We spent 7 days in Barbados for our normal September vacation. This vacation might not be the best inaugural posting for our travel blog, as this was purposely a do-nothing vacation. With that said, I may randomly back-post older trips.
Come along with us to Barbados, after visiting friends and family for a few days in Fredericksburg VA, and eating amazing NYC style pizza from Benny Vitalis.
We took off headed Southeast to the furthest island east in the Lesser Antilles. A beautiful island with sunshine, white sand beaches, plenty of sunshine, and Friendly-ish people.
Our introduction to Barbados was one that might put off the first time traveler. We hailed a taxi and off we whoosed trusting an older man with seasoned blood shot eyes at breakneck speeds. Immediately we noticed the stressed roadways were in need of serious attention. As we barreled down the road our driver honked passionately at friends along the way and gave us a few brief details about his island. The driver whipped the 1980's van into a full service gas station as he mentioned this Friday’s fish fry, but warned we must get there early. Gas on the island is nearly $9/gal USD, and he dug around the van searching for crumpled Barbados dollars to hand to the attendant.
After a quick sip of gas for a van that at best gets 6 m.p.g. we scurried off again bumping and tossing around as we headed to the Hilton Barbados. Along the way narrowly missing cars in our lane, or stopped "mini" buses, or completely smoked out roads from the mosquito trucks. Elizabeth and I passed "are we going to make it" looks. Finally we made it, and as we exited we were reminded to try the Flying Fish and Cou Cou (cornbreadish with oakra) We safely arrived to a lovely spot, for what was to be a week of absolutely do-nothing. After hours of travel we were a bit famished, dropped our bags and grabbed dinner at the hotel.
THE FOOD -
As we didn't rent a car and had no reference for the area yet we attempted to have a quick dinner at one of three restaurants on the property. After five minutes of standing at the hostess stand in a 25 table restaurant with 3 tables occupied, the staff standing at the bar turned around to look at us and motioned to take any seat. We sat and were greeted by a woman with a fake nice attitude, took our drink orders and left menus. Let me first start by saying I don’t think veggies are a priority here. On the menu there was a veggie wrap and side salad. There was also a cheese quesadilla. Once our server returned I asked if they could make a veggie quesadilla. This completely shut down the server. She couldn't comprehend what I was asking, and offered to ask the chef if he could make it. Not wanting to push the limits of possibilities on the first night, I opted for the mushy veggie wrap and wilted bitter salad. Not a great start.
We had two beautiful meals at Naru Sushi on the south side of the island. We ate there the last two days of the trip. Wonderful, service was great and the food was brilliantly composed. A+
We also walked to the Cafe at the George Washington House twice. This is the only country George Washington visited in his life, we did walk the grounds but didn't tour the house. The first trip went well I had a tasty banana crepe. But also on the menu they listed a bacon and eggs crepe, and a veggie frittata. Oh shit, here we go again. I asked the server if they could prepare a veggie and egg crepe. Needle scratch sound effects please. Full stop. Server shutdown. After he reeled back into reality, he clarified my request and listed in a very distinct list, tomatoes, onion, and peppers. Hard stop. I gave him a solid 10 seconds to continue, he did not. I said “that sounds great, no tomatoes please”. He acknowledged and left. What arrived. A crepe with eggs, eggplant, carrots, squash, zucchini, peppers, green beans, and syrup. Ummmmm he HARD STOPPED on onions and peppers. Where in the fuck did those other veggies come from? again I don’t think veggies are top priority here.
Oistins Fish Fry. Friday, early as we were told, at this point, by several people. Fuck. You know when you go to the mall, there are those kiosks with those really aggressive sales people shoving samples in your hands? Or ushering you to sit for a 1970's glamour shots make-up session? Multiply that by 50. Oistins is a small fishing village and the fish fry is a local event where the seafood caught that day is cleaned and then prepared in a small 2 block strip by what felt like 200 vendors.
All pining for your money the servers relentlessly jam menus in your face asking for you to sit. We walked up and down looking at the vendors selling trinkets, shoes, and bracelets while also trying to locate the two places we were told had good food.
We ate at Mo's. We knew previously that this place may not have food I'm willing to eat. While traveling I'm looking to experience new things, but I know what I like, fish doesn’t push my buttons. So knowing the likelihood of me not eating was high we browsed the menu and luckily there was a veggie burger on the menu. BUT the veggie burger was not available because of the fish fry. Elizabeth had the flying fish meal which came with coleslaw, side salad, and "macaroni pie". WOW! Let's talk about that macaroni pie. What a strange local dish, we found later the secret recipe. It's your standard Mac'n Cheese, you know your butter, your cheese, your milk, and the secret ingredient KETCHUP! Ahhh that's the strange flavor.
TOURING THE ISLAND -
We had some ambition to snorkel with sea turtles. Nope, didn't. Go see green monkeys. Nope, didn't. We did go on a "beautiful Barbados" tour. Only one of the seven days on the island did we leave the direct vicinity of the hotel. We departed for an 8 hour tour with our tour guide Steven. Steven met us promptly at 9a and we disembarked with a lively jovial man who was just as pleased to be touring the island as we were. We made our way around to pick up our only other passenger Elvira from Yorkshire. It was a very private tour as the bus held 12 people and only three of us on the tour. Score. The tour started out well, we stopped at some cool places and beaches took time to stop and take a few pictures. Touring the south side, counterclockwise we continued all the way around the island. We continued on as Steven showed us his great country. We stopped at old churches, some "facts" were told early on. Things started to sour a bit when Elizabeth commented on the amount of newer built houses next to abandoned houses and the strange juxtaposition. Steven promptly stopped the bus to explain Americans get this “wrong all the time”. These houses were not abandoned (windows busted out, tress growing through the living room) and that locals will be given a plot of land from family or buy it etc. Then as to not have “a mortgage tied around their neck, they work on their house on the weekends. Piece by piece. If you see people working Monday through Friday those people have taken a mortgage" but the houses are not abandoned. He then continued on pointing out the houses that clearly had residents, but were also under construction. This is not was Elizabeth was pointing out.
Every stop we made Steven also got out and took pictures. We stopped at a local place, where we ate fruit from a guy selling produce from a propped up wheelbarrow. Elizabeth, at the behest of Steven, was suckered into getting coconut water fresh from the nut.
Steven also offered the services, without mentioning payment expected, of the Wheelbarrowed Fruit Peddler for us all to try his sugar cane. Then W.F.P. man thought we were a gold mine and stared chopping a fruit salad from all his exotic fruits. He offered this and that, and poor Elvira was Mrs grabby-grabby. She took a sour looking kiwi fruit from him, to which he put a pound of salt on it. Then Steven yelled at him for giving an "old lady" that much salt. No worries though he washed it off with his water jug from which he was drinking. But Mrs Elvira got the last laugh because as Steven ushered us to the van, W.F.P. asked for a couple of bucks for his effort. Elvira pushed right on by and jumped on the bus. We continued on, through windy, rough, roads to the north side where we stopped for lunch. By this point, the tour had turned into a very expensive taxi around the island. The "facts" had stopped and we were being driven around in silence except an occasional "Beautiful Barbados", and I'm not sure if he was repeating the name of the tour or was exclaiming. The tour finished down the west coast "home of the rich and famous" we were told. 800 times. As he told us, several facts we check later because they didn't seem right, we are not sure if he really is Rihanna’s uncle or not.
Not related to the tour, but a part of the story here. Hawksbill Turtles. Quite possibly the cutest baby turtle on the planet. They are NOT smart. Naru Sushi has some of their tables seated on the sand, and while finishing dinner a cute little nested turtle was flopping around the sand disoriented by the lights. The staff went and placed him at the water edge so he could find his way. We finished dinner and to burn off some of the calories and sugar from the sushi we walked down the boardwalk towards the main road and the Maxi Bus. Along the way we noticed a lot of stirring at the local KFC. Not a funny acronym, it is the only American food we noticed on the island, a KFC. Outside were a lot of people with flashlights stopping cars and digging in the bushes. Apparently some dumb turtle mom buried her hatch-lings near the KFC parking lot. Tonight they hatched. Families and bystanders, flashlights in hand, attempted to save as many as possible from the drive-thru traffic before too many got squished. A resident called the local turtle rescue that came by and looked for more and oversee the release of the turtle babies in a more prosperous location.
TAXI AND BUSES -
Lastly taxis and buses here are nuts. This isn't a walking city. We stayed outside of Bridgetown and only briefly drove through there on the tour so maybe in the "city" it's different. But we taxied to a restaurant Buzo the first night out because we weren't sure about the one mile walk to and fro. The taxis driver told as we went, we could surely have walked but was happy to take our money. Events that transpired at the restaurant being charged lobster price for 3 shrimps and magically the restaurant manager unable to adjust the bill, Elizabeth needed a walk to calm down.
As we strolled down the road the majestic "Maxi" buses blazed passed alerting would be passengers with their Dixie horns of their arrival, we wondered. Back at the hotel we asked about these buses. A short synopsis, for $1 USD, you and 17 others pile into a 1960's looking white and maroon stripped five person seater van and blast down the poorly paved roads and sidewalks at dizzying speeds all while blasting the horn at all pedestrians the way a country boy would spotlight a deer. It's truly something you must be a part of to understand.
We love traveling in September, but that's not to say it doesn't with some drawbacks. September is a great month because most of the screaming brats are back in school. But we have found a lot of places schedule their vacations, renovations, and down time around this as well. People are a lot more relaxed and slow. We have been fortunate to have traveled to 16 Countries to date. You learn pretty early on, American ideas, expectations, and value are not the same anywhere else. This, if you're open to it, gives you the invaluable perspective the world can offer you. The hardest part is the balance of experiencing this, while also trying to get your hard earned money's worth. Other cultures and life styles can enrich your life, but bad service is never enriching. We met a lot of cantankerous people, but also some very lovely people.
The food is a hard one to rate, because we did have great sushi, we didn’t travel far and wide to locate all the great food possibly out there. The people of the island had an air of aggression most places we went. All and all we found most people to be aggressive, and not welcoming. But this vacation was that, a vacation. We went to relax, drink drinks with umbrellas, and swim at the pool and beach. This was that times 10. Amazing time away, and just what we were looking to accomplish.