1. Have a best friend who nudges you to Just Go!
In November, AB both introduced me to SecretFlying and showed me that I could go to Barbados for a sweet deal. I thought long and hard about it for all of one minute and hit that button! At the time I bought the ticket, I was not sure that I would have travel companions. It didn’t matter. The price was good, the location had been on my mind for a long while, and hey, it was travel!
The week before we left, I started to feel a tad guilty. I had just returned, in January, from a two-week long vacation from work. I was leaving again for a week. But wise counsel let me know that a time will come in my career and personal life when I will not be able to just up and go as I please. When that time comes, it would be nice to have these memories and satisfaction of “been there, done that, loved it”.
2. Be a Bajan
“I’m a Bajaaaaan, a Bajaaaan”
Lyrics from one of the songs that followed us everywhere on the island. I am a novice traveler. In my mind, however, not so much. From speaking with people who have done a lot of travelling for the sake of learning about the world, there is no better way to do this than immersing yourself; becoming one of the locals. To do this, where you stay is important. In this age of airbnb, why not stay at an apartment; in a house; surrounded by locals. Let’s be honest, a nice hotel or resort can make one too relaxed to go out. I know they can make me lazy. The one day that we took a break and spent all day indoors, we kept laughing at ourselves for doing exactly what we would be doing on a Saturday back in our NY apartment.
3. Catch the sunset on Dover Beach
People! People!! People!!! Sunsets. Before my first evening on the island, I could not remember the last time I deliberately watched and appreciated a sunset. My theme for the year is to live deliberately. Perhaps it was the new eyes with which I was looking at the sunset but man, jaw-dropping gorgeousness. The lack of artificial lights on the beach, the vast body of water and then the small burst of yellow light from the heavens that appear to kiss the water at the corner…
4. Take a sip of 18-year-old rum at St. Nicholas Abbey
Every place has its history. Where it has been. Why things and people are they way they are. St Nicholas Abbey is a 350-year-old sugar cane plantation where slaves toiled. It has a small rum distillery on-site that produces premium ‘made-in-Barbados’ rum, no dilution involved. Part of the tour of this impressive property includes rum tasting. Hard liquor is not my jam but even I could appreciate the smoothness and richness of the 18-year-old one that we tasted. As the Yorubas will say, “o de be” (translation: it hit the spot). The first distilled rum that is produced is clear, colourless. The rum is usually aged in huge wooden barrels. This is how they get their caramel/ brown colour. The older the rum, the darker the colour.
5. Fall in the middle of beautiful waters at Carlisle Bay
If you can’t swim and you decide to spend a week on an island, a time will come when your friends will convince you to ride a banana boat. You will be hesitant. You will not want to give in to peer pressure. They will tell you that you need to live a little. A part of you will agree and so you will drop your book on the beach chair and go into the water with them. You will struggle to get on said banana boat and then you will experience the tale in this image:
6. Munch on fried breadfruit at Chillin & Grillin
I have to say that there is not a wide variety when it comes to food in Barbados. We did not try all the local dishes as suggested on the internet. Every time we asked for where to get some local food, we were met with “at this time? There’s probably nothing.” These responses were given as early as 5pm. Anyway, thanks to our tour guides (everyone on this island is a tour guide BTW. Everyone is a cabbie, a tour guide, a water sport instructor, you name it. Where their pure grade sugar used to be the number one export, tourism is now in close running) we found Chillin & Grillin (hi Ralph!). This is where we had our first taste of breadfruit. I tried the grilled and fried versions. Fried version all day! Bajans also make a mean macaroni pie. I do not think I can eat mac and cheese anymore after having the bajan mac pie almost everyday for a week. So good! And the seasoning that their fish and meat are cooked with? My my my… had to come back with the Bajan seasoning.
7. Have a rum punch
Or two, then three. Have rum punches everyday. The recipe? 1 sour, 2 sweet, 3 strong, 4 weak (or 4-a-week, like I thought I heard my teacher say). Sour could be lime or lemon juice. Sweet is your sweet syrup, whatever you choose. Strong is the rum. Weak is the water. When you get sick of rum punches (and I doubt that you will), find a market and hook you up with some natural wine. These are wines made with food/ fruit ingredients. They have flavours from rice to plaintain to local fruits like sorrel and gooseberry.
8. Ride the Reggae Bus to Bridgetown
White small buses that literally play reggae music at the highest possible volume. They cost $1 per ride (2 Barbadian dollars) and are not the most comfortable. But they are cheaper than taking a taxi everywhere and this way, you get to hear that Bajan dialect in true form conversation. The Bajan dialect is to Bajans what pidgin is to Nigerians. Pretty difficult to understand if your ears are untrained.
9. Go wok-up at Oistins Fish Fry
“So, you girls coming to oistins tomorrow night?”
“Yaaas! We will be there. Are we going to see you whine?”
“We don’t whine. Jamaicans whine. We wok-up.” *impressive demo commences*
So the fish fry happens every friday night. It is basically an evening of good food, drinks, and music that morphs into a night of dancing outside to a DJ that feels the need to interrupt the music every second to remind the crowd what his voice sounds like. Tis a lot of fun! You meet locals, who contrary to what we thought, do not seem to do a lot of wokking up. You meet tourists who seem so much in awe of the scenery.
10. Party for 5 hours on a catamaran cruise
Best. Activity. Hands. Down.
These begin at 9:00am, usually, and go on until 2:00pm. We did ours with Cool Runnings and had an amazing time! The crew, besides being there to ensure safety of the cruise and passengers, are there to aid the fun to be had. The boat usually stops at two locations – one a ship wreck where passengers can snorkel and another at a secluded beach where passengers can swim with turtles. Best believe that I did not do any of those activities. Too much chicken. The cruise included a filling and yummy lunch and then after that, we cranked the party up right until they kicked us out of the boat.
11. Learn about the island from Harrison’s Cave
Harrison’s Cave is a crystallized limestone cave. Of all the islands of the carribean, Barbados is the only island that was not formed via volcanic eruption. It is formed from upward moving coral. The Bajans pride themselves in not getting natural disasters. They always seem to pass over them. This is why they believe that God is a Bajan.
The water in the cave is said to be 99% pure because they are naturally purified by the limestone.
The island reminded me a lot of Lagos, if Lagos was quiet and not so densely populated. Having experienced the people for a week, I think that I can say with some certainty that Bajans are friendly and warm. We went against many of the teachings that mama gave – do not talk to strangers, do not enter a stranger’s car, do not go to a stranger’s house. These are things that we will not do in the city that is home to us.
Barbados is not a cheap city, however. The barbadian dollar is pretty strong. 2 barbadian dollars in a dollar (sigh, Nigeria. Sigh). Of course, because this is a desirable tourist destination, you have to be ready to pay and pay for everything (even sea shells!).
As with every trip, no matter how many reviews you read and testimonies you hear, you need to find that which appeals to you for yourself. The Bajans say that the best time to visit is in August, during crop over. So if you are thinking about visiting, perhaps August will be a good time to just go!
P.S: There shall be a guest post soon about how we went to Barbados for 7 days on less than $1,000. Watch this space.
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