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Bar ba dos & don't misses

Upon returning from our trip to this beautiful, Caribbean, island, I have been reflecting on its remarkable contrasts: from its scenery to its history, rich Bajan culture yet obvious ties to Great Britain, flying fish to Rum punches and high tea in the afternoon.

The west side of the island is lined with hotels and restaurants, which primarily seem to serve the tourists. Given Barbados’ strong ties to the Crown as they were part of the Monarchy until the 1960’s, British culture is still very much ingrained in the culture of the island. It’s common to drive by a field where cricket, rugby or polo is being played. Many hotels host an afternoon tea, while their primarily English guests come in their chic cover ups and straw hats. This was definitely not the beach culture you find in California.

In stark contrast, there is a strong sense of pride and individuality in Bajan culture that can be experienced through the food, music, dancing and multitude of wise saying such as “ De higher de monkey climb de more he show he tail!” Translation? The more you show off, the more your faults are revealed. If you want to mix with the locals, visit Oistins Fish Fry for a truly local experience every Friday/ Saturday night. It is the furthest thing from fancy, but if you wish to immerse yourself in Bajan life, that’s where you’ll find it. If you want to skip a day of taxis, which are mind blowingly expensive on this island, hop on the local bus. It’s an experience to be sure, but hold on tight and don’t let the island tunes fool you, because your driver will probably not drive at “island speed”.

The more you explore Barbados, the more it reveals itself. We stayed in one of the islands best known hotels on the West coast near Speightstown, where the moment we entered we were greeted with great warmth. The property is beautiful and inviting, yet not pretentious like the well known, but stuffy Sandy Lane nearby. Stuffy is exactly “not” how an accommodation should feel in a place like this. The garden’s were lush and lead the guests to the intimate open air public spaces decorated in pinks and mint greens, tropical prints and adorable pink and white umbrellas. The staff all wears their signature deep rose colored pants/ skirts with crisp white shirts. The hotel’s pool/ restaurant sits atop the turquoise sea and the staff is especially warm and attentive.  What stood out even more was the fact that most of them have been working at the hotel for many years and their clientele is incredibly loyal. There is a comfortable familiarity that the guests feel when they walk through the doors and get that burst of humidity and jasmine-scented air. It took me about twenty four hours to feel as if I knew all of these lovely Bajans for years. I miss their big smiles and amazing sense of humor already.

The landscape of the island cannot be fully appreciated unless you drive to the northern tip to see where the Caribbean Sea meets the Atlantic. Waves crash on rugged rocks and there is the amazing, Animal Flower Cave, which should not be missed. You have to descend a steep, rocky stairwell to view it so it's important to wear the right shoes, but it's well worth the trip. If you drive inland, there are sugar cane fields, horse stables and some beautiful rural scenery. The East coast, which faces the Atlantic, is far more rugged and the beaches are very beautiful in a different way than the more polished West coast. There is a serious surf competition which takes place every year in Bathsheba and by far the best food on the island can be enjoyed nearby at the amazing, Zumi Cafe.

Another experience not to be missed, is a visit to Hunte’s Garden, which is truly like stepping into an exquisite, lush, tropical version of Alice in Wonderland. We were lucky enough to meet the horticulturist and creator of the botanical garden, Anthony Hunte, whose family history goes back many generations, when Barbados was discovered in the 17th century.

Dive deeper into the history of the island and learn about how it was settled, the plantations that ran for hundreds of years and the Rum production that is the islands greatest natural resource. Peak around and you will see the green monkeys getting into mischief. Charter a boat for the day to snorkel and swim with the turtles and dive into the sunken pirate ships. There are plenty of ways to enjoy the island, but if you prefer to just pull up a chair with your favorite book and sip some of that Bajan Rum while you gaze into the beautiful eyes of da sea. Ain't nuting wrong with dat.

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