Travelogue – Barbados
The only other time I went to Barbados I stayed with my son up in the north of the island at Saint Peter.
That was 19 years ago, but this past year I was in Barbados twice, both times (first) and (second) to watch my daughter represent Bermuda swimming. Those trips centered around the Aquatic Centre, which forms part of the Garfield Sobers Sports Complex on the outskirts of the capital Bridgetown. The national football stadium Wildey Turf is also there.
The first trip we stayed at the all-inclusive Sandals Resort. The experience was a mix of a cruise ship and Butlins. Maybe a bit 18-30’s for oldies thrown in too! Foam pool party at 3pm anyone?
There was a daily schedule of events, and lots of facilities not necessitating any real reason to leave the huge resort. Throw in all-inclusive food and drink, and I can get the popularity.
We were hardly there, but by the time we got back late evening from the pool searching for food and drink, most of our fellow guests looked as if they’d had taken full advantage of the all-inclusivity’s.
We changed hotels for the second visit to the other side of Bridgetown, and stayed at the Hilton, pretty dull by comparison to Sandals.
The journey between pool and hotel allowed us to see more of the surrounding area, and to be honest it was pretty grim. Narrow uneven roads with wooden houses, most inhospitable looking, but all clearly lived in. It was a little bit distressing, and surprising as Barbados does not have a big poverty issue, and many parts of the island particularly the east coast contain a lot of wealth.
Barbados as a whole does have a well developed mixed economy and ranks pretty high in the standard of living tables.
The capital Bridgetown is in Saint Michael’s, one of eleven parishes on the 170 square-mile island, the most eastern of all the Caribbean islands. The parish of Christchurch neighbours the capital and the south west tip of the country is the most populous.
Bridgetown has a very colonial feel and there is good shopping and drinking to be had especially along Broad Street and on lively pedestrian-only Swan Street.
For sports lovers the Kennington Oval is the centre-piece of the city, where cricket has been played since 1882. Kensington Oval was vastly rebuilt for the 2007 World Cup and the stands and field is steeped in history.
This part of the island is the most touristy and lively both on and off land. The waters here where the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea meet are lively and rough enough for a myriad of watersports. It is a known surfing destination and there’s also windsurfing, jet skiing, kayaking, sailing, diving and kiteboarding readily available.
If you are an early bird then you can sneak a sunrise look at the wonderful race horses taking their morning exercise in the sea at Pebbles Beach. These horses all come from nearby stables and race during the season at the historic Garrison Savannah.
For those wishing to avoid all of the sporty stuff, there are many calmer beaches for lazing and turtle spotting. You’ll even see the odd green monkey patrolling the sands.
The South Coast of Barbados is also the late night locale for endless nightclubs, bars and restaurants particularly at St. Lawrence Gap. The town of Oistins is a popular tourist area known for it’s Friday night fish fry including the national dish of cou-cou. For a stand-out fish sandwich I was recommend Cuz’s Fish Stand, it was good and plentiful.
A compulsory add-on with a Cuz’s fish sandwich is a Banks Beer, in fact compulsory with most things. A smooth and refreshing lager brewed at the famed headquarters in Newtown, Christchurch.
At the Aquatics Centre, where in the two separate weeks I was in Barbados I must have spent hundreds of hours, one upside was the freshly barbecued burgers and Banks’ at £1.60 a pop. I had a few..
Barbados is more recognized for its rums, and at the Mount Gay visitor’s centre in Barbados claims to be the world’s oldest remaining rum company, dating back to 1703. The centre provides tastings and tours. Cockspur Rum and Malibu also originate from the island.
The local food staples are peas and rice, which is all my vegetarian daughter ate for a week both times, oxtail stew and something called pudding and souse, which consists of pickled pork with spiced sweet potatoes. I also saw pickled sea-cat on a menu, and after a quick Google found that to be octopus!
None of these items were on the menu at Champers, which was a fantastic restaurant perched on a oceanside balcony at Skeetes Hill. I didn’t see any ducks on my travels, plenty of chickens, but my duck confit was yummy.
The island’s west coast is known for the lengthy string of soft white-sand beaches lapped by blue waters of the Caribbean Sea, which is dotted with expensive hotels, whereas the eastern Atlantic coast side features jagged hillsides and pounding crashing waves.
The majority of hotels are on the west and south side. The west side is definitely 80’s chic, but upscale resorts still exist and at Holetown, the countries first settlement, the scene is more tranquil with lesser explored beaches and the colourful Chattel Shopping Village.
You can take a 10-mile drive from the boulder-strewn beach at Bathsheba to the preserved St Nicholas Abbey along the east coast. Out on the Atlantic small fleets of fishing boats brave the large swells, while daring surfers ride the rolling waves.
It was rather random that we visited Barbados twice in a few months 19 years after I was first there. We watched a lot of swimming, and sadly none of the beach or foam pool party type, but Barbados has a lot to offer with 70 miles of coastline offering the archetypal sun, sea and sand holiday.