Ev’ry where uh go, People want to kno, Why uh happy so, Why? Barbados uh cum from!
Ev’ry where uh go, People want to kno, Why uh smiling so, Why? Christ Church uh cum from! (Bajan folk song)
Last December I was having lunch with a good friend when our conversation as it often does, turned to tourism. My friend asked me why tourists visit Barbados. In essence, what attracts them? Why do they visit more than once? What is there to do for more than a few days? These were serious questions, posed by someone who travels often enough and to sufficient destinations to critically query Barbados’ tourism product and compare it with other destinations. My response was it depends on who the tourist is, what their interests are, who they’re travelling with, when they’re visiting, their length of stay and more. I quickly rattled off some opportunities that would easily keep a visitor engaged for 5-7 days and from there our discussion built and spun in different directions.
Days after we’d had this discussion I was still thinking about it, so the logical next step was to write about it. I jotted down my initial thoughts but other posts and work got in the way. It’s now almost three months later and after thinking about the content for this post off and on during that time, I finally finished it.
I originally planned to write about the activities I would do with a friend if I brought them home for 7 days or 14 days, or what I would recommend if they visited Barbados without me. I also thought about if my recommendations would differ if it were a stranger visiting. Finally, I thought about how I experience home when I am there and decided I would write it from that perspective because Bim is my home and I don’t get there often enough, nor am I usually there for a long enough time when I do get to visit. I know my friends would appreciate what I enjoy when I’m home.
This year, 2020, is the year of ‘We Gatherin’ when Barbadians in the diaspora are being encouraged to return home for any length of time they can and Bajans at home are being encouraged to get out and experience our country. Some of what I enjoy and share in this post may resonate with other Bajans abroad.
I’m blessed to be able to go home relatively often. In fact, since 2004 there have probably been two or three years when I didn’t touch the rock; in those years I touched somewhere else in the Caribbean. Some years I was fortunate enough to be home more than once. However, many of my trips have been work related, for family reunions or in July-August for Cropover. With these kinds of trips, my time is limited or focused on specific events/activities, but I’m designing these 7 and 14 day itineraries for unrestricted vacation. So with the freedom to be, what would I do for 7 or 14 days in Bim, other than lime with family and friends? It really depends 😉.
My plans would definitely differ according to the time of year, but since I’m a hiking enthusiast and I was recently home for the annual Colin Hudson Memorial Great Train Hike, I’m going to plan a 7-day (Taste) and 14-day (Extravaganza) trip in February. In addition to the many things to do, one wonderful aspect about Barbados is that I can have lunch and dinner in a nice restaurant for 7 or 14 days without repeating, but I won’t plan for that because I’m home and I have to eat my cousin’s macaroni pie and my aunt’s cou-cou 😁. Most trips home I try at least one new (to me) restaurant.
Taste of Bim
Day 1 – Saturday
Catch up with family and friends; maybe dinner out with friends. It has to be an ‘early’ night because I need to be in bed early to rest for the Great Train Hike on the Sunday. Maybe do a guest lecture for a graduate class in Sustainable Tourism at my alma mater as I did this February 😊.
Day 3 – Monday
Beach day to relax after hiking 26 miles. Maybe Miami/Enterprise Beach in Christ Church because that is closest to home, or Shark Hole a beautiful beach in St. Philip. If the beach is Miami/Enterprise, Oistins (an historic fishing town) is great place for food – fish cakes (a national treasure); grilled or fried fish w/macaroni pie; gizzards and chicken necks from Granny’s; turnovers; and more.
Day 4 – Tuesday
Mount Gay Rum Distillery tour and rum tasting because Mount Gay is ‘the rum that invented rum’ and Bim is where that invention happened in the early 1700s. Since I’ve done the tasting at the visitor’s center in Bridgetown, I’ll do the historic tour at the original site in St. Lucy, home of the “oldest, continuously running rum distillery in the world.” Another good reason to visit Mount Gay – in April 2019 Bajan Trudiann Branker, became their Master Blender, the first woman to hold this position for Mount Gay and one of very few in the position worldwide (Jamaican Joy Spence, Master Blender for Appleton Estate Jamaica Rum, is the first woman to hold the position in the spirits industry).
After the distillery tour I’ll pop into Bridgetown to visit Azizah, my favourite jewelry artist, at Azipho’s Creations in Pelican Village to see if she has pieces I can add to my collection 😊.
Day 5 – Wednesday
St. Nicholas Abbey because I appreciate how the story of slavery is incorporated in their interpretation. In addition to the traditional tour and rum tasting I’ll also hop on the Heritage Railway (added late 2018) to do a more extensive tour of the grounds.
Day 6 – Thursday
Barbados Museum & Historical Society and Freedom Footprints Slave Route Tour. There is much to learn about the history of the island and the museum is a good place to start. Freedom Footprints which I’ve published about, is an under-utilized slavery heritage trail which the museum had a major part in creating.
Day 7 – Friday
I love chocolate so I’m including Agapey Chocolate Factory in Bridgetown 😁. I’ve been hearing about this tour but haven’t done it as yet, so hopefully when I return home in summer. I love the idea of artisinal chocolate with Bajan cane sugar, Mount Gay rum (some flavours) and Caribbean cocoa as ingredients and the adaptive reuse of the building in which the factory is housed. With this tour I get to see a repurposed building and experience chocolate being made locally. I’m squeezing this in the morning of my departure day because I can drive from home to Bridgetown in less than 30 minutes, do the tour and get to the airport in good time for my afternoon flight. I’ll check in online and pack my bag before I leave for the tour. On the day of, I’ll decide whether to take my stuff with me so I can go straight to the airport or leave it and make a quick stop at home so I can freshen up before the airport.
How is it Friday already?! I’ve run out of days! Fortunately, I have the option of staying for two weeks.
Restaurants in one week: Zen at The Crane (because of a friendship of 35 years and counting), Tapas (love the location), IV Play Deli, Mimosas, Shaker’s.
Day 1 – Saturday
Family & friends
Day 2 – Sunday
Colin Hudson Memorial Great Train Hike
Day 3 – Monday
Day 4 – Tuesday
Mount Gay Rum Distillery tour and Azizah, at Azipho’s Creations in Pelican Village.
Day 5 – Wednesday
Off road adventure tour with Island Safari. I sort of did this with my family during our family reunion a few years ago – my sister, cousin and I drove behind in our car, because we had too many people, so we couldn’t do some of the off road stuff. It’s a good opportunity to see Barbados in a different way and it’s time for me to get the full experience. Since I have two whole weeks of vacation, why not?!
Day 6 – Thursday
Barbados Museum & Historical Society and Freedom Footprints Slave Route Tour.
Day 7 – Friday
‘Wha dey, wha dey’ – anything goes. I’ll leave this day unplanned to fit in lunch, drinks, etc. with friends or a new attraction that I’m yet to hear about. Probably dinner with sisters and friends at a new to me restaurant.
Day 8 – Saturday
Another lazyish day. Sleep late. My aunt’s cou-cou (our national dish) for lunch (very very late lunch, but my aunt is in her 80s and still cooks for the family almost every Saturday so I can’t complain).
In the evening, Mahalia’s Corner – “More than a festival, Mahalia’s Corner is a movement that provides a stage for seasoned and emerging artists to discover the depths of their artistic expression through music and spoken word.” I’ve been hearing about this happening for years and there never seems to be an event when I’m home. Fingers crossed that I can arrange a two week visit that includes it, even if the night before the Great Train Hike.
Day 9 – Sunday
St. Nicholas Abbey. I’ll do the 9:30 am tour so my sisters and girlfriends can do it with me and I’ll still have enough time to hike at 4 pm.
Day 10 – Monday
If you know me, you know I love cheese. In this 2-week trip I’ll get to cross another thing off my list of Tings Bajan – a visit to Hatchman’s Premium Cheeses – cause who wouldn’t want to try a cheese called ‘Drunken Cheddar’? I’m looking forward to one of their cheese tastings (with wine). The fact that this company is owned by Andrea Power, a young, Black, Bajan woman is the icing on the cake. As an aside – it’s really unfair to me that their current Facebook cover photo is cheese with Shirley Biscuits.
Day 11 – Tuesday
Harrison’s Cave and the potteries. Harrison’s Cave (named after the same person after whom my secondary school was named) is one of the most popular attractions in Barbados. The traditional way of viewing the cave is by tram and I’ve done this several times. For most of the years in which the cave was open to the public, this was the only way for visitors to experience it. The best way to see the cave is to do the eco-adventure, walking, climbing and crawling as needed – a much better caving experience. I was lucky to have the opportunity to do this when this tour was being piloted and I’m happy it’s included in their standard offerings.
After the cave a visit to the potteries in St. Andrew is a ‘must do’ because it’s been way too many years since I’ve been. I’ll visit both Chalky Mount Potteries (like a potters co-op) and Earthworks. This is a great opportunity to see pottery masters at work. Interestingly enough, David Spieler, the owner of Earthworks taught me Integrated Science at Harrison College and that was the last school he taught at before he switched to his family’s business. I really think the switch was out of necessity and his desire for more, not because of my classmates and I 🤣. I’ve gifted Bajan pottery to a few non-Bajan friends and like me, they love it.
Day 12 – Wednesday
Bridgetown and its Garrison is Barbados’ sole World Heritage site and is worth an extended visit. In addition to Agapey Chocolate Factory, I may do a walking tour with a tour company or curate my own itinerary. I’ll also try to fit in a visit to my secondary school, Harrison College which is also in Brigetown. Founded in 1733, it is one of the oldest educational institutions on the island. I last visited a few years ago for the annual ‘sports day’ (which, surprise to no one, but still painful to me, Collymore House lost) and another visit is due.
Day 13 – Thursday
When I worked for Almond Resorts Inc., my office was at the Heywoods, St. Peter property, so I have very fond memories of Speightstown and other northern parts of Barbados. Touring this part of the country is an excellent way to spend the day. In Speightstown I’ll definitely visit Arlington House Museum for its excellent interpretation of our slavery heritage. I’ll also stroll through the streets to soak in the ambiance and the waterfront. Hopefully, this stroll will lead me to the bakery a friend introduced me to (I know where it is but don’t know the name) so I can get cassava pone and turnovers. On this tour I’ll drive through St. Peter and St. Lucy, visiting Farley Hill National Park, the Animal Flower Cave and anything else that catches my fancy.
Day 14 – Friday
Maybe a 6:30 am flight if that’s the optimally priced one. My preference is to leave in the afternoon, so I get to have a relaxed morning or squeeze in something else 🤔.
Restaurants in two weeks: Zen, Tapas, IV Play Deli, Mimosas, Shaker’s, The Orange Street Grocer, SeaCat, Nishi, Champers, Naniki, Drift, Fishermans Pub.
Given what I’ll eat during these two weeks I’ll need to spin as well as hike! I have a local place for that too 😊.
Even two weeks aren’t enough, though with this plan I’ll get to visit each of our 11 parishes. There’s so much more to do, so many sites to visit, so many experiences to enjoy, so many more restaurants to try. Good thing I can go home as often as I’m able and I don’t have to pay for accommodations 😁, but writing this really makes me want to go home sooner than summer and follow the two week itinerary I’ve designed. If I could find someone to sponsor my travels, I would be off like a rocket, or as my friend Heaths says – I’d be moving so fast the door would be under my arm like a clutch purse 😂.
Bim uh gone!