So, our lawyer tells us we have to go to Barbados to renew our US visas… and who are we to complain? It sounds so exotic… Barbados… it conjures images of white sand and coconuts. But it is in the Caribbean so we do have a flashback to the last time we were in the Caribbean, Utila off the coast of Honduras, and being bedridden (or bathroom-ridden) for days on end after an extraordinarily delicious lobster burger. Is it bad that one of my first thoughts was, ‘I hope they have nice lobster burgers in Barbados’?
Anyway, we were extremely wrong. In Barbados the seafood is fresh (and delicious), you can drink the tap water and it’s actually better to eat the fish then the lobster. This is the perfect little country to go for a visa renewal… or a holiday… or even a midlife crisis, pack your family up and move to a tiny island in the Caribbean. Trust me, it’s an easy place to fall in love with.
The Visa situation:
It was quite simple… we flew in on a Thursday. Had our visa appointment at the embassy on Friday morning (easy to get to via taxi from almost anywhere, the island really is tiny). The appointment was quick, painless and surprisingly pleasant. Then picked up our visa on Wednesday to fly out on Thursday. Really simple, although I would still recommend booking a flight 5-7 business days after your appointment… just in case.
Where we stayed:
The Beach view in Payne’s Bay was surprisingly nice. The price was reasonable. The apartment was huge. The beach was across a road but you could still see it (I would recommend requesting a room on the second floor or above), and very easily walk to it. It was literally just across a road, not having direct beach access rarely concerned me. I’d recommend getting some breakfast supplies because the breakfast they offer is pretty average (although I probably have high standards, being Australian and all). But it has a giant kitchen so you can make what you like in it. We mainly used it for heating up leftovers because the servings that the roadside fish BBQ’s serve up at mammoth sized.
What we ate:
Everything. We ate everything from a roadside BBQ tent that we found outside of a church at night (fantastic fish and macaroni pie!) to The Cliff restaurant (the best and most expensive restaurant on the Island). I recommend going to Oistins Fish Fry on Friday night, drink the rum punch, eat the prawns and dance to local reggae for as long as possible. I also recommend going to Cuz’s Fish Shack, any taxi will know it, and order a cutter with the lot. Make sure you don’t go too late. Above all else, I recommend trying the macaroni pie everywhere!
What we did:
Apart from lay on the beach, let me tell you some of the touristy things that we did. Probably the best thing we did all week was hire a car and drive around the Island. I can’t imagine seeing it any other way. It’s a great place to get lost because it’s so small you’re not going to be too lost for too long! We found a great little restaurant called the Lobster Pot in Speightstown where we stopped for a crab roll and a mimosa while watching some locals splash around in the ocean.
We then continued north and got lost around Archers Bay (we think) where we found an isolated spot on a cliff overlooking the ocean. It was just us and a skinny young bull overlooking the rough seas (the East coast of the Island is rough and not good for swimming, stick to the west coast for all your touristy stuff). But it was so beautiful. There’s something about craggy rocks and the sounds of a tormented ocean that invokes a pleasant feeling of seclusion. Something haunting and beautiful about the sound of the waves crashing and the ocean looking dangerous and tumultuous.
We then made our way around to the wildlife sanctuary and stopped to look at some monkeys with tiny babies attached to their bellies. The area around the sanctuary is a little more tropical then the rest of the island and there’s some nice little walking trails if you want to take some walking shoes with you. After that we unsuccessfully searched for an elusive abandoned distillery, had lunch at a little restaurant we found (more macaroni pie) and came back home through Bridgetown.
On another day we went to the Pelican crafts centre, bought some interesting jewellery and cigars. Then walked (big mistake in the heat) to the chocolate factory. We got there and the man working had just finished a tour and told us that we could buy chocolate or leave, we couldn’t taste the chocolate and the next tour isn’t until tomorrow… So we left. Then we went to Mt Gay, the oldest rum distillery in the world. The rum godfather of all rums. And I drank my chocolate sorrows away. The bar there is great and they’ll give you a tasting for about $10. You’re pretty tipsy when that’s done but if you aren’t tipsy enough they also have a great selection of strong rum cocktails that will get you where you want to be. There’s also a nice outdoor seating area and although we didn’t try it, the food looked good.
We did a little bit of shopping in Bridgetown. To be honest, none of it was very cheap. If you go to Swan St you’ll pick up a bargain, a coconut and see some interesting characters. We were told that you should haggle in places like that but we really couldn’t be bothered so we didn’t get much. The street was interesting though.
We asked a taxi driver, when we first arrived on the Island, ‘what is the best thing to do in Barbados’. He just said ‘just relax’. Relax, don’t stress, nothing is moving fast, just relax. I think the best advice I can give anyone going to Barbados is; eat the fish, it’s beautiful, rum punch is always stronger then you anticipate and just ‘just relax’.