Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous at GeeJam Jamaica
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The road to GeeJam is an unmarked, unpaved adventure through the deeply shrouded hills of Port Antonio, Jamaica. As we climbed the long and winding road we passed lovely private homes surrounded by beautiful grounds which were pinned to the ledge and afford magnificent views of the shores of San San. This does not look like the road you would take to get to a hotel and we all wondered aloud if we have taken the wrong route.
Indeed, if you don't know where you're going (and sometimes even if you do), you may drive right past the 20' wooden gates which are operated electronically by a security guard within the resort
Pulling up to the entrance we barely noticed the tiny engraved sign hanging on the wall that instructs us to "push button for service". We pressed the button and moments later an authoritative voice rose from the electronic intercom and asked us to state our business. Luckily, I had an appointment to perform a travel agent site inspection that morning and with some checking and rechecking, we were eventually give permission to pass.
Slowly, the large doors began to open inward and we drove up a tree-studded road for about 100 yards but rather than driving into what we thought would be the parking lot, we arrived at the back of a well-kept, gray shingled building? Scratching our heads and climbing out of the car, we three began to turn in circles looking for a sign or clear path to an entrance but find none. With dense vegetation on both sides of us and an unmarked building ahead, we were more perplexed than ever. It was beginning to seem as though someone might deliberately be keeping us out.
Suddenly, appearing at the top of the hill, we noticed a woman with a name tag pinned to her blouse making her way towards us. I looked at my companions wondering if anyone had seen where she'd come from and they looked back wondering the same. As she reached us, right palm extended, she politely asked if I am Jeanne. I become immediately relieved to finally come in contact with an actual person.
With a wide warm smile and sweet Jamaican lilt, Sydoney welcomed us to GeeJam. Apologizing for our confusion, she cheerfully explained the reason for all the security and shrouded mystery, "Our top priority here at GeeJam is to protect the privacy of our guests who come here for peace, relaxation and in many cases, anonymity". This level of security gives you the impression that an award-winning actor, famous rock star or even the Prime Minister might be right on the other side of that gray building.
Eager to see and hear more, I follow her through a small opening in the shrubbery that had gone completed unnoticed by us earlier. I couldn't help but wonder — as in James Bond fashion, if that opening had been momentarily created for our passage and would be disguised again once we passed.
Fortunately for us, Syd, as she prefers to be called, was as knowledgeable about the very cool runnings of GeeJam as she is charming and she tells us our first stop on our tour was to be Sanwood, a large, 3-suite villa which is original to the property and was designed by British architect Anthony Wade in the late 1960s. This sprawling villa is home to three individual guests rooms and two upper level patios overlooking the gardens and sea below. Syd leads us right from the walkway into the main living room and when passing through the barely noticeable full-size sliders which were opened completely to the outside, it gave us the illusion of the room having no 4th wall at all to block the view to the pool. For a moment I thought we might be entering a trendy smaller lobby of the hotel.
Sanwood sits high on a hill and is as large as it is bright, the decor completely surrendering itself to the meticulously landscaped 6-acre property. This level of the villa includes a separate fully-stocked, ultra modern kitchen area and full bathroom. In the living area, big fluffy furniture, a media center and walls flanked with original works from renowned artists and photographers invite you to take a seat, kick off your shoes and just say "ahhh".
Unfortunately we're not here to stay so we make our way up the wide marble-tiled staircase adorned with bright white walls and colorful, asymmetrically arranged works of art. We arrived at the top level to view one of the 3 studio suites and we're told that each unit is set up exactly the same.
As we enter, we are all at once taken in by the polished hardwood floors which provide a darker contrast to the monochromatic white of the walls and crisp linens. These rooms are light, airy, spacious and include luxury amenities such as fully-stocked wet bars, iPod docking stations and get this — Apple TV, featuring your choice over 4000 selections of movies and music right at your fingertips.
However, I must tell you, looking out at the view and the sparkling blue waters of this villa's private swimming pool, I had to wonder why in the world anyone would ever want to watch television? Sanwood Villa is absolutely perfect for a family vacation or a getaway with close friends. These suites may also be rented separately.
Our next stop on the tour brought us down a path to a set of stairs leading us to GeeJam's Bushbar & Grille which overlooks the property and San San Bay. Syd excused herself momentarily to speak with a gentlemen seated at a corner table and after a brief exchange, returned to ask if I'd like to meet one of the owners. I accept and am lead over to the small table to be introduced to Mr. Steve Beaver, co-owner of GeeJam. Together, he and his business partner Mr. John Baker, both moguls in the music industry, have transformed GeeJam into the fashionable hotel/recording studio it is today.
Steve Beaver, a tall, refined and soft-spoken man wearing a stylish scarf about his neck, stood to shake my hand and welcome me to GeeJam. We spoke briefly on my reason for visiting and he then graciously asked if we would like to stay on for lunch. Thrilled to be able to sample a menu typically reserved for the überelite, I humbly accepted his warm invitation. Syd asked us to please view the menu and make our selections before continuing on so the chef would have time to prepare our meals while we completed our tour. I choose the fish and chips at Syd's recommendation and my companions opted for a club sandwich and the nicoise salad.
From the restaurant we were lead down a few stairs and over round stone foot paths to the villas below. Syd referred to all the units as cabins due to the log cabin design of each structure. And because GeeJam is also home to a professional recording studio, various styles of Jamaican music are the inspiration for the christening of each villa. The name give to this villa is simply "Ska".
Syd apologized for not having the unit ready for my visit and explained that housekeeping was still in the process of preparing the cabin for the arrival of it's next guest. I felt fortunate to have this window of opportunity to view it and eagerly followed her down the stairs and onto a wooden deck overlooking the cabin's private hot tub on the deck below. As we entered the cabin I felt as though I might still be outside. There is not one area of this room that doesn't take advantage of the view.
Entering this cabin, I was nearly blinded by the glean of the polished hardwood floors. True to the minimalist design of this resort, the walls and linens are stark white and provide a pure pallet for transitional furnishings, artwork, modern amenities and particularly the tremendous view. With a private hot tub, double steam room in the bath, room service, a panoramic view to the sea and again, Apple TV, there is no reason to leave the grounds of this cabin.
Unfortunately for us, all other units were occupied and because GeeJam places privacy at the top of it's priortiy list, we were not able to view them this time. Syd was kind enough to walk us by the back so we could see the location and because this path would also lead us to the gym and recording studio. She politely asked us to do so quietly and unobtrusively, so as not to disturb the peace and privacy of it's occupants. I couldn't help but wonder who's peace and privacy we might actually be disturbing. Could it be a famous musician here to record their latest album? Hmmm…
As we passed, Syd pointed out the gallery rope located at the foot of each villa's pathway and explained that when the rope is hung, it is a message to the staff that the guests are not to be disturbed. She once again stressed that seclusion if so desired, and the right to a guest's privacy is paramount at GeeJam.
Meandering along another stone path we arrive at the indoor gym with again, more wall-to-wall glass doors completely open on one side to let in the view and the cool hillside breeze. This gym is complete with new state-of-the-art exercise equipment and Syd is proud to tell us that a famous movie star had frequented this gym during his recent visit to GeeJam. Whoever he was, we wondered if he might have trained for his latest movie in this very room.
Syd absolutely would not divulge the actor's name but she did say that one evening, when he gave the restaurant very high grades, she asked if she might quote him to future guest's and he agreed. From here her lips were sealed and I knew there was no way I was going to get it out of her. Suffice it to say that if a person who seemingly is accustomed to the finer things in life feels the desire to compliment the chef, it's likely a very high mark indeed. I can tell you from my own experience that Syd was entirely correct about the fish and chips. The fish was flaky and tender and nearly melted in my mouth. Not one crumb was left behind.
Beyond the gym we were led down another path and escorted into the most fascinating room of the resort — GeeJam's music studio. Famous recording artists have laid down tracks here but you don't have to be Kanye West to work in this studio. Anyone can play in here, at a price, and that price varies depending on what you want out of it. Do you think you have what it takes to be recording artist? Well this is where you can find out.
Because I can't resist a little levity, I decided to copy and paste the studio's Frequently Asked Questions about GeeJam's recording studio which frankly describes the studio much better than I ever could...
Q : Will I sound just like my favorite artist?
A : No, but all the same techniques that went into recording your favorite artist will be exactly the same for you, minus the booze, sex, and scandals.
Q : Can't I just record myself singing on my Karaoke Machine?
A : Yes, but you know what that will sound like? Like you sang into a Karaoke Machine!
Q : Can I go into a Recording Studio to work on a project like artists do?
A : Absolutely, again minus the booze, sex, and scandals (unless you want that!)
Q : I'm sure if I do this, I will be rushed to hurry up and finish, right?
A : No, it's your session, and your project. Most artists work round the clock when inspiration hits, so why should it be any different for you?
Q : So I just come in and sing to pre-made instruments right?
A : Yes, if you like, or work hard like everybody else - start from scratch, and work those musical chops of yours - your choice.
Q : I'm in, how do we start, what are the next steps, who is involved?
A : There is a creative meeting to decide your goals and everyone's role - Producer/Musicians, Backing Vocalists/Writers. Next comes pre-production. This is when you select the team that you feel most creatively comfortable with. You then select the days and time of day you want to work. (Several famous artists can't sing a lick, until the sun goes down!)
So my friends, if you think you've got what it takes, why not head to GeeJam and give it a whirl?
Our last stop on our tour was GeeJam's seculuded beach. This ultra-private beach area is located at the bottom of the resort and through a high gate. There is a large lawn with canopied beds draped in stylish, vibrantly red linens covering the cushions and cascading over the top to shield from the sun.
The beach is a pristine cove-like patch of white sand that greets the clear turquoise surf and is surrounded by a long flat wall dotted with lounge chairs for suntanning. It is completely guarded by security and high gates and absolutely no one but GeeJam guests are allowed in. When I asked the owner how he managed to privatize a beach in a country where all beaches are deemed public, he answered simply, "we bought the beach".
This is where we came to the end of our tour so we eagerly made our way back to GeeJam's Bushbar to savour our delectable lunch. Since I did not actually stay at GeeJam, I'm not able to comment on most of the staff, however I will say that our lunch was delicious and our friendly server was exclusively at our beck and call.
Syd was vivacious, charming, and a lovely person to get to know and Mr. Steve Beaver was a gracious, sincere and a genuinely likable host. One kindly staff member made sure our friend was very well cared for when he patiently drew her a map to her next destination and then waited with her until her cab arrived.
If you're staying at GeeJam it will be difficult to stray from this resort, but do venture outside. The Blue Mountains, Blue Lagoon, Rio Grande River Rafting, Frenchman's Cove Beach, the famous Boston Bay Jerk Center, swimming, snorkeling, jet skiing, deep-sea fishing and a host of other activities are right outside the gates. I recommend shopping in nearby Port Antonio on market day for fantastic bargains. See the infamous Rock Bottom who claims to have the best deals on wood carvings and crafts in the whole of Portland. And because GeeJam provides you with a driver to deliver you to and from any of these popular attractions, there is no reason not to take in everything this lush coast of Jamaica has to offer.
I do hope to visit GeeJam again in the future, next time as a guest. And you never know — maybe my hidden talents will be discovered and I'll be sipping Pina coladas by the pool with Beyonce before heading into the studio to bust a few rhymes with Jay-Z.
Yo Yo Yo, it's "Z" and me...laying down the shorty mac travel track!
Hey…if you're gonna dream, you might as well dream BIG!
My Review Of The Place I Stayed