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    10 most unforgettable people, places and engagements for 2022 | Lifestyle

    The year 2022 was one of renewal and new beginnings. Having been ravaged by the coronavirus for over two years, the weary world was finally able breathe easier and break away from lockdown prison.

    Masks were relaxed, hotels, restaurants, nightclubs and attractions re-opened their doors, and international flights were once again bursting at the seam and global tourism recorded its best year since 2019. But even as some companies struggled to put the best foot forward and keep up with the competition, there were a number of people, places and engagements that shone brightly during my travels. They were unforgettable standouts, some in very quiet and unassuming ways. Their exceptional offerings brightened a sometimes challenging and troubled world.

    1. BEST LOCAL DINING EXPERIENCE – Zimbali Culinary Retreat, Caanan Mountain, Westmoreland

    Dining at this five-star, family-owned farm-to-table restaurant in the hills of Westmoreland, just 30 minutes from Negril, is a culinary excursion for the tastebuds. The menu is a six-course island meal that is lovingly cooked before your eyes while you sip on cocktails, inhale the clean mountain air and listen to chirping hummingbirds at sunset. The setting is roots, rasta reggae bamboo vibe, and no surprise that this hide-away has been rated Jamaica’s #1 restaurant for several consecutive years by Trip Advisor. I was blown away by a recent meal there, and my Jewish friends from New York’s Upper East Side flew in with a group of 10 for Christmas Eve dinner there last week. They were so thrilled with the experience that they are planning a return visit soon!

    2. BEST INTERNATIONAL CARIBBEAN DINING EXPERIENCE – The Blue Bay Restaurant, Monte Carlo, Monaco

    As far as fine-dining restaurants on the French Riviera goes, The Blue Bay is an absolute standout for its gastronomy and impeccable service, but that is only a part of the eatery’s incredible success. An equally fascinating slice of the allure there is the jaw-dropping creativity of the multi-starred Michelin chef Marcel Ravin who is raved about as one of the most talented chefs of his generation. He’s a Caribbean man from Martinique, in the French West Indies. His interest in cooking started in his grandmother’s humble kitchen back home. His not inexpensive eight-and-12-course mouthwatering Caribbean and Mediterranean fusion meals make the most of Caribbean seasonings. He meticulously curates each course to look and taste like a storybook fantasy. Some interesting considerations include cooking with Scotch bonnet pepper leaves instead of the pungent berries to reduce the intensity, and utilising coconut water as a base for some soups. No jerk on the menu yet, but I certainly shipped him a few bottles for his own exploration. I saw him last in November at the Samanna Hotel in Saint-Martin finalising their winter dinner menu.

    3. BEST DIASPORA EVENT – Issa Trust Foundation New York City Gala

    There were several outstanding reggae-driven events across the Jamaican diaspora, some big, some small. But a mid-size event took the prize for me. The Issa Trust Foundation For the Children Charity Gala at the Sony Hall in New York City delivered riveting performances by both Third World and Leon and the Peoples. But more important, the event raised nearly half a million US dollars to build a needed health centre for children in Richmond, St Ann.


    Once in a blue moon, a company comes along that provides with distinction exactly what consumers need. This is the case with Knutsford Express, a company that provides reliable, comfortable ground transfers to major towns across Jamaica, including the airports, at a reasonable cost. My recent experiences with the company have been outstanding. One transfer from Montego Bay to Kingston arrived on time despite the Christmas rush, and the return trip on Christmas Day back to Montego Bay arrived ahead of schedule. The beautifully appointed Drax Hall station near Ocho Rios with comfortable seating, clean bath rooms, timely announcements, food, beverage, light shopping and complimentary newspapers was a pleasant surprise. Congratulations to the team for excellent service delivery, and for those who qualify, senior citizen discounts are available.

    5. BEST CARIBBEAN CULINARY EVENT – Saint-Martin Gastronomy Festival

    The past year was buzzing with food and beverage events across the Caribbean Diaspora, from jerk festivals showcasing unlikely items such as jerk ice cream, to rum, curry and seafood festivals. The event that most captured my imagination was the Saint-Martin Gastronomy Festival that ran for several weeks during the month of November and showcased the culinary heritage of both the French and Dutch sides of the alluring island. The event was loaded with dining availability with participating restaurants and daily inexpensive sampling opportunities from small establishments and street side vendors. Several visiting high profile local and international chefs provided cooking demonstrations, and music performances and cultural presentations put the icing on the proverbial cake.

    6. BEST KEPT TRAVEL SECRET – Club Kingston

    I’d heard mentions in passing of Club Kingston as an easy way to navigate one’s arrival and departure into Kingston, and I didn’t pay it much mind until the busy Christmas travel period started approaching. I then made some wonderful discoveries about the service. For a modest fee, a representative from Club Kingston will meet you at Norman Manley and fast track you through customs and immigration, and the rep then places you in your transportation of choice. For your departure, you have access to the club’s VIP lounge with hot and cold meal options, an open bar, Internet access, showers and related amenities. Generous portions of ackee and salt fish was wonderful prelude to my morning flight. A similar service is also offered from Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay.

    7. BEST ENTERTAINMENT BOOK – ‘My Reggae Music Journey’ by Patricia Chin

    Pat Chin, known fondly within reggae music circles as ‘Miss Pat’, is the co-founder of reggae’s largest independent label, VP Records. With six decades of involvement in the music industry, Miss Pat has had a front row seat. She has interfaced with nearly every major reggae artiste and she recounts her journey including her triumphs and her tribulations in a riveting 212-page hardcover complete with photographs. An audio version of the book will be released later this year

    8. BEST LOCAL CONCERT – Reggae Sumfest at Catherine Hall, Montego Bay

    One of the revivals that generated big excitement at home and abroad was the return of Reggae Sumfest, described with good reason as the best reggae show on Planet Earth. The show returned with an infusion of glittering resources from impresario Joe Bogdanowich, and the lavish Iberostar launch was a hint of the spectacular four-day Montego Bay event that unfolded in August, showcasing themed parties, a sizzling, salacious sound clash plus some of reggae and dancehall’s most compelling performers, from the 1990s veterans to the freshest, hottest flavours from the dancehall

    9. A STAR TO WATCH – Jazmin Headley, Canadian Jamaican singer, actress and dancer

    Very few aspiring singers, dancers and actors get the opportunity to perform in a Broadway smash musical that is one of the most successful theatrical musicals of all time. Canadian Jamaican 10-year-old sensation Jazmin Headley was handed that opportunity for New York City and had to regretfully decline due to a flood of other placements that were coming her way. She opted to play a lead role in the Canadian production of the Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream-coat, now playing in Toronto. Her debut MGM Hollywood movie Flint Strong is scheduled for release later this year and her two recent music video clips have racked up over two million views with music fans worldwide. And in the middle of a back-breaking schedule, she still finds time to actively and generously support her favourite charity, the Bounty Killer Foundation in Jamaica.

    10. PERSONALITY OF THE YEAR – Clive Blackwood, executive vice-president and general auditor of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York

    He grew up in the inner city community of Waterhouse in Kingston, and as the executive vice president and general auditor of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, he oversees a balance sheet worth trillions of US dollars. He visited Jamaica late last year to address sixth-formers at Ardenne High School, but as it turned out, he not only won the love and the hearts of the students, but he riveted the entire Jamaican diaspora after his story of grit and determination was told by The Gleaner and Television Jamaica. “Yes, you can,” was the message from the banking executive and Ardenne High School graduate who told a TV audience he flipped hamburgers to get to the top, and whose down-to-earth demeanour still enables him to jumps on the New York City subway, and on Jamaica’s Knutsford Express to get to where he wants to go. His moving story of triumph was extensively shared across diaspora platforms.

    What are your top lifestyle picks for 2022? Email us at



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