Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Jamaica - part 4

The hotel was sort of a cross between the typical all-inclusive resort and a smaller "boutique" hotel with more attention to detail and design. The drinks flowed freely in usual all-inclusive manner, but with this twist: instead of bringing you drinks, you had to haul your ass to one of the bars. But to have to expend some effort was actually a good thing. Once you were at the bar, the bartenders were incredibly animated and willing to mix just about anything, or else suggest something, such as a "Mellow Yellow" (pineapple and rum, I think).

I went through several phases in the search for the right drink, so that I might stick to it. I started with red wine, my default drink of choice, and the Chilean and Argentinian reds they poured were all good. This being Jamaica, I wanted to give the Rum Punch a chance, but the sheer combustibility of the stuff knocked my socks off. So I switched to my favorite mixed drink, the Bloody Mary, which L calls an "old lady drink", and which the Jamaican bartenders add enough spice to burn a hole through your tongue.

Every day the hotel offered an array of excursions -- some near, some far. One afternoon after lounging at the beach we took the trip to Rick's Cafe on the south end of Negril -- a local institution verging on a tourist cliche, but also a great place to watch the sunset while enjoying a drink. Immediately to the south was the Negril lighthouse, the westernmost point of Jamaica. This section of the coast consists of cliffs, and part of the Rick's experience involves watching people, mostly visitors, dive off the cliffs. From an even higher vantage point, insanely buff Jamaican men heave themselves off the branches of a tall tree in return for whatever tips they can get. This I watched while a Bloody Mary burned a hole through my tongue.

When we later took an excursion further afield through the rural southwestern parishes, the guide urged everyone to try a "Dirty Banana" back at their hotel. It struck me that I had forgotten that banana is my favorite flavor, and that I should have been having Banana Daiquiris all along. The Dirty Banana is one of those iced drinks, like a Pina Colada, and I liked the one they served me back at the hotel. At a later point I asked for a Banana Daiquiri, and a different bartender responded with a serious look, as though I had touched a raw nerve. He took me aside and explained that bananas were not currently available, presumably on account of damage wrought by Hurricane Dean, and that he was deeply sorry. I was all too aware of how vital the banana crop is to the Jamaican economy, and what a hot button issue their banana exports are. I assured the man it was "no problem" (which by the way is the Jamaican philosophy). What wasn't clear was why I was earlier served a Dirty Banana, but that one apparently consisted of a banana "flavored" liquor.


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