A former teacher and charity worker from the North East of England, I love people and places and like to try out new experiences wherever possible. Capturing that 'perfect pic' is all part of the pleasure. Access issues are a particular interest.
Published February 20th 2014
Barbados - Past, Present and Future
Things to See Around Bridgetown, Barbados
I'm one of those people who likes to 'see the place' wherever I go, even if it's a paradise island like Barbados I want to do more than just flop onto a sun lounger for a week or two.
I love natural surroundings and I like to know what makes people tick, so understanding something about a people's history or religion, architecture, language, food or local traditions is my idea of a great holiday. I soak it up like a sponge and become a wide eyed child again, so it's hardly surprising that I like to try out different ways of exploring a place.
The Two of us out for a walk along the South Coast Boardwalk
In my case, this usually means using the local transport as I can no longer drive due to my visual impairment and my husband has never driven. But we don't let that stop us, be it excursions, local buses, taxis, trains, ferries, horse-drawn carriages, or Shanks' Pony – in other words a good old fashioned walk.
We were in Barbados to celebrate our 30th Wedding Anniversary a few years ago so we made good use of the onsite travel desk at our hotel, the Coconut Court, to find out what there was to see and get our bearings on this tropical island in the Caribbean.
Place names such as Hastings, Worthing and Dover Beach are a testament to the early English settlements there and visiting some of the historic places on the island is like stepping back in time, into English country villages, with districts being divided into parishes such as St. John's, St. Michael's and so on. You may be on a beach holiday but the rich history of the island is well worth a look.
Hastings Historic Garrison area
Early colonial dwellings form part of the history of Barbados. As we were staying in the Hastings area, we soon discovered the Garrison there. It once housed troops and their families. It also had a prison - you can look inside the cells but some of them have been creatively converted into public loos.
The area was also familiar to a visitor who later became famous as the first President of the United States of America.
Clock Tower at Hastings Barbados
Garrison at Hastings
The plantation house at Hastings once hosted the future president more than two decades before the American Wars of Independence. In 1751 two Virginian plantation owners, George and Lawrence Washington rented a house on Barbados leaving colonial America and their families behind while George travelled to the tropics with his half-brother Lawrence, who was suffering from tuberculosis; even then it was known that a warm climate could help the condition and the pair came to stay on the island for about two months.
George, however, contracted smallpox while on the island but miraculously, recovered and it was this immunity from the disease that helped him gain victory in his future battles against the British.
A visit to the George Washington House, now under the stewardship of the Barbados National Trust and a UNESCO World Heritage Site is a 'must see' for anyone interested in the early colonial history of the island. (local charges apply)
The plantation house has been visited by President and Mrs Clinton in recent times and stands near the old clock tower at Hastings Historic Garrison near the racecourse.
Grandstand View at Barbados Racecourse
The present day racecourse area is thought to have been in use since around 1650, when British cavalry officers raced their horses for fun during their leisure time.
Hastings is just about ten minutes drive from the capital Bridgetown and has many historical buildings and government departments there, the Barbados Museum tells a fascinating story of the island's history, including one about a devastating hurricane in the 18th century which virtually wiped out the garrison that housed soldiers and their wives.
Located within the same grounds as the museum is a tropical gardens packed with indigenous plant-life. Well worth a visit.
Beside the Memorial Arch in Bridgetown
Our next venture was into Bridgetown itself. Situated at the end of Carlisle Bay, Bridgetown is a colourful and vibrant Caribbean city bursting with life and confidence. At it's centre is Independence Square, St. Michael's Cathedral and colourful shopping streets. The island's intrinsic ties with the United Kingdom are visible in its Commonwealth War Memorials and of course its love of cricket. If ever you wanted to judge the pulse of a nation, it's all there in Bridgetown.
Barbados gained its Independence in 1966 as Britain was relinquishing its colonial power over its old imperial territories and the Independence Arch at Bridgetown was built to celebrate the nation's 'Coming of Age' twenty-one years later.
The Kensington Oval cricket ground in the Barbadian capital is one of the hubs of West Indian cricket and I think it's a dream of my hubby Colin's to watch the 'Windies' play cricket on home turf in Bridgetown. Unfortunately, we were out of season for this event, but you never know – he might convince me yet.
The Barbadian capital lies to the west of the island and is in the Parish of St. Michael, so we took the time to visit the city's lovely old cathedral.
Bridgetown was quite easy to wander around on foot, with the beautiful bay beckoning us to spend some time there on the 'Boardwalk', which is lined with bars and cafés, where you could admire the view and watch the world go by.
Local buses on Barbados cost only 1 Barbadian Dollar ($BD - about 35p in English money). And it didn't matter whether you travelled two stops or twenty-two, it would be the same price as long as it was one journey and you stayed on the same bus. Buses are government sponsored and are yellow or blue; there are also 'happy buses' – small people carrier type vehicles with a white and red livery that announce their arrival by tooting their horns and stopping at recognised bus stops. These too, are government regulated and follow certain routes, although there doesn't seem to be any rules on how many people you can cram in there. Bridgetown bus station is the main hub for connections and, even if the cost of bus fares have gone up since we were there, it's a very effective way of getting around.