Tuesday, 23 February 2010

From sushi to flying fish

Now that South Korea and Japan are sorted, time to turn my attention to next month’s holiday.

Some people who know the kind of holidays I like fail to understand why I am so in love with Barbados and what compels me to visit every year, as I’ve been doing for the past 13 years. I guess some see Barbados as no more than see and sun. Not so. One of my favourite things about this beautiful island is that it offers something for everyone.

For those whose idea of a perfect holiday is topping up their tan on a sandy white beach while listening to the waters gently lap the shore than there’s plenty of that to be had, especially on the south and west coasts of the island. In fact I dare say that the island has some of the best beaches in the world. Beautiful white sand and crystal clear sea water. As for me I can’t lie on a beach for more than 2 days in a row – as my honeymoon proved. We spent the first 9 days of our honeymoon in the Maldives; come day 3, I was literally prepared to swim off the island!

So what else does Barbados offer? It is one of the most developed islands of the Caribbean with the highest literacy rate. Yet it has a warm, vibrant and exceptionally welcoming culture and remains a safe island for tourist.

The island has an amazing history. Visit any of the plantation houses there for an account of the slave days and the way of life just after emancipation. There are also several museums on the island.

One of its best treasures though is its people. Just chatting with the locals can provide a few hours of entertainment in itself. Barbadians (or Bajans) are among some of the friendliest you’ll meet. Their accents can make it sound as though they are gently singing to you as they speak. The older folk are great! There’s sure to be an anecdote of life when they were growing up and how much different ‘things’ were in their days. They’ll talk about the island both pre and post its independence in 1966. And introduce to you Ossie Moore – the fictional Bajan character who’s many mishaps are the butt of several local jokes.

Barbados is quite a small, flat island so getting around is very easy. Major sites are well signposted but part of the fun in visiting some locations is the sheer task of trying to find them – I don’t believe there’s GPS on the island. Hiring a little mini moat and driving around can provide countless hours of fun. Even more fun is taking public transport. I’m not talking about the government run buses though. I’m talking about the little white ZR vans, or, as one visitor to the island once put it – boogie buses. These 14 seat buses usually carry a minimum of 19 people but I’ve counted as many as 26. Be prepared to get up close and personal with a complete stranger as you’re asked by the conductor to sit on their lap or hold their bag as they squat in front of you. The vans drive fast and pump their music loud but I wouldn’t travel any other way on the island.

Walking is another great way to take in the beauty of Barbados. Personally I like to wait until about 3.30 – 4 pm in the evening when the sun is at its coolest to explore the island by foot. As I mentioned early it’s quite a safe country so I have no major concerns about walking around after the sun has set – as long as I have some idea of where I am.

Then there’s the music, calypso or soca being the most popular on the island. The local dance is called wukking up – a fast gyration of the hips. The dance may look easy but is quite difficult to perfect. I’ve watched many a local have a good laugh at tourist expense as they try to imitate the moves. Even so, the moves are far too sensual for me to try outside the privacy of my home!

And let’s not forget the food. Bajans are great cooks and they love to eat. It’s easy to gain a stone during a 2 week visit to Barbados, or at least that’s my excuse. From flying fish and cou cou, the national dish of the island, to macaroni pie, fish cakes, rotis, BBQ lamb chops, pudding and souce, turn overs, Granny’s gizzards – just thinking of some of the delicacies makes my mouth water. And I haven’t even mentioned the vast quantities of fresh fruit, some of which you can literally pick yourself: mangos (like you’ve never tasted in any other country), donks, ackee, golden apples, pau pau, tamarind (best eaten with sugar), and Bajan cherry.
Whether you’re after a formal sit down meal, something more casual for a group of friends to catch up or a quick bite from a street vendor as you tread the streets of Bridgetown, Barbados offers an abundance of places to eat that will not disappoint.
For rum lovers, there’s many a rum shop to be found with local men ‘slamming dominos’ while downing either of the popular brands produced on the island – Mount Gay or Cockspur.

One of the things I enjoy most about a visit to Barbados though is seeing it through fresh eyes when I travel with someone who’s never been before. Thus next month I’ll be going with my friend Michelle who has left it entirely up to me to prepare us an itinerary. No doubt it will include:
Oistins Fish Fry on Friday nights
A visit to Harbour Lights beach extravaganza dinner show
Catamaran snorkel and sunset cruise
Island Safari tour
Harrison’s Cave – which has finally reopened
Bajan roots and Rhythm show
A drive along the east coast
Visit to River Bay
Quick stop in Bridgetown for some souvenirs
Several of my favourite restaurants
Oh, and a few hours lying on a sandy white beach!

3 comments:

  1. Is that where you learned to make your mac pie Silvano? It's the best! And I love your BBQ lamb chops as well. Can you also make fish cakes?

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  2. Hmm, I see a trend. Your holidays seem to revolve around food.

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