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We visited Barbados one time and quite frankly we were disappointed. The island is quite beautiful and its one of the most heavily inhabited in the Caribbean. However the locals--known as Bajans (bay-jins)--seemed to express the following attitude everywhere we went: Just leave your money and go back home.” Maybe if we returned we’d find that we just had a bad experience the first time but from that one experience, we probably won't return.
Cindy and the kids went horse riding on the island. A couple owned the ranch and the husband took folks out on horse rides. He was a Bajan. His wife was European. After completing the ride Cindy got to talking with the woman and the woman asked how Cindy found the Bajan people. Cindy remarked that many of them didn't seem very friendly. The woman then remarked: "You've met the true Bajan people. Some of them aren't that friendly."
I like to try local dishes whenever possible and one morning at breakfast at a place called Pebbles right next to our hotel the menu listed some interesting local dishes on the menu including Johnny cakes and breakfast fish items. I ordered a fish item and the downright rude waitress said in a stern toe of voice: "We don't have dat." I said: "How about the Johnny cakes." Again: "We don't have dat." I sternly fired back: "What DO you have?" She said eggs and bacon. I said fine, bring me that.
Our lodging came at the Grand Barbados Beach Resort and while it wasn't the newest establishment on the island it was very nice. Snorkeling right off the beach wasn't fabulous but the resort has a pier jutting out into the Caribbean and watching the action under water on the pilings was great. The best varieties of "blennies" I've ever seen including the "splendid blenny" and "sail fin blenny." Fun stuff if you like to watch the fishies! These guys appear to "walk" on the pilings using their front fins more or less as feet.
Beaches are nice on Barbados and the restaurants serve up top notch food. While there are no casinos some hotels do have a few rows of slot machines if youre into that sort of thing.
We had an interesting experience at a small bank of slots in the bar area of the nearby Hilton Hotel. The kids were just little shavers back then and we all were playing the slots. I was at the first machine to the left, Christie was two machines to my right and Rob was at the last machine to my right maybe eight machines away. All of a sudden I hear his machine starting to pay off in a big way. I yelled: "Hey Rob, what did you hit?" He responded that he wasn't sure. The Barbados quarters kept flying out of the machine like crazy. By now a small crowd of people had gathered behind Rob to see what he had hit on the machine. I made my way down to look, too. There was nothing obvious on the machine. It looked like he had hit nothing. A little gray headed man lined up behind me and said in a loud voice: "There's nothing on that machine. He didn't hit anything. The machine's broken or something." But then just as quickly as he said that he changed his story instead saying: "Oh, now I see what happened. He hit a big jackpot but didn't notice. He was playing so fast that he had already pulled the handle again before the jackpot started pouring out." By now the kids had their pockets full of Barbados quarters and they were using their tee shirts folded into pockets to grab the cascading cash. Then, and this is funny, the gray haired man called me aside and gave me the following advice: "Mister, I was watching the whole time. You're son didn't hit anything. The machine messed up. I changed my tune after thinking about what a rip-off these machines are. I've been coming down here for years and it's about time somebody took some money from these machines. Take the cash, buy everybody in the bar a drink, take your money and don't come back. I'm a federal judge from Miami and I know what I'm talking about." So that's exactly what we did. As we left the hotel I glanced over at the lucky slot machine and the hotel had already placed a sign on that said: "Tilt - Out of Order." Once back at the hotel we threw all the quarters on the bed and started counting. It came to about $265 U.S. Not bad! I'm still not exactly sure whether Rob did or didn't really hit a jackpot. That's why we kept the cash. If I had serious doubts, I would have turned the money into the hotel. Really! The reason I question the "judge" a bit is that when I looked over just as the coins started spewing out, the "judge" was not there. Period. So I'm really not sure what he did or did not see.
The cuisine of Barbados is mildly interesting. One local specialty is Barbados flying fish. These are fish that have fins that resemble wings and actually get going so fast that they dart out of the water and fly for short distances. You can even pick up some flying fish filets "to go" at the airport when you leave.
Our favorite restaurant on the island was Brown Sugar. A good selection of fresh seafood in a casual but elegant Caribbean setting. Click here to check out the place and read some reviews.
As for seeing the island I'd suggest that you do what we did. Hire yourself a friendly cab driver and you can see most of it in a couple of hours. The downtown area of Bridgetown is a thriving little city.
Sometimes theres a bit of a haze hanging over Barbados and guess where it comes from? The African Sahara! Absolutely true! The prevailing air currents blow it all away across the ocean!
I wish I had better things to say about Barbados. I remember in our younger days when we hardly had enough money for a White Castle dinner we always dreamed of going to the real Caribbean--Barbados. It was disappointing. But if youre considering a trip there talk to a travel agent or better yet, try to find someone who has been there recently. Maybe youll get an entirely different picture. But on Bobs travel page, unlike in some of the travel guide books, I tell it exactly like it is...or was...in my own personal experience! Barbados gets a thumbs down!
Currency is the Barbados Dollar. Driving is on the left.
IMPORTANT: All Americans visiting Barbados now need a valid passport.
Dear Bob & Cindy:
Sorry to read of your bad first (and apparently lasting) impression of Barbados. No doubt you will find this sort of attitude in many countries where there is a high density of tourist traffic. Fortunately most Barbadians (Bajans) do not reflect this attitude. We are proud of our history and the development of our society. Indeed much has happened to improve the country over the past 10 years and it is noted for its leading position in the quality of life index for developing countries.
Just a few short weeks ago I hosted a group of visitors from the US and the UK who were interested in the history of Barbados. There was no charge, I prepared and served refreshments, gave a short dissertation on the history of my home (built in 1760) and a great time was had by all. My reward was meeting interesting people from different parts of the world and sharing ideas and stories with them. I think you will find this the more usual Barbadian response.
Try us again.
Phillip C. Goddard