Paradise In Barbados 2004  

Above: Chatty Bartender, Allamanda Beach Hotel

July 1, 2002

Bathsheba on the East Coast

Nowhere else on earth could I feel as carefree as this! I’m whizzing down a windswept coastal road along an endless coral beach. Groves of graceful palms flutter off to my right- a frothy surf tumbles shoreward to my left.  I’m commander-in-chief of my rented Moke (the Barbadian variation of a high-octane dune buggy).  Barefoot and shirtless, I defiantly press its sandy accelerator to the floor.  Rumbling over the roadway’s ruts and bumps is nothing less than hilarious, bone-rattling fun. 

 

One of Six Observation Posts on the Island

 

 

 

 

The shoreline between Bridgetown and St. Lawrence Gap is dotted with romantic places for intimate dining right at the water’s edge.  Brenda and I winked acknowledgements to many other same-sex couples as we awed at the evening sunsets during dinner.  Barbados is renown for its world-class chefs.  Seafood is always the specialty at most fine restaurants.  Be prepared for delicacies like the fresh filet of Atlantic salmon, stuffed with crab, sautéed, roasted, and served with a mango-guava sauce.   Or indulge yourself with the steamed Caribbean lobster tail wrapped in proscuitto and smothered in passion fruit Hollandaise. Even the fast food places feature fish, listing the “flying fish burger” (without the wings, of course) at the top of their menus.

 

 

Barbados has a long, colorful history of being a notorious playground- from the early days three centuries ago, when rum was first invented, to the opulent era of steamship travel. Sir Edward Cunard, the owner of the company that launched the ill-fated “Titanic,” is accredited with being instrumental in land marking Barbados as an international Mecca for celebrities and royalty from around the world. Evidence of this continuing legacy, Barbados is the only destination in the Caribbean to have regularly scheduled service from Europe via the supersonic “Concorde.”

 

Exotic Blooms at "Orchid World"

Dancer at seaport in Bridgetown

Garrison dating to the 1700's

Elegant Alamanda Beach Hotel

Local, Award Winning  Artist, Pauline Davis

Barbados’ natural wonders are hardly limited to the waters that surround it.  A must-see is Flower Forest and Orchid World.  The Flower Forest is a botanical garden covering over 50 acres in the verdant highlands just a few miles east of Bridgetown on Hiway 2.  Once the Richmond Sugar Plantation, the hillside is now covered with thousands of exotic flowering plants and trees. Heliconias, torch gingers, antheriums, birds of paradise and philodendrons are everywhere.  Throughout the park you’ll suddenly find yourself enveloped by mysterious mixtures of subtle fragrances like jasmine and gardenia, plumeria and lavender.   You can set the pace of your activity by choosing one of the gentle, meandering pathways or any of the strenuous hiking trails.   Thoughtfully placed vantage points throughout the property offer panoramic vistas of the rolling mountains, the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea.  Your admission ticket is also good for entry to the nearby Orchid World.  More than 20,000 orchids, their sprays bursting with thousands of vibrant colors, adorn dozens of formal and natural garden settings. 

Even more natural wonders are to be found underground inside the incomparable Harrison Cave.  Amazingly, this labyrinth of caverns was known only in native folklore until 1970.  Barbados’ natural treasures also include those of the furry, cuddly kind.  The Wildlife Reserve of Barbados is located in a natural mahogany grove just off Hiway 2.  Once inside its protected environment you can get surprisingly close to the both the graceful brocket deer and the adorable Barbados Green Monkeys.  The monkeys are fed daily at 4 P. M., an ideal time to catch all their sidesplitting antics.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Incredible Water Purification System                 Francia Plantation

Effervescent Tour Guide: Mt. Gay Rum

Text by John Sherman Mills

Photography: Thomas I. Petersen

July 1, 2002

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Breathtaking Vista, Atlantic Ocean

The Eastern Coast known for World Class Surfing

Daily Bartering: A typical seaside fish market

And having a good time is exactly why  Brenda and I are here in Barbados for a week’s vacation.  Snorkeling, surfing and serious partying just start the list of fun-in-the-sun things to do ion this wild Caribbean paradise.  The quandary upon arriving is not what to do, but how to squeeze it all in.

Bridgetown is the gateway city of Barbados and is quickly reached by non-stop jet service from Miami.   Home to 260,000 residents, Bridgetown and the cozy, rustic towns nearby comprise a convenient hub where most visitors prefer to stay.  This corner of Barbados is close to all the attractions and beaches.  Since the island is only twenty-one miles long and fourteen miles wide, you can drive to anywhere on the island in less than a couple of hours.

“B-town,” as the islanders call it, is a haven for people lovers who want to immerse themselves in its sparkling nightlife. Just on the southern outskirts of B-town are the beachside areas of Worthing, Christchurch and St. Lawrence Gap.  Here you’ll find a mishmash of funky bars, seaside restaurants, handful of upscale resorts and affordable accommodations, like the Allamanda Beach Hotel and Shells Guest House.

The Funky Mojo Bar: A hangout for the locals, Worthing

"Miami" Beach, just south of Bridgetown

Unquestionably Barbados’ immense popularity is due to its geological uniqueness as the only Caribbean island that’s actually an ancient coral atoll.  As a result, its entire coastline is awash with silky, vanilla-colored sand.  Favored beaches for naturalists include Long Bay Beach (South Coast), Cattlewash Beach (East Coast) and Batts Rock Beach (West Coast).

Bathsheba Beach on the Atlantic side, however, is internationally famous for surfing.  Gigantic, powerful waves hammer relentlessly toward shore.  As the surfers hang ten, other thrill seekers dive from the contorted rock formations that jut 100 feet above the grumbling surf below.  Nearby is the treacherous “Soup Bowl,” where daredevils tackle waves with crests reaching over 15 feet high. The “Bowl” is considered one of the top ten surfing beaches in the world.  Brenda and I get a bird’s eye view of all this aquatic frenzy from the terraces of the Atlantis Hotel.  Perched on a craggy outcropping, the bar and restaurant at the Atlantis is a great place to people watch, partake of an icy afternoon libation, and perhaps make a new friend or two. 

Whether by bike or car, spend a day following Hiway 1 (a two lane road) that twists alongside the coast from Bridgetown north to Speightstown.  This section of the western coast is characterized by lush vegetation, postcard perfect vistas and the spectacular gardens of the luxury hotels clustered here. For the most part, the restaurants and impeccably manicured grounds of these pricy resorts, such as Sandy Lane, Glitter Bay and Coconut Creek, are open to the public.  Brenda and I just enjoy the opportunity to admire the tranquil landscapes of these park-like settings. 

Several stretches of the beaches along Hiway 1 are public and are marked with access signs.  Frequently you’ll pass an artist capturing his or her interpretation of the area’s natural beauty.  We chatted with a painter, Pauline Davis, as she put the final watercolor strokes onto her seascape.  Her melodious Welsh accent immediately clued me that she had ventured here from abroad.  “I tumbled instantly in love with Barbados,” she confessed. “The azure skies, the rocking sailboats, the crimson sunsets… I just had to stay here forever and paint them.”  Davis’ works are showcased in many boutiques throughout the island and in nearby Holetown, a quaint little village half way along the route.  Holetown’s charming character draws on its restored historic buildings and scenic setting.  A weathered obelisk and row of rusty black cannons commemorates the site as the first English settlement in 1627.

Secluded Resorts hug Barbados' Calm Western Coast

Heading back Bridgetown, Brenda and I are jazzed to take the “Atlantis Submarine Adventure.”   The “Atlantis” stretches sixty-five feet in length and weighs over 80 tons. The tour departs every 90 minutes from its berth adjacent to where the cruise liners tie up.  Propelled by battery powered thrusters, the “Atlantis” slips silently amongst delicate coral reefs and sponge gardens lying about two miles off shore.  The submarine’s fifty circular windows become massive kaleidoscopes swizzling images of hundreds of magical marine life.  A leatherback turtle suddenly presses his dark brown nose against the glass and peers in with a comically dubious expression.  He seems as curious about us as we are about him. The underwater excursion climaxes as we plunge 130 feet below the surface to snoop around the eerie, encrusted edges of a spooky, crumpled shipwreck.

We return dockside just in time to catch the “Bajan Queen” as it chugs along the harbor.  This clunky, three-story vessel strangely resembles a riverboat.  The forty-foot waterslides on both its port and starboard sides, however, are a dead give-away of the naughty nautical intentions of its rowdy passengers.  Rumor has it the Bajan Queen carries more barrels of rum, than it does fuel.  As a zesty musical mix of Latin Salsa and Caribbean dance proclaims it’s party time.  This fun-filled cruise putts its way around Carlisle Bay for the entirety of a sun-drenched afternoon.  The “Jolly Roger,” an amusing replica of a pirate ship, claims a similarly zany agenda, setting sail at noon and 8 PM seven days a week.

The "Atlantis" Prepares to Submerge

Harrison Caves

You get a good sense of history of the island when you check out the small, but comprehensive Barbados Museum.  Exhibits and artifacts silently recount Barbados’ checkered past- from the Arawak Indian settlements in the 1200’s to the rum and sugar industries of the 1800’s.  One of the intriguing stories you’ll learn is that our own George Washington in 1751 at age 19 brought his ailing half-brother here for rejuvenation.  (Even at that time Barbados had a reputation for its desirable tropical climate and pure, naturally filtered water.)  Had it not been for an incident that happened here, Washington would never have been the first president of the United States.  The house in which he resided is soon to open as a museum of this American/Barbados connection.

Sunbury Plantation

A tour of Barbados just wouldn’t be complete without experiencing at least one of the island’s “great houses.”  The Barbados National Trust offers an Open-House program, a neat way to glimpse backwards into the days of the expansive sugar plantations.  Their extensive registry contains architectural treasures such as the Tyrol Cot Heritage Village, Wildey House, Gun Hill Station and the Hutson Sugar Factory. The Morgan Lewis Sugarcane Plantation (1750) has a fully restored mill, one of only two in working condition in the Caribbean. 

Barbados also boasts several great homes preserved by private foundations, such as the Sunbury Plantation House overlooking the southeastern corner of the island.  The mansion is a grand, 300 year old home, featuring exquisite European furniture, marble fireplaces, rare Caribbean collectables and a sweeping balustrade.  The walls of the house are two and a half feet thick, created with ballast stones carried by empty sailing ships coming from England to be loaded with barrels of rum.  Be sure to plan some time for a delicious light lunch served in the home’s sunny, trellised courtyard.

Unquestionably, the stateliest of the great houses is the owner’s residence of the Francia Plantation.   One of the first plantation homes in the Caribbean, the Francia had absolutely no expenses spared in its construction.  The interior walls of the main floor are paneled in rich Brazilian hardwoods.  Every room is lavishly appointed with Barbadian antique furniture and fine European paintings.  The parlor is decorated with a collection of framed nautical maps sketched in1522.  Multi-paned French doors from the living room and library open onto stone terraces leading off to expansive lawns and manicured classical gardens.  As Brenda and I leave the grounds, we take a closer look at the colossal fig trees that line its gravel driveway.  Sure enough, every limb has massive rows of fuzzy, dangling roots, some as long as 15 feet.  It was this quirky feature of the figs that inspired the first explorer, Pedro a Campos, to name the island “the bearded ones” or “Los Barbados” in Portuguese.

Another name you’ll encounter over and over in Barbados is “Mt. Rum.” Advertisements for M.G.R. appear everywhere in the Caribbean.  This internationally famous libation has a visitors’ center right in Bridgetown.  Indeed, it’s the oldest rum factory in Barbados, and for that matter, in the world. Its three hundred year anniversary will be celebrated in 2003. A presentation about the company’s history and the distilling process is part of the tour at the center.  At the tour’s conclusion you’ll most likely find your fingers wrapped around a frosty, complementary drink. 

Pulling away from the parking lot, all at once Brenda and I discover ourselves looking at each other.  We both realize there’s still time for some duty free shopping down on Broad Street.  “I’m sure I must have some extra room in my flight bag,” Brenda leads suggestively.  “I think I do too” was my response.  In a heartbeat my foot bears down on that Moke’s accelerator yet one more time. 

 

Accommodations:

Allamanda Beach Hotel (Ask for Room 27)

Hastings

Tel (246) 435-6693

Fax (246) 435 9211

Email: reservations@allamandabeach.com

Restaurants

Joes’ at the Bayshore, Bridgetown

Shak Shak  Hastings

Champers Hastings

Pieces (St. Lawrence Gap)

Carambola St. James

 

Top Class Car Rentals

Christ Church www.topclassrentals.com