Barbados is generally a laid back easy groove type of place, that, as you may soon realise, you will get there – when you get there. Of course, there are spots of activity and Bridgetown is one such place, with some bits also being child friendly for those travelling as a family. From the extreme to the placid is available in this little city even if you do not go beyond the urban and suburb areas.
1. Jet Blading
This provides the adrenaline rush and thrill for when you want to increase the heart rate for just a bit. It’s usually done in open water under the watchful eyes of an expert and certified coaches and this is especially reassuring for those who are non-swimmers. Place the Hydro flight jetpack on your back, and give it a start and Gosh!!! You are propelled into the air. This immediately evokes exhilaration which you cannot comprehend until you try it. As that happens you are now flying high over the surface of the water, via jet propulsion. It is best to start gently first and, as you go, then increase the propulsion which also gives you more height above the water. You can even do a little rivalry with your partner, just ask owner Devon or his assistant to guide you.
2. Agapey Chocolate
A little chocolate every so often makes things just a bit better. Just a few people know about the cocoa beans in this region and that these produce some of the best chocolate in the world. Furthermore, when you visit Agapey, the guys make you feel like family, I guess because they are actually known in the community, and they easily let you watch the manufacturing process as well as to sit down to enjoy the chocolate in your own bubble. Agape still uses the traditional method of making chocolate – and maybe that’s why we keep going back for more.
3. The Pink Star
This spot is one of the places where you still have a little bit of fusion of country with city style. Once you bypass the food bar at the front of the establishment, you can ease into the lounge-type area where you can actually enjoy the ambience. Be minded that the seating is not high-end, nor is it a 3-Star spot, however, the characteristic of engaging the ordinary persons who are happy to be somewhere is priceless.
Many stories come out, and you can learn from historic events to current affairs, and by the time you leave everyone is calling each other on a first-name basis. Oh! And you can have a liver cutter (stewed liver done in a heavy gravy) sandwich. No one else in Barbados does this type of sandwich, by the way. You can always pop into Pink Star right after leaving next door by Gloria’s, on the main of Baxter’s Road, after enjoying a little party.
4. Pelican Village
Many times, people bypass this village type area, because of its touristy look, and rightfully so. However – if you are in the right company then they will know that there are at least two or three of the many units there, that you must visit and even garner some cultural awareness. You see, this place is composed of several small business persons, entrepreneurs and creatives who bring their own uniqueness to the village.
– An authentic Cigar Shop, where they show you how to roll a Cigar
– The Pottery Shop – Why not create your own mug or jug?
There is also fine arts painting, clothing, mahogany and even the shop that has Steel Pan making, tuning and a little practising as well. The artisans also coach you and show you how to make your own craft. With the right company, you can get caught up and lose track of time.
5. Frank Collymore Hall
In the centre of all the hustle and bustle of Bridgetown, you can bet that there is some kind of show or event going on. If you are in Bridgetown during the day then the Lunchtime concerts (usually free) and featuring some of the best local talents around. Ever so often you may have a visiting performer, but the hall works on fostering the community’s creative involvement. These lunchtime concerts are always in high demand, and a good way to ease some of the jostlings around the place. Sometimes if not a concert, then you have a play or theatrical production. There is also during the evening more formal productions of all types, but again you must get there early.
6. Queen’s Park
This is one of the more prominent green spaces in Bridgetown. Depending on the day and time that you traverse here, there are several forms of activity which can happen, and sometimes simultaneously. On one side you can engage the fellows in a cricket game on the playing field, either as a spectator or in the clubhouse. Meanwhile, on the other side, you can visit the Bandstand – Gazebo space, and watch young creatives either work on their choreography, or theatrical lines.
All the while, there is still an Art Gallery that you can peruse downstairs the main building. If you stay long enough, not having to pop into another event, then you can actually participate in a Tai Chi routine. When you continue your journey through Queen’s Park, you may be fortunate to have a nearby Steelpan Orchestra from the Harrison College, playing their music. Of course, those who have children can feel at ease, as the expansive nature of the park allows them their freedom or, for a more controlled environment they have access to the playpark as well.
7. Carlisle Bay
Even though you are in Bridgetown, just be sure to always take along your swim trunks. Being surrounded by water lends to a quick dip for a sea-bath and Bridgetown is no exception. However, the must-visit place is just on the edge called Carlisle Bay. Just opposite the Prime Minister’s Office, it is one of the places where you can then challenge some of the guys (informal sports groups) in beach volleyball as well, or simply head into the water to snorkel or even do a little reef fishing. This area as well is known to have an abundance of turtles, as it is one of the few nesting spots. If you want to, you can hop onto a Jet-ski as well and go for a few minutes on the water, while if you have children then can remain onshore, as one of the Bajans would keep an eye on them for you.
8. Cheapside Market
If ever there is the need to feel the authenticity of Barbados without feeling pretentious, this market would bring that to you. Located on the western side of the City, this market is easily identifiable since the vendors line the streets sometimes on both sides, and this is all prior to you even being able to enter the market. Of course the typical fresh fruit and vegetables, but along here you will be sure to bounce into a Rastaman making a pair of leather shoes from cow’s leather, or even “Granny” showing you the best way to mix the herbs and spices for your meats. There is even a little mauby drink, or if that’s too bitter then stick to the coconut water or fresh-made fruit or sugar cane juice.
Yes, there is the usual coconut vendor but if you listen closely you will also hear a mix of accents of persons who come from other islands such as St. Lucia or Dominica and even as far as Guyana. It is here that you then experience a true form of Caribbean community, you may even see how the jerk seasoning or bajan pepper sauce is done.
9. Religious Places
The island is still highly religious in its sway, and for example, on many Sundays very few places are actually open for business. Whatever denomination or religion you can consider, it may be found and easily so in the city. Of course, each one has an intrinsic historic story as well as their modern lines. The more traditional ones will likely be open that you can visit daily and you may even get a bit of tour.
Those that are usually front of mind include:
– The St. Michael Cathedral
– The James Street Methodist Church
– St. Mary’s Church
– St. Patrick’s Roman Catholic
– Salvation Army
– The Nidhe Israel Synagogue
– New Testament Church, just to name a few…
10. The Historic Garrison
Ideally, this tour explores a bit of the strong link between Britain and Barbados. It is here you may witness the changing of the guard in true British-influenced style, yet while being able to take the historic route via the underground tunnels. The national armouries and military museum is also part of this experience and is sure to get a sip of the rum punch in the officer’s mess. On-site there are some canons but two of them are the only ones in the world which bear Oliver Cromwell’s coat of arms.
You may be in time for some horse racing, as the racing track is juxtaposed to the once-secret tunnels. In between races, a quick nip across the field leads to the time capsule, and what is now the largest flag on the island.
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Ryan is a born and bred bajan musician, composer and arranger, who also owns several lifestyle blogs.