Ya mon, It’s Jamaica!

ImagePerhaps Christopher Columbus really did know what he was doing in 1494 when he discovered the island of Jamaica in the crystal clear waters of the Caribbean. Located in the Caribbean Sea, south of Cuba, Jamaica is about the size of the state of Connecticut, but with much nicer weather all year round. With an average annual high temperature of around 85 degrees, and overnight lows at about 70, it is a welcome retreat anytime of the year.

Accessible by air or sea, thousands upon thousands visit Jamaica and its many cities and towns every year. When flying into this paradise, most land at the Montego Bay. With miles of breath-taking beaches and a snorkeler’s dream rich coral reef, it’s no wonder that Jamaica’s second largest city is one of it’s hottest vacation spots. Known as the “Hip Strip”, Montego Bay’s Gloucester Avenue is where tourists will find local clubs, restaurants, and shops. While much of the coastline has been taken up by resorts, there still are three public beaches in Montego Bay. Whether you want to swim with dolphins at Dolphin Cove, ziplinemontegobay through the lush rainforest, or take on the Great River in a tube, Montego Bay has endless things to do for fun in the sun.

Also on the island is the little town of Lucea. Best known for its all-inclusive resort, the Grand Palladium Resort & Spa, Lucea boasts awe-inspiring sunrises. Rich with historic buildings such as the Lucea luceaParish Church and Fort Charlotte, visitors can enjoy the laid back atmosphere of this coastal island town. Located on the outskirts of Lucea sits the Grand Palladium Resort & Spa. Situated on its own private white-sand beach, this all-inclusive resort is highly praised by nearly all of its visitors. From relaxing spa treatments, to water activities including snorkeling and kayaking, the Grand Palladium is never lacking for things to do. Whether you’re staying for a few days or a couple weeks, the seemingly endless food and drink, along with the award-winning accommodations and staff of the Grand Palladium, will surely make your Jamaican vacation one to remember.

The city of Negril is home to many of the island’s resorts. Including two of the most famous all-inclusives, Sandals and Hedonism, Negril’s beach region is where tourists will find interesting restaurants mixed throughout native markets and shops. Visitors to Negril can view the famous cliff-diving from heights reaching nearly forty-feet. It’s at the bottom of these cliffs that many venture out into the sparkling green-blue waters for swimming, scubaRicks_Negril_Jamaica_Photo_D_Ramey_Logan diving, and snorkeling. Compared to Jamaica’s other major cities, Negril is still somewhat undeveloped, which creates a special charm all its own.

Jamaica’s capital city is Kingston. With nearly a million people, Kingston truly has a big-city feel unlike any other location on the island. Being the home to reggae legend, Bob Marley, Kingston prides itself on good music, good people, and good times. From the city’s shore, up into what is known as the ‘Cross Roads’, most of its hotels, shopping, and restaurants can be found along this strip. Located kingstonwithin Kingston is Hope Gardens, also referred to as the Royal Botanical Gardens. Beside this garden sits the Hope Gardens Zoo, which is host to thousands of visitors a year. For those looking for a taste of culture and good treats in one, guests to Kingston should stop by the famous Devon House Historical Mansion for a trip back into 18th century Kingston, while ordering up some ice cream from the island’s leading maker of the creamy dessert.

Finally, Jamaican visitors should also look to visit Ocho Rios. Being the port-of-call for many cruise ships, the town of Ocho Rios happily caters to thousands of cruising-tourists weekly. It is here that vacationers will find chain restaurants, duty-free stores, and touristy activities while docked on the island. Ocho Rios is also home to Jamaica’s national treasure, known as Dunn’s River Falls. With itsdunnsriverfalls combination of spectacular waterfalls and thermal springs, this natural wonder of the Caribbean is a ‘must-see’ whenever on a sightseeing tour of Jamaica. Open seven days a week, guests can experience the thrill of ascending nearly 600-feet up the Dunn’s River Falls, led of course by a trained local guide.

All across the island of Jamaica opportunities for sightseeing, shopping, and mixing with the locals is abundant. For those in need of a golf fix, there are nearly a dozen courses scattered throughout the Jamaica-Island-Beachisland, with the Manchester Country Club being the oldest and most popular. If it’s beaches and water activities that visitors are looking for Jamaica has that too. With miles of beaches, continuous warm sunshine blending with tropical breezes, great music in the air, and everyone’s favorite rum beverages or Red Stripe beer constantly flowing, it’s no wonder that a vacation in Jamaica is called a ‘trip of a lifetime’.

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Kingston, Ontario- A Jewel to the North

Along the north shore of Lake Ontario, about 70 miles north of Oswego, and approximately a two hour drive up Rte. 81 North, then west on the Canadian 401, sits Kingston, Ontario. Kingston is a city of 115,000 in the Canadian Province of Ontario. It’s a city overflowing with great dining experiences, an array of shopping opportunities, and clean, beautiful scenery.

On a recent weekend away I was pleasantly surprised with the warmth and charm of Kingston. My wife, Rachel, and I stayed at the Holiday Inn Waterfront, and it was quite comfortable. The Holiday Inn is located at the foot of Kingston’s main strip, Princess Street, and within walking distance of just about everything that the city has to offer for a weekend getaway. With a fabulous restaurant on its 6th floor and a full service fitness center (or should I spell it the French-Canadian way – “centre”?), complete with a large indoor pool, steam room, and hot tub, on its 2nd floor, the Holiday Inn Waterfront is the perfect place to stay while visiting Kingston.

Kingston has street after street full of fun restaurants and pubs. Many of the establishments offer sidewalk café style seating, making your dining experience that much more enjoyable when the weather is nice. One of these places is Brandee’s. On my first night in Kingston I was able to not only enjoy a scrumptious coconut shrimp appetizer and a large fish n’chips dinner (and oh yeah, a Labbatt Blue, of course), but with the café seating I was also able to witness the busy nightlife of an exciting, yet gentle city.  Throughout the evening visitors can take part in a nightly ‘haunted walk’ through Kingston’s historic grounds, or simply stroll the city’s streets without real fear of one’s safety.

My Saturday in Kingston consisted of touring the Queen’s University campus, shopping along Princess Street, and enjoying some wonderful conversations with several of the local shop owners. Queen’s University is within blocks of the city’s heart and offers the tourists a glimpse at its scenic campus. Along Princess Street sits many unique and fun shops, restaurants, and coffee houses; while the common Starbucks, Quizno’s, and Gap storefronts are also found within the fifteen block downtown.

Of course when speaking of Kingston you can’t forget its main draw……the water. Kingston’s waterfront is spectacular! It should serve as a model for any city that has the luxury of being located along the water (hint hint Oswego). The nightly dinner cruises are always full and quite often need to be booked in advance. Kingston’s waterfront park and beach serve as a community gathering place. The sense of pride that Kingston has for its city is quite evident as you walk through the clean streets and talk to the friendly shop owners.

Within a few blocks from downtown, in an almost protective stance over the city and its waterfront, sits Kingston’s historic Fort Henry.  Tours are available at Fort Henry, and many community events are scheduled throughout the year at the history-filled site.

So whether you want to take in a sunset cruise, enjoy eclectic dining at a variety of restaurants, such as one of my favorites-  The Atomica, or simply go for a quiet walk while enjoying one of the city’s popular waffle cones from the White Mountain Ice Cream Shoppe, Kingston, Ontario is perfect for a weekend getaway this fall.

Remember- for more AS I SEE IT columns, visit https://edfayette.wordpress.com .

Hot Fun in the Summertime!

Central New Yorkers have weathered through another winter and unpredictable spring, and are poised to welcome Summer with open arms, ready-to-spend wallets, and a desire to wear bathing suits whenever and wherever possible. Summer is special in the northeast with our four distinct seasons, and from Memorial Day to Labor Day we attempt to squeeze every available sun-shining moment into our schedules.

So without further delay (because I think the sun is coming out), here are some ideas for your summertime fun in and around the Central New York area. Every Saturday morning Syracuse has its Regional Market. Now this is open nearly all year round, but it’s a nice way to spend a summer Saturday morning as you stroll through locally grown fresh fruit, vegetables, and flowers. The Regional Market is open until 1pm on Saturdays. My wife and I usually start our Saturday out that way a couple of times during the summer. From there we head a few miles to the south, to the Armory Square area. This section of Syracuse boasts several restaurants, quaint pubs, and specialty stores and boutiques. Rachel and I enjoy lunch and a pint at The Blue Tusk.

During the last weekend in July the City of Oswego shows off its lakefront beauty with its Harborfest celebration. From Thursday to  Sunday the city is transformed into a carnival atmosphere, mixed with great food, second-to-none free concerts, and traditionally Chamber of Commerce weather. Whether you want to taste regional wines, buy locally created crafts, take in a concert from top name acts, or just appreciate how lucky Oswegonians are to live alongside Lake Ontario, Harborfest weekend is a date you don’t want to miss.

Speaking of wine tasting, Central New Yorkers are blessed to have some of the world’s finest wines within a short drive. I enjoy taking a day, or sometimes even a weekend, and skipping from winery to winery between Cayuga and Seneca Lakes. Part of the Finger Lakes Wine Trail, these wineries have fun employees, great tasting wines, and many now have overnight accommodations and restaurants. I prefer staying at The Inn at Glenora at the south end of Route 14 or Belhurst Castle, located at the north end of Route 14 in Geneva. Some of my favorite lunch and dinner locations are Fox Run Farms Winery (found on the west side of Seneca Lake), Stonecutters (located in Belhurst Castle), and Sheldrake Point (along the west side of Cayuga Lake). As far as wine tasting goes, I have my favorites, but wine tasting is like that of music or food taste- it varies with each individual. That being said if you haven’t experienced the Finger Lakes Wine Trail some must-see stops are Swedish Hill, Hazlitt’s, Bagley’s Poplar Ridge, and Fox Run Farms. You can find great interactive maps and descriptions by Googling ‘Seneca Lake Wineries’ or ‘Cayuga Lake Wineries’.

More family-oriented travels may see you spending the day at Rochester’s SeaBreeze Amusement Park, along Lake Ontario or the Darien Lake Amusement Park, located midway between Rochester and Buffalo just off the Thruway. Located in Sterling, NY (near Fair Haven) is the Renaissance Faire. Open for only a handful of weekends each summer, the RenFaire takes visitors back to the Middle Ages with Jesters, Joustings, and fried turkey legs.

If you have a weekend or a few days to spare, expand your travels to Niagara Falls. Whether you stay on the U.S. side or venture to the Canadian side, one of the great wonders of the world never disappoints. (Remember- a passport in now needed when traveling to Canada.) Besides that big waterfall that everyone goes gaga over, both countries boast casinos and plenty of entertainment. On the Canadian side they have the famous Clifton Hill, otherwise known as the ‘Hill of Fun’, with resturants, attractions like Ripley’s Believe It or Not museum, and the Hershey Chocolate store. Of course don’t forget an unforgettable ride on The Maid of the Mist, as you get closer to the falls than you ever thought imaginable.

Heading north from Central New York, one fun stop can include Lake Placid, with a trip to the summit of Whiteface Mountain and a casual walk down their wonderful Main Street along Mirror Lake. Again crossing the border, the City of Kingston, Ontario, Canada is a great weekend getaway! This quaint Canadian city offers tons of food and shopping along its famous Princess Street and Ontario Street. A little closer to home are the Lake Ontario towns of Alexandria Bay and Sacketts Harbor. Both are perfect for that much needed day-trip. Whether traveling by boat or car, these lakeside towns offer breathtaking views, fun shopping, and a variety of restaurants and taverns.

If you feel like traveling a little to the south and east, a great day trip or weekend getaway can be found in Cooperstown. Known of course for its Baseball Hall of Fame, Cooperstown also is home to the Farmer’s Museum, Fenimore Cooper art museum, and the Leatherstocking golf course alongside the Otesaga Resort. If horseracing is more your guilty pleasure, check out Saratoga. During the summer months Saratoga comes alive with thoroughbred horse racing and an atmosphere of yesteryear. Saratoga is also home of SPAC (the Saratoga Performing Arts Center), which brings in top name talent in the music industry for great concerts in a perfect setting.

Central New Yorkers are also fortunate to only be about five hours away from two of the greatest cities in the world- Boston and NY City. Whether strolling along Newbury Street in Boston or along Broadway in NYC, or taking in views at the top of the Prudential Building in Beantown or the Empire State Building in the Big Apple, these two cities speak for themselves- Fun, fun, fun!

Throughout the summer and autumn look for future columns as I travel to many of these locations and offer up what’s hot and what’s not. And I invite you to ‘Leave a Response’ to this and future columns with stories of your own, as you travel around this summer at https://edfayette.wordpress.com .