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krisek Oistins - A travel report by Krys
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Oistins,  Barbados - flag Barbados -  Christ Church
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krisek's travel reports

Extremely popular, yet not that exciting. Barbados

  16 votes
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Barbados has been among the most popular island for luxury holidays, over-the-top wedding receptions, packaged tours and celebrities' hangout. And yet for an independent traveller, there is not that much to do and see on the island.

Bottom Bay
Bottom Bay
Now fully independent, Little England, as Barbados has been known in the past, has been one of the Caribbean islands with best tourist infrastructure, beaches and nightlife. If not the best! It has also been the safest and with friendliest people.

Well, the locals must have understood some time ago that tourism should be the island's largest income-generating industry and with no production or manufacturing required. Nature and climate were to be the raw materials. So, the people just added friendliness as the key component! And when I visited, the island was nearing perfection as a holiday destination.

Barbados was not formed due to volcanic activity as its neighbours. It was formed from limestone and coral. The island was formed approximately 80 thousand years ago by tectonic uplifts of various coral sediments. It is the only Windward Island of the Caribbean of not volcanic origin. It therefore has only coral-sand beaches, which are almost white. Barbados is also flatter and has significantly different climate, more agreeable.

I landed late in the evening, and I was picked up at the airport by the owner of a property I booked to stay at through I was preparing myself for hardship, like at the other two I booked through the same website, and there it was - a great surprise. The owner told me that he had checked the bookings and decided to collect me from the airport, although I didn't ask for it. He knew my name and just waited for me with a sign. He didn't know, with which airline I was travelling on or where from I was arriving. The only information he had was the estimated time of arrival that I stated on the reservation request. Although my plane was late, he decided to stay at the airport and wait for some more air planes to land, hoping that I could be on one of them. This is what I call quality of service! And exceeding expectations!

Favourite spots:
Bottom Bay Beach
Bottom Bay Beach
Bottom Bay, a perfect beach, was my favourite spot on the island. It was on the Atlantic coast, on the eastern side of the country and hidden from the interior of the island by a giant cliff. When I came, the beach was completely empty and for about half an hour I had the cliff, the pale golden sand, the graceful tall coconut palmtrees, and the refreshing spray from the somewhat angry waves to myself!

Only later, a couple of local guys came with a few seashells and related products for sale. I was surprised that at that time, which was late morning, the beach was almost abandoned. I expected beaches like this be worshiped by white tourists, hungry of sun and lazing on the sand.

Per several guidebooks, the west coast was supposed to have the best beaches, however I liked the Atlantic coast ones much better. They were more secluded, often hidden in a bay, palm-fringed and cosy. Yes, the ocean was a little rougher, but beaching is not swimming, right?

What's really great:
Morgan Lewis Mill
Morgan Lewis Mill
There is plenty of English legacy on the island, which is relatively well preserved. The entire island seems to be divided in a British way into parishes, dominated by a church. It is a hyper-surprising combination: perfect climate and Victorian architecture. I particularly liked the St. John's Church - apparently Barbados's number one tourist attraction. I liked a grave there from the year of 1666 with old English inscription.

I went to see the oldest and only fully operational and actually working sugar windmill in the Caribbean - the Morgan Lewis Mill. This one I liked. It was positioned on the Cherry Hill close to the island's highest point and offered great views. It did look authentic and old. The accompanying palm trees composed an incredible scenery.

Barbados also had a few very interesting plantation houses. I went to see a few of them. They definitely followed the Anglo-Saxon styles of architecture with an interesting tropical touch.

Harrison's Cave
Harrison's Cave
As soon as I arrived, I kept hearing that the Harrison's Cave was a must-see attraction, that it was superb and unique. Many locals guaranteed (including the owner of the villa I rented) that I had never before seen a more beautiful cave. I told them that I had been to 90 countries before and seen many caves. They remained confident nevertheless.

Well, the cave was well below average, in the terms of attractiveness. I had seen much more spectacular caves in Poland, Majorca, Slovenia, Madagascar, and Vietnam. I was cheeky enough to tell the Barbadians that. They were surprised to hear it.

I think the cave on Barbados, although quite special for the Caribbean, was over commercialised. The entry to the cave was artificially and horribly enlarged to fit a tourist train! The number of halls and the stalactite forms was insignificant. I heard that the authorities were planning a more adventurous routes in the cave system, which in my opinion would increase the attractiveness of the venue.

St John's Church
St John's Church
I booked my accommodation through a website using by SonyEriksson smart phone. It was a last minute fix as I sat on a beach in Sint Maarten. I realised that I didn't want to pay hundreds of dollars per night, and arriving at an island in the night with no reservation was not always helpful. On Dominica and St Lucia they claimed they didn't receive my booking and argued about the price. But I remained firm and they had to accommodate me.

On Barbados, I was welcomed properly and welcomed in a very professional manner. I had an entire villa at my disposal complete with patio, fully equipped kitchen, laundry room and satellite television with countless channels from a large television set in the dining-sitting room.

Outside the house I had some local action to observe - overdressed girls flirting with boys, half-naked guys playing domino and poker and low hanging pants lads cruising on small bicycles with tiny wheels. All happening until late at night. It was great!

Southern Barbados
Southern Barbados
St Lawrence Gap was the place to party. It was full of bars, restaurants, cafe and nightclubs. The most popular was Whistling Frog. It was a night club busy every night. It earned its reputation from street parties live bands and karaoke. Many jazz artists and mingled with rhythm and bass and reggae musicians.

The Ship Inn claimed to be the first pub in St Lawrence Gap. It also played reggae (like any other place on the island, actually) and jazz (like any other place in St Lawrence Gap, actually). Many people came here just to check how 'the first pub on Barbados' looked like, so I guess the marketing worked well.

Then there was an open-air night club, Reggae Lounge, a superb place to boogie under the stars among the green garden. The venue did not play just reggae, it mixed calypso, rhythm and blues, and ... modern jazzy tunes resembling black Brazilian music.

And yet, probably the best nightlife was happening in the local residential areas, to music played from small stereos...

In Bridgetown, the capital of Barbados, I liked the bustle and animation of the streets. The pavements were packed with traders and shoppers, boy scouts and girl brownies, and school kids wearing specific school uniforms. Each school had its own uniform, to allow for quick identification of potential trouble makers or truants, apparently.

I spent almost three quarters of an hour pursuing the purchase of postal stamps. People kept directing me to places, which supposed to sell stamps but they did not. I almost lost my patience running from one street to another, from one shopping mall to another! I eventually got what I needed, and with a smile.

I was quite impressed with the Parliament and the Free Library buildings. I also went to see the synagogue, allegedly the oldest one in the western hemisphere - the title claimed by the synagogue in Willemstad of Curacao, which was much prettier, I have to say.

Entry to Harrison's Cave imitating traditional architecture
Entry to Harrison's Cave imitating traditional architecture
Oistins village is Barbados's best place for fish dinner. It is so famous that it can be really busy, particularly on Friday nights. The queue for an incredibly delicious grilled marlin fish may keep you waiting a couple of hours before you can try this culinary wonder. The fish comes directly from the fishermen and are grilled in open-air kitchens. Some are more popular than others. The fish to choose from are mainly barracudas, merlins, and flying fish. All excellent value for money.

I had never had flying fish, and while in the queue I was debating with myself whether I should try it. And yet, I eventually went for merlin. As I got closer to the giant grill I saw that merlin looked more delicious than any other fish grilled there.

Barbados does not suffer from a shortage of places to eat. The western coast overflows with expensive hotels and restaurants. St Lawrence Gap is slightly cheaper and relaxed. Local eateries hidden in the residential areas are also very nice.

Other recommendations:
Happy people of Barbados
Happy people of Barbados
When my short tour around the island was nearing the end, I started thinking if I would come back to Barbados for a longer holiday. And I am not quite sure I would, actually. I did love the street parties and the nightlife of the St. Lawrence Gap, and the beaches of the Crane Bay and the Bottom Bay, though. However, would this be enough not get bored? I am not sure. Yet, this would be the case of any small Caribbean island, perhaps.

If it were to be a beach lounging holiday, then perhaps it might work. Contrary to the popular opinion, or a marketing tick, the western coast is not that great. The beaches are very small, narrow, have few palm trees and are overcrowded. The beaches on the eastern coast are wider, whiter and fringed with graceful palm trees. They are calmer and many have no facilities at all. There are no beach bars, no restaurants, no clubs. Few hotels operate there and the Atlantic waves are large and powerful.

Published on Saturday July 5th, 2008

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Fri, Apr 23 2010 - 08:04 PM rating by jacko1

Maintaining the usual very high quality of your reports, excellent!

Mon, Feb 22 2010 - 04:24 PM rating by porto

Excellent Krys, a very enjoyable read. :)

Fri, Jul 11 2008 - 08:03 AM rating by marianne

high standard report with beautiful photos, a pleasure to read

Mon, Jul 07 2008 - 11:21 AM rating by eirekay

As always, another terrific report!

Mon, Jul 07 2008 - 08:40 AM rating by jorgesanchez

5 points, as it is already usual in your reports. Pleasant reading-

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