Tag Archives: #VisitJamaica

GoldenEye: The Jamaican Property Where James Bond Was Born

The Fleming Villa - ExteriorJames Bond fans: did you know that this suave British Secret Service agent was born in Jamaica? Literally.

Writer Ian Fleming, who created Bond in 1953 and featured him in 14 novels and a collection of short stories, first came to Jamaica during World War II for a conference and fell in love with the country. He made a promise to himself to return and after the war he went back and acquired 19 acres of property in Oracabessa Bay on Jamaica’s north coast for building a home.
Living Room in Fleming Villa

It was in this basic bungalow retreat called GoldenEye where Fleming would begin to pen “Casino Royale,” his first book introducing Bond during his winter stays. He went on to write every single Bond thriller, every January and February he was there. (Bonus fact: The spy’s name is said to come from a reference book on birds by James Bond, an ornithologist.)

The Fleming Villa-Entertainment Room

Several years after Fleming’s death, GoldenEye was almost sold to reggae legend Bob Marley, who pulled out of buying it. It was bought in 1976 by Island Records mogul Chris Blackwell and over time turned the property into a world-class resort while still keeping Fleming’s old home.

The Fleming Villa-InteriorBelonging to the Island Outpost collection, GoldenEye now consists of 11 one and two-bedrooms villas located directly on Low Cay Beach or on a seawater lagoon, six lagoon cottages, and one oceanfront villa. Fleming’s former jaunt is still here but now called The Fleming Villa. Rightfully so, it’s marketed as a separate area on the property.

Once you see, you’ll understand why. It’s a place onto itself.

photo 2(13)Far more reclusive and shaded that the other accommodations, the Fleming Villa has its private swimming pool, tropical gardens and a full-time dedicated staff. In the main house, there are five individual bedrooms such as the king-sized 007 Bedroom, which has Fleming’s writing desk; dining/living room area; kitchen and bar; and a private bathroom with an outdoor shower. Up to 10 guests can stay here. A delightful patio area provides a nice lookout over the surrounding beach. There is also a smaller, separate cottage named “The Sweet Spot.”

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Fleming’s detached garage still stands but has been turned into an entertainment room that overlooks the patio and pool area. And James Bond’s presence – movie versions of his books, “Dr. No,” “Live and Let Die” and “The Man with The Golden Gun,” have scenes filmed in Jamaica – is still felt throughout GoldenEye. Readers will find Fleming’s James Bond books placed in bookcases or nightstands inside the various accommodations as well as Fleming Villa. Upon arrival, spot a collection of Bond-related photographs on the walls of a building near the main entrance.

photo 2(12) Spa services are offered at FieldSpa, a lagoon-based cottage, with private and open-air treatment rooms. Spa services include cleansing treatments called bush baths as well as massages, salt scrubs, facials, and herbal wraps.

As for dining, the Bizot Bar provides low-key dining options set near a fresh water swimming pool and the western part of the beach. Breakfast and lunch is served here. Choices include Jamaican fare like saltfish and jerk chicken with rice as well as continental burgers, pasta, and salads.

Its opposite option is The Gazebo. This tree-house style lounge and restaurant provides a bit of a nightlife scene with some international flare. Fine dining dishes include grilled lobster tail and seasoned roast lamb. Its open atmosphere also sets up as a cocktail lounge area where perhaps you might order that martini. Shaken not stirred.

Getting Here: GoldenEye is located 20 minutes east of Ocho Rios. It is a 90-minute drive from Montego Bay Airport and an eight-minute drive from Ian Fleming International Airport (private aviation) in Boscobel, Saint Mary Parish.

Tasting Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee

photo 3(1)On the first full day of our #VisitJamaica Bucket List press trip, we checked off item Number 1: tasting Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee. And we went directly to the Blue Mountains to try it.

About half an hour or so from Kingston, Jamaica’s Blue Mountains provides what these coffee plants need to thrive: misty and cool climate, shady areas, and rich soil. Coffee plants were introduced to Jamaica in 1728, but they were originally placed in a parish field in Kingston. Eventually, these plants were brought to the mountains where they’re still raised and harvested today.

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Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee can carry a hefty price tag, yet the reasoning behind it is a good one. Only coffee grown in a legally defined range of the Blue Mountains – starting from 2,000 feet to 5,000 above sea level – gets the stamp of authenticity: a globally protected certification mark.

It’s also a single origin coffee. Just completely red cherry-colored beans are picked, every by hand. Beans then also have to pass inspection codes set by The Coffee Industry Board of Jamaica on everything from their coloring to sizing and go through various inspection tests before getting a stamp of approval.

When visiting Jamaica, travelers and coffee drinkers can head to The Blue Mountains. From my experience, I would say that it’s best to research and book a tour directly through sites like Expedia or Viator or other tour companies. When you get to the Blue Mountains, you’ll see what I’m talking about. Through a tour, your ride and your admission to a working coffee plantation is covered, of course, but you definitely want a local to handle the driving.

photo 2(3)Getting there is an interesting uphill journey. The ride involves going up winding and unmarked roads but relax by taking in lush green vegetation, mountain shade and blue-sky views from your side window (get one). Small working communities like Irish Town are found along the route, and I spotted simple homes and even shops scattered in between long stretches of fauna.

One coffee plantation up here that’s open to public is Craighton Estate Coffee Plantation. The property consists of an over 200-year-old Georgian style residence once for housing Jamaica’s dignitaries that is now the welcoming area on this farm.

photo 1(5)Bought by the Ueshima Coffee Company (UCC) in 1981, much of the coffee grown here is exported to Japan. The Japanese market is a major importer of Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee, above European and U.S. drinkers, due to their government investing in Jamaica’s coffee production in the eighties to re-percolate it.

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On the porch of this house, guests are greeted with a sit-down lesson on “Coffee 101” and its place in Jamaica.

And, yes, you get a cup of coffee.

Our guide, Alton Bedward, told how well traveled coffee has been over time and over the world (Jamaica first exported beans in 1737). In focusing on Blue Mountain coffee, Bedward shared insights on what makes this beverage so delectable. It is packed with antioxidants, and is low in both acidity and in caffeine levels. “Drinking Blue Mountain coffee is like getting a heart massage,” Bedward said, in that having a cup is locally described as though it’s like drinking to your health.

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Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee has a floral aroma and creamy light yet full-bodied flavor. There is little or no lingering aftertaste. “It’s also got a little sweetness,” said Bedward. I got to add a little more sweetness to my cup through adding in a coffee-infused honey made at Craighton.

After our “coffee talk,” we went to see the property. Harvesting season runs from September through the end of January. After being picked, the beans go through a wet processing method of being washed and pulped and then are sundried (the traditional way of removing moisture) at certain facilities.

While keeping long-term coffee growing methods, modern eco-friendly ones are now more included. As shade is a coffee plant’s best friend, Bedward said Jamaica’s department of forestry is encouraging the planting of mahogany trees to give some ground cover and introduce healthy nitrogen into the ground through their roots. At Craighton, local manure is used as fertilizer and coffee plants are cut back every five years to help them rejuvenate throughout their lifespan.

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Visitors to the Craighton Estate Coffee Plantation can walk on an easy paved uphill path from the property to a gazebo that has great panoramic views. While on your way up and back down, you might spot some beans growing too.

Before leaving, visitors are offered the opportunity to buy bags of coffee. I was advised to do so because I would probably pay more in a store and definitely much more at the airport. So I left with two at first, then changed my mind to get four and then settled on a sure six of them to bring home.

Starting off on a #VisitJamaica Bucket List

Happy New Year! Though going forward, I just have to bring up one last travel experience from 2014. In early December, I was invited by Visit Jamaica, the country’s tourism board, to go on a “Bucket” List four-day tour along Jamaica’s north coast. This itinerary was packed with at least 10 various must-do and see activities and sights that visitors should check off. Or at least one or two of them. Our small group arrived in Kingston, Jamaica’s capital, and then ushered from Norman Manley International Airport to have our first night stay in this large city. We went straight to a dinner hosted at the Courtleigh Hotel and Suites, which introduced us to a lot of Jamaica’s culinary wonders as well as the property’s staff and Jamaica’s tourism representatives. The Courtleigh, first-class property, is about 25 minutes from the airport and is located near Kingston’s business and commercial district.

Jerk Chicken

Jamaican Jerk chicken

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Rum punch


Jamaican Gungo Pea and Beef Soup

Our dinner was a great introduction to Jamaican cuisine: grilled seasoned meats, citrus/sweet fruits, and hearty fruits and vegetables. And spices! Plates with Jerk chicken or pork or roasted breadfruit, sweet potatoes or plantains were passed around and sampled from. With the holiday season in swing, we were served Christmas Cake, a dark and rich fruitcake with Jamaican rum as an ingredient, for dessert. Another specialty was festival, a cornbread fritter (similar to fried dough) that often is paired with servings of chicken or fish.

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Other various Jamaican dishes my #VisitJamaica group tried.


Christmas Cake

As for spending our first night, we headed to Knutsford Court Hotel, a sister property that often gets both business and pleasure travelers. It’s a garden-style setup with a number of banquet and meeting facilities with a daily continental breakfast buffet at its restaurant, The Melting Pot. I’ll be doing continuous posts on each part of, and each city, on the trip: Kingston, Ocho Rios and Montego Bay. Next up, on the following morning, we crossed off #VisitJamaica Bucket List item No. 1. We went for coffee in the Blue Mountains!