Beach, Banks and Barbados

So, continuing with the theme of living my life through the eyes of the world, I took a few days to visit the beautiful island of Barbados.  Other than the fact that my uncle and Rihanna are from Barbados, and the fact that there are beaches and sun, I really did not know too much about the island.  However, I was prepared to enjoy the short stay and absorb as much of the culture as I possibly could before I left.  What I experienced exceeded any expectations that I may have had prior to arrival.

Although I typically travel solo on my adventures, I actually went on the trip with a former colleague who does not travel as much.  As such, I had to adjust the way that I normally travel to ensure that she felt as comfortable as possible during our stay.  Therefore, the late night walks up the street in a foreign country were definitely off-limits.  The first choice of accommodations we had was suitable for me; however, due to the advertising, we didn’t select that particular location because my friend thought it may have been a scam due to the fact that we could not find contact information for the advertiser listed online.  Therefore, I enlisted the assistance of a friend for suggestions on places to stay.  We  stayed in a self-serving apartment in the Hastings area.  Let’s just say this- even though the place was not a four star resort, it was in a nice area and centrally located.  The good part is that we were only in the apartment long enough to catch a few winks of sleep, shower, and put our belongings up before hitting the road.

On the first day of the trip, we arrived mid afternoon, so we decided to hit a local restaurant to check out the eats.  One thing that we realized early is that the fish is VERY fresh and, unlike american cuisine, you will find that most dishes are grilled, steamed or baked.  The gentleman in the restaurant where we dined was very gracious and allowed us to sample whatever our hearts desired, prior to ordering.  I settled on grilled Mahi Mahi, with yellow rice and plantains.  There was so much food provided that I was able to enjoy three servings from that one order.  We ate our meals, enjoyed the evening breeze and journeyed back to the apartment for a girls chat before settling in for the evening.

On the second day, we awoke relatively early, but spent about two hours chatting before deciding what to do for the day.  After grabbing a quick bite to eat, showering and changing clothing, we headed out to the bus stop for Bridgetown.  One thing was evident, most of the “buses” are actually taxis, although they do have buses like you will find in a major city in the states.  However, one thing that is consistent is the fare- $1US or $2BDS per ride no matter where you go.  On this day, we took our little dollars and caught the bus into town- to Bridgetown.  The ride took approximately 20 minutes to reach our destination.  Once there, we visited the local duty free shops, took in the sites and had lunch at a local pub where we chatted for three hours.  Since it was getting late, we decided to return back to apartment.  But, rather than stay in for the evening, we put our purchases up and took the bus to experience Oistins on a Friday evening.  All I can say is that this is definitely a must do.  I didn’t order a meal because I ate my leftovers from the day before prior to heading to Oistins; however, I did sample my friend’s grilled marlin which was so flavorful and totally awesome.  We walked around and visited some of the local vendors, watched a display of the costumes for Cropover (bajan carnival in August), and enjoyed the music and atmosphere prior to heading back to the apartment.

The next day, we actually went back to Bridgetown for more sightseeing, shopping and eating.  During our visit into town, we chatted with the locals, obtained information on places to stay during our next visit (oh yes, there will be another visit next year). We snapped several photos, visited the duty free shops once more and had lunch at another local restaurant.  I decided to try one the national dishes (cou cou) which is steamed okra and corn meal mixed together into a ball.  Now I love okra, but I didn’t quite feel this dish.  We enjoyed our time sitting out in the sun, taking in the scenery and just relaxing.  We headed back to the apartment around 8p.m. and were just about to settle in for the night when the craving struck me– I had to have some grilled marlin.  So, I decided to go to Oistins because I knew I could get a really good meal there.  Not only did I get my grilled marlin (delish), but I also hung out for a little while to watch karaoke which was hilarious before heading back.

Bright and early on Sunday morning, we arose to journey to Farley Hill nation park to attend a gospel concert.  We purchased VIP tickets which afforded us reserved seating, food and beverages as well as lots of goodies.  All I will say is that the experience was PHENOMENAL.  Imagine tens of thousands of people singing and dancing and praising the Lord for hours on end.  Although Tye Tribbett was the headline, Jesus was the superstar and the concert was the icing on the cake of what was a great trip.

Although I have not visited all of the islands in the caribbean yet, Barbados has unseated Trinidad as my second favorite country in the islands.  It gave JA a run for the money, but of course JA cannot be unseated because that is mi heart, mi yard.  However, I definitely look back to more trips back to this nice little island for more great vibes.



To All-Inclusive or Not to All-Inclusive

As you know by now, I consider the world my playground and love to play in all of the lovely destinations.  Since I have completed the first item of my bucket list (to visit all of the states in the US), my attention now focuses on visiting all of the countries of the caribbean.  Unfortunately, since the countries are not located within close proximity each other, I have to plan my travel more strategically to stretch my dollars further.  My goal is to complete this adventure within five years.  Pretty challenging feat considering that I have 28 more countries to visit.

Aside from the expense of actually traveling to the various destinations, I have to factor in the cost of accommodations and food.  In the past, the best way to save on these expenses has been to stay at an all-inclusive.  All-inclusives allow me to save money by having unlimited access to food and beverages, including adult beverages.  As such, I do not have to worry about finding a local restaurant or other eating establishment, carrying the appropriate amount of cash, or converting currency to pay for my meals.  Additionally, I do not have to worry about finding a microwave or refrigerator to store my food in the event that I do not eat everything.  With all-inclusives I can eat as much or as little as I want, exactly when I want.  Therefore, if I want to have a rum and coke with french fries or pizza at 2a.m., I just get up and go to the poolside grill or the main dining hall.  Because of the convenience, all-inclusives are the first choice for lodging in the caribbean, most of the team.

However, there have been times when I’ve visited an island and have NOT stayed at an all-inclusive.  Why?  Well, there are many reasons.  The primary one centers around my diet.  I am a VERY picky individual and need many, many, many options for the duration of my trip.  If an all-inclusive only has two dining options or the dining options close early, it is highly unlikely that I am going to select that option.  Moreover, there are some island destinations that have hundreds of restaurants that provide very healthy, reasonably priced meals within a few feet of a resort.  As such, it is typically in my best interest not to stay at an all-inclusive or pay the supplement for an al-inclusive package which typically includes three meals and some beverages.  Additionally, there are some islands which do not necessarily have offer all-inclusives, or they have pseudo all-inclusives.  The last reason why I have not stayed at an all-inclusive is because some locations do not include the activities of an all-inclusive such as non-motorized water sports, personal training sessions, tennis lessons, or dance lessons.  Therefore, it is more cost-effective to find an accommodation that has a refrigerator and microwave where I can store some food and beverages.  Often, to limit my out-of-pocket expenses, I will bring some canned soup, crackers, oatmeal and healthy snacks (no fruit) with me to make sure that I at least have something that I actually want to eat during my stay.

The bottom line is that one must make the decision that best suits them with respect to staying or not staying at an all-inclusive.  My decisions are based not only on cost, but on whether or not I think I am getting the best bang for my buck.  Am I truly getting the all-inclusive experience?  That is the question on which the final decision is made.