6 Hours in Falmouth - “Cruise Ship A Come!”

Falmouth

Falmouth

Thursday, February 17, 2011, the first Cruise Ship, Voyager of the Seas, sailed into the brand spanking new Falmouth Cruise Ship Terminal built collaboratively by Royal Caribbean and the Port Authority of Jamaica. Despite the fact the small seaport town of Falmouth, population: 9,000, approximately same number of cruise passengers about to arrive per week, watched, for 3 years, the harbor being dredged and filled, the entire northwest coast line of their town being claimed, the historic shopping mall on the new pier going up – the town did absolutely nothing to prepare for the reality of a Cruise Ship Terminal.  That is until, in typical Jamaica fashion, the week before the first cruise ship arrives, the town is painted, the streets cobblestoned, traffic redirected and all in all the town kicks itself into high gear cause “Ship A Come!”

Falmouth

8:30 AM                        Falmouth – Don’t Stop the Carnival

Falmouth is an architectural gem, a stone needing polish, for true, but fact is Falmouth is a showpiece of genuine classic Caribbean Georgian architecture.  When Williamsburg, Virginia was built, Falmouth architecture was studied for the fact so many small buildings as well as public buildings, like churches and the Court House have survived.

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Practically speaking, every single building in the town has an 18th, early 19th century foundation.  Be on deck as you arrive.  The townscape is fantastic; nothing in the town is over 2-stories. You will see the clock tower in the Anglican Parish Church, from miles away, just like in days of old.  What is wonderful about Falmouth is it’s remarkable authenticity.

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The seaport township was designed as a model city in 1790, at the height of the Sugar ‘as King’ Industry.  At the time, there were over 400 Sugar Plantations in Jamaica, 88 of those estates, were in the parish of Trelawny, where Falmouth was made the capital city. By 1793, the wealthiest sugar barons had built townhouses as well as their own wharves and warehouses, and the town enjoyed a social and commercial life on par with any of the greatest Caribbean Ports of Call.  Falmouth’s’ heyday was short but memorable.   By 1837, the steamship arrived and bigger harbors were needed to accommodate larger ships; trade and prosperity followed the steamship to still deeper waters in Montego Bay and Kingston.  Falmouth froze in time. Naturally as the centuries slipped by people built on top of Falmouth as it crumbled… but its all still there.

The citizens of Falmouth are used to people occasionally coming through to look at their buildings in small numbers. Until now, tourism, as an industry with a capital T for Toll, has barely touched Falmouth, there are no American fast food franchises, no Duty-Free shops.  Bars, Beauty Parlors, and Grocery stores housed in amazing buildings – that is what you’ll find in Falmouth. And on Wednesdays, one of the largest ‘Bend Down’ markets on the island – fresh produce and dry goods are unpacked onto tarpaulins on the ground so you must ‘bend down’ to see what’s there – pure Carnival!

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Sherwood Content

11:00 AM                                    Cockpit Country & Sherwood Content

One of the excellent reasons to disembark the Ship in Falmouth is how quickly you can get into the country’s interior and witness the drama and beauty of the island.   A drive to Sherwood Content, where Usain Bolt, Jamaica’s beloved homeboy, the fastest man in the world, hails from, takes approx. 25 minutes. Once asked the secret of his speed, Bolt replied, it was the Yam he ate growing up, which may be profound truth, well said.  Yam sustains the people, and this is Yam country.   You will see many small farms and homes, acres of sugar cane and a wild green country – Jamaica, “Land of Wood and Water” along the Martha Brae River as you wind your way towards the mysterious pristine hills of Cockpit Country.  The treacherous limestone encrusted Cockpit topography where all things that grow wild in Jamaica can be found, including every indigenous species of bird, bug and butterfly.  Sherwood Content sits as close to the Cockpit terrain as has been penetrated.

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Good Hope

2:00 PM                                    Good Hope

No matter what you do with the rest of your Day in Jamaica, go to Good Hope to do it.

18th century Good Hope was among Jamaica’s largest and most prosperous Sugar Plantations, with one of the best “Views” on the island, from the Good Hope Great House across the magnificent Queen of Spain Valley. Until only recently you would have only stumbled into Good Hope, if you were a Yogi on retreat, getting married, or luckiest of all, a kid at Camp.  In late 20th century, Good Hope had become a place for special events, a magical place, known for it’s inspirational views and it’s amazing kitchen, with a small dedicated audience, but in reality barely enough business to maintain 2000 acres of beautiful almost empty country, on the Martha Brae River and the largest collection of Georgian Plantation Architecture left in tact in the western hemisphere.

Good Hope

And if it were not for the fact of the Falmouth Cruise Ship Pier, Good Hope would probably have remained hidden.  Instead, not ignoring the elephant in the room, Blaise Hart, Good Hope’s owner, created a partnership with Chukka Caribbean, the largest adventure tour operator in the Caribbean, and together they have fitted Good Hope out, with zip lines and horse drawn carriages, ATV trails and river tubing. Good Hope is the place you can easily please every member of the most diverse family. Good food is still hallmark of Good Hope hospitality, a Good Hope Great House traditional Jamaican lunch or high tea in the garden a memorable way to enjoy the afternoon.

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4:00 PM                        Jamaica Farewell – Yo Ho Ho & a bottle of Rum

Leave time for Grocery store shopping in Falmouth.  As you run for the ship, don’t forget your bottle of rum – Chris Blackwell’s Black Gold, Hampdens’, Trelawny Gold Label and Worthy Park Rums are regional rums with a difference. Purchase exceptional sauces, jams and condiments ‘made in Jamaica’.  Jamaica’s spices and seasonings are world-renowned, and there are many small manufacturers making good use of local produce like ginger, pimento, sorrel and mango, you won’t find elsewhere. Belcour, Walker’s Wood and Busha Browne are excellent labels. Dry spicy jerk rubs, are easy to travel with, and make wonderful gifts.

 If you go…

Jamaica Tour Society

Falmouth Heritage Renewal

Georgian Society

Cockpit Country

About the author

Lynda Lee Burks has lived in Jamaica most of her adult life. She supports her passion for living by the sea, by organizing tours of Jamaica, producing events – dub poets to destination weddings, and as artist and teacher.  

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