I ended up in Kingston for a night after I decided to abort a three-day weekend vacation in Nassau. I couldn’t sit still, and knowing that Jamaica and St. Vincent were the only two countries left in the Americas that I needed to see before I turn 40 (and my 40th birthday is only nine months away), I was just too close not to hop over.
I only had one night in Kingston so I had to at least do a few Jamaican things…quickly! I asked the taxi driver to stop for any possible photo ops on the way to the hotel, and he did: starting with the famous Bob Marley Statue, and then a picture in front of Emancipation Park, which ended up being right next to my hotel.
Oh, about the hotel: if you’re ever in Kingston stay at the Courtyard Marriott. I often give hotel “recommendations,” but rarely will I give a strong-arm, “must stay here” referral. This is one of those times. Maybe it’s been a while since I’ve stayed at a Courtyard, or maybe this one was just super nice…but there’s nothing better than arriving at a hotel and having your expectations blown away.
Besides the staff being very friendly, the facilities themselves were impeccable. The whole place was super modern and immaculately clean. Everything looked brand new—maybe it was a brand new building—I saw no signs or wear nor a spot anywhere. This was one of the nicest hotels in this class of lodging that I’d ever seen. It featured a huge, comfy lounge area, restaurant, computer and printer to check-in and print your boarding pass, gym (which of course I didn’t use), and pool. My room was just as amazing, with more modern furniture and décor, including a cool bean-shaped teal couch in the corner, next to a big picture window facing the park across the street. Really, the Courtyard Marriott in Kingston couldn’t be any nicer, and I wouldn’t consider staying anywhere else if I ever returned.
And oh yes—the park across the street, let’s talk about that. This hotel couldn’t have been in a better location. It’s right next to Emancipation Park, which is a beautiful area complete with a running/jogging walking track that was filled with women, men, kids and families getting their walk on; a wonderful colorfully lighted fountain in the middle, Ping-Pong tables, and lots of trees and flowers. Most importantly, the park featured security guards, lots of lighting, and it was gated. Many parks in the foreign cities I’ve visited have a pretty big level if sketchiness to them—with shady characters, trash, little or no light after dark and general “questionable” vibes. Emancipation Park couldn’t have been (or at least felt) safer. It was apparent by the mix of people enjoying the park, the exercise classes happening, and of course the security guards. Security guards are always good.
That night’s meal was authentically Jamaican, as I joined the locals at Scotchie’s Jerk Center. No, not headquarters for a bunch of @ssholes…but “the” place to get real Jamaican jerk chicken. I ordered a half-chicken, a side of fries, and couldn’t resist ordering a drink called Tropical Rhythms, which was a bottled fruit punch similar to Tampico. Don’t underestimate the pepper sauce they offer in a plastic squeeze bottle. Thank the Lord I squirted some on the side, instead of dousing it all over my chicken, because it was one of the hottest sauces I’ve ever tasted, and my pallet is pretty experienced when it comes to the spicy stuff. Just one drop on each bite of chicken made me rush for a swig of Tropical Rhythms with a quickness. That pepper sauce makes wasabi look like jelly.
Kingston in general felt a lot safer than I had expected. Once again, this was a country (specifically a city) I had heard so many bad things about. And although I probably only saw the good areas, what I did see were very happy, polite people; school children in uniform, and a ton of signs and messages about Jesus. Oh, and Slow Jams too. I get the feeling this city loves their Slow Jams. A gentleman jogged past me in the park holding a boom box blaring “I Miss You” from Klymaxx, which didn’t seem like the quintessential “running” song. Then later that night I passed a bar playing “Silly” by Deniece Williams at high decibels. I couldn’t help but think Sunday Night Slow Jams would go over well in Kingston.This entry was posted in Caribbean