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November 15, 2015 / oneworld82

Barbados! or the V installment of our honeymoon

The day after – August 4th – was a day at sea, which we mostly spent sleeping and lazying around. I must say: a cruise was a great way to relax, after so many more stressful trips. Food, drinks, piano bar, a jump at the club and at the comedy club… and here we were in Bridgetown, Barbados the day after!

I am not sure about you, but I always think about Barbados as a very upscale destination, just like Grand Cayman or Turks and Caicos. I was expecting endless white sand beaches, lush scenery… but the island turned out to be quite different.

First of all, there is a lot of history on the island. After all, the Brits were here for a long time, and left behind a rich heritage. Not everything they did was good – in fact, most of their heritage is slavery-related, which is all but a honorable trait. Still, they influenced the captive African culture to create a very distinctive local vibe. Every island in the Caribbean, no matter how small, possesses its own heritage and traits; while most islands have a distinctive beach culture and laid back attitude, Barbados clearly has a more aristocratic, proud attitude. It’s no wonder then that Barbados is decidedly upscale – with lots of international festivals and endless golf courses all over the island.

But I digress. One day in the island wasn’t of course enough to explore it all, but it was enough to get a decent flavor of this Caribbean country.

After picking up our Hertz rental at the pier we set off through intricate and trafficked Bridgetown. Roads in Barbados are very windy and signage is scarce, so make sure you have some sort of working GPS system while visiting! Thankfully for us, KFC’s have free wifi here, and that enabled us to load our maps on our iPhones and to have directions all day.

Barbados is not a volcanic island – it’s coralline. This means few rivers, few mountains, not many trees, nice beaches.

As we had mostly explored beaches in St Thomas and as we wanted to know more about the history of this island, we set off for the Sunbury Greathouse, one of the great (and best preserved) sugarcane plantation houses on the island.

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On our way to Sunbury

While visiting it’s easy to think you have been thrown back to a time of slavery and serfdom. The house was very nice (it’s still privately-owned today), with some original mahogany furniture and floors standing (this house was built in the early 1600s). Seeing how the families that lived here throughout the centuries was quite fascinating and instructive.

From Sunbury it’s a 20 minutes drive to Gun Hill Signal Station, our second stop. Barbados has plenty of paved roads, but they are very windy as they swirl around private properties. Literally, I have never seen more convoluted roads in my life. So, even a 5 km drive can take forever… especially when someone stops at a STOP sign and then decides to back up and hitting your rental car. Yes, that’s what happened to us. While I was very worried at first because of insurance, etc, everything turned out fine, and I must say that in a way I am grateful that this happened because it showed me how honest and nice Bajans are! The guy who hit my car did all he could to assist and help out, in a very honest way. He could have run away (and I would never have found him!), but he didn’t. It was a great experience that taught me a lot.

In any case, we eventually made it to Signal Hill. This is one of the 5/6 signal stations built on the island, so that different garrisons could quickly communicate with one another through flags and smoke signals. It was built in the early 1800s after a slave revolt, but became obsolete after telephones were invented.

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Signal Hill

Signal Hill is very well maintained, and it offers sweeping views of the valleys around it in central-south Barbados – the panorama was absolutely stunning. As said, the station is well maintained and it houses interesting information about the activities that were going on for the soldiers stationed here.

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It was now time to check out some of the beaches that Barbados had to offer, and we decided to head to Bottom Bay Beach, one of the many picture-perfect beaches dotting the island (and one very renowned with photographers of all sort).

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Getting there from Signal Hill station took us around half hour, driving through 9once again) very windy roads. But once we got there, we were rewarded with a great beach, very secluded yet easy to access. While strong waves pound it, the beach is idyllic, with high coralline reefs on both sides and picture-perfect palm trees.

After spending some time there, we headed back to Bridgetown through the southern shore; Bridgetown is a bustling little city, and its city center is a UNESCO World heritage site. But overall, we liked Charlotte Amalie better. The reason is that, while Bridgetown has a couple of great historical buildings along Broad St – including the Victorian and neo-Gothic Parliament and St Michael’s Cathedral – and the former careening area is now a cute marina with the nice Waterfront Café overlooking it, it’s mostly a collection of duty free shops offering, well, the usual things. Don’t get me wrong, the town is interesting and deserves a quick visit; but it’s not all that memorable in my opinion.

Back on the ship, we set sail for our next destination, St Lucia.

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So, Barbados. While it turned out to be not the idyllic Caribbean paradise I was expecting (I leave that honor to St Thomas and St Lucia), Barbados proved to be a very interesting island, with a lot of history, a beautiful landscape, and the friendliest people we would encounter throughout our cruise. I still suspect that the island has some beaches worth exploring (and that we missed on this time), so I do not rule going back in the future. Goodbye, Bajans! Our adventure will go on…

 

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