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Barbados Easter Trip 2009

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Nice place for a Banks beer
Bananaquit or Coereba
          flaveola in Sugar Cane Club gardenI have recently returned from a 12 day trip to Barbados staying at the Sugar Cane Club Hotel & Spa near Speightstown on the West coastI won the trip in a competition & it was paid for by those nice people at Splenda. The trip included economy flights with Virgin Atlantic, travel insurance, transfers in Barbados, & all inclusive at the Sugar Cane Club.

I went on my own & had a real nice time just relaxing, touring the island beaches, etc & NOT getting sun burnt. I'm not a big fan of rum (Mount Gay & Malibu are both made there) but I did enjoy a few of the local Banks beers.The Sugar Cane Club is about 1km from the beach but they run a free minibus service to Speightstown, the bus station, & they have a beach facility on the West Coast near Mullins Bay where you can use a lounger, & get a complimentary cold beer (see picture far left.) The Sugar Cane Club has a nice garden with lots of wildlife like green monkeys, bats, toads, frogs, lizards, wood doves, humming birds, bananaquit (see near left)... Plus the usual pool, bar, restaurant, gym, but also has a day Spa & of all things a squash court. I didn't fancy a game as it was 28C in the shade during the day & 24C at night. The food was nice & the staff helpful. A bonus for me was that it was adults only at the hotel so no screaming kids or stressed adults. The actress Sarah Crowe was staying at the hotel but I was too shy to speak to her.

I visited Arlington House Museum in Speightstown which was informative & enjoyed the Gallery of Caribbean Art although the pictures were a bit out of my price range. I also had a beer at the Fisherman's Pub next to the Speightstown fish market. Another day I visited The Barbados Museum on the outskirts of Bridgetown next to Garrison Savannah where they have horse racing. Plus I visited the Synagogue & Parliament Museums both in Bridgetown (the capital) about 40 min's away by bus. I had a look at the Kensington Oval where cricket is played. You can have a tour but the day I went it was closed as they were working on a stage in the middle of the pitch. The local buses were very good & only cost US 75 cents or about 60p/trip. They have blue government buses which are just like buses anywhere but also smaller independent yellow buses which are more like the dolmus you get in Turkey. They cost the same but the independent buses are more fun & have loud local music playing. The standard of driving was "interesting" to say the least. One of the buses I was on the guy who took the fares got off at some traffic lights, bought 2 bottles of Guinness & handed one to the driver when he got back on. I didn't try a "Zed R" or route Nice plant seen at The Flower
          ForestGreen monkey in Sugar Cane Club gardentaxi as I wanted to survive the trip (only joking before anybody complains!) These are small white minibuses & the registration starts ZR hence the name. I didn't take a cab either but I know they don't have a meter so you agree the price before setting off & make it clear are we talking US or Barbados dollars? A US dollar gets you 2 Barbados dollars so it is worth asking.

 I visited the Barbados Wildlife Reserve & next door Grenade Hall Signal Station which were both worth a quick look & a good place to see green monkeys as they feed them. I visited several gardens including Adromeda Botanic, Orchid World & The Flower Forest. All were small but interesting & informative. See picture far right of plant taken at The Flower Forest. Another day I visited Folkestone Marine Park & then St. James parish church parts of which date back to 1600's & is thought to be the first church on the island. It was very pretty in the style of a local UK  church but the wood was dark mahogany & the stone white coral rock.

I visited a lot of the beaches by bus &/or walking and I did rent a car for one day. I think the best beach for me was Cattlewash on the East Coast with hardly a sole on it & postcard perfect views (see below left.) The West coast & South Coast beaches tended to be very busy with tourists & people trying to flog you stuff. That said a short walk or getting off at a different bus stop was often rewarded with an empty beach or one only used by the locals. EG Holetown is very busy & expensive but there are several nice quiet beaches nearby like Batts Rock. You can walk along the beach all the way from near The Oval, past the Malibu distillery, to Batts Rock as I did without anybody pestering you. At Batts Rock on Easter Monday there was a church group of mums & children setting up a picnic & they offered me lunch then had a good old sing song which was perfect.

Suzuki Liana that I
                rented with Cattlewash beach in the background
Ice creammm
Some of the signs & products tickled me. I did notice a sign at the Barbados Wildlife Reserve that said something like "If you find the caiman outside their enclosure can you let reception know" & I thought how often do they get out? Can't they get a better cage or something? H&S would have a fit about that in the UK. Drumstick ice cream was another. So it's an ice cream but it looks like a chicken leg (see left.) Not sure about that one? I did try to buy one (just for research you understand) but they didn't have any so why put the sign out if you don't have the product?

I hardly spent any money whilst I was away as almost everything was included. The only thing I paid for at the hotel was the laundry which was only about a fiver anyway. Most of the gardens & museums do charge but its usually only about 10 US dollars. Buses were cheap & plenty about on the South & West coasts. Elsewhere you might have to wait up to an hour but that is not such a problem when you have all day. The car hire I thought was a bit pricey at about 60 quid for the day but it did include insurance & half a tank of petrol which was more than enough. Also they charge for a temporary driver permit which pushes the price up. It was on my last full day that I rented the car (a Suzuki Liana) & zipped about to all the places I had wanted to go but could not get to by bus or just had not got around to. I got lost a couple of times but you can't stay lost for too long on such a small island. They drive on the left so that was easy for me. All the hire cars number plates start with an H & have adverts on the back so the locals cut you some slack when driving but it does make it even more obvious that you are a tourist. I finished the day sitting on the Speightstown beach & watched the sun set over the sea.

I bought The Rough Guide to Barbados from Amazon before going to get an idea of what I wanted to do & also looked up some stuff online but I didn't want to "over plan" the trip or be rushing about every day. A couple of days I stayed in the hotel all day & read a book then had a swim or only went out for a couple of hours. They had Fox Soccer channel in the room so I watched a couple of Premiership games live which due to the 5 hour time difference started about 10:00 or at noon. As it was kind of a bonus holiday I didn't want to spend too much but then again I'm not going to be going every year so I did want to have a decent look about. I never felt out of place or threatened but I didn't go out in the dark as I returned to the hotel for my prepaid meal. All in all a very good holiday which I would love to do again especially if somebody else is paying! I've already entered another competition for a holiday in Barbados this time with Gu puddings. Wish me luck?
Spreightstown Beach @
              sunset on last day

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Links

More of my photos which will open in a new window

Sugar Cane Club Hotel and Spa can be booked direct or via Virgin...

Barbados National Trust with info on several museums, hikes, parks & open properties to visit

Barbados Wildlife Reserve & Grenade Hall

Barbados Parliament Museum

Garrison Savannah horse racing

Barbados.org basic info on a lot of the places I name check above

Fun Barbados more basic info on attractions, list of events...

Sunny Barbados another info site

Drive-A-Matic Car Rentals

Mount Gay rum


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