Thursday 28th February Lovely beaches of southern Barbados 65km
We were awake early after a good night's sleep. It was already noisy with the building site behind us. We'd brought enough food with us from Tobago to have breakfast in the little kitchen - there was nowhere suitable to sit outside. We went to have a look at the beach in the daylight. There was lovely soft sand, but it was much busier than we've been used to.
We drove to nearby Massy's, to stock up for our last week. We struggled to find things that we wanted at a reasonable price. There were lots of white people in the store - it had a very different feel from on the other islands. We went on to find a bank to get Barbados dollars, so could then pay for last night's meal. We found a 'drive-thru' bank, which seemed silly, as you held up the person behind as it was a general way out for the carpark. Adrian was having trouble with the sat-nav suction pad, which wasn't sticking. We came back to have coffee, but again nowhere nice to sit, and the building site was very noisy. Adrian phoned the next place where we are staying to see if we could come a day early. Two cheery cleaners came, but we were feeling a bit 'between the devil and the deep blue sea' . Adrian couldn't find David, but in the end spoke to the lady. She said that she did the bookings, and we were only booked for two days anyway! There had been a lot of confusing emails early on. Of course Adrian phoned the next place again, who, by juggling things around a bit, could let us have a room one day early. We hadn't known it, but we'd had no room booked for tomorrow! Feeling somewhat relieved, we left at midday, driving first on the fast road past the airport. We thought that we'd see something of southern Barbados. The first place we stopped at belied its name of Foul Bay! It was a gorgeous beach of fine pale sand with an azure sea beyond the trees. There were just a few people. The waves were big, so there was no swimming - this coast is not for swimming anyway. We ate our sandwich sitting on reinforcement blocks, while all sorts of birds strutted around, including doves, chickens and a cockerel.
The beach at Worthing, by us
The next beach we stopped at, Cranes Bay, was another nice sandy beach with big waves. A walkway was made along the beach, and there were hotels above.
Very lovely Foul Bay
We came next to East Point lighthouse where there were men building what looked like a communications tower. Adrian couldn't see it from his window, and was trying to follow his sat-nav, when we were right there!
We had to go to Bottoms Bay, for the name. You had to climb down many erratic steps with a broken rail. It was another gorgeous beach with rocky cliffs at either end and just a few people. A man was selling coconuts, and a small group of men were sitting on the sloping rocks at the top, which they called the bar!
Our last beach was Bath Beach. We'd driven past stubble fires to get there. This is supposed to be the one east coast beach where you could swim, but the red flag was up, and it wasn't enticing anyway.
East Point Lighthuse
We passed Codrington College, the drive to it lined with palms. It dates from 1745 and is said to be the oldest Theological college in the west.
As we drove back across the rural interior, we could see sugar cane growing, and evidence of the past with tall chimneys and windmills. These were interspersed with nodding donkeys!
The drive to Codrington College
We arrived back at 4 o'clock - time for a cup of tea before a lovely swim in the sea. Nobody else was in the water, which was a lovely depth for swimming - we were just a bit aware of the current. Back for a bath! I cooked a ‘corned beef hash’, which turned out too spicy as the pepper pot lid came off! We did some more Tobago website, but were both very tired.
Sugar and oil!
Friday 1st March To our last accommodation 27km
We were up early and finished then sent the Tobago website before getting packed up to drive to Speightstown, in the north of Barbados. It was very noisy again from the building site.
We said goodbye to the two pleasant Canadian ladies next to us as we left at 9.45. It was overcast as we drove towards Bridgetown, stopping first to look at Pebbles Beach with its stunning white sand overlooked by vast Hilton and Radisson hotels. The sunbeds were put out.
Goodbye building site!
As we drove on, we were surprised to find a lot of low key housing and run down shacks amongst the smarter buildings. We were pleased to find that there were a lot of car parks. We drove around the long inlet of water called Carinage but Bridgetown was busy, so no chance of parking.
All sand at Pebbles Beach!
North of the town, we stopped at Brighton Beach, looking nothing like its British counterpart with its huge sandy beach. We had our coffee at a picnic table, but were worried about the poisonous Mansineel trees which are found on these islands. We read that they are marked by a red ring, as many trees here were, but that might have been for a different reason. The beach really continues all up the west coast. At Batts Rock, where it was warm and windy, they were setting up for a wedding.
Simple housing around Bridgetown
As we continued, we passed more humble dwellings interspersed with the large estates. At Reeds Bay, we stopped to eat our sandwich on the beach, as birds and chickens again fought over my crumbs. It suddenly started to rain, so we returned to the car. It was now 1.30, earlier than we’d expected to be here, but we now made our way to Legend Garden Condos, our last place to stay, at Mullins Beach. This is housed in a former sugar plantation, with lots of palms and exotic trees. We were welcomed by Alex and his wife Delia (De). Alex, who is known as Bird, is from Barbados and is the youngest of 17. He and De have twin 8 year old boys. De, who is very outgoing, is from Montreal, but her family originate from Italy. Our accommodation is very spacious, and once again has a bath! There is a large bed-sitting room and a very light kitchen. Unfortunately there is no patio, but plenty of space around the property to sit.
Batts Rock Beach
There is a lovely swimming pool, much like the one at Top o’ Tobago, but without the views. Having sorted our bags for the last time, we made our way there.
Our kitchen and bedroom at Legend Garden
After coming back we tried phoning our kids. We spoke to Paul & Nicky, and also Jo, and finally got hold of Emma to tell her how thrilled I was with her radio message. After supper we started the website for Barbados.
Enjoying a cooling swim
Saturday 2nd March To North Point, Barbados 40 km
We ate breakfast sitting just outside, in the 'car park' (only 3 cars). We are unfortunate in not having a better view from our apartment, when around us it is so pleasant. At least there are some big trees. There was a problem with the toilet not flushing (yet again), so Adrian went to tell De and Bird. We left at 9.45, initially for Speightstown. This is the second largest town on Barbados, but has lots of character. It is known as 'Little Bristol', as many of the first British settlers were from there. It has the beach right beside it, with lots of interesting low key buildings lining the street. We walked past the bakers, of renown, which was really busy, so we continued along the street and came back later. I bought some French beans from a stall, as this evening there is a joint meal at Legend, and we all have to bring a side dish to go with the barbecue.
We sat on some pointed rocks on the beach to have coffee, right by the town - there was just one person sunbathing! We shared a horseshoe shaped pastry from the bakers.
Images of Speightstown
We searched for Arlington House - a museum with much on the local history. Having located it in the centre of town and parked - right by a deep gulley, we walked to it as it began to drizzle! When we got there, we found it closed! Our book said closed on Sunday, but a sign on the door had new opening hours, which stated that it was not open on Saturday either! We now drove out of Speightstown northwards, coming to the charming beach at Six Mens Bay. The buildings lining the street were original wooden structures with atmospheric old boats lined up.
Elevenses in the middle of Speightstown!
We now took narrow roads through wild open country to defunct Harrison Point Lighthouse.
Atmospheric Six Men's Beach
We had another shower of rain as we followed patched up roads through this remote area with a scattering of humble little homes to North Point. This is the location of Animal Flower Cave, which you could visit. We didn't though because as well as me being claustrophobic, there were steep steps down into it which looked difficult. It sounded interesting, as there was a pool inside in which you can paddle. Instead, we sat to have lunch with the most fantastic view of the wild coast, with waves splashing up over the cliffs. This is where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Caribbean.
The defunct Harrison Point Lighthouse
I bought a little necklace from a stall before we continued down the eastern side of the island to River Bay. This place sounded promising, with the possibility of paddling in the shallow water of the inlet. Unfortunately though, the 'beach' was covered by enormously thick seaweed, with no chance of getting anywhere.
North Point Barbados, where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Caribbean
We gave in, and drove back across the island, passing lone St Lucy's church in its isolation beside a well maintained roundabout. Back in Speightstown, Adrian bought some fresh rolls from the bakers, and beer from the supermarket.
River Bay, choked by colourful seaweed
We looked at the beach at the end of the drive, before arriving back at Legend Gardens at 3.00. This was just a bit too early though, as a man came to strim and then blow the leaves excruciatingly loudly near our place, and as there is no solid door, we soon made for the swimming pool! Suitably refreshed, I prepared the dish for tonight's meal. Bird had come and said that Adrian ignored him at the traffic lights in town - I had seen him waving and beckoning, but Adrian was busy watching the signals. We both have to admit to finding it difficult to recognise black people. Soon afterwards, the plumber came to fix the toilet. This was a long job, but hopefully successful. Some time after 7.00, we made our way over to the barbecue area. There were 13 of us in total. We ate some good tuna, with extras including rice, pasta and melon. Bird could certainly talk! He talked a lot of sense, and had opinions on everything including world affairs and religion. You could think that it was because he was drinking, but he didn’t drink. We were a motley crew from Britain, Austria, Italy (De’s cousin and wife), and later a Barbadian couple. It was nice to meet up, but we felt that we didn’t have much in common with the others, who seem to be regulars here. Lovely to sit out in the warmth though.
It was sunny but very windy. We had scrambled eggs for breakfast and left after 10.00. We took a lovely cross country route through hilly country past former estates to Welchman Hall Gully. The houses we passed were simple single storey dwellings. The road surface had been very potted. We were at 850 ft (260m). This gully is a former collapsed limestone cavern. The path goes through for 2.0 km, between tall sides with luxuriant rainforest plants. It is run by Barbados National Trust, so we got half price tickets through our UK membership.(15B$ each.) We went in as the monkeys were about to be fed. We spoke to two couples - one couple from Vancouver Island and their friends from Lincolnshire. There were several families, with a lot of young children, who all enjoyed seeing the man feed cut up banana to the very restrained green monkeys.
Sunday 3rd March Glorious gardens and many monkeys 56 km
Our drive, leading down to Mullins Beach
We then walked along the long path through the high cliff walls, covered with rainforest trees and plants. At one point you could see the edge of a cave, with its stalagmites and stalactites.
Have a banana!
It was not far from here to Hunte's garden, created in a sink hole by horticulturist Anthony Hunte. This was quite glorious. It was expensive, at 15US$, but was so amazing that it brought tears to my eyes. The whole area was crammed full with tropical trees and plants. Restful music was being played. There were engraved stepping stones to walk on, and hidden seats everywhere. We'd just chosen a perfect place to eat our lunch when it came on to rain with one of the sudden showers. Quite wet, we continued on the up and down paths until we reached the house, where Anthony Hunte lives, and enjoys chatting to visitors. We found nearby seats to eat our sandwich above the water lily ponds. It was the most exquisite garden which had apparently been featured on Gardeners World.
Wonderful Welchman Hall Gully
Now 1.30, we headed off to the other gardens I'd wanted to visit - Andromeda Gardens at Bathsheba. After following some badly surfaced roads, we pulled in to a parking area, when I saw the name - and we'd come to the wrong place! Adrian set off again, taking the bumpiest road ever, when it finally ended in 'Private', so we had to go all the way back! We then took the most atrocious road, before asking a chap, who said that the road did go through. We finally got to the gardens at 2.30. These gardens had been created by white Barbadian Iris Bannochie starting in 1954. They were lovely, but we should have visited them first, as nothing could compare with the previous gardens. We took the shorter route, having received our tickets from a local Barbadian girl with a real London accent - she had lived back here for 10 years, but was brought up in West London. Our National Trust tickets again got us in at half price (15 B$) each. Once more we had engraved stepping stones to walk on through the lovely gardens.
Awe inspiring Hunte's Garden
Now 3.30, we drove down to Bathsheba Beach. This was wonderful with its offshore balancing 'hoodoo rocks' looking amazing with the palm trees in front, and the rushing waves coming in. The east coast is not suitable for swimming.
Pretty Andromeda Gardens
We continued up the superb coast until just after Barclays Beach. From here we took a nice rural cross country route through hilly country with some steep sided banks to Speightstown. The beach at the end of our track looked really calm, so we thought just right for a swim. It was lovely, but I was a bit anxious of the undertow, so we continued our swim in the pool back at Legend Gardens! We returned there with our drinks, amongst the high forest trees, just as the monkeys who reside here at night, came back.
A swim in the sea then drinks by the pool watching the monkeys
Monday 4th March Our last full day in Barbados 30km
It was a mixed day at first, but became hot. We left at 9.15 for our last full day away. Our first stop was the supermarket to get a small packet of Aunt Jemima's pancake mix for tomorrow, Shrove Tuesday. We had often bought this in America. The car park was right beside the sea.
We then drove to Farley Hill National Park. Adrian was very involved with a very different Farley Hill when he was working. This one consisted of a hill densely covered by very tall trees. It had been opened by Queen Elizabeth in 1966, but now sadly looks in need of a bit of loving care. It cost B$6 for a car - free if walking! From the top of the hill, there was a good view down to the coast, but at the time we were there visibility wasn't good. In fact it was very windy, and the least nice weather since we've been away. The ruins of a large house stood fenced off as being unsafe. It had apparently been used in the 1957 film Island in the Sun. We had our coffee at a picnic table, while birds, mostly doves strutted about.
By the supermarket car park in Speightstown
We now followed the small roads to Morgan Lewis working windmill, looking a fine evocative sight with its sails up.
Misty view from Farley Hill and the ruined mansion
We were on our way to Cherry Tree Hill, from where there was a superb tree lined road down to St Nicholas Abbey, a large mansion, which we weren't visiting. A surprise though was to see a diesel train, which ran down to the abbey (where a steam train stood, for use sometimes). We drove down to enquire, but thought the price rather high for such a short journey. This was a new venture, that hadn't made it into any of the guide books.
Morgan Lewis working windmill and old sugar chimney
We now drove back to Speightstown, stopping at Six Men's Beach which we had found attractive on Saturday. We sat on the beach to eat our sandwich lunch, trying to take in the beautiful view of the turquoise sea which we have become so used to. A local fisherman came to chat - I only wish that I could understand their accent better.
The view from Cherry Tree Hill
The tunnel of trees
The diesel and the steam train at St Nicholas Abbey
In Speightstown we looked at various eating places which we might use tomorrow for lunch - our flight isn't until late evening. We arrived back at Legend Garden, to the unenviable task of packing everything into the right place for our homeward journey tomorrow. In the kitchen I heard a strange noise and looked up to see a small bird pecking at our rolls! The front is an open grid, so he had just flown in!
A crab scuttling past us on Six Men's beach
The weather was now becoming erratic, with frequent showers, but we still went across for a swim. The worker painting there was surprised, as he said it was cold! We’re glad that we went then, as the weather deteriorated and became the most unpleasant that we’ve had. Perhaps it was getting us prepared for going home! We had planned to take our drinks down to the beach and watch the sunset! This wasn’t to be! We did drive down the sodden drive, ever hopeful for a break in the overcast sky, but it didn’t ever happen so we came back and had our drinks and then supper in the kitchen.
Cheeky bird pecking our rolls in the kitchen
Tuesday 5th-Wed 6th February From warm to cold 50 Km
Shrove Tuesday, so we enjoyed ‘Aunt Jemima’s’ pancakes for breakfast while the cheeky bird came through the open grid again into the kitchen and pecked at our bread! We were more pleased to see a little humming bird on the tree right outside. A mother hen strutted about with her eight young chicks.
The lovely young cleaner came and said ’Are you going to bed, or can I take the sheets?’ We both had a swim in the pool before managing to do a bit of the website and finish packing. De came to say goodbye, then returned with Bird. They are both very outgoing, with plenty to say. They thought us very quiet!
We left late morning. The cleaner called out ‘you haven’t said goodbye’! We drove into Speightstown. We looked at the three restaurants from yesterday, but weren’t enamoured with any. We settled on a very hearty fish soup (mostly vegetables) at Fisherman Pub above the sea. It was a very popular place, but the artificial flowers on the tables put me off! The food looked like large trays of school dinners, which you chose your dishes from, including ‘flying fish’ and macaroni pie, both local specialities.
Farewell to Bird and De
We now drove down to Oistins, a pretty and popular place on the south coast. On Fridays they have a ‘Fish Fry’, with dozens of stalls selling similar dishes, amongst much revelry. Unfortunately we left the south on Friday to drive to the north, so had missed it. We thought that something might be going on today – Mardi Gras – but we missed out on that too. We should have been back in Trinidad. I had a last paddle in the sea. The sand was lovely. We would have liked a swim, but it was too difficult with everything packed up. There were a few fish being cut up in the market. The town was busy with older schoolchildren changing buses on their way home from school. The girls were in a pretty yellow and white.
Nice spot to eat our fish soup
We drove on to Cotton Bay, where surfers were enjoying the large waves. Further on from here, we came to Southern Point Lighthouse, set in an area of rather select homes.
Oistins - last paddle from lovely beach near the fish market
Then we came to Silver Sands – an apt description. When we first came down to the sea, it was by an enormous defunct hotel, looking very spooky. The main part of the beach though was a kite surfer’s paradise. Dozens had gathered on the beach of really fine white sand and a lot were enjoying the rough waves. We thought it a really strenuous activity.
Getting near to sundown now, we returned to Cotton Bay to eat our sandwiches. Here, it was actual surfers who were enjoying the waves. It was obviously THE place to come. We watched the sun going down over the sea – but then it went into cloud just before it set!
We got ready for ‘flight mode’ and made for the airport, stopping to fill the petrol tank on the way. Luckily we arrived just before dark to return the hire car. Barbados Airport is very large compared with some of the other islands. We took our bags to Virgin’s ‘Bag Drop’, where all the staff in their smart red & white outfits appeared extremely slim! At passport control and security, the staff were as officious as ever – but that’s the last for a while! We walked through the ‘western grot’ of eating and retail places, then occupied ourselves by doing some more of the website. We'd arrived early so as not to be driving in the dark – our flight to Gatwick wasn’t until 10.25. We had the two very rear seats on the large plane (440 passengers). I thought the seats very cramped. I found nothing to watch on the screens, which were difficult to use, with the headphones hard to hear. Food was also no good, but at least we had a pleasant and chatty hostess! The landing, at 10.30am British time (4 hours on) at Gatwick was the bumpiest for some time especially since it was such a large plane. We had a buggy ride to Passport control, where we had a long wait as there was a problem with a passenger before us. Once we’d got our luggage, we were reunited with our car at the car park. The man who’d brought it told us of the problem with an earlier Virgin flight from Barbados today when many of the passengers had become ill and the plane had been on a full emergency and been put in quarantine temporarily. It was cold and grey as we made our way back to Hermitage, but at least there were daffodils out We'd really enjoyed the islands that we’d visited, and just loved the temperature!
Some notes on Barbados
Much nicer than we’d imagined Lovely beaches Far more road signs etc Much more touristy Lots more white people Flatter than the other islands – a bit hilly, no mountains Lots of building going on Far more hotels Many low-key single storey houses Food and entries more expensive
Crystal Waters Close to a lovely beach Our room very dowdy – 50s Ample room Large shelf in bathroom Clean, just antiquated Not what we’d originally booked Nowhere outside to sit High hotel being built up behind Had a bath! And a toaster! Rather off-hand European owner
Legend Gardens In a former sugar plantation Owned and run by exuberant Barbadian/Canadian couple Roomy Had a bath! No patio Lovely grounds but no view Nice pool Close to sandy beach Huge comfy bed Shelf by bed Room for toiletries in bathroom Monkeys returned to property in evening
A few notes on the Caribbean Islands we visited
Always warm!! People very friendly – waved or spoke Schoolchildren wore neat and attractive uniforms Topes! (sleeping policemen) – less in Barbados Cars pull straight out from side street Difficult to find anywhere to stop – picnic sites in Togabo Lush vegetation Palm Trees Lovely beaches Different birds Very few signs- better on Tobago and Barbados They say ‘Good night’ as we would say good evening Cars are left to rot beside the road Music is played VERY loudly – often booming Colourful – people wear bright clothes
Some high spots and favourite places St Lucia Sunset Lane – meeting lovely people
St Vincent Montreal Gardens ‘Business meeting’ at our hotel – freebie drinks Seeing arrowroot growing Seeing breadfruit tree which was an offshoot of the one brought by Captain Bligh Sunsets Swims from the beach Grenada La Sagesse Beach The atmosphere at Bathway Trinidad North Coast road – wilderness road and lovely beaches Myriads of birds at Asa Wright centre Caroni Swamp – hundreds of scarlet ibis Pitch Lake (for Adrian) Tobago Birds at ‘Adventure Farm’ Beautiful beaches Birthday message on radio 2 from Emma Barbados Hunte’s Garden Many lovely beaches North Point Welchman’s Hall Gully