Barbados: “Taxi driver, take us around the whole country!”

After not travelling much in 2015, I am back on the road for a few months, mainly in Asia. But before I can start writing about it, I should catch up on 2 trips I took in 2015 and about which I never wrote anything.

Back in 2014, my girlfriend and I went on a short Caribbean cruise.  Let me quote myself: “Will I do it again? Possibly, but probably not in the Caribbean.” Well, we did it again, and again in the Caribbean. Why? Simply because it is so easy and works well around Michelle’s sometimes inflexible work schedule. I didn’t feel like writing much because we visited a lot of places which are nice and popular vacation spots, but have less to offer in terms of attractions.

Barbados is a good example. While the country has a very big tourism industry, with world-class resorts, golf courses, all manners of water based activities, etc, there are not that many things falling in the “attraction” category. We would have liked to visit the Mount Gay Rum Distillery, but it was Sunday and they were closed.

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The cruise ship terminal is only about a kilometre from the center of Bridgetown, and a lovely seaside boardwalk was recently completed, probably against much protest from taxi drivers.

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Like most towns in the Caribbean, Bridgetown is colourful and pretty laid back. It is also apparent that this is a comparatively well-off part of the region. In fact, Barbados is very much a success story, with very low corruption, near 100% literacy and a developed, diversified economy. Once little more than a sugar cane colony, the main exports today are pharmaceuticals, vehicles, alcohol, cement, cosmetics, etc. The country is even a destination for economic migrants, mainly from impoverished Guyana. Unlike other islands which were fought over and over by colonial powers, Barbados remained British from the early 17th century until independence in 1966.

Splitting the bill with a German family from the cruise ship, we asked a minivan driver to drive us around the entire country. The fact that he found this request completely normal should give you an idea of the size of Barbados.

Almost all the resorts are located on the West coast, where the seas are much calmer than on the Atlantic side.

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Driving along, I also noticed a lot of seaweeds on the East coast. And a big rock.

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St-James Anglican Parish Church, the oldest in the country, established in 1628 (but destroyed by hurricanes and re-built a few times).

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Grenade Hall Forest & Signal Station, which houses a wildlife reserve, was one of the places we wanted to visit, mainly to see the local monkeys. Lucky for us, the monkeys were in the parking lot, so we saw them, Michelle’s day was made, and we drove off.

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Morgan Lewis Sugar Mill, from around 1727 and apparently still working.

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Beautiful view from Cherry Tree Hill Reserve. This place being popular with tourists, you can guess what you would have seen if I had taken the picture from 20 steps back.

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Back in town, we walked along the water and grabbed a drink at this very popular restaurant. It is certainly very well located, but there wasn’t a single local client inside. Granted, perhaps they just avoid it when a ship is in town, but we felt like having a more local experience and determined to eat where we would see the most local people eating. Well, that didn’t turn out so well.

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Yup. With a population of about 100,000, Bridgetown has at least 5 KFC, and this one was certainly busy. Were we true to our word and did we eat there? Well, no.

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But we ate at another one!

And that was it. A nice day in what seems to be a very nice country, but certainly not generating the same kind of travel stories as my visits in say, rural Yemen. I will write a few more of these short stories in the next few days and then will be back to “live” blogging from Asia.

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Bajan humour on this Bridgetown shop sign: “Everybody brings us joy. Some when they come, some when they go”.

#Barbados

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