A long flight to Barbados, we were glad to see the edge of the island appearing lush and green amid the blue Caribbean Sea. A taxi from the airport to the St Lawrence Gap resort hotel and first things first, a look at the beach and pick a couple of Banks bottled beers from the beach vendor who supplied a pale of icy water to keep them cool until I got them to the hotel. We stayed in the lively Gap area at the Southern Palms hotel on the south coast. All painted pink and with rooms overlooking the beautiful Dover Beach we waited to watch the beach goers work up a sweat on the  volleyball courts underneath our balcony but they stayed empty.

The Gap caters well for those looking for a beach holiday, with bars and restaurants aplenty and beach walks and water sports during the day. There was also the occasional thunderstorm and these were most impressive – the normally beautiful blue ocean becoming slate grey. We soon got to know the locals hawking their wares along the strip and the aloe vera man was very friendly and almost made a sale through his good natured persuasiveness. Another lady tried very hard to make us move to a different hotel, but we were quite happy with our hotel.

With some difficulty we decided after a few days lounging around the beach we should get out into the island and explore a bit. We took a taxi into Bridgetown and headed for the harbour area. We had seen a recommendation for the Waterfront Cafe in our guide book and with the blistering heat we went straight there and got a table. The food was great and there was a live jazz band playing in the corner. We had mains then went for a stroll around town, then as we were getting quite warm headed back for icy deserts.

Bridgetown was interesting to walk around. After about half an hours walk we started to get out of the main tourist areas and the houses were looking more rustic and how I had imagined the Caribbean to be. But now people were approaching us and asking us if we would like a taxi back to ‘our ship’. Cruise tourists it would seem have quite a limited range when visiting the town.

The taxi back to the hotel took us through some more shanty style houses and this made me think about getting some wheels and exploring the rest of the island. The next day I booked a tiny hire car and we set out to explore the island. I took a loop around the Gap on my own to learn how to drive the automatic car without embarrassing myself, but I needn’t have bothered because the traffic around the ring road was so busy we weren’t driving very fast.

We headed north west across the spine of the island driving through some fantastic lush forests in the hills. We hit the north east coast to the north of Bathsheba and drove down the coast road stopping off for a sandwich and to talk to some friendly skinny cats.

Reaching Bathsheba the road comes down a very steep hill into the village and there are amazing palm fringed views up the wilder north east coast. We found a good restaurant for a laid back long lunch and then headed back across the island.

Our navigation had been going well up to this point but our trusty map reader now had drunk a couple of glasses of red wine and we got quite lost in the highlands of Barbados. We came out of the central part of the island at a light house on the southern tip of the island. It was all barbed wired off so we couldn’t have a look round, but at least we knew where we were. We drove back through the fishing port of Oistins and probably should have stopped for some fresh fish but we were beat after a very good long day. This was our best day we agreed and if you visit Barbados I would highly recommend getting a car and exploring the island. The roads weren’t too busy once you were away from the highway and the east coast of the island is fantastic.

Our final trip was to go on a catamaran out from Bridgetown. The boat took us out to a couple of swimming locations where you swim over reefs with tropical fish. They provided us with life jackets but I would disregard their promises that you don’t need to be a reasonable swimmer to do the swims. You do need to be able to swim to swim across reefs with fairly strong currents and then be able to get back to your boat when there are a few similar looking boats around. That apart they looked after us well and fed us and gave us plenty to drink and generally it was a good day. We had timed it quite tightly and then it was a rush back to the hotel and into a taxi for our flight. The lady taxi driver told us about the economics that tourism had played in her life and how working in the tourist trade had made her life a lot better than it had been.

I would be happy to go back to Barbados – the island had a nice feel to it and we had a good time there, just that really long flight to get through.

Image (cc) Abeeer, Flickr

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