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Sunset At The Palms: Getting One’s Goat In Jamaica

Fire cooking lunch

Fire, a self proclaimed recluse, provided an authentic experience by cooking lunch during a Rasta Tour in Negril Jamaica.

By Fyllis Hockman

I was delighted when my husband and I received Betty’s invitation for a picnic lunch at the Sunset in the Palms Resort in Negril, Jamaica. The setting was lush, the food and wine enticing. Conversation, though, was a tad strained. But then Betty’s recent history was a bit dicey.

Recently married, rumor has it she had been knocked up even before the ceremony and the kids are already here. It was hard for her to attend to them and also focus on her guests. Still, she was already back at work maintaining the grounds. Betty is a very resilient goat. And one of Sunset’s favorite staff members.

Sunset is an airy, compact oasis in the middle of a jungle, wood-filled and woodsy, the abundant foliage making the transition from outside to inside seamless. So different from the many large, bustling, antiseptic resorts often lining Caribbean beaches. Here, you’re a part of Jamaica.

The beach, a short walk away, is free of the seaweed currently plaguing so many Caribbean shores.

Mellow Sounds

All the rooms resemble palm-fringed tree houses.

Tranquil was a word I heard a lot. Maybe because the all-inclusive resort is adults only — except for Betty’s kids of course and they’re not likely to be running down the halls. As appealing as reggae music is in the Caribbean, it is often ear-splitting along the beaches and the bars. Here, it is actually mellow —if you can imagine mellow reggae. And while ared flag is usually a warning sign of some kind, here, placed in front of your chaise lounge, it simply means please bring me another pina colada.

The resort comes by its name honestly. All the rooms resemble palm-fringed tree houses. The hammock on our tree-topped balcony was just a bonus. One morning I was awakened by an unaccustomed sound only to find Betty, husband Royal Brown and kids bleating greetings below our balcony.

Sunset is all about service. Everyone sports a badge saying, “I am your personal concierge,” which I initially mistook for the actual concierge. Taking the pampering of guests to an extreme, there is a crossing guard to usher guests across the street to the beach. Admittedly I felt like I was in grade school again and petulantly assured the poor guard that I had been crossing the street by myself for decades without mishap.

Menu A Nightly Surprise

Like every all-inclusive, there are a number of restaurant options, but how often do you go to a restaurant with no menu in sight? Welcome to the Chef’s Showcase, where every night is a surprise, a five-course meal in a candle-lit setting that sparkles with class and romanticism. But be prepared — it’s a while between courses. This is island-time, the precision timepiece upon which Jamaica runs.

Overheard at a bar one afternoon, a local remarked that he’d be ready in three minutes. He then added: “ That’s six minutes if you’re not Jamaican.”

Chef’s Showcase Entree

Just sitting at the bar is an island experience in itself. Locals instinctively move to the music as if they were on a dance floor. And not just any dance floor, but one in the middle of a dance contest. And perhaps not without some embellishment.

Everywhere on the island there is that unmistakable whiff of the ubiquitous substance for which the island is so famous. It was nice to hear that possession of small amounts is now even legal.

Jamaica Is Famous For 3 Things

There are three things for which Jamaica is famous: Dunn’s River Falls in Ocho Rios, the aforementioned ganja and Rick’s Cafe in Negril, where everyone at one time or another has to go to see the sunset. So go we did, despite the noise, the crowds, the commercialism and a sunset like many others, but for which the masses erupt in applause (okay, so it was a pretty nice sunset).

Sunset at Rick’s Cafe

A much more authentic experience happened on our Rasta Tour where we met with Fire. To do that, we had to first climb a mountain. No exaggeration. To say it was worth it is also not an exaggeration, not only for the views and the excellent all natural meal prepared by Fire but mainly for his story.

He’s been living away from civilization for 33 years in a lean-to that doesn’t even qualify as a hut. Long ago, he felt a need to get away from his mainstream life and learn how to survive — literally — in the 21st century. He grows what he needs to live, espouses a simple, less-stressful life living off Mother Earth, and adopts the Rasta approach of kindness and simplicity, eschewing financial gains.

When he started grating coconut on a grater, it sounded a lot like a Reggae beat — which somehow seemed fitting. Life as a Rasta, says Fire, became much easier after Bob Marley. Still, Fire lost me just a bit when he answered his Smartphone, after which he acknowledged, with a smile, “There goes my reputation.” Technology is ubiquitous even on top of a mountain.

Fyllis Hockman swinging into YS Falls

A more typical outing was the trip to YS Falls and the Black River, one of the hotel tour options. YS Falls offers myriad ways to swing over, jump into, swim under and play in a wide variety of waterfalls. And if none of that appeals, the falls alone provide sufficient photo ops.

As we left the resort kicking and screaming, our voices were overshadowed by the gentle bleating of the entire Royal Brown family who all gathered below our balcony to say good-bye. A fitting exit, mon.

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