Rosheda Stephenson calls NYC and the Caribbean home. Her travel articles are meant to inspire passion, adventure and curiosity.
Seeing how the people of a foreign destination lived centuries ago elevates a vacation into an indelible learning experience that can leave lasting memories. The historic Devon House in Kingston, Jamaica is one of the few places in Jamaica where such an experience is possible. A tour of the grand Georgian-style mansion is a study on how Jamaica’s elite lived in the 19th century. Devon house was built by Jamaica's first black millionaire in 1880 and retains its original architecture and furnishings. A visit to the historic mansion will excite those interested in architecture, history or antiques. Those not as interested in history or architecture and those looking to round off the day with more action will find there are other reasons to visit Devon House.
In addition to being the name of the historic mansion, Devon House lends its name to the well-manicured grounds immediately surrounding the great house. Just a few steps from the house, visitors will find a delightful courtyard populated with tropical flowers and surrounded by cute cottages housing traditional Jamaican culinary and artistic treats that will leave as indelible a mark as a tour of the great house. Here are six other things to do at Devon House in Kingston, Jamaica that the visitor will not want to miss.
1. See Local Crafts at T’s and Treasures
At its very heart, crafting is the creation of something of beauty or practicality from unlikely materials. Jamaica’s creative craft community have mastered the very essence of what crafting is and the local crafts at T’s and Crafts in Devon House is the perfect showcase of this mastery. The unlikely coconut finds perfect expression in sculptures carved from the rustic looking outer shell and made into colorful hanging accessories that would make the perfect addition to a garden or a beach side vacation home.
Speaking of sea sides, sea shells combine with string and other materials to make delicate windchimes while sea creatures crafted from glass and other materials sit on a shelf filled with little trinkets. Wood features greatly in Jamaican crafts, so also look out for wooden sculptures like graceful female figures and practical objects like wooden coasters and ash trays.
T’s also has a selection of local foods like jams, herbal teas and rums that will make perfect gifts or souvenirs from your Jamaican vacation.
2. Have Authentic Blue Mountain Coffee at Island Coffees Cafe
Coffee connoisseurs may already know the Blue Mountain brand of coffee as Jamaica’s brand of perfectly medium roasted coffee that has been internationally recognized for its smooth, mild flavor. The real expert will also know how rare it is to find the coffee in North America as quality control and branding expectations mean only a small percentage of the coffee grown in Jamaica can be labeled Blue Mountain. If you are a coffee lover planning to tour Devon House while in Jamaica or looking for things to do in Kingston, be sure to stop for a sample of genuine Blue Mountain coffee at Island Coffees Cafe in Devon House. Island Coffees Cafe has the reputation of serving only genuine Blue Mountain coffee which they source from their own coffee farm high in the Blue Mountains. The small, comfortable coffee shop offers well-crafted espresso creations including lattes, cappuccinos and frappuccinos.
This is not to suggest that Island Coffees has confined itself to mere espresso. Unlike traditional coffee shops in the Starbucks or Café Bene strain, Island Coffee’s menu features inventive mixes of coffee and spirits that seem almost risqué. Standouts include the vodka infused Russian Coffee and an exquisite drink crafted from espresso and Kahlua rum.
If one happens to tour Devon House at lunch time, Island Coffee Cafe also serves paninis, sandwiches and salads that one can consume in typical coffee shop ambiance or in a tiny courtyard where an umbrella provides shade to a seating area designed for one intimate group.
3. See Fancy Hats and Lace Creations at Elaine’s Lace
One may not expect to see fancy lace creations or hats that look like they belong on the head of a heiress visiting the Kentucky Derby in a tiny fashion store in Jamaica. Elaine’s Lace and Fashions is a surprising treasure at Devon House for this very reason. The tiny shop features grand hats in elaborate designs and subdued tones that will make the perfect accessory for the right occasion. If only for the fancy hats, Elaine’s Lace and Fashions should be on the top of the list of things to do at Devon House for visiting fashionistas. If one is as lucky as I was, one may even meet the fancily dressed Elaine herself who not only owns the store, but designs and makes the lace creations herself.
4. Eat Curry Goat Patties at Devon House Café
Repeat visitors to Jamaica, and those familiar with Jamaican culture know the Jamaican patty as one of the emblems of Jamaican cuisine. The not quite pastry, not quite main course is a sublime combination of thin, flaky crust and spicy fillings like beef or chicken.
Devon House Café has elevated the Jamaican patty into something more special. The traditional Jamaican patty features protein fillings that are more minced than chunky, and rounded of with spices. Devon House Café’s curried goat patty is filled with chunks of goat meat (quite similar to lamb) that has been slowly cooked in Jamaica’s mild, yellow curry and other spices that will tantalize the taste buds.
While the curry goat patty stands out as a must, the café also serves the traditional beef patty, and other seafood varieties like shrimp and lobster. Those who don’t want to be adventurous will also find an array of sweet deserts to try. The rum soaked, fruit filled Mary Ann pastry is a soft, dome shaped cake that has been soaked in rum and accented with fruit fillings in the center. Those who don’t want fruit on their treat, but still want the punch of rum can try the equally good rum cake.
The other local deserts will seem unfamiliar as the texture may be strange, but real foodies should try the potato or bread puddings if only for the experience.
5. See Local Paintings at Art Connect Jamaica
Devon House’s Art Connect Jamaica with its quaint flower box at the window and colorful paintings everywhere is a must for art lovers. Paintings of traditional seascapes and Jamaican sceneries dominate the small space, but there are a few pieces that seemed out of place. For me, these paintings that didn’t seem to belong in an art gallery featuring seaside pieces were real pleasures. A medium sized painting of brightly attired jockeys racing horses was so lifelike I couldn’t help but stare, and a series of paintings of frogs were so whimsical I laughed out loud. In the back, craft items like wooden birdhouses, glazed ceramics and metal work round out the collection.
6. Have Divine Chocolate at Chocolate Dreams
Chocolate Dreams is a favorite among locals for their melt in your mouth chocolate creations and cheesecakes. For visiting chocoholics, Chocolate Dreams should be at the top of the list of things to do at Devon House. Although the selection is small, the chocolates are excellent and balanced. Especially good are the coffee fudge and the chocolate covered cheesecake bites.
Although I didn’t try it, a cake known as the triple pleasure chocolate cake has the reputation of being the most sublime chocolate cake on the island. While enjoying the fudge, I witnessed numerous persons attempting to order the triple pleasure (which the store had run out of). Upon hearing that there may be an order of the cake coming from the main bakery, I even overheard one woman reordering her day’s itinerary so that she could wait for the delivery!
If a tour of the historic Devon House is on your itinerary while visiting Jamaica, the places on this list are great activities in Kingston to add to your plans. Happy travels!
© 2017 Rosheda Stephenson