Sunday, 12 February 2012

One Love

sunny, hot, temps...I honestly don't know - but it's hot!

We're in Jamaica...ahhhh Been here for a week now. Arrived last Saturday evening - in quite heavy rain. And the biggest clog at immigration I've ever seen. Our flight from Montreal arrived just as two of the biggest planes I've ever seen got to the little terminal in Montego Bay. A Virgin Atlantic and a British Airways. Both from London. Both full. We joined the back of the line halfway down a corridor. We very, very slowly snaked forward....until we turned a corner and our hearts fell.

Before us was an open room jam packed with annoyed people. The bank of immigration desks had just a few officials....and so we just inched along. Everyone around us (and it began to feel like a bunker or a lifeboat - we became comrades) was saying the same thing - we'll never return to Jamaica. I have to admit, I was feeling the same thing....and then I realized we'd had a 4 hour flight, they'd had ten hours from London - then two more hours inching forward in a hot, stuffy room.

But then something magic happened....we finally got through immigration, got our bags and within minutes were in the private limo drinking Ting (a fabulous, refreshing Jamaican drink of lightly carbonated grapefruit juice - we gulped it down) and were heading through the dark and the rain toward our destination.

The Jamaica Inn.

I'd found it a few years ago - drawn, I suspect, to the name. Daphne du Maurier and all....though hers was bleaker, being in Cornwall.

But then I forgot about it and we went off first to Sandals in Saint Lucia (which was terrific, but I'm afraid too many people for this hermit) then we disasterously rented a villa between the Pitons in Saint Lucia, as some of you might remember. Rented it fro two weeks, lasted three days and skiddadled home. (Now there was an interesting conversation with Michael...Oh, honey....) It was high up, with howling winds - and rain. The view was astonishing and the home was absolutely beautiful....but upon closer examination on our return to Montreal I realize they make it quite clear, the villa between the Pintons is in a rain forest. D'oh!

So we felt like goldilocks and the three bears....looking for the vacation place that would be 'juuuuust right'. Someplace warm, where we could swim in the ocean, have great food, be looked after but also private. Tranquility, peace and quiet. And pampering. (for Michael, of course - I'm very rugged and disdain luxury)

And then Michael reminded me of the Jamaica Inn. I went back to the website and there it was....the place I'd been looking for all along I'd already found. How perfect is that. Like the TS Eliot lines about returning home and finding it for the first time. those words always haunted me, and have happened so often....I realize I was looking for something that was always there.

And that was the case with the Jamaica Inn. We were late deciding to go. What with the renovations, and all the travel in the fall, Michael and I decided it would be best to stick close to home, lock the doors and just relax by the fireplace. But then we found it impossible to 'unplug'. There seemed constant calls on our time, despite My Assistant Lise's best efforts. I'll tell you, after all she's done for us in the past month she's in line for a promotion....My Goddess Lise. My Hero Lise. My Friend in Line for a Truckload of Licorice Lise.

And there were hints from my agent and publishers that perhaps I should stop whining (they didn't put it like that, but I think that was the gentle message) and just go away someplace, like everyone else.

And so we called Monyc at the travel agency and asked her to book the jamaica Inn. We lucked out and got the Blue Cottage. Right on the beach, as you can see by the photos....between us and the ocean is an almond tree and some palms...and a few paces of soft sand.

We arrived in the rain and dark - long since forgetting the upset of the long wait at immigration. Checked in - Shirlene was waiting with a hug and a 'welcome home'....we were brought to the cottage - and a few moments later a waiter arrived with two fruit punches and a bottle of wine. We put the wine, unopened, in the fridge, where it sits still....then ordered dinner and sat on the verandah. We could see nothing....but we could hear the waves against the shore.

Dinner was light - a cold papaya and lime soup and a greek salad.

Then bed.

Next morning we awoke to the sound of birds and waves on the beach, and sunshine. We looked outside and saw what we'd been searching for, for years. Peace and quiet in the tropics.

We've been so lucky to have a home that is settled and calm and peaceful....we live within an hour of our favorite inn....Hovey Manor, which also offers peace and quiet and comfort. We have a flat we rent in Knightsbridge, in London, which feels like home....right in the thick of one of the great cities in the world - but is an oasis. (we'll be going there for the month of April). And now we've found our home in the tropics.

Each morning we've been here we have our breakfast of Blue Mountain Jamaican coffee, fruit plate of ripe papayas and local bananas and the sweetest grapefruits we've ever tasted. And toasted english muffins with marmalade. You can see the photo of Michael at breakfast. And on the beach. And my feet - the view I look at from our lounge chairs.

One of the great luxuries at the jamaica Inn is space. There's no fighting for the best beach chairs....everyone has their own and they're all front line, under those natural umbrellas, offering shade. Steps to the soft sand beach and the warm water.

The food is like something out of a dream. Fresh grilled catch of the day (grouper and snapper and others) - and grilled lobster, and charcoal steaks, and lots of curry dishes with mango chutney. And all available grilled or blacked or jerk (a Jamaican speciality)....and amazing chilled soups. Five course dinners - though we often can only manage three. Tuesday nights there's a beach barbeque, with a bonfire and torches and candles.

People dress for dinner - casual elegant - and meet for cocktails on the deck looking over the croquet pitch and pool and off into the caribbean.

for two people intent on quiet we have been unexpectedly social. Invited to cocktails at different people's rooms - hosting cocktails one night.

At dinner a live band plays, not intrusively, and we dance under the stars.

And yes, it is as other-worldly and idyllic as it sounds. Very British colonial. Not for everyone. There is very little to do, except read and swim and relax. Most people are like us - interested in being friendly, without needing to be clingy. Cordial. Happy to spend time together and happy to separate. And the staff are exceptional. What a difference that makes.

We took a small fishing boat to see the shoreline, and Dunn's River Falls (which was insane with people and difficult to appreciate the beauty) then we stopped at a reef and snorkled.

Oh, and then there's the spa. And the wedding on the beach this morning.

We're halfway through our visit. Rupert is giving us a croquet lesson this afternoon....which I suspect will be too much activity. So far the most exercise we've had is pulling our bathing suits off and on.

We cannot believe our good fortune. To have found this place, and to be in a position to be able to come here. We are keenly aware of how lucky we are, and are determined to enjoy this very great blessing. As you can tell, that doesn't take any effort at all.

I hope you enjoy this visit with us! At first I was going to not blog while here - but honestly, so much of this is happening because of you and your support of the books, that I wanted to tell you how much fun we're having, and to bring you along. Michael and I talk of you often.


Jeanine Cronin said...

Oh, Louise ... I am so happy that you blogged today. I was having Louise and Michael withdrawal pains! It sounds like you are having a well-deserved, wonderful, relaxing time. So glad you found the Jamaica Inn! Enjoy the rest of your stay.

Ann Casey said...

GOOD FOR YOU! Writing is damn hard work. You carved your blessing out with your own two hands...that your great heart appreciates it and wants to share it brings a smile! Enjoy.

Ann Lurie Berlin said...

Happy Valentine to you both. What a gift you sent us all for Valentines.
I'm adding Jamaica Inn to list of places for my bucket list.

ellen said...

Enjoy every minute of rest! Take pictures so you can bring it home with you. Thanks for the update! It's snowing up north so you aren't missing a thing!

Mel said...

Sounds glorious, just soak it all up and enjoy. I love holidays - you get a lovely break from it all and a refreshed perspective on the good stuff waiting for you back home too! (PS: just finished 'A Trick' and oh how i enjoyed it, found bits of it very moving too)

lil Gluckstern said...

What a beautiful place! The cottage is charming, you're having good weather, and just enough people to keep you socially happy. Did Michael shave his beard? Very dapper ;)

Marcia said...

Glad you are getting some sun...Next time, try St. Lucia! Shorter lines, fewer people... same weather... and an equally wonderful resort.. Villa Beach Cottages... charming, easier to get to!

Marni said...

Ah, Louise, I can hear those waves now. How delightful you and Michael found your paradise. It's chilly even here in NC and I was warmed by your snaps and description. Have a wonderfully relaxing time--you deserve it!

Jan J. said...

What a beautiful vacation! I hate crowds too and would rather stay home than go into chaos on a vacation. This sounds and looks truly idyllic, but I must complain that every time I read your blog I get hungry! And there is no lobster or steak or soothing tropical soup in my fridge. I'm glad you are getting the vacation you have so well earned and not feeling inclined to escape back to Montreal this time!

Susan Cory said...

Isn't the Jamaica Inn lovely? It's straight out of Agatha Christie; maybe it will inspire a trip for Gamache and Reine Marie. I went there by myself in the late '70s and an elderly British woman summoned me over to her table every night to join her. She figured that the role of a single young lady must be to act as her companion. I didn't mind. I loved watching the couples dancing in perfect harmony after many decades of practice.

SansSouci said...

I've been to the Bahamas, St. Maaten, Florida, Puerto Rico; but I believe that Jamaica has the most beautiful water. Also, no seaweed on the beaches. If you get a chance, and if it still runs, take a train trip up into the Blue Mountains & go to the Rum Distillery. They made a stop on the way up, where the village ladies might measure you for clothes after you pick out your own fabric, and then the article of newly-made clothing is awaiting you on your way back down the mountain. This was 25 years ago; but I bet they still do things like this. Have a beautiful time!

Daryl Edelstein said...

You might want to check out Round Hill .. also in Jamaica ..

Barbara said...

The Jamaica Inn sounds like just my cup of tea. Love quiet and the ocean and warmth and good food. I'm green with envy.

Colombine said...

Un repos bien mérité!