Tuesday, January 3, 2012


One of my favorite islands in the Caribbean is Barbados.  Beautiful scenery, comfortable weather, friendly people - what more could you ask for?  I've included some of my pictures from my past trips to this beautiful island.

Please enjoy a portion of an article written for The Telegraph Travel Magazine, by Claire Wrathall.

Most visitors to Barbados stay on the west coast, never venturing to its wilder, Atlantic side. Some don’t even make it to the capital. They’re missing out, says Claire Wrathall.


Chattel House

Sugar Windmill

Jacquelyn and Michelle at Bathsheba

Rum Factory

This is the time of year when paparazzi shots of the bronzed and the beautiful at play on the beach at Sandy Lane are splashed all over the papers and gossip magazines, portraying Barbados as a hedonistic island of rarefied pleasures. A place where an eight-ounce steak and chips can set you back more than £240 (admittedly that’s the cost of a Greg Norman Wagyu tenderloin; there are steaks on offer for, oh, half that amount), and a green salad is priced at almost £30.
But there is another side to Barbados, culturally rich and a lot less expensive, that its celebrity visitors mostly never see. Venture from the intensely developed, largely luxurious west, or “platinum”, coast, to the barely built-on east – where Bajans tend to spend their holidays – and it’s almost as though you’ve alighted in another country. With dramatic limestone cliffs, staggering rock formations and high waves, the uncrowded beaches look very different.
Barbados’s tourist industry actually originated on this wilder Atlantic-whipped seaboard, back in the 1880s, where cool sea breezes held greater allure than calm Caribbean waters, and a railway was built from the then-fetid capital, Bridgetown, to airy Bathsheba. Though the track was barely 23 miles long, the journey took two hours, assuming the train didn’t break down, which it was inclined to do.
“The passengers in the third-class carriages would have to get out and push,” said a volunteer at the excellent Arlington House Museum in Speightstown. “Those in second were allowed to walk alongside. And the nobs in first class just stayed put.”

Inevitably, guesthouses began to open, including the now venerable Atlantis Hotel, established in 1883 above the beach at Tent Bay near Bathsheba. Over the years it became an institution, if an increasingly eccentric one, but three years ago it was sold to two local families, the Kirbys and the Wardens, owners of Little Good Harbour (and its fine Fish Pot restaurant) on the west coast. They closed it, renovated it and in December 2009 reopened it as a very attractive hotel of eight simple, uncluttered but comfortable rooms with the feel of a New England beach house – lots of whitewashed tongue-and-groove panelling, louvred shutters, muslin-swathed beds and rocking chairs on the balconies.
They also revamped the terrace restaurant, introducing a menu that makes a convincing case for Caribbean classics: Bajan fried chicken, conch fritters, jerk pork, curried yam (or goat), rotis, pepper-pot stew and fried flying fish, served in cutters (giant sandwiches) of home-made saltbread. The presence of sea cat (“pickled, on a salad of avocado and tomato”) and “whole-baked dolphin” may seem disconcerting, but they’re the local terms for octopus and mahi-mahi.
In heading east, the first holidaymakers were following in the footsteps of the wealthiest of the early plantation owners. Look at a map, and many of the most spectacular Great Houses were built on this cooler side of the island: Sam Lord’s Castle, a magnificent Regency Gothic mansion, complete with crenellations, that burned down in 2010; Easy Hall, which has just been sold for $6 million (£3.9 million); and Farley Hill, now a ruin, though its grounds are a national park with fabulous views across the area known as the Scotland District, so called less for its scenery, which is scarcely Scottish, than the fact that it lies within the parish of St Andrew.
Only a few, however, are open to the public. There is Sunbury, with its red corrugated iron roof, abundance of old mahogany furniture and Victorian interiors. Or Fisherpond Great House, a handsome antique-filled mansion on an estate dating back to 1635, which owners John and Rain Chandler open to the public for a delicious twice-weekly buffet lunch. You can walk it off afterwards in nearby Welchman Hall Gully, an area of luxuriant rainforest with a half-mile long trail, from which you’re likely to spot one of the island’s 5,000 or so green monkeys, as well as ficus, ginger lilies, tree ferns and other verdure.
But the most beautiful remains St Nicholas Abbey, a small (seven-bedroom) exquisitely restored Jacobean house built in 1660 and set amid towering mahogany trees a few miles inland. Its interiors are every bit as splendid as its gabled façade, with an intricate Chinese staircase made by Chippendale and a Sheraton sideboard in the dining room, as well as an exquisite Coalport dinner service laid out on the table.
Yet for all its grandeur, it feels more like a home than a museum. During my visit, a cat dozed undisturbed on an 18th-century cane-and-mahogany armchair in the drawing room. The gardens are remarkable too, especially the trees: towering cabbage palms, kapok trees and a giant spike-trunked sandbox tree, said to be four centuries old.
But back on the east coast, moments from Bathsheba, the six-acre Andromeda Botanic Gardens are finer still. Established in 1953, they’re an enchanting place of palms, cacti, orchids, ferns and other exotica, most memorably a ghostly Ficus citrifolia, from whose vast canopy of branches descend tangles of aerial roots, thought to have been the “beards” after which the island is called because these trees were once so abundant.
For all its many attractions, you probably wouldn’t want to spend an entire holiday on the east coast, not least because Atlantic currents make bathing hazardous, and the ocean is a whole lot chillier than the Caribbean. But hire a car and a tour of the east coast works as a day trip from the west.
Indeed wherever you’re staying, it would be a shame not to spend at least an afternoon in the capital, Bridgetown, in the southwest corner of the island, where the area around the Garrison Savannah, two miles southeast of downtown, was named a Unesco World Heritage Site last summer.
With a military parade ground, now the site of Barbados’s racecourse, at its heart, it has the island’s largest concentration of elegant Georgian buildings, the Main Guard and its clock tower in particular.
The former prison, now the Barbados Museum, is an exercise in 19th-century colonial neoclassicism. And Bush Hill House, where George Washington spent seven weeks as a 19 year-old in 1751, contains exhibitions that commemorate not just his visit but, more searingly, the horrors of slavery. The first president of the United States, it reminds visitors, was himself a slave owner and though he sought to liberate them, one caption reads: “It would have cost nearly £6,000 to free them all [and] his plantations made only £900 a year.”
Bridgetown is also home to one of the oldest synagogues in the Americas, founded in 1654 by the same group of Brazilian Jews as are believed to have brought sugar to the island. Natives of Recife, they’d been persecuted by the Dutch colonists – hence the design and eventual construction of 500 windmills on the island, one of which, Morgan Lewis, stands above a magnificent and usually deserted beach of the same name.
That it still has functioning sails is thanks to the Barbados National Trust, which has done sterling work in preserving the island’s heritage and making it accessible. For nowhere in the Caribbean seems to resonate with history quite like Barbados. It may be a stretch to rouse yourself from your sunlounger, but a day or two exploring certainly lingers longer in the memory than just another rum punch by the pool.

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