Vacations always fly by so quickly, but I’m happy to say that hubby and I actually feel pretty well rested after this particular trip to beautiful Barbados.
We love traveling and being from the Great White North, many of our destinations have included sunshine and an ocean. The beaches on Barbados outrank the other beaches we’ve visited (Oahu, Big Island, Kauai, Maui, St. Lucia, California and Belize) in beauty. They have built a boardwalk along the white sand beaches. The colour of the water looks so inviting, and the temperature of the water is what lures you in.
We decided to forgo the all-inclusive resorts and opted for an apartment-hotel at Rockley Beach on the south side of the island. It’s rare to find every single review on Trip Advisor to be a perfect 5 out of 5 and now I know why. We got a room on the top floor (4th floor) and although there are no elevators, the location and the service make up for it. The staff are incredibly friendly and welcoming. I think the best part was that they greeted us as Mr. and Mrs. Wu (my last name, not his). The rooms are simple but very clean and being an apartment, we had a full kitchen. Southern Surf Apartments is across the road from Rockley Beach. We can see it from our balcony. The sound of the surf is soothing and being on the 4th floor, we can feel the trade winds blowing. You long for that refreshing breeze when it’s 38-40C with the humidity.
This was our first trip where absolutely nothing was planned in advance, and we did not have a rental car. As Barbados was once a British colony, they have adopted driving on the “wrong side”. I asked Nelson how he would fare driving stick with his left hand. He joked that there would be a good chance he’d always be veering into oncoming traffic. Drivers in Barbados are very laid back and honking typically seems to imply the opposite of what we are accustomed to in North America. Horn sounds in Barbados are even more friendly. Typically the light honking on the island is to let the other person know that you are letting them in. ZR vans (a form a public transportation) have a very unique horn as they drive by in case you want to flag them down.
After doing some perusing through the local tourism guide books, we decided to seek out Carlisle Bay for some swimming. It turned out to be a 30-40 minute walk, but it was well worth the trip. We walked along the narrow Highway 7 (it’s a road, not a 6-lane highway) and discovered some restaurant options, and when we finally arrived at our destination, the place was all ours and the waters were so still. The white, soft sands were glistening from the gentle, almost non-existent lapping of the water. We were sticky from our long trek so we quickly stripped down to our bathers and ran in. This was paradise. I’m glad we managed to experience the serenity that day because we did walk back to this beach on another day only to find it full of people and the waves were actually quite strong. It was like a completely different place. Nelson had to coax me in, past where the waves were breaking so that I wouldn’t get thrown by the waves back to shore. Once we made it out far enough, the waves were perfect for a gentle ride.
Our apartment was also a short walk from the grocery store. Although the Big B is one of the largest supermarkets, it pales in comparison to what we are accustomed to. I had hoped that the fruit selection would be vast and plentiful, but the heat and soils of the island are not good for growing citrus. We managed to pick up a few oranges from Florida. The only locally grown fruit being sold at this market were mangoes. But we made do with that they had, and really, we only needed some emergency food and basic breakfast stuff.
Probably the biggest adventure we had, which was completely unplanned, was on the Friday when we arranged for a hired driver to take us to Welchman Hall Gully and to Hunte’s Gardens. Everything was going according to plan – we arrived at the Gully and spent about 1.5 hours on a self-guided tour, dodging the long/large millipedes and watching a tour guide smashing snails. Hunte’s Gardens was our next stop and though significantly smaller, the flowers are in bloom and look beautiful. After walking through the garden, we were greeted by Mr. Hunte and he invites you into his home (on the property) and provides you with a refreshing beverage. He is a very kind and interesting man of 67 years. He started his flower collection at the age of 27. We had a chat with him as we listened to the lovely opera playing through the gardens, sipping our lemonade. When we left, our driver’s vehicle had been vandalized. All 4 tires had been slashed, which was obviously very upsetting. I think I felt more upset for our driver than for the situation. Anyway, Mr. Hunte contacted the local authorities and drove to his neighbour’s place to ask for some assistance in patching up the wheels. What was even more amazing is that Mr. Hunte packed Nelson and I into his pickup truck and took us for a tour of the east coast, where we were at. He told us stories and created more adventure by getting Nelson to jump out of the car and pick some cherries from a private lot. Later on our private tour, he made Nelson jump out over a short, brick wall (of a church) to pick me a flower off the tree because he wanted me to smell how delicious it was. He stopped outside of a gated lot, which turned out to be St. Nicolas Abbey, and asked us if we were brave enough to sneak in for a peak. We declined this particular offer but it turned out to be part of the island tour we took on Sunday. If you’re ever in Barbados, I highly recommend visiting Mr. Hunte and his garden. He’s an incredibly interesting person who has dedicated his life to his garden. All the work is done by himself and one other person.
Another amazing adventure we had was signing up for a snorkel tour with Cool Runnings. We took a catamaran out to Payne’s Bay and swam with the sea turtles! Not only did we get to swim with them, I touched them (which is not allowed in the USA). There were about 5 or 6 of them swimming around us as our guide was feeding them. Because they were everywhere, Nelson ended up standing on a turtle and I kicked one. Refrain from doing that because my foot is still tender from that incident. The tour also took us to a nearby “ship wreck” to swim with fish, but by this point, the sea sickness had hit and I had to sit quietly and wait for it to pass. Sandy Lane Beach was the final point where they served a delicious buffet lunch on board. Bajan food is quite tasty – grilled and jerk chicken is popular as is flying fish and dolphin (yes, that disturbed me too until I learned that it’s really mahi mahi).
Transportation on the island is relatively easy. There are different types of buses (privately operated or government operated) and both cost BDS1.50 per trip, no matter the distance. The only problem is that there is no bus schedule or set times (that we know of), but there are many. When you see a bus that you want to take, flag it down even if you are waiting at a bus stop. We took the ZR bus, which is basically a mini van, into Bridgetown to check out the shopping. Everyone just piles into the non air-contained van and off you go. There is a doorbell rigged up inside the bus, or you can just shout over the blaring music, “driver stop” and after you get out, you lean through the window and pay your fare.
Barbados is a lovely place to unwind and absolutely perfect if you want to get away from the day-to-day hustle and bustle of a big city. For us, 6 days was the perfect amount of time. I think we came back just in time to catch some good weather at home as it was still cool when we left. Now it’s time for me to sort through our photos and videos.