We’ve talked briefly about our vacation to Barbados earlier this year and now, having sorted through several hundred images, we’ve come up with a few representative samples and stories to go along with them. As a reminder, we tend not to go to the tourist traps. Sure, if we were in Rome, we’d check out the Vatican, but it wouldn’t be the main focus. We tend to hang where the locals hang, as that tells you more about the place, the people and the real stories.
Barbados is fabulously gorgeous. The condo complex contains a marina with slips right out your front door.
No, we didn’t have a 60 foot ocean-going vessel at our disposal, but many of the residents do. Some are Dock Queens, others are used often and well.
Beach time? We’ve got you covered.
On a couple of days the waves were up and we gleefully got tossed around in the Caribbean Sea. Some days you could see the cruise ships coming into or leaving from Bridgetown on the horizon.
Considering our vacation was about rest and relaxation, we didn’t want to pack it full of travel and tourism things. There were some, but not a lot. The north shore, or as the locals call it, Down North, is on the Atlantic and is as wild a coastline as you could want.
Being down north and having a kitchen in the condo, we did make sure we were well-provisioned. Speightstown was the closest town and on our first day there we made sure to hit Jordan’s Supermarket for the essentials. A reasonable number of international brands (Kraft, Nestle, Unilever products) and many local or imported brands as well as local produce and salt fish.
Barbados is not inexpensive, as the vast majority of grocery items are imported and that adds to the cost. The odd one we found was New Zealand cheese and butter, being imported from a half a world away. Yes they do have Cheerios, but they also have plantain chips from Costa Rica and sweet potato crisps from Trinidad. (We were well-advised to bring our own coffee, so we packed a pound of St. Arbucks in the luggage.)
Speightstown is one of the older towns and has some architectural leftovers from colonial times.
The streets are narrow and yes, they drive on the British side of the road. We didn’t hear much of the Egyptian Brake Pedal/Ha Noi Turn Signal, just the occasional honk of recognition from one driver to the other. Bus transport is inexpensive and everywhere on the island. Like bus travel in most countries, it is only for the strong of constitution. Bus drivers are hired on the basis of their daily consumption of amphetamines, or their complete disregard for their own lives.
We did sneak in some history.
Food and drink are important to us when travelling. Eating local means you learn about culture and the history. Being surrounded by oceans, Barbados has plenty of sea food, especially flying fish, all impeccably fresh and well prepared. Fisherman’s Pub in Speightstown is where the locals go.
Buffet style, choose what you want as mains and your sides. Lunch was about $12 BDO. Speaking of Barbados currency, the official exchange rate is $2 BDO = $1 USD. Canadian banks like CIBC and RBC are all over the place and invariably their ATMs give you the best exchange rate, even better than at the counter, as the computers in Toronto do the exchange at the best rate and spit our $BDO. Fortunately we bank with CIBC, so getting cash was simple. Visa, MC, Amex are accepted almost everywhere.
Rum is one of the more important products of Barbados. The rum selection is impressive, some we can get in Ontario, like Cockspur and some we can’t. One of our trips was to St. Nicholas Abbey, a Canadian-owned sugar cane farm that also produces rum from their sugar cane. St. Nicholas Abbey has been a sugar cane plantation since the mid-1600’s. The history is long and some of it dark in corners as this was also in the days of the slave trade. Barbadians don’t shy away from their history, but they don’t dwell on it either.
That handwritten list in the photos is the value of some of the slaves for tax purposes from the ledgers of the plantation back in the day. After the cane is crushed and the juice extracted, the bagasse is put in the sun to dry, then burned to create steam to run the machinery. Yes, it’s a good tour, worth your time and yes, they do give you a Rum Punch as part of the tour.
Speaking of Rum Punch, yes, there was drinking on this trip.
Wine is plentiful, almost all of it imported, but if you’re in a country renown for rum, why in the name of all that is holy would you drink wine? We brought back a few bottles. To answer the question, does Marylou drink? I was the one with the camera, so she was naturally and gorgeously, the subject.
More stories and pictures to come.