Sun, Fun and Kids at Beaches Resorts

Sun, Fun and Kids at Beaches Resorts

Although my children have travelled a fair bit, they have a firm favourite when it comes to vacations.  They absolutely adored Beaches, the all-inclusive resorts in the Caribbean, with a love that defies explanation.  We went to Beaches Ochos Rios for a one week vacation two years ago and the children have been begging to return ever since that trip.

jamaica scapbook sign

The weather was perfect and the resort was small enough that we could let the children run around without worrying too much.  We met another North London mother who said she picks Ochos Rios because it is the smallest and easiest to manage of the Beaches resorts when she is on her own with her kids.

jamaica terrace overlooking beach

The hotel is right on a white sand beach.  The water is calm which makes it perfect for children. There are numerous activities available on the beach such as ride-on cycles, canoeing etc.  Mostly though we hung out in the pool.

jamaican beach

My children loved hanging out on one of the floaties and going up to swim-up bar to get (non-alcoholic) drinks.  The pool staff arranged volleyball, water aerobics etc. every day but they were very good about leaving you alone if you didn’t want to join.

jamaica pool

Be forewarned, getting a place by the pool was a bit of a scrap. I don’t know when these people got up because the seats were already covered with towels early in the morning.  We spared ourselves the hassle and rented a cabana for the week.  Cabanas come with waiter-service and are more sheltered than the rest of the deck chairs.

My son loved the water park.  He could spend hours on the water slides.  The Jamaican life guards were very sweet and got to know him pretty well because he was constantly there.

My daughter love the arts & crafts room.  We were there pretty much every afternoon when the sun was at its height.  For a small fee to cover the charge of materials, you can pick out a craft activity which then gets supervised by Auntie Pat, the lady in charge of activities.  My daughter and I created a scrapbook together of our holiday. She also painted and decorated a box to hold her assorted trinkets.

Beaches arts & crafts

beaches resort craft box

My husband and I thought the food was pretty good.  The children loved the buffet options and the endless ice-cream on tap.  We insisted on having dinner at the Jamaican restaurant most nights.  In terms of upscale food options, this restaurant was the best on offer.  The Jamaican dishes were excellent.  They even made pasta for my fussy-eater daughter even though it wasn’t on the menu.

Every evening there was some sort of entertainment on the stage. Some of the entertainment was better than others.  I liked the Jamaican music night.  The talent show where guests (mostly children) got on stage to show off their “talent” was somewhat painful.

jamaican show

We had two interconnecting rooms which was perfect.  The rooms were spacious and comfortable.  They were decorated in the usual Caribbean manner (lots of wicker furniture and pastel colours).  The resort was nicely landscaped.

beaches resort landscape

Our children and the nanny did not leave the resort at all. They were perfectly happy playing in the pools and eating ice-cream.

My husband and I took a couple of day trips organised by the concierge at Beaches Ochos Rios to visit some of Jamaica.  We find it difficult to laze around on vacation for more than a couple of days but it suited the kids just fine. We couldn’t even convince them to venture out into Ochos Rios itself to play in the waterfalls at the Blue Hole.  We are also foodies who like exploring the local culinary options.  Although not our ideal holiday, Beaches was a great compromise with the children.

If you are looking for a hassle-free, easy holiday with kids, I think Beaches Resorts have got the mix right. There are plenty of children’s activities and just enough to keep the parents happy.  We have promised our children that we will return to a Beaches Resort in the near future.

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Jamaican Georgian Splendour at Good Hope Plantation

Jamaican Georgian Splendour at Good Hope Plantation

When we were in Jamaica last year, Mr. N and I left our resort and did some side trips around the local area.  Our children refused to budge from the resort and so we had some lovely grown-up time on our own.  Our favourite expedition was to the Good Hope Plantation near Falmouth.

pot

The Good Hope Plantation was established in 1774 as a sugar estate.    In its heyday, the estate belonged to John Tharpe, the largest land and slave owner in Jamaica.  Responsible for about 3000 slaves, he was reputed to be one of the better slave owners.  He established a church, hospital and school for his slaves.  Even after the slaves were emancipated, they continued as workers on the estate. Of course, there probably were limited in their options.

Great House

The gatehouse was made with balance stones.  Balance stones were the flagstones used on the ships to provide ballast when they came empty from England to Jamaica to pick up the sugar and rum.

gatehouse

The gardens were a riot of lush colour.  The current owner has an orchid garden.  Amazingly bamboo also runs riot through the estate.  Apparently the Jamaican government encouraged the growth of bamboo for reasons no one could remember.

From the Great House set up high on a hill, you could see over the surrounding countryside.  By the end of the 18th century, there were over 600 estates in Jamaica each with their own Great House.  Nowadays only a few have survived.

countryside view

In the 18th century, Good Hope epitomised elegant living.  The Georgian features of the house were modelled on fashionable houses back in England.  The house’s palladian windows were much admired.

sash windows

Having received pattern books of what was in style in England, the owners would adapt them for the Jamaican climate.  I didn’t even know there was such a thing as Jamaican Georgian architecture.  Here are the the hallmarks of Jamaican Georgian style:

  • symmetrical proportions
  • hip roofs to withstand hurricanes
  • sash windows and louvred shutters to let the breeze in
  • shaded veranda
  • Palladian windows
  • decorative plaster on the walls

Jamaican houses were usually sold with their furnishings.  This house is lucky to have many original furnishings.

The floor is a beautiful original wild orangewood burnished with years of use. The orange wood was native to Jamaica but extinct now. Each plantation owner had a planter’s chair made to his specification and build.  As the house has had several owners, these beautiful old chairs are scattered throughout the house.

planters chair

The copper bathtub in the master suite was remarkable at the time for having hot water piped in to soothe John Tharpe’s arthritis.  Unfortunately the bathtub was lined in lead and Mr. Tharpe died of lead poisoning anywaycopper bathtub.

The original counting house to the rear of the Big House was where the planters did business.  The counting house has been converted into the honeymoon suite for when the house is rented for weddings and located above the old dungeon.  I’m sure there is irony there somewhere.

The kitchen is fairly massive and has been used for filming.   The Two Fat Ladies set an entire episode in these kitchens in which they demonstrated how to prepare food for a Caribbean Christmas.  Martha Stewart prepared the Jamaican national dish, ackee and salt fish, in this video for Martha Stewart Living Magazine.

We had a charming romp in the Jamaican countryside.  Our guide was terrific. She made a point of telling us that she had been the guide chosen to accompany Prince Harry around the plantation when he visited.  I’m sure she didn’t hit up Prince Harry for tips though.

prince harry good hope

The estate remained a sugar plantation until the early 20th century.  Nowadays, only part of the estate is a working plantation.  The rest is utilised in various ways.  The estate served as the location for the movie, How Stella Got Her Groove Back.  Currently, Chukka run tours on the estate.  Other than the Great House tour we we took, there are more active tours like zip lining, river tubing and 4×4 excursions into the forest. There is also a villa to rent on the estate if you wanted to stay on site.

We really enjoyed our visit to Good Hope Plantation.  The house and grounds were beautiful.  We were lucky that we went on a day that wasn’t over run with people on excursions from cruise ships.  We would definitely recommend visiting this plantation if you want to have a peak into life in a bygone era.

We visited the Good Hope Plantation at the recommendation of the concierge at the resort where we were staying, Beaches Boscobel in Ocho Rios.

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Sunny Prospect Plantation

Sunny Prospect Plantation

I’m so over the rain in London.  So over it, I tell you.  For this week’s ‘how does your garden grow’ post, I can’t muster up the enthusiasm to photograph yet more raindrops on roses (or raindrops on grasses, leaves or anything else).  Let’s escape to a happier time and a sunnier clime!

lotus

In April, on our trip to Jamaica, Mr. and N and I visited some of the plantations near our resort.  The children did not accompany us because they could not be parted from the pool at the hotel.

Although Prospect Plantation was established in 1721 as a working plantation, nowadays, the main crop is tourism. Sir Harold Mitchell, a Scottish businessman, bought the plantation in the 1930’s and his descendants still own it.  In the past, the 1000 acre plantation grew a variety of spices and fruits, such as allspice, bananas and cocoa. On the grounds, there are still some exhibits of crops that used to be grown for profit, such as these pineapples.pineapples

After seeing the grounds, visitors can take a tour of the Great House.  This photo shows the pillared drive to the front of the house.

great house

The back of the house has a beautiful veranda.  I could sit here for hours sipping Pimms.  After enough Pimms, I wouldn’t even notice the mosquito bites.  Supposedly on a clear day, you can see all the way to Cuba which is 90 miles away.

veranda

Most of the rooms are not open to the public which is kind of lame in my humble opinion.

windows

The most interesting tidbit of information was that people would send their broken china back to England to get stapled together.  The cost of shipping and stapling was still cheaper than buying new china.  It was so very different from the throw-away culture of today.

plates

The best part of the house is the spectacular view from the porch.

prospect plantation view

The gardens are something special.  Lady Mitchell was big on gardening and she succeeded in recreating a traditional English garden in the tropics.

prospect plantation garden

There are statues, meandering paths, fountains and tropical plants galore.

The British owners of the house entertained many famous people, some of which planted trees in commemoration of their visit.   The great and the good varied from Henry Kissinger to Charlie Chaplin.  This giant mahogany tree in the front yard was planted by Winston Churchill in 1953.

mahogany tree

FYI, we toured the plantation by jitney.  Mr. N and I opted not to ride on the camels or take a Segway tour.  I’m sure the children would have enjoyed both alternatives.  The tour also includes a demonstration of coconut tree climbing and sampling local fruits.  The highlight for me, though, was definitely the gardens.

We visited the Good Hope Plantation at the recommendation of the concierge at the resort where we were staying, Beaches Boscobel in Ocho Rios.

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