Rest and Rum in Barbados

Barbados hides her beauty well.  Or at least from the sailor.  Yes, the sea is turquoise blue and the beach sand soft and almost coral pink but there is only one bay in which you can anchor which is a bit rolly and surrounded by huge hotels and very loud bars – not quite the Caribbean desert island the kids had pictured coming across the Atlantic.  It is also a coral island so after all the dramatic volcanic islands of the last few months it felt flat and rather dull.  However we stayed in Barbados for almost two weeks and I am so glad we did.  We fell rather slowly for this enigmatic island.

We arrived just in time for Christmas and the Barbadians sure know how to do Christmas! There was no sign of Christmas in the Cape Verdes and now it was a full on assault – shopping malls bulging gifts, bars spewing endless reggae carols, Christmas trees representing all different nations in every square and more than a few rather dubious swimsuit/Santa hat combos!!

Barbados was also full of boats that had just crossed the Atlantic and therefore full of sailors celebrating their crossings with rum punches in beach bars.  It was festive, fun and full of kids – so we were happy!  The Atlantic crossing left us all exhausted, the kids craving land and me for the first time ever totally without a voice!  It was wonderful to spend time with friends and relax on the beach but we also had Christmas shopping to do and boat jobs to finish so it was good to be in the busy bustling capital of Bridgetown.

The crossing left me with a rather huge birds nest at the back of my neck – Patrick gave up trying to comb it out and offered up scissors so after scouring Bridgetown for a salon that didn’t specialise in weaves, I got brave and got it chopped off.  I loved the whole experience, got a fab haircut, witnessed some amazing straightening and braiding techniques and even picked up some local gossip!

A definite highlight was our wonderful international Christmas ‘potluck’ on the beach – everyone bought a dish to share and the kids spent the whole day in the sea.  Sailors from the UK, America, Denmark, Norway, Germany and Switzerland enjoyed a special day together in the sun.

We also went to the boxing day horse races – a long tradition for the Moreton family.  Patrick and I actually first met at the Wincanton boxing day horse races in Somerset fifteen years ago so it was fabulous to continue the tradition and share the fun with friends in Barbados.

Barbados is expensive and contradictory: an island of extremes – the world’s most extravagant luxury hotels line one side of the road, while directly opposite the locals live a modest life in very basic tiny shacks.  We witnessed this striking contrast as we took our lives in our hands and sped round the island on a couple of wild and loud local buses to go sightseeing.  By visiting other parts of the island, we unwrapped her true beauty especially the wild dramatic east coast.  The beaches are stunning, the sea clear blue and the bays full of turtles – on second thought maybe Barbados isn’t hiding anything!

Top tips:

  • boats can anchor in Carlisle Bay and go to customs by dinghy – no need to go into the deep water harbour by boat
  • visiting yachts can get a weeks temporary membership of the Barbados yacht club – great beach setting with good wi-fi, free hot showers and good bar
  • take a local bus trip to visit stunning windswept Bathsheba on the East Coast
  • Barbados museum is a fun rainy day activity
  • a day at the horse races drinking beer and eating fried chicken is highly recommended


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