Trip Start Dec 04, 2011
10Trip End Jan 12, 2012
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Where I stayed
Bougainvillea Beach Resort Christ Church
Read my review - 4/5 stars
Read my review - 4/5 stars
Wake up call at 7am then cabbed to the airport. Check in was on the footpath outside the building, but not very busy and security was also reasonably quick. Caught the Skytrain to Station 4, which is where the international terminal is located, and headed to my gate. My flight didn't leave until 10.30am so I bought some scrambled eggs and sausage with potatoes from a place called Manchu Wok (no idea why they call it this as there didn't appear to be any Chinese dishes on the menu) and then worked on getting my journal up to date, which it now is! About 12.15 Miami time which means it's 1.15 in Barbados I think so we should be landing within an hour.
Plane arrived on time, but getting through immigration took almost as long as the flight. It seemed like every plane into Barbados had arrived simultaneously. Getting a taxi was much quicker, although somewhat disorganised – there didn't seem to be a line and the taxi co-ordinator appeared to be just picking people at random and pointing them toward an empty cab
The ride to Bougainvillea Beach Resort only took about 15 minutes and cost a fixed $17US. I read that it was customary to tip 10% so I gave the guy a 20 and told him to keep the change. I was welcomed with a rum punch which I drank while waiting to check in then grabbed a refill for the walk around to the room. It's hotter here than Miami – high 20's I'd guess - and quite humid.
All the rooms (at least in this wing) are individually named and mine has a little wooden plaque next to the door that reads "Flamboyant" (which I later found out is a type of tree). There's no lift but the view more than makes up for this small inconvenience. My balcony looks over the pool area and the beach - lovely.
Barbados was originally settled by the Arawak Indians who are believed to have arrived on the island around 1600BC from what is now Venezuela. The Arawaks were farmers who grew cassava, corn, peanuts and guava amongst other crops. Around 1200 another, more aggressive, Amerindian tribe called the Caribs conquered the Arawaks. Colombus was the first European to arrive in the New World, but missed Barbados on all of his four voyages to the Americas leaving it to the Portuguese to "discover" in the mid 16th century
Barbados' key source of income was sugar, and although tourism is the major economic driver now the island still grows cane and distils a variety of rums, including Mount Gay. Some of the older plantations like St Nicholas Abbey and Sunbury are popular tourist attractions. Barbados gained independence from Britain in 1966. Today the island’s 300,000 inhabitants reflect a mix of African, European and Asian ancestry.
I took a walk to the little convenience store which is only 2 minutes down the road from the hotel and bought ½ bottle of Mount Gay rum and some coke. The total came to just under $20 so I gave the lady behind the counter 20US and was walking out when she called me back – the prices were in Bajan dollars so I came away with $20.25 change in local currency. She also explained the difference between the different types of rum they sold – Mount Gay is smooth, Cockspur is hot and the white rum is very hot.
Caught a taxi into St Lawrence Gap (there seem to be one or two permanently stationed outside reception) for a flat fee of 20BD
Went to the place next door – Sweet Potato - a recommendation from the guy who drove me from the airport. Ordered the Bajan Platter – Mullins Bay Bol Bol (marinated cod fish with herbs, onions and served with crackers), Garrisons Fish Cakes, plantain stuffed with beef mince, sweet peppers, garlic and onions, Spring Garden Chicken Wings with BBQ sauce and Pumpkin and Spinach fritters. The Bol Bol was OK but everything else was deep fried and, like the entree at Paulo’s, a bit stodgy and tasteless.
Walked up the main strip which has a few bars and restaurants, a couple of guys selling seashells and cheap jewellery off trestle tables and a convenience store where I bought some postcards and stamps (2.20BD to mail a card back to Australia). Pretty dead and nothing looked particularly worth going back to.
Caught a cab back to the hotel and had a rum and coke at the pool bar (the only bar as it turns out)
Slept in this morning then made a few calls to the front desk. They have a spa, but it’s closed on Sunday. They also have a free shuttle to Bridgetown, but that doesn’t run on Sunday. Of course, today is Sunday. I was thinking about hiring a cab and driving to St Nicolas Abbey, but as it’s on the other side of the island the fare is prohibitive – about 170BD. Took a walk on Maxwell Beach instead which is the one right in front of the hotel.
Quite hot but there was a cool breeze blowing off the Caribbean which made it comfortable. Headed north until I came to the end of the sand then turned right onto a little path between two hotels which takes you to St Lawrence Gap. The path opens onto a cul de sac at the end of which is the Dover Beach Resort
Dropped the supplies in my room and went back down to the beach for a quick swim. The water was perfect – not much cooler than the air temperature but very refreshing. I wallowed in the surf for awhile before heading back to my room and now have a bubble in my left ear I can’t get rid of.
Had dinner at one of the two resort restaurants – Lanterns. Tried the fish of the day which was Mahi Mahi with scalloped sweet potato. All the staff are very friendly and the house cat is very sweet (I fed her some of my fish when no-one was looking), but the food was just average (I don't think the potatoes were cooked enough). Spent the rest of the evening on the journal and reading Clash of Swords.
Emailed Ted to confirm he is still picking me up for the island tour tomorrow but he hasn’t replied yet. Also tried ringing his mobile but it’s not answering. One of the lady’s at reception assured me he was very reliable, so hopefully I’ll see him at 9.30 as arranged.
Woke up at dawn, which is about 6am here. The sunrise was beautiful so I took a couple of shots from the balcony then went for a walk down the beach
By this time it was 7am and it was just opening so I purchased some more of the black forest ham, some Jarlsberg cheese slices and a rock melon which I plan to have for breakfast this morning. The prices, at least in this store, seem equivalent to those at home. I still have water in my ear which is irritating me so I stopped at reception desk when I got back and asked if they had any cotton buds, which they didn’t.
Called Ted at what I thought was 8.30 – actually 9.30 as apparently I didn’t set my watch correctly after landing in Barbados. Luckily he was running late too and didn’t pick me up until after 10am. I waited on one of the lounges in the foyer enjoying the cool breeze off the sea.
I’m not sure if Ted is Bajan, English, or possibly Irish – his accent was quite hard to pick – but he’s very funny and makes sure everyone feels at home. We had a big bus but there were only about 15 of us so plenty of room to spread out. Most importantly, the A/C was working a treat. The tour basically circumnavigates the island with Ted providing interesting and amusing commentary for the whole journey. There are four stops on the way. The first is in Speightstown on the north-west coast where we had 10 Bajan minutes (about 20 normal ones) to use the toilets, grab a drink and take photos. The Bajans are very religious people and there are a lot of churches scattered around the island. We parked next to one of these - St Peter’s - which dates from the 1800’s.
From Speightstown we cut across the island to Cherry Tree Hill which has panoramic views of the east coast all the way down to East Point Lighthouse. There were also a few guys selling tourist trinkets from trestle tables, but nothing I wanted to buy. This was also our first drink stop so I had one of Ted’s famous rum punches (he carries two large plastic drums of the stuff on the bus) and found a place under the mahogany trees to enjoy the cool breeze. Very pretty and peaceful.
We drove down the hill to Bathsheba. The east coast of Barbados is the windward side of the island and the waves are much bigger here. As a result, this area is much less developed than the leeward side but holds a big attraction for surfers. There is a park next to the beach (which today was full of school kids) and some large stacks of coral rock thrusting from the water near the tide line. There was a little wooden Bajan House across the road from the beach with a sign offering local crafts. I chatted to the owner, an American guy. Just before I left to return to the bus he told me that to be truly happy in life you had to first understand where you really wanted to be geographically. I’m not sure why he shared this with me, but when I asked he said he’d been here for 20 years. I assume he'd found his geographical sweet spot as he did indeed seem very content.
Our next stop was St John’s Parish Church, a lovely neo-Gothic building overlooking the Atlantic. The current structure was completed in 1836 to replace the previous church which had been destroyed by a hurricane in 1831. A man called Ferdinando Paleologus, a descendent of the last Christian emperor of Constantinople who died in Barbados in 1678, is buried here.
This was our second drink stop of the tour. Ted got out the plastic flagons of rum punch and poured them into plastic cups full of ice. I also bought a Banks beer from the concessionary for $5 as I hadn’t as yet tried the local brew. Very malty but not bad.
Our last stop for the day was Sunbury Plantation
Walked up to the little convenience store near the hotel and bought half a bottle of Mount Gay and some coke, then went to The Waterfront – the resort's other restaurant – for dinner. I ordered garlic and cheese bread (not bad), shrimp kebabs (two prawns on a skewer), and mussels (six tiny bivalves in something that tasted like lumpy tomato sauce). Disappointing, overpriced and nothing special.
Last day in Barbados. It rained again during the night and the shorts I left on the balcony to dry after my swim the day before yesterday are saturated again - I'll probably have to bag them up wet unless we get a scorcher today
Caught the shuttle bus into Bridgetown at 10am. It costs 10BD but if you spend more than 80BD at selected duty free stores you get it back as a discount on your purchases. I’m guessing the participating duty free stores pay for the bus as it drops you right in the middle of the street where they are all located and most of the tourists on my trip appeared to at least be browsing. I bought a bottle of Dolce & Gabana to replace the one I broke in New Orleans – I think after shave is cheaper here than back home as it only cost me 90DB (about $45). I forgot to use my discount voucher so not wanting to waste it I bought a bottle of Aramis as well for 80BD.
Walked around Bridgetown and took some photos.
Had lunch at a restaurant called Lobster Alive. As the name suggests, they specialise in lobster. You order and are charged on size, which ranges from Very Small to Very Large. I opted for a Medium which cost 126BD – about $65. It was served in the shell of course with a side salad, fries (which I think were made from sweet potato – very tasty) and a little bowl of melted butter for dunking. The lobster was grilled, very meaty and delicious. With a Heineken and a rum punch (which was made with cinnamon) the bill came to 155BD – a little excessive for lunch maybe, but definitely the best meal in Barbados so far.
The restaurant is surprisingly down market for the prices they charge – no A/C (just a few fans to circulate the air), plastic tables and chairs – but a nice laid back feel
Caught the bus back to the resort. Shorts had now dried (it actually has turned out to be a scorcher today) so I changed out of my sweaty pants and into those. Had an hour massage at the spa for 200BD, then bought a bottle of Cockspur Rum Punch from the convenience store – I’m becoming quite addicted to this drink as it perfectly complements the climate. It must have rained while I was having my massage as the road was wet and it was a few degrees cooler.
Took a taxi to the little fishing village of Oistins about 5pm which is only a 10 minute drive south of the Bougainvillea. I missed the famous weekly fish fry (held every Friday night) but my driver assured me that every night is fish fry night in Oistins – the only difference is the number of tourists that attend.
The Oistins entertainment strip stretches for about 200 metres along the beach side of the main road. There are no restaurants as such, just a string of little kiosk-like places and open air kitchens with trestle tables on the footpath or a piece of open ground set back from the street.
I bought a fishcake from one stall for 75c and nibbled on that while I strolled around the rest of the precinct, which only took 10-15 minutes. Not too busy tonight, which was good, and locals seemed to outnumber the tourists by at least 3-1
Crossed the road to a bar called Top Up Here for a pre-dinner drink and ordered a rum punch, which unfortunately they didn’t do. As a fall back I asked for a rum and coke, which they were quite happy to sell me as long as I bought the whole bottle (of rum, not coke). I settled for a Banks and sipped on that while reading my Kindle. Some old punter came in and asked me to buy him a coke, which I did, then walked across the road and had dinner.
I ordered grilled shrimp served with fried onions and capsicum which was excellent and, while not as tasty as today’s lobster lunch, at 25BD arguably better value for money overall. They did sell rum punch here so I had two of those as well before grabbing a cab back to the Bougainvillea. A very pleasant end to my stay in Barbados. Don't be put off (as I was) by the fact that most places in Oistins have dolphin on the menu as I was assured that this was in fact a totally different species of food fish, and that what we call dolphins are referred to as porpoises in the Caribbean.
Sitting on the balcony now with an icy cold rum punch, watching the dusk turn to dark and listening to the evening chorus of night birds, crickets and frogs