“Nearly a year on the road, all those miles, all those airports, an infinite variety of awful plumbing … It was time for something low-impact. So off to Jamaica.”
“This is the first time I’ve ever driven a car on the wrong side of the road. I mean, knowingly. How hard could it be?”
“You probably know of Jamaica as a vacation paradise, but it’s worth mentioning this is a divided country, and it has been, in one form or another, since the days of slavery. There’s a small minority who control most everything, and then there’s the poorer, generally darker-skinned majority, less connected, left out.”
“It’s brown, it’s murky, and it burns, Mommy. It burns.”
“There’s the Jamaica that most Jamaicans live in, cook in, struggle to survive in: the real Jamaica. Then there’s the Jamaica which you’re probably more familiar with.”
“This time of year Port Antonio was literally crawling with crabs. I am told it will be really easy. Just scoop up the little bastards and then it’s back to the pool.”
“Are those fire ants? Wonderful. Please attack my nut sack. Anything to get this over with quicker.”
“This is totally better than the Playboy Mansion. You know that the Playboy Mansion totally smells like old-man ear stink.”
“I don’t care whether it’s the Bronx or Kingston or wherever I can get it: oxtail, curried goat, callaloo, and of course rice and pigeon peas.”
“Who gets to live in paradise? It’s Jamaica. Let’s accept as a basic premise that this is about as close to paradise as it gets, right?”
“I wanted a grotto. I still kind of do.”
“What we’re all looking for, isn’t it? The perfect beach—remote, uncluttered by douchery. Cold, local beer. The perfect end to a long and, well, bumpy road. Winnifred Beach is that beach—mostly locals; a few clued-in visitors; white sand; clear, warm water; and of course local food.”
“Who owns paradise after all? Who in the end gets to own paradise, use paradise, or even visit it? That’s a question that’s probably worth paying attention to before there’s none left at all.”
“Bond was a working-class f*cker.”
The traditional way of catching crab in Port Antonio is to get all liquored up, go out to the beach with friends toting some makeshift bottle lamps, stick your hand into the little holes that the crabs call home, and grab them at your peril.
Junction of Harbour Street and West Street
Port Antonio, Jamaica
Bourdain ate: jerk chicken.
Chris’s Cook Shop
Main Street, across from Maxine’s Hot Spot
Bourdain ate: oxtail, curried goat, callaloo, rice and pigeon peas.
Last food stand to the west of the beach, Fairy Hill, before Boston Beach
Port Antonio, Jamaica
Bourdain ate: ackee and salt cod, banana.
Dr. Hoe Rum Bar
On the road to James Bond Beach
Bourdain had: traditional fisherman’s breakfast, a Steel Bottom (one part rum, four parts beer).
Live like a Bond (villain?)
The GoldenEye estate—where Ian Fleming, the British naval intelligence officer who penned the James Bond series, lived—has been enlarged and turned into a hotel where you can, if just for a while, live out Bourdain’s childhood dream of having a grotto.
Michael Lee-Chin: one of the richest men in the world, hotelier, chairman of the Bank of Jamaica, and founding chairman of Portland Holdings.
Jon Baker: music producer and manager, hotelier.
Carl Bradshaw: Jamaican actor.
Chris Blackwell: current owner of the GoldenEye estate of James Bond fame, founder of Island Records, producer credited with discovering Bob Marley, rum-business owner.
Chris Marsh: chef and owner of Chris’s Cook Shop.
Cynthia Miller: Winnifred Beach restaurant owner.
Stuck in time
Port Antonio has not yet progressed to a place where it is overflowing with tourists crammed into cookie-cutter accommodations, says Michael Lee-Chin, chairman of Jamaica’s Portland Holdings.
“Where does it cross over where all of the things you love about this area, where all of the villas are spanking new and people are building 400-room hotels?” Bourdain asks. “Is there a threshold where things start to not be the things that you loved about the place in the first place, and how do you guard against that?”
“You know, Tony, Port Antonio is a long way from getting there,” Lee-Chin says. “It has not progressed out of the ’50s.”
The Blue Mountains that surround Port Antonio filter out a certain kind of tourist not willing to go to great lengths to experience such an untainted paradise, adds Lee-Chin’s partner Jon Baker, a music producer and manager.
Before Jamaica became a destination for rotund, rum-guzzling tourists from the north, it was United Fruit Company’s banana capital.
Trouble in paradise
Overfishing is a problem here. All over the island fish stocks are in decline, and making a living from the waters that surround Jamaica is becoming less possible.