April is Mango season – it is also the season where our friends finish their work permits for the year. In this round of paperwork, a trip to Kingston is taken in a game-show fashion…the applicant must first go to point A to pick up paperwork…then JAM across town to point B to submit said paperwork and retrieve the work permit. In order to avoid yet another trip to Kingston this mission needs to be accomplished before 4:00pm. The trick is that one must get their “number” from Point A – chill until 2:00pm when Point A “opens” and hope to be out in time to reach point B by 4:00pm. The key – arrive at Point A early enough to get a very low number.
Jeanie and I took the ride with Peg as this was her mission. We were picked up bright and early by the driver and started out on our ride to Kingston. This was a first for me – I’d never been to Kingston. Road trips are fun for me in Jamaica, especially the ones I’ve never done before. I train my eyes out the window to see all I can see. The first part of the trip was familiar as we cruise the South Coast. We passed through Mandeville – a city I’d heard much about but have never spent any time in. As we drove through though I realized this is a place I’d like to see a bit more of. We drove up through the hills and the sights were quite glorious – rolling green hills with beautiful homes. Our driver informed us that Mandeville is a somewhat monied area – many of Jamaica’s rich have homes there. The town center was starting to bustle with activity and it has an old world charm that is very inviting.
After a few hours and lots of scenery we pulled into Kingston. My first impressions as we come into the city is how polluted it is. Other than that, it is a big city like any other – I can’t even say it really reminds me of any particular city in the states though its been compared to Los Angeles. The area where the work permit place is newish – tall glassy buildings surround us, across the street there is a modern shopping mall. While Peg went in to get her number Jeanie and I got out of the car and scoped out the little alleys behind the building – a shopping mall of sorts, it was made up mostly of stalls. Peg was out post-haste with her number – number 2. She was in great shape for the mad dash across town later in the afternoon. But for now, we were hungry and we were ready to venture off to the Hope Botanical Gardens to see some pretty flowers.
Our first stop though it to a little hole in the wall place to get some chicken for lunch. As usual, the box lunch is cheap and the food plentiful – chicken, rice and peas a little veg. As we drive to the gardens we eat our lunches from our laps in the car. The heat is starting to pick up as we move into the day. After only getting slightly turned around we enter the Hope Botanical Gardens.
Well…all I can say is that it hopes to be a Botanical Garden some day. What it was is a nice park, set in the middle of the city – rolling lawns, nice trees – but not what we were expecting. We were expecting actual gardens, with identifying plaques with lovely plants and flowers…not so. We did go into the way back and check out their nursery – they did have lots of plants and Peggy was trying to pick one out for her own botanical garden back in Negril. I will say this – the guys who worked there were very knowledgeable and we left, Peggy with a pot in tow – it was now time to go back to the office from whence she came so she can wait on line and get her paperwork.
She ran in, our driver stayed in the car and Jeanie and I venture off into the quasi-shopping mall of stalls. The place was somewhat deserted but we do find all the stalls seemed to be open. There was a plethora of clothing – all polyester (I’ll never be able to figure out how people there wear polyester in that kind of heat), wigs, hats – everything one would need to make it on the Dancehall scene. The place reminded me much of my old beach club on Long Island – the worn concrete painted in pastels, the open air situation, hot and sticky but comforting. The main mall had seating and a couple of bars where you can get a beer while you shop. Some of the walls were festively painted, some just with Rasta greetings. Well, within the hour Peg emerged, paperwork in hand and we were off – making the dash across town to the next office and one step closer to the coveted work permit.
We have no trouble crossing town and making it to the office by 4:00pm. As we crossed I noticed we entered an older part of town – building showing their wear, stuff like that. Peggy emerges triumphant and we leave Kingston town.
On the way back we made more stops than on the way there. We stopped at two different nurseries and got our plant and flower fix. Each topped the other with their array of beautiful and tropical flowers and plants – Peg began loading the car. I wandered around snapping pix of those cool flowers – one nursery had a mango tree that sported two different varieties of mangos.
The day was full of missions and with the vegetation and work permit missions accomplished we set our minds to the next – the food mission. First stop – Murray’s Jerk. Yes, you heard me right – Murray. Well, Murray does make great jerk and jerks just about everything – not only chicken and pork but ribs, fish and sausages. Ron has this thing for Murray’s jerk sausage and when I tasted it I knew why. All these missions had us quite hungry at that point so we stopped for dinner. Once you leave Negril – even 20 minutes outside town limits – its amazing how prices drop, but more than half in most cases. Such was the case for Murray’s Jerk and while I cannot remember what I spent on dinner (I also picked up a half-chicken for Les) I know that it was considerably less expensive than if I’d bought same in Negril. Bellies full, we mush on – but the food mission is not yet complete.
We are now making a bee-line to Middle Quarters in search of the best Pepper Shrimp on the island. Auntie’s was closed as it was past 8:00pm but the area was bustling – another shop was open – no shrimp but lots of soup. We shared a cup of fish soup – a rich bisque of god knows what kind of seafood but at 80JMD it put me over the top belly full wise.
We pulled into Negril at around 10:00pm…I slept hard that night. A day in Kingston was fun but exhausting. I can now tick off another “never done that” on my list.