- LATIN AMERICA
- MIDDLE EAST
- United Kingdom
- United States
- New Zealand
- South Africa
- iHaveNet.com: Travel
By Diana Korte
Graeme Hall Nature Sanctuary
These Scarlet Ibises live in Graeme Hall Nature Sanctuary on the Caribbean island of Barbados, a stopping off place for 200 species of migrating birds on their way south
You can imagine, of course, that the beaches are fabulous on Barbados. You even get to choose between the pounding surf of the Atlantic on one side of the island and the gentle waters of the Caribbean on the other.
Perhaps you've heard that people don't really go to this part of the world for the food. That's not true in Barbados, the only island in the Caribbean with its own Zagat Guide.
If you're a seafood lover, it's worth the trip just to taste the locally caught barracuda served at
Once the home of a booming sugar cane industry, today this prosperous 14-by-20-mile island hosts plenty of sunbathers, but that's not all. The other two big draws for Barbados are duty-free shopping and outstanding golf courses. One of the island's best-kept secrets, though, is 450 years of history made visible through museums, particularly one that opened in the spring of 2008.
GOING DOWN MEMORY LANE
The Arlington House, a jewel of a museum, tells the story of Barbados through visuals, sounds and touch. Situated in an 18th-century coral stone house located in Speightstown, this museum was the home of a merchant family for 200 years.
Surround-sound memories, like a movie soundtrack, and visuals of an olden times Saturday market day fill the ground floor of this museum. The second floor shows the important role Barbados played in the slave trade. A video of two plantation ladies discussing the sugar in their tea side by side with the comments of the workers in the sugarcane field is a lesson in island economics.
Of the 30 or so island nations in the Caribbean, Barbados is the furthest east and nearly the most southern. Because of that location, hurricanes seldom come to call. Nevertheless, one of the last stops on the third floor, where a pirate has a lot to say, is a display that's not to be missed. It cleverly demonstrates the sound and fury of hurricane wind.
Barbados is also home to one of the oldest synagogues (built in 1654) in this part of the world. Located in Bridgetown, the Nidhe Israel Synagogue, with its beautiful Gothic arches, has recently been restored and houses an old cemetery on the grounds, along with a museum and a new archeological excavation site. The synagogue is open to the public daily.
GEORGE WASHINGTON SLEPT HERE
When our first president was but a teenager, he came to Barbados with his ailing half-brother Lawrence for a couple of months in 1751. Because of a lung problem, doctors recommended that Lawrence take a trip to the West Indies.
Barbados is the only place outside of the United States that Washington ever visited. It's true this island is about as far from Virginia as any island in the Caribbean, but in the 1700s Bridgetown, the capitol, had one of the busiest harbors in the New World. Back then, too, both America and Barbados were British colonies.
George Washington House, the renovated house where Washington slept opened for visitors in January 2007 and its open and airy floor plan makes the most of nearby ocean breezes. The movie shown here chronicling George's stay on the island is illuminating, in part, because he's seen as a young man not the bewigged older gent who became the first U.S. president in 1789.
WHERE THE BIRDS STOP BY
Barbados is a key stopover place for birds migrating south from North America's winter. More than 200 species drop in, mostly between July and October. One of their prime stops is Graeme Hall Nature Sanctuary, the last sizeable mangrove swamp on the island. Here inside the lush, tranquil sanctuary, filled with the sounds of both resident and visiting birds, you can get a true sense of what most of Barbados must have been like before it was cleared for sugarcane cultivation hundreds of years ago.
BAJAN ROOTS AND RHYTHM
This dynamic performance at the Plantation Theatre celebrates the African roots of the local Bajan (rhymes with Cajun) culture. The best part of this show, which includes beautifully costumed dancers, colorful sets and the music's island beat, was the stilt walkers. Can you imagine walking, dancing, going up and down steps and leaning way back while standing on 5-foot-high stilts? The performance was preceded by a Bajan buffet, highlighting an endless supply of local favorites.
IF YOU GO:
HOW TO GET THERE:
Bridgetown, Barbados is the beginning or end port for many a southern Caribbean cruise ship itinerary. It's also served by numerous airlines, including
WHERE TO STAY:
The Colony Club is a peaceful resort in St. James on the Caribbean Sea side of Barbados that offers spacious rooms and suites with double glass door access to a covered private patio only a few feet away from a waterfall-fed swimming pool.
WHERE TO EAT:
Champers Restaurant. This popular restaurant overlooks Accra Beach. From start to finish the service was excellent and the food was even better. If you like seafood, you'll love the parmesan-crusted barracuda or the broiled Atlantic salmon with creamy garlic sauce. Best seats are on the open-air balcony. The ocean breakers made a lovely racket, better than any background music.
The Waterfront Cafe is located on the marina in the historic part of Bridgetown. Come here for flying fish and cou-cou (mashed cornmeal and okra), a local Banks beer and maybe a glass of rum, the drink of choice in Barbados. The waiters are efficient and friendly and were especially helpful when a sudden rain shower drenched our outside table.
The Fish Pot is a place in St. Peters for a lazy lunch and an oceanfront view. The Paninis are excellent and the fish platter was popular. For those who want to combine lunch with a boat ride, swimming and snorkeling, there's the Tiami Luncheon Catamaran Cruise (http://www.funbarbados.com/Tours/tiami.cfm).
AVERAGE TEMPERATURE: Daytime highs of 75 to 80 degrees cooled by constant trade winds.
For more information about Barbados, visit www.visitbarbados.org. To hire an excellent driver to show you the sights of the island, call Patrick Clarke, 246-230-1506.
© Diana Korte
Travel | Balmy Barbados