Our first morning was nearly a picture perfect Caribbean day. After waking up we went directly to the balcony to see the view. Since our hotel was situated on a corner, every room had an ocean view. Some rooms faced the hotel beach area while ours faced the bay and also gave us a nice view of the capital, Bridgetown. Eager to get some color we brought books and sun tan lotion down to the beach. We sat, laid, lounged and swam a bit with a few tasty rum drinks here and there. For the most part it was a wonderfully lazy day. The most exciting part of the day was in almost losing my Maui Jim sunglasses. Being an expensive gift, I only really wear them on vacation thinking that will make me less likely to lose them – ha! We searched for them, catching glimpses now and again in between the waves, for about a half an hour. At the point that I was about to give up we heard another tourist say “What an unlikely find!” We quickly ran to him as he was trying on what he might have thought were to be his new sunglasses. He was right about one thing, though. They were an unlikely find indeed. Very glad he was there and that I hadn’t given up yet!
That evening we headed north to Oistins for the amazing fish the taxi cab driver told us about. We decided to take a ZR van, one of the public transportation options available on the island. This turned out to be quite an experience. These little white vans are not even as big as an American minivan but boy were they optimized to pack in passengers like sardines. Even the aisle ways turned into seats once the van was nearly full. I couldn’t see the speedometer but the driver took turns like this thing was a little race car, with his colleague standing at the sliding door opening and closing while the vehicle was still in motion. $2 Barbados, or $1 US, takes you anywhere on the island. On the way there the door master, as I’m going to refer to this position, let us know when we were in Oistins but on the way back we were not quite sure where to get off. I looked up, though, and noticed there were doorbells wired into the ceiling of this minivan so that you could indicate when you needed to get off. I got a good laugh at this surely aftermarket creativity and told my wife to give me her best guess at when I needed to “chime in” that we’d like to get out because she is a far superior navigator to me! Managing to keep down my exceptionally fried fresh marlin dinner I was able to enjoy the ZR van adventure. Before turning in we grabbed a few bottles of the award winning local brew, called Banks, and retired to our balcony for a unique night cap.
After having already tried the hotel breakfast buffet, on day 2 we decided to just grab a quick pastry from the Cuppa Cafe coffee shop. From there we took a cab to Harrison’s Cave for a tour. The cave was quite a bit inland so we got to see more of the island on the way. At the cave we learned that Barbados, in contrast to all the other Caribbean islands, was not formed from any volcanoes but rather from the collision of the Caribbean and Atlantic plates. This also explains the caves that were formed. Conveniently the limestone caves serve as a natural water purification system for the island. We took many pictures of the stalagmites and stalactites that we were told formed over many thousands of years. Simply amazing to imagine how long this work of art has been creating itself.
After the cave tour we decided to check out a Spanish named restaurant, Tapas, in the nearby city of Hastings. We had shark, along with some of our other seafood and fish favorites. Everything was super fresh and simply delicious. I had a mango rum drink that was to die for and the ocean side location didn’t hurt one bit either. Being only about a mile north of the hotel we decided to walk back on shoreline to our hotel to meet my parents who were just arriving on the island.
That night we treated my parents to one of the favorite restaurants of our initial cab driver. The restaurant was called Brown Sugar and it was everything you’d expect in a restaurant with home cooking. According to our cab driver, it was a true representation of what the locals eat at home. We had a creole chowder, a grapefruit papaya salad and herb crusted snapper. We even opted for a banana crepe dessert!
On our last full day on the island we went on a tour of Bridgetown followed by a rum tasting tour. I have to say that while there are plenty of tourists on the island at all times there are almost no “tourist shops.” We walked blocks and blocks until we found what I believe to be the one and only place where i could buy a shot glass for my collection. This is the first time I’ve ever had to try so hard to find one. It was almost exciting for it to be such a rarity! After some shopping and your typical downtown monuments we were on to the rum tour! Now by day 3 we had already sampled various rums, learning that rum can be made from cane juice as well as the molasses by-product. Our tour was of the island’s most popular rum, Mount Gay. Mount Gay rum is made from molasses and in contrast to many other rums it’s flavors come only from the traces of what’s on the island combine with the flavor that can be infused by the reused bourbon oak barrels. And just as any fermentation process, the yields depend on how long the rum is aged. Although, the climate in the Caribbean, we were told, ages the rum much faster than a cooler climate would. I have to say that rum is probably one of my least favorite alcohols but that was before I tasted some of Mount Gay’s offerings, but then again with a name like Mount Gay, how could you really go wrong?!!?!? The top two rums we sampled were the best I’ve ever tested. We were so impressed, in fact, that we broke down and spent a small fortune in order to bring a few more samples home.
That night we were to attend a dinner event with my parents. Little did I know that this event was in a hanger that was storing none other than the famous Concorde. I had heard about this plane that flew so fast it caused sonic booms. We ate dinner under one of its giant wings and even got a quick tour of it. It was a uniquely cool experience and of course there was no shortage of rum or more good food this evening.
All in all we were really impressed with the climate, landscape and authentic, yet still charmingly sarcastic, Barbadian people. I highly recommend a Barbados visit to all!