Barbados! Part 1

Getting there: Air Canada on points. We kind of randomly decided on this trip – we had some points from a cancelled ticket that we had to use up or lose, so when I was playing around in June to see where we could go, lo and behold, Barbados came up. Hello!

Where the 2d’s stayed: We are renting a little house that is literally a 3 minute walk to an area called Rockley beach, bus stops, and everything else we need to get our hands on. The owners are local and their son lives in a small town in Alberta – how’s that for a connection? The house is fantastic – the kitchen is well-stocked, there’s a washing machine, internet, and really everything we need. The owners live next door, so if we ever need help, it’s easy for us to ask them.

Fun: We decided to book before prices go up over the Christmas holidays. On the plane ride down, we actually ran in to people we knew, and yesterday we spent time touring the island with one of those couples. So when we arrived it was late Sunday afternoon and once we arrived at the house and got oriented, the owners took us to grab some groceries. If you’ve been to Hawaii you will understand island prices, so we decided quickly that it will be a ‘healthy’ holiday since a bag of chips is around $6US, although our bag of 3 hearts of romaine lettuce also cost us $8US, which I can tell you is hands-down, the best lettuce I’ve ever eaten (ok, maybe not). We went for a little walk and had ourselves a nice giant meal at BBQ Barn which is an island chain. Monday we went for a run in the morning to see our neighbourhood, and we ended up at the beach – the picture is called SCboardwalk. This is a boardwalk that runs for about 1.5 km or so along the coast near us. Not a bad place to finish up after views from the hills for the first part of the run. Then we decided to try our hand at the local transportation, on buses called “ZRs,” which are basically mini-vans that stop anywhere along the road and pick people up, play all kinds of great and really loud music, and are also known as party buses. We caught a $2 ride each (which is about $1US) to a beach near the capital of Barbados called Bridgetown (maybe a 10 minute drive), to a spot called Carlisle Bay. There are some boat wrecks here, so we spent our time in and out of the water snorkeling and managed to find 2 turtles, but not too many fish otherwise. There were a lot of snorkel boats and a lot of traffic near the actual wrecks, so we weren’t able to swim out there ourselves easily. We walked back all along the coast from there to our house via a stop at Cuzz Cafe for a fish sandwich and a coke ($4US) – about a 45 minute walk with a stop to watch the sun drop down around 5.30 pm (the first 5 pics are from our first day).

On Tuesday morning we woke up to no running water in the house. After a quick call to the owner, we found out that a large water main had ruptured the night before and none of the hotels in our area had water since the night before. Uh oh….so we decided to head to a beach with facilities and out of our area, just in case the fix was going to be done on island time. Being pros at the ZR now, we picked a spot further north on the west side of the island, up to a beach called Brighton or Brandons, which is apparently more of a locals hangout. So we took the ZR in to Bridgetown again, and soon found out that giving instructions isn’t a strength of the locals (aka Bajans). From 2 different people, we got 2 different answers, and finally one lady overheard one of our conversations and arranged for a kid to walk us to the beach. It was about a half-hour walk and we gave him a tip for helping us out. People here are nice…or enterprising?! He showed us where we could catch the ZR back in to Bridgetown when we were done for the day. So we showed up at the most amazing beach – some waves, turquoise blue water, amazing fine, white sand, about 1 km long, and with about 5 people total on it, many of them locals. We swam a bit, and then we walked up the beach about 20 minutes and found ourselves a new stretch of beach just around the corner from the Malibu Rum distillery (you could literally smell the sweetness of the rum as you walked by, and we also had to cross a waterway coming out of the distillery that was super warm water). Here we swam again and found some shade for a snooze. We managed to take the ZR back to Bridgetown and miraculously made our way through its tiny streets filled with shops back to the 2nd station we had to get back to in order to grab our bus back to Rockley, where we are staying.

Yesterday we arranged to meet up with one of the couples from Canada who we saw on the plane, C & B. C’s mom has a place here, so they spend a lot of time here and they had a car. (We’re still not sure about the whole car thing here!) So we got a pick up in the morning and went for an island tour. We started at a food van they knew about on the north end of the island. Imagine the trunk of this van filled with warming containers, where you just pick what you want: fish, chicken, macaroni pie (kind of like regular macaroni with some kick), rice, salad, veggies, it gets piled in a takeaway container, which is enough for 2 people, and it costs around $10US. There was a huge lineup of locals at the van, so this was a good sign. And it was…DELICIOUS. So we ate at a table in the shade at Folkstone Marine Park, another spot on the northwest coast where there is good snorkeling, and the plan was to snorkel. We swam out in giant waves to the snorkeling spot….and it was too windy to see anything at all, which was a bummer, but I figure the swimming workout was worth it! From here, we went to the Barbados Nature Preserve in the interior of the island. This was a great place – there is a whole area with all kinds of monkeys who are free to come and go as they wish, deer, turtles, some reptiles (ewwwww – there was a giant python in a cage there), and birds. It was feeding time, so we saw a huge traffic jam of every animal trying to get at their food, including my favourite sight of monkeys sitting on the turtles’ backs to get their share. Part of the park included a trail to an old communications signal station, which you could climb up to get a great view of the east coast of the island.

After we finished up here, we did a driving tour of the eastern side of the island and a bit of the south on the way back to our place. We drove to Bathsheba where there are huge rock formations, waves, and a few surfers, and then made our windy way down on very narrow and bump-filled roads to a very old home (mid-18th century) called Codrington College. Since we were on the east side of the island and the sun was setting in the west, there is some beautiful golden light reflecting on the building here, and there were lovely views of the ocean from this hillside perch, too. There is still a church inside the building here and at one point it was an Anglican priest college. I also love the driveway filled with palms. Onwards from here we continued on the scantily-signed roads to Bottom Bay, just before dark. This spot isn’t well-marked at all, but C & B knew where we were going, and after a walk down a dark, rocky path to reach the bay, you are rewarded by a wonderful beach, filled with palms and bordered by cliffs, and again, not a soul in sight. A beautiful beach all to ourselves to simply enjoy  –  to hear the waves crashing and see the sun setting in over your shoulder towards the west side of the island. One last stop from this spot, which was the famous Oistins Fish Market and Fish Fry. Although the party evening here is Friday night where we hear that the place is hopping with people, music, and all kinds of life, we went on a quiet Wednesday night to try things out. This area is right along the beach, and our appetizer stop was for salted cod fish cakes. Mmmmmm – they were good, and they were less than 50 cents US each (they were about the size of a mandarin orange each). Then we sat down at a favourite spot of C & B’s called Mo’s. Dave and I shared the swordfish (they were out of flying fish and mahi mahi, aka dolphin here), along with some salad, garlic potatoes, and macaroni pie – again the servings were huge and cost us about $18US for us both. Two delicious meals in one day! And that was it for our day with C & B- a whirlwind tour of the island, and even though we didn’t get to snorkel, we will likely take a bus back to Folkstone and try again later on our trip.

That’s our update so far. Barbados is really a wonderful place – lovely friendly people, spectacular beaches, dense greenery and amazing vistas, and really just a lot to do. We’re glad we’re here for 10 days instead of just a week, and you can count on more pics to come….



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