. Every now and again I’ll pop into Catcha Falling Star to watch a sunset and have a cocktail. The West End is the best end for me.
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