Three weeks ago, right before Hurricane Sandy tore up my New York City metropolitan region, I went on a trip to Barbados. I had won some kind of email lottery with jetBlue, and so the excursion was close to free. I spent the last weekend in October there, and while it was quickly becoming colder up north, the temperature was holding steady in Barbados at a humid 30° C (86° F). I spent a few nights at the quaint little Cleverdale Guesthouse in Worthing, Barbados. One hot Saturday morning, I took the Sam Lord’s Castle bus, which runs through Worthing on Highway 7, into the city of Bridgetown.
Bridgetown is the capital and largest city of Barbados, a tiny island country which is the easternmost in the Caribbean region which it is located in. The entire country only has a population of a quarter-million people, so Bridgetown is relatively quite large with almost 100,000 inhabitants. Located on the southwestern shore of the island, it is the center for many business sectors on the island.
Taking a bus from another part of the island, I was dropped off at the last stop, which is their central bus terminal located on the same Highway 7, at the corner of Fairchild St. The scene outside the terminal was quite animated; along its outside walls are numerous stalls where vendors sell snacks and drinks, and there is a courtyard area where many tables are set up, and locals constantly play games of cards and dice. Loud music was blaring when I arrived and when I left, and the bus terminal took on a shantytown look, with the array of little, wooden shacks and tables set up.
Leaving the terminal area, I went around a bend to the east and crossed one of the little foot bridges to the other side of the canal that runs through. On the other side, a similar scene ensued. Many locals had stalls set up and trying to sell their goods, fruit vendors were plentiful and shouting at potential clients, and loud music seemed to follow me everywhere I turned. Many souvenir stands could be seen, all selling the same cheesy trinkets for the tourists.
Turning east onto Constitution Road, I headed towards the Trafalgar Square, since renamed National Heroes Square. Nearby the square are many of Bridgetown’s popular sites, such as the Parliament building, home to one of the oldest parliaments in the Commonwealth, and the Treasury building. On nearby Wharf Road, which runs along an inlet where many fancy yachts and catamarans are docked, there is an elevated walkway that runs the span of the street to the sea, and this little walk provides many picturesque views.
When it’s time to eat, make sure you try some of the local specialties. The national dish in Barbados is flying fish served with cou-cou. The flying fish is plentiful in the area (even found on some of their coins) and is stewed in a spicy gravy or battered and fried. Cou-Cou is popular among many of the Caribbean islands; it consists primarily of cornmeal and okra. Fish, in general, is probably the main source of protein on the island. Fresh fish can be found everywhere, and many fish dishes can be found in the fast food restaurants. One common misconception that many travelers to Barbados have is when they see ‘dolphin’ on the menu; it is actually not dolphin, but dolphin fish or mahi-mahi, I was assured. Chefette is the main fast food chain in Barbados, and it serves pizza, chicken, and sandwiches; KFC is next with number of locations on the island.
Other than Parliament and National Heroes Square, there are several other notable places that should be added to any proper, well-rounded itinerary. The Barbados Museum and Historical Society is located just a bit south of the city center, back down Highway 7 off Dalkeith Rd. It is situated in the former British military prison, and is perfect for getting a overview of the history of the island from before Colonial rule. St. Mary’s Church at Literary Row and St. Michael’s Cathedral near National Heroes Sq. are two quite old and beautiful buildings, both rich in history and still active.
On the way back to my place in Worthing, on the southern shore of the island, I had to make my way again to the bus terminal, which has buses with service to most points on the island. The terminal itself is quite an experience, with gates resembling corrals positioned diagonally in front of an actual gate which must be manually opened when buses arrive to pick up passengers. The fare is $2 Barbadian Dollars, equal to $1 USD, no matter the destination (on the blue state-owned buses, at least).
The city of Bridgetown can be quite intense, though for completely different reasons than London might be intense. The weather is hot and humid usually, some streets and market areas are crowded, vendors can be pushy (though not so much compared other places), music, when played, is always loud, and there is a lot of walking involved to see the various sites within the city limits. Needless to say, I was quite pooped when my sightseeing day in Bridgetown was over, and I was happy to get back to my little, quiet beach house by the Caribbean Sea, which afforded me the respite I needed.