The happy spot: Negril, Jamaica

Curry Goats

Made my annual pilgrimage back down to Negril, Jamaica in May.  Decided a few years back I would travel yearly to Jamaica to enjoy the sun, rum and reggae.  I’ve missed a year here and there but have been consistent getting my Jamaica passport stamp.

The Jamaican Tourist Board (JTB) created the ‘Once you go, you know’ slogan in 2003 to generate tourism interest and get more people to visit the island.  I always thought about the slogan because I wanted to ‘know’ what Jamaica was about but thought it was beyond my price point.  A simple check on Expedia highlighted how affordable a trip to Jamaica can be—prices vary based on brand names (Sandals, Beaches, Palladium) to more economic options (Samsara, Legends, Rock House).  You can spend as much or little as you want based on resort brand, location and all-inclusive food/drink options.

Samsara

My preferred resort is Samsara which is situated on the west end of the island.  The unique feature for Samsara is the resort is located on a cliff.  The cliffs provide unique experiences for guest to ‘cliff dive’ while enjoying the water.  I don’t cliff dive but use the access to put my snorkel gear to good use.  I spend about 3 hours daily exploring underwater caves, following fish and watching Jamaican spear fishermen catch barracuda.

 

Samsara is close to other west end resorts, so I have made a point to visit some of them while on the island.  This allows me to experience additional waterfront views, menu options and drink specials.  My favorite lunch spot on the island is the Rock House.  The Rock House has an expanded menu with a lot of traditional Jamaican food options.  Steamed snapper, peas and rice and callaloo is my go-to meal ‘every’ time I’m there.  Callaloo has a look and feel of collard greens but I will warn you, the Scotch bonnet peppers are smoking hot.  I spend more time pulling them out, but they do add flavor to the dish.

Rock House

I got a bit adventurous and decided to stop at a new spot on this trip.  I pass the Kool Vybes Bar and Jerk Centre every time I’m in Negril but never stopped.  Just assumed everything on the menu would be smothered in Jamaican jerk sauce but they provide the option to have the sauce on the side.  The food at the Jerk Centre was great and may be the best food bargain in Negril.  I will ensure to make it back to the Jerk Centre—recommend getting the jerk sauce on the side if you’re not into spicy food—Jamaicans like food with a kick!

http://realnegril.com/koolvybes/

Jerk Centre

Samsara has a sister resort (Legends) on Seven Mile beach.  Guests have full privileges at both resorts which provides additional options while in Negril.  I can spend time snorkeling off the cliffs at Samsara and then trade for beach activities to include jet skis, catamaran excursions, shopping and dining.  This 2 for 1 resort option is a ‘hidden’ gem to enhance the overall enjoyment while in Negril.

7 mile beach

Reggae

My go to spots to listen to live reggae in Negril are Alfred’s and Bourbon Beach.  I always ask the locals for places to visit and they all agree Alfred’s Ocean Place and Bourbon Beach are the best places to hear live music and catch the Irie vibe.  I’ve never been disappointed with the music or the vibes while at either place.  Both locations are right on 7 Mile beach so you can kick back with a cold drink, listen to the bands and hear waves crashing at the same time.  Very enjoyable experience!

A new place I added to the rotation this trip was Roots Bamboo Beach resort.  Large stage with an impressive sound system with live reggae on Monday and Wednesday nights.  Roots Bamboo Beach is extremely close to Alfred’s and Bourbon Beach—went back and forth between venues when a band had to take a break.

Negril’s uniqueness with cliff and beach access keeps people like me coming back year after year.  It’s always great to meet someone from Europe or Canada and hear they are on their eight trip to Negril—most are like me and stay at the same place every time.  They are in the ‘know’ about Negril.

So, now you know—Negril is my happy spot and I plan to visit as often as possible.  Already looking forward to my next trip down.

What is your happy spot to visit?  When’s the last time you were there?

Sunset 1

Kayak Adventures

Decided to explore the Wacissa River today via Kayak.  Wanted to add a new adventure to my ‘Walk into the Future’ and did some research on local Kayak outfitters.  Discovered the Wacissa River Canoe and Kayak Rentals outfit was only a 20-minute drive from me and had very reasonable prices for their rental options.

The owners and staff were very friendly and had great knowledge of the Wacissa River and the multiple channels that branched off from the main river.  They outfitted me with a sit-on kayak, life vest, paddle, map and final instructions for my adventure.

Launching off was easy and the day on the river began with me exploring multiple local inlets close to the outfitters docks.  I realized it has been right at 4 years since I last kayaked so needed to get my balance and paddle rotations down again.  Took me about 10 minutes to get the hang of kayaking again and I was off.

There was a lot off overhead cover (shade) on the initial part of my adventure.  The outfitters also rent cabins that sit right on the river, so I rode by several of them on my way out to the open waters of the Wacissa river.  There were a few other kayakers out but not a lot of water traffic or noise during the time out on the water.

The wild life on the river was close by and amazing!  Saw several different type and shape turtles just hanging out and sunning themselves.  Of course, every time I tried to get close to take a picture, they immediately dove to get away from me.

It took about an hour of paddling the river before I spotted my first eagle.  Very impressive birds but when experienced in the wild they can be awe inspiring.  I was able to float for a bit and watch one have a large fish for lunch.  Got a couple pictures of this without disturbing the eagle or making it decide to dive bomb me.

What’s a kayak trip on a river in North Florida without gators?  Spotted my first one of the day swimming close to where I was observing my eagle friend.  Decided to paddle closer to the gator which was about 7 feet long to get some ‘up close’ photos.  This all made sense when I started paddling.  Luckily, I came to my senses before I got too close to the gator because I had no Plan B for what I would do if it took serious interest in me.  Decided to float a bit instead of heading towards the gator and freaking us both out.  I was able to get some pictures of smaller gators but didn’t linger too long to avoid disturbing them or freaking myself out.

Turning to head back in allowed me to fully take in how far I had traveled on the river without really thinking about distance.  Still didn’t worry about distance but rediscovered kayaking is a great way to burn some calories.  The rotational paddle motion needed to move the kayak will really work your arms, shoulders and core.  Didn’t rush to get back, simply enjoyed the river and the views provided as I came back to the outfitters.

Highly recommend getting out on a kayak or canoe and taking in a peaceful day on the river.

Just don’t disturb gators!

Check out my new friends if you want to kayak the Wacissa:  http://www.wacissarivercanoerentals.com/index.htm

Kayak1

Philly Soul

What comes to mind when you hear Hall and Oates?

Group from the 80’s, blue-eyed soul, lots of hit songs or I remember them?  I’m guessing all those things crossed your mind when I mentioned them and yes, they are still around.

I was extremely happy to discover Hall and Oates was touring the country again this summer.  I grew up listening to their music and watching the early videos on MTV and Night Tracks on TBS.  Turns out the Hall and Oates video for Family Man (H20 album) was the first video aired on Night Tracks.  It seems they were always churning out a hit or two that captured my attention and had me singing along with them.  (FYI:  Night Tracks aired June 1983 – May 1992).

Sometimes you forget how many hits an artist has until you see them live.  The closest place I could see Hall and Oates was in Orlando at the Amway Center.  I’ve been in the Amway for college and professional basketball games but never for a concert.  Multiple outlets had tickets available but decided to use Vividseats.com since this site didn’t have the ‘extra’ fees associated with booking directly with the Amway Center or Ticketmaster.  I’m always looking for a deal!

Train was the opening act for Hall and Oates.  I’ve heard some of their music but I’m not a fan.  I was pleasantly surprised to see and hear a lot of Hall and Oates fans singing along to every word of Train’s set.  Turns out the lead singer is from the Philadelphia area and has been influenced by Hall and Oates.  May have to give them another listen knowing this new fact.

Hall and Oates started their set with Maneater which was one of their largest hits from the 80’s.  Their sound and band were better than I expected.  The musicianship displayed was impressive and had everyone standing, singing and dancing along.  They covered about an hour and a half of their hits going back to the early days: She’s Gone, Can’t Stop the Music, Sara Smile, Rich Girl, Kiss on My List, Maneater, One on One and new stuff [Philly forget me Not with Train].

Texted one of my Philly area friends during the show and asked for her favorite Hall and Oates song.  She gave me two:  She’s Gone and Rich Girl.  I texted back my favorite Hall and Oates song is:  Sarah Smile.  Of course, this changed as they played hit after hit and I loved each one of them.  Guess my true favorite Hall and Oates song is the most recent one I hear.   Their sound and music carry well, and they will be making audiences smile for years to come.  Their last encore song was You Make my Dreams Come True.  What an appropriate song to send fans home–well done Hall and Oates!

Went back and watched their 2014 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony and they performed just as well there.  Hit after hit and making the crowd smile.

What’s your favorite Hall and Oates song? When’s the last time you listened to it? I recommend going to YouTube and experiencing it again—enjoy!Hall and Oates

Paisley Park

‘Paisley Park is in your heart’

This is a lyric from the song titled Paisley Park on Prince’s Around the World in a Day album.  It’s not one of his most well-known songs but the title was translated by the artist to name his artistic palace in Chanhassen, a suburb of Minneapolis.

Paisley Park is a combination of residence, recording studios, sound stage, video editing and party spot (concerts, DJ’s, etc.) designed by Prince in the late 1980s.  This is a place where he churned out hit after hit from his own recording platforms.  It afforded him the opportunity to create new music and concepts right where he lived.  Simply, come downstairs and walk into a recording studio to lay down some tracks that would one day become a #1 hit.

Paisley Park is a place I have always wanted to visit to experience the place responsible for the ‘soundtrack’ of my life.  I grew up listening to Prince from the very early stages of his career and wanted to ‘walk into the future’ and see Paisley Park first hand.

Wow…what an experience!  I decided to make a visit to Minneapolis and then venture over to Chanhassen to tour Paisley Park.  They have multiple tour formats to select but I decided to reserve my spot for the General Admission (70-minute tour) and was not disappointed.  There were roughly 20 other Prince fans along for my tour timeframe.  We’re talking people from all over the world who decided to make the Paisley Park journey to reconnect with Prince, his music and the place where he created magic.

The tour started with a brief history of his music, why he wanted Paisley Park and what happens there now.  The tour’s most emotional moment for me was when we stepped into the foyer at Paisley Park.  Prince’s ashes are encased under glass overlooking the foyer.  Didn’t expect the ashes to be there but it was a goose bump moment for a lot of us on the tour.

We were provided free time to explore multiple rooms dedicated to specific albums/tours (LoveSexy, 1999, For You, etc.) and his personal office.  The tour guide identified the office was intact just as Prince left it.  Of course, it was a very cool set-up to include video, music and a sitting area to entertain visitors.

The tour then took us directly into Studio A where most of his hits from the 1990s were recorded.  Very cool place to see and experience the sound system and unreleased music that will be coming out soon! Sounds great and you will love the concepts! (LOL).

His numerous awards (Grammys, BET, MTV, etc.) were displayed in hallway cases.  The effect of seeing these awards put a smile on most of our faces as we remembered watching Prince receive these awards on TV over the years.  Fantastic opportunity to actually see history.

Prince’s movies/soundtracks had separate areas at Paisley Park.  The Purple Rain display included the motorcycle from the movie, his iconic purple trench coat and the Grammy awarded for the soundtrack.

Under the Cherry Moon with the black and white theme provided a unique contrast to his other movies.  Graffiti Bridge, Sign ‘O the Times and RAVE were displayed, and all were shot on the sound stage at Paisley Park.  Speaking of the sound stage, our tour took us into the enormous space used by Prince and others for tour preparation, make videos and shoot movies.  Prince allowed other musicians to use this area to help them get ready for national tour dates.

The tour ended in the New Power Generation (NPG) club which is still used to host dance parties for Prince fans.  This area was used by Prince to host fans and sometimes play live shows for the few lucky folks in attendance.  It was noted Prince normally didn’t start playing until 2 am in the morning so you would have to be an extreme night owl to catch one of these impromptu shows.

Cameras are not allowed at Paisley Park so the memories from this experience must be lived and not ‘streamed’ out.  I believe this enhanced the overall experience for me.

Very happy my walk into the future led me to Paisley Park!

Where have you always wanted to go but never made the time?  How can you leverage a trip to help you decide to walk into the future?

Paisley park outside

Paisley Park inside2