NO JOURNEY is really complete without a souvenir or two. So, rather than being an afterthought at the duty-free counter, why not make shopping the basis of your itinerary? Some of the world's best travel destinations are also the sources of the world's favourite products, so get out there and get shopping.
If you're planning a visit to Jamaica (see page 19), it makes sense to explore the area that gives its name to Blue Mountain coffee, first produced in Jamaica in 1757 and now sipped by wealthy caffeine-consumers the world over.
The Caribbean Islands Handbook (Footprint Books, pounds 14.99) describes these mountains, which rise to a height of 7,402ft at Blue Mountain Peak, as "one of the most spectacular and beautiful parts of Jamaica". Teh book also gives handy advice for anyone venturing into this coffee-producing area.
Public transport is infrequent, so drive up past the Blue Mountain Inn, through Mavis Bank and into Hagley Gap. From here, the steep but signposted trail to Blue Mountain Peak takes three to four hours up and two to three hours down.
The views are more worthy of the climb later in the day. Along the way, the lower slopes are covered in intensely verdant vegetation, banana plantations and, of course, coffee groves. Higher up, tree ferns and dwarf forest appear and, if you're lucky, a doctor bird or two. This swallow-tailed hummingbird is Jamaica's national bird and fairly common in the area.
Should all the climbing make you thirsty, you have two options. The first is to stock up locally: you can stopp off on your way back at Mavis Bank Central Factory (001 876 977 8528 or e-mail: jablum@wt jam.net). One of the oldest and largest coffee producers on the island, the factory sells the real Blue Mountain stuff for US$19 per lb (pounds 11). Or you can pick up a reasonably-priced bag in the duty-free shop.
If the island doesn't feature in your immediate travel plans, nip down to the just-opened Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee Shop, at 18a, Maddox Street, London W1 (0171-408 2272). A pound of Blue Mountain coffee here costs pounds 28, but if the British price makes you wince, sit back and soothe your aching wallet with a cup of Blue Mountain Filter Coffee (pounds 1.30) instead. This chic cafe is open Monday to Friday 7.30am to 7.30pm and on Saturdays 10am to 5pm.
On Thursday evenings, when the place is open until 10pm, you can listen to live Jamaican music and dream of funding your Jamaican jaunt by buying up enough coffee to cash in on back home. The profit from only 15 bags of Jamaican-bought coffee could buy you the current pounds 249 return charter fare to Montego Bay with Jetline (0171-360 1111).
Gadget of the week
IF YOU want to arrive at your destination looking fresh-faced and ready to rumble your way through the urban jungle, help is at hand in a little 50ml tube.
One of the main culprits in disembarking from an aeroplane looking puffy- faced and pallid is often not the lack of sleep, free booze or even unscheduled diversions. Pressurised cabin air can be extremely drying - particularly on skin that's already had to deal with the impact of sun, sand and too many happy-hour cocktails.
So, next time you pack your suitcase, forget the bottle of baby oil and stock up instead on SkyHydra, a new moisturiser designed for use on long- haul flights. Available duty free (pounds 14.95) at many British airports, or by mail order (pounds 18.95 with duty) on 01634 226203, moisturising ingredients include pro-vitamin B5, vitamin E, coconut oil, calendula and aloe vera and it is light enough to use everyday - even if you're not a daily jet- setter.
Rhiannon BattenReuse content