Croydon Plantation is a scenic estate in Montego Bay, just a short trip from the seaside resorts, offering a deep history, beautiful grounds, and delicious treats. TW and I booked our tour of the plantation through our resort, Riu Reggae, with the help of our planner, Ingrid.
Just as my favorite thing about Jamaica was the people, my favorite part of the tour was our tour guide, Alicia. She is a strong, warm, smart woman with a delightful sense of humor. I couldn’t quite make out her age, but she revealed she had a child. As our van chugged away from the coast and into the hilly area, Alicia described the neighborhoods we passed and told us a little bit about herself.
While she worked as a tour guide during the day, Alicia went to school at night to become a nurse…with the dream of eventually becoming a doctor. She was highly knowledgeable about Jamaica and answered every question about her country like a human Google. With pride, Alicia explained that during her test to become a tour guide, she had met or exceeded every metric except for one: she had forgotten to introduce the driver. When we first stepped on the van, that was the first thing she did. I guess she’d learned her lesson!
When we arrived at the plantation, we were met with beautiful weather. The grounds were green and bristling with all sorts of crops, plants, and trees, including – most prominently – coffee and pineapples.
Alicia led us to a cluster of benches, where we sat as she explained how coffee is produced and how honey is made. She would make a wonderful teacher, given the organic, engaging way in which she revealed nature’s secrets. Alicia also wove colorful anecdotes through her explanations. Most of these anecdotes involved “whoopings” she had received as a child for all of the hijinx she and her siblings got up to. She had earned one such whooping from eating an entire jar of crystallized honey hidden in the back of the cupboard – because her mother had been saving this as a sentimental honey jar that her grandmother had made long ago. Alicia and her siblings had also received whoopings for eating sugarcane straight from the farm.
“But I still turned out fine,” she said with a grin.
After the fascinating lessons in agriculture, a woman served us fresh pineapple juice. Then Alicia led us down to the pineapple crops. She explained that each plant bore only one pineapple fruit. A new plant then grew in its place.
Alicia then led a path, where a special treat awaited us.
A smorgasbord of different pineapple varieties! Fresh-picked, all for our tasting pleasure.
Certain types of pineapple were sweeter, others more tart. Some were crunchy like an apple, while others were more soft and sinewy.
After having our fill, we continued to walk up the path as Alicia pointed out different plants and described the consumption, utilitarian, and medicinal purposes of the fruits and leaves. She used one flower as lipstick, as it left behind a crimson residue.
Soon, we came upon another table, this one with sample starfruit.
The exploration continued…so much to see!
Finally, the tour ended at an outdoor seating area, where we all helped ourselves to home-cooked chicken, rice, kidney beans, and veggies. And, of course, delicious coffee made from the plantation’s coffee beans. On the lawn nearby, statues of Samuel Sharpe and others were displayed, emanating pride in Jamaica’s path to freedom.
Happy and full, our tour group hopped on the van to head back to our respective resorts. Alicia seemed more relaxed, now that she had completed her day’s work of guiding. So in the van, she told one cheesy joke after another – jokes so bad, they were good. I groaned with laughter. Among my favorites were: “What do you call an Idaho potato that moved out of the country? A French fry!” and “What do a fence and a miniskirt have in common? They both protect the property without impeding the view!”
Alicia also opened up more about herself and her past. In particular, she shared a poignant memory about a devastating hurricane that ravaged Jamaica when she was a child. The hurricane killed a huge chunk of Jamaicans. Alicia remembered her family walking from their home to a nearby property that her father had recently built, since it was more heavily reinforced and more idea as a shelter from the storm. But it was terrifying, walking through the hurricane to reach that shelter. Her mother had made the family wear layers and layers upon clothing and hold an orange in each hand before they made the treacherous crossing. But luckily, they made it safe and sound.
Alicia also remembered the missionaries that arrived to help in the aftermath of the hurricane. She made friends with a boy who was the son of one such memory. He had an accent of some sort, but it wasn’t until recently, in her adulthood, that she realized where she was from. When a tourist from Texas joined her tour group, she realized he had the very same accent as her friend – and it was then that she realized that her missionary friend had been a Texan.
The tour had been a refreshing and rich experience, and Alicia’s warm, free spirit made all the difference.