Monthly Archives: March 2015

Seeing Kingston, Jamaica

DSCN4195In getting back to my experience with Jamaica Tourism’s “Bucket List” trip, my first two days in Jamaica were spent in Kingston, its capital city. Kingston is surrounded by mountain ranges like the Blue Mountains and a long natural harbor.

Kingston is also the center of the country’s culture and commerce. Like many cities worldwide, Kingston has its public attractions, shops and nightlife yet there are good parts for visiting and other parts where it might be best avoided.

Mainly two sections of Kingston get a lot of attention: its Downtown area and its Uptown (or also known as New Kingston) area. Each area has its own significance. In Downtown, you’ll find historic buildings, marketplaces, shops, galleries, and the waterfront. Uptown (where I spent my time) is more cosmopolitan with public parks, nightlife, restaurants, shopping centers, and main tourist attractions.

Here are some highlights I recommend seeing:

DSCN4285– The Devon House: In Uptown, this beautiful Georgian-style mansion and national monument was the home of Jamaica’s first black millionaire George Steibel. Also on the property, former horse stables and blacksmith posts now either hold a bakery, restaurant, or shop. At the Grogge Shoppe, you can order a sit-down meal of local Jamaican fare.  Even more so, the Devon House I Scream is an awesome ice cream shop with traditional and fruity flavors.


Photo credit: Bob Marley Museum’s Facebook page

– The Bob Marley Museum. Unfortunately, the museum also in Uptown was closed for renovations when my group was there – we missed the reopening date by a few days – but it sounds like a good tourist attraction. Especially for reggae fans, you get to see Marley’s home up until his passing that’s now been turned into musical shine. See the musician’s awards, recording studio, and other personal belongings.


Photo credit: National Gallery of Jamaica’s Facebook page

– National Gallery of Jamaica. I keep reading good reviews about this Downtown gallery, which features artwork by Jamaicans from throughout the country’s history, from the native Taino Indians through the colonial period to works by modern artists.

DSCN4307– Port Royal. Based at the mouth of Kingston Harbor, Port Royal was once a pirate’s haven in the 17th century, and in turn made this city pretty prosperous. Maybe too much, as the British navy ended up installing Fort Charles here. But Port Royal has seen hardship too, resulting from two major earthquakes, fires and hurricanes so much that a lot of the area was swept away. Fort Charles still stands, and visitors can walk through its lower and upper levels. Also head to the back of the fort to see, and attempt to walk through, a former artillery shed called the Giddy House. An earthquake in 1907 sunk part of the abandoned shed so when you walk through it, it’s literally like performing a balancing act.

For getting around Kingston, my group was lucky to have a local driver take us to and from places. If you are to rent a car and drive around yourself, it’s best to take an offensive stance. Traffic can get interesting as it often involves a mix of cars and pedestrians – sometimes together. I would recommend hiring a driver from a reputable company. This can help with not just getting from point A to point B, but someone who knows the area well can help in making more of our schedule.

From what I’ve read there are cabs available in Kingston too. They have a Red number plate with the letters PPV inscribed as their authorization to pick up passengers. Buses are also available, newer ones with A/C and older ones at different prices. Just do your research before you go!


Eurail Releases New 2015 Offerings

Photo: Eurail

For getting around Europe, it’s best to do so by rail. And depending upon your itinerary and finances, rail passes can provide a viable option.

Recently I went to a reception held by Eurail Group G.I.E., a cooperative effort that streamlines Europe’s national railway companies, to hear about new offerings for 2015.

If you’re new to Eurail, here’s some background info. Eurail Group G.I.E. sells different rail passes for travelers who reside within Europe (called Interrail) and those who don’t (called Eurail) for train travel to most major European countries that are available for certain periods of time. Interrail has just two types to choose from (One Country and Global Pass) and is valid for 30 countries. Eurail has four kinds (Global, Select, Regional, and One Country) with periods ranging from three days to three months and is valid for 28 countries.

Graphic: Eurail The various European railroads belonging to Eurail.

At their reception, Eurail revealed some new offerings and developments. They include:

  • Attica Pass: This new Eurail One Country Pass is designed in mind for those who want to do some hopping around the Greek Islands. The pass consists of six ferry crossings within one month: two international trips between Italy and Greece, and four domestic trips to the islands.
  • 1st Class Youth: To keep families together in first class: a 1st Class Option is now available for Eurail’s youth pass. Before this, youth travelers had to buy an adult ticket to be up in these cars.
  • Global Pass 5 days in 10 days: Since Spain, Italy, and Germany are popular destinations – particularly with Americans – and don’t border each other via a railway connection, this global pass gives with a shorter validity for those who require more flexibility. So with this pass, for example, you can spend two days in Berlin, Munich, Milan, Barcelona, and finally Madrid.
  • New Countries Participating: Four countries have been added onto the Eurail Global Pass, bringing the total number up to 28. They are: Poland, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia, and Montenegro.

Personally, I haven’t bought Eurail passes, but the closest thing for me was riding the D-Bahn (which is included in Eurail Group G.I.E.) on my trip to Germany and Switzerland last summer. Visit Eurail’s website to get further descriptions and prices on various rail passes.