This March will see six of England’s first-class counties travel to Barbados for a sun-drenched pre-season tournament. In the second of a three-part series, we take a look at some of the island’s finest attractions and distractions. We’ve picked out some of the most desirable places to explore on those rest days when the Kensington Oval is closed for business. It’s not all bats and balls, you know…
Oistins fish market
Oistins is a fishing village on the south coast of the island and one of the most authentic and happening places in Barbados. Head down on a Friday night for the ‘Fish Fry’, and get caught up in the best all-night party on the island. You can pick up some fresh cooked fish and chill to the latest Bajan beats from Crop Over (think Glastonbury but Caribbean style). The food is mainly fried and grilled fish – the red snappers are recommended – but you can also get macaroni pie or chicken. Each stall sells something different, and they all use different recipes, so try to eat at a few. Make sure you pick up a flying fish burger in some jerk seasoning and a bottle of Banks, and then head towards the music or, if you think you can handle it, get involved in the dominoes. It’s played pretty enthusiastically amongst the older heads here, at least among those not dancing the night away. And if all that sounds too much like hard work, get up early and go to the fish market during the day and pick up your own fish to cook for supper.
St. Lawrence Gap
The Gap is the social hub of the island, and the place to go to see and be seen. Here you’ll find all your restaurants, bars and clubs. The hotels here back onto the beach and have their own little bars and sun loungers. You can easily spend a day at The Gap: Beach, hotel, lunch, shops, bar, restaurant, club. You tend to pay a bit more for food and drink here but in most cases it’s worth it. Pisces Fish Restaurant at the end of The Gap has spectacular views, and specialises in the best marlin fish on the whole island. The clubs mainly play calypso and reggae, but if you go to the more touristy places a nod and a wink at the DJ might get you some UK hits on, though quite why you’d go to Barbados and request Lady Gaga is anyone’s guess.
A short walk away is The Plantation Theatre which hosts Bajan Roots and Rhythms, a stage and dinner show billed as the genuine representation of West Indian culture. It’s a carnival style atmosphere suitable for everyone; the stilt dancers are worth watching out for.
Baxter’s road is a wonderfully vibrant African-esque street market in one of the lesser-known parts of Bridgetown. The locals tend to open it up after the cruise ships have gone and the shops are closed. The large iron pots are tended by large thick-armed women who can score a fish so fast it’s still flipping as it hits the pot. Scattered around are small little rum shops, and from every corner there is music bouncing out. A similar vibe to Oistins, but this is really for the locals – probably shouldn’t ask for coke in your rum here.
Barbados National Trust
Much like our own National Trust, they look after places and buildings of cultural significance and beauty.
Andromeda Botanic Gardens, the Kew garden of Barbados, was originally the weekend retreat of horticulturalist Iris Bannochie, but as her collection grew she started to open it to the public. The garden perches on a cliff over looking the east coast and has some extraordinary flowers. Bit of a trek from Bridgetown, but well worth it on the off days.
The Gun Hill station at St Georges is a throwback to colonial times and was used to communicate with other towers placed across the island, to warn of approaching ships or sugar cane fires. It most definitely offers one of the best views of Barbados. As if that wasn’t enough, at the base of the tower is a ten-foot high stone-carved lion created by Captain Henry Wilkinson in 1868. The trust also offers a selection of walking tours on a Sunday.
St. Nicholas Abbey
A quaintly beautiful old abbey built in the mid-17th century, just a few decades after the arrival of the first British settlers, and now listed by the Barbados Tourist Authority as one of the ‘seven wonders of Barbados’. An original plantation house of huge historical importance, the building is believed to be the oldest on the whole island. It gives the appearance of an old English manor house, especially with its formal garden and the cabbage palm trees surrounding the three-tiered building. These days the Abbey produces its own rum, using the old stables as a distillery, and producing the liquor to commemorate significant dates in the lifespan of the grand old building.
However, if it’s bats and balls that you are after…
The West Indies Cricket Board have announced that the Kensington Oval will be hosting the first Test of the series against Zimbabwe from March 12 – March 16. Here at AOC we can’t think of a better way to complete your tour to Barbados than with the inclusion of some Test cricket.