It’s a challenge to find the words to explain why this tiny island, just 14 miles wide and 21 miles long, has had such an impact on the world.
Simon Cowell, Elton John, Tony Blair, Wayne Rooney and Oprah Winfrey to name just a few, have taken their hard earned cash to purchase property on the island and spend lengthy periods of time relaxing there. Cricketer Sir Garfield Sobers still lives there and the ground he walks on is worshipped by Bajans and tourists alike.
So why does the heart beat of Barbados beat so strong?
I recently spent 7 days there from a journalist’s angle and observed the following from a Music, Tourism and Culture perspective.
Music and Crop Over
Crop Over the carnival was in full swing when I arrived and I’m hooked. The music is pumping through the airport and out of the cars, and the presence of colour and festivities can’t be missed. The competitions for Soca Monarch, Party Monarch, Sweet Soca Monarch etc are greatly anticipated – and congratulations to Edwin Yearwood, Stiffy and young Aziza (the first lady to win in over 20years and the youngest too).
The Island Mas Breakfast is an event I still can’t get my mind around. I heard the word “breakfast” so expected breakfast, and breakfast I got – and more. Peter Clarke, Organiser, is the brainchild behind this event which sees local business owners, sponsors, supporters and attendees gathering between 9am and 1pm for a little music, a little breakfast and a lot of drink. The local Mount Gay Rum at 9am wasn’t happening for me, but the coconut water did together with the fine food and company. Amongst the attendees were the High Commissioner to Barbados from the UK and Terencia Coward aka TC.
I was awaiting the all important Kadooment Day when the Masquerade Bands make their way through the streets of central Barbados to Spring Garden Highway ending in an enormous party, this is the main event which has the whole island to a standstill whether in attendance, listening on radio, observing on TV or even keeping up with live streams via social media.
The One Love concert is a pinnacle point of the final Crop Over week where the day before Kadooment a catalogue of Bajan artists participate in an enormous concert with party goers in their thousands making their way to this open air event to watch Biggie Irie, HypaSounds, the nostalgic Grynner, Marvay, King Bubba, Nikita, Stiffy, Lil Rick, Peter Ram etc etc, enter the stage in quick succession to perform – and this is just the warm up.
The highlight of One Love sees the King of Trinidadian Soca, Machel Montano, hold the crowd in the palm of his hands for 95 minutes plus, as he and his dancers provide a show complete with film and graphics that needs to be experienced to be understood. This is a tight production of high standards, probably the best I saw in Barbados on this occasion.
Kadooment Day itself starts early as most carnivals do, with the Mas bands assembling as they prepare to make their way through the lined streets. The sun scorching – probably around 90degrees – but this doesn’t deter the revellers or the public who come out to watch the colour, hear the music and feel the vibes. Lewis Hamilton, a regular visitor to Barbados Crop Over, is there and has no intention of slowing down and publicly displays his enjoyment – complete with a little tipple of rum. Rihanna was touring Europe and didn’t make it this year much to the disappointment of public and media alike.
Tourism and Hotels
Barbados truly cannot be faulted for its Tourism. Number one in the Caribbean with a recent awards ceremony confirming its position by readers of the Telegraph newspaper who stabilised this fact and awarded the island 11 out of 14 Caribbean Tourism Organisation Awards.
The first half of my stay is with Elegant Hotels, at Turtle Beach, in the area of Dover. Nice rooms with a beautiful sea view, a welcome basket complete with Bajan delicacies and even a complimentary selfie stick!! The Wi-fi was OK and if I’m to be totally honest it could have been a little stronger. Generally Turtle Beach is a great destination for families with sufficient pools and activities to keep children entertained.
The second half of my visit is at Sandals – now this is a spectacular hotel. As you enter you are greeted with a different level of hospitality – and the Wi-fi is first class enabling you to connect up to 3 devices which was great for me as I had 2 phones and an iPad. An internal mobile phone gives you 24 hour access to your own personal team of Butlers, the services, food, pool and beach views are exquisite and I can only endorse this hotel to the highest standard – it surely lives up to its name. The penthouse truly gives you that “home from home” feeling, so what more could you want.
I took an Island Safari tour and ventured to places which were quite remote, observed a lot of countryside and took in views that looked as though they should have been on a post card – that beautiful. A stop at the well renowned Martin’s Bay for lunch with a drive back to base through the breezy East Coast Road. Rum is one of the island’s greatest exports so a visit to the Mount Gay Distillery was on the itinerary. A complimentary rum punch on arrival, a short guide and film detailing the origins of Mount Gay and a little sample of 4 out of the 7 types of rum available in the range – and yes the room for me was spinning!
Cricket is not just a seasonal past time in Barbados it’s as passionate a sport to the island as football is to the UK, and with Sir Garfield Sobers being one of the island’s icons he is celebrated, more so this year as he reaches the milestone 80years of age, so double celebrations for Barbados this year with the island commemorating its 50th year of Independence. A celebrity cricket match with a Gala event the following evening displays the rich culture and respect for Sir Garfield.
The Atlantis Submarine experience takes you 142 feet below sea level to observe the different world that is under the sea, and I can’t recommend enough the Island Jammin’ Catamaran Cruise which is a 6 hour journey around the island complete with music, rum punch on tap, lunch and stop offs to swim in the beautiful clear blue waters and you may even bump into a turtle!
I suppose I am a little biased when it comes to this island as I spent many a school holiday there and have visited quite a few times, but one thing I can’t over exaggerate is the weather, there for all to experience. 33degrees some days and when combined with golden sands and the warm clear sea it’s hard to criticise this little piece of paradise.