Situated between the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea Barbados is a friendly, lush island with a constant year-round comfortable climate. The east coast, or Atlantic side, tends to have a constant crashing surf. The western and southern shores are much calmer with gentle turquoise water lapping onto smooth, soft beaches of brown and pink sand.
Our direct Air Canada flight from Toronto was about 5 hours and the second we stepped out of the plane we knew that the term "Beautiful Barbados" was more than an advertising phrase. It truly is a tropical paradise worth experiencing.
The drive from the airport to our hotel only took a few minutes. Soon we were comfortably settled into our room at the all-inclusive Island Inn Hotel, an intimate restored 1804 British military rum store. In a split second we crossed the street to bask in the splendor of a Bajan sunset as we strolled along the warm sand beach of lovely Carlisle Bay. We were in our own little piece of paradise.
Bridgetown, the capital of Barbados, is only a short taxi ride or walk along the street or beach from Island Inn. It is a small, historic community with an array of shops along Broad Street and a variety of sites worth visiting (the Barbados Museum in the former military prison, the stately parliament buildings on tiny Trafalgar Square and the historic St. Michael's Cathedral). After a leisurely stroll through the downtown area we soon were basking in the winter luxury of sitting on an open terrace beside the river, sipping a cool Banks beer while watching the bustle of daily life pass by.
Although the prime purpose of this venture was to experience the fantastic annual jazz festival, our desire was to enjoy as much of Barbados as possible. We started each day with a tasty Bajan breakfast and a few laps around the jogging loop at the nearby horse racing track. We also visited the local supermarket to buy our usual collection of spices and sauces for recreating Barbadian menus back home.
Further afield, we found lush tropical foliage lining narrow paved roadways that crisscross the island through fields of sugarcane. Surrounded by almost endless beaches, it wasn't difficult to find our own little private sanctuary at Barclays Beach Park. After a sampling of local specialties (don't miss the flying fish) at the Barclays Park Restaurant, tucked between the beach and highway, we strolled along the soft sand as the surf crashed in to wash our feet.
Unlike Crystal Caves in Bermuda where visitors walk inside, the mysteries at Harrison's Cave are discovered by sitting on an electric tram that makes the deep descent underground. From there we drove onward to discover the awesome seascape that is Bathsheba. The view of this collection of beaches and huge rocks has to be one of the most magnificent scenes in the whole Caribbean. We just stood there in silence, feeling the warmth of the tropical sun, soaking in the atmosphere of this incredible scenery.
In the Cayman Islands you can swim with the
stingrays but in Barbados you can swim with wild
sea turtles. For five hours we sailed along the
coast from Bridgetown aboard the catamaran Tiami, dropping anchor near Folkestone Marine
Park to snorkel and swim with the majestic turtles, and then, famished, devour a delicious Bajan
lunch onboard. This is what Caribbean dreams are made of. Although this was a short visit, we
discovered that Barbados has accommodations in all price ranges, the water is perfectly safe to
drink, food highlights the local produce as well as the bountiful seafood, the airport is modern
(and located near most of the hotels), and the people are extremely friendly. One could not ask
Photos and story by: Dave Stephens and Susan Randles
JUST THE FACTS:
AIR TRAVEL: The Grantley Adams International Airport is about 5 hours south of Toronto and is served daily by direct Air Canada flights. The departure tax is BD$25 or $12.50 US paid at the airport before leaving.
DOCUMENTS: Canadian citizens require either a valid passport OR an original birth certificate with government-authorized photo ID.
MONEY MATTERS: Barbados dollar (BD$) = c.$0.50US and c.$0.72 CND. US and Canadian currency accepted most places (best exchange rate at banks) as are most credit cards. ATM's in major centers. Prices may be listed in BD$ and/or US$.
VAT is 15% and may be included in prices or added on.
SAFETY: A relatively safe country but as with any destination basic cautions should be observed in remote areas and at night.
ACCOMMODATIONS: Large array of accommodations (For Island Inn Hotel tel. 1-246-436-6393). Hotel tax is 7 1/2%. Electricity is 110 volts as in Canada.
JAZZ FESTIVAL: The 2000 festival featured Wynton Marsalis, Denise Jannah, Demo Cates, Regina Carter, Al Harewood, Lenny Marcus, Tito Puente, Regina Belle and Luther Vandross. The 2001 festival will be held January 10 to 14.
MORE INFORMATION: Barbados Tourist Authority 800-268-9122
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