Scene: My sister and I walking in Montego Bay toward downtown debating whether to explore the “sketchy” part of town.
(Enter Steve): “I recognize you. I work at El Greco. My name is Steve. What are your names? It is market day so come with me and I’ll show you! No one will bother you when you are with me. You can take all the photographs you want!” He then proceeds to give a a tour of old downtown, Montego Bay.I knew this ploy from a previous visit since they see the bright yellow wristband we need to get our complimentary breakfast and know where we are staying. (We figured out later to have it put on loosely so that we can slip it on and off.) I was O.K. with this situation since I REALLY wanted to take pictures downtown but was hesitant to attempt it with just the two of us. Maybe not wise to trust a complete stranger but we were sucked in….
S-o-o-o-o here we go!
Sam Sharpe Square in the heart of Montego Bay makes a good place to start a walking tour of the town. Sam Sharpe is a national hero of Jamaica (1801, Jamaica – 23 May 1832, Jamaica) and was the slave leader behind the Jamaican Baptist War slave rebellion. Sam Sharpe was later captured and held at the jail cell in the square now known as the cage; He was tried at the court house now known as the civic center and hanged in the square along with other participants.
Today five main monuments are a testament to that faithful day. These include the fountain (not running that day), the court house where he was tried, his statue placed at the spot where he was hanged and two holding areas known as the cage. The square, formerly called Charles Square, contains a collection of bronze statues sculpted by island born Kay Sullivan that show the Bible-thumping Sam Sharpe talking to four of his followers.
The stone Cage is the other main feature of the square. The Cage was built in 1806 and originally used to hold captured runaway slaves and sailors, and those out after curfew. Since then it has been a town lock-up, latrine, a clinic and a tourist office. It now houses a small museum. ~ Don Philpott
The St. James Parish Church was built between 1775 and 1782. It underwent substantial repair work in 1957 following damage from an earthquake.There are many points of interest in the church, including two monuments by noted 18th century sculptor, John Bacon. One of these is a monument to Rosa Palmer, the former owner of Rose Hall Great House. Was she the “White Witch?”
Tour continues to two elementary schools; an infant school for very young students and an upper elementary school. It was fun to see kids just being kids.
Along the way we picked up a wing man, Dave, who claimed he “had our backs” and tagged along behind us. He also would pipe in with the history, information and would answer any questions. Oh, well, another one on the payroll.
Time to wind down our 1 1/2 hour tour of downtown Montego Bay and get a photo of our guides/bodyguards. Our attempts at fist bumping.
We pay our guides and part ways assuring them that we could walk back to the hotel unescorted. We had other offers for tours and taxi rides along the way with the opening line “I recogize you. I work at El Greco.” Been there, done that… The REAL test was continuing to wear the RIU Resort red wristband from Negril after returning to Montego Bay. All of a sudden we had so called “employees” of RIU offering tours and taxi rides. Hmmm… Do we have gullible written all over us? Don’t answer that!!!