Fourteen years ago, my husband and I visited the island of Barbados on a cruise ship. Barbados is the farthest island of the Caribbean chain, and once we stepped off the ship, our love affair with the island started.
Being a travel consultant, I had read up on the island, and the images of “flying fish” and “green monkeys” stirred my imagination. Also the fact that there is nothing but water separating Barbados and the coast of Africa meant we were going to truly be in the West Indies, and close to the equator. That alone was enough for a sun and beach lover!
When our ship docked, we opted to take an island cruise via taxi. Four hours later, we had covered the island’s coastline from the calm waters of the west coast on the Caribbean Sea, to the raging Atlantic coast on the east, and the lively south coast. You just have to love an island that offers a completely different experience on all coasts. When the cruise ship pulled out to sea, I can remember having a longing for an island that I had only experienced for a day.
Upon returning home, we started planning a land based trip to the island. Being a beach lover, we made reservations for the next year on west coast of the island. I remembered the water being glassy calm, and longed to spend lazy days at the beach. The west coast attracts the rich and famous, and is home to fabulous homes, hotels and villas. This coastline is located on the Caribbean Sea, and the water is perfect for snorkeling and swimming. Fine dining is a fact of life, and Barbados is known for some of the best restaurants in the world.
As we started to meet other vacationers, we quickly learned that most of them had been to the island many times before. I found this unusual, since most Caribbean vacationers opt to experience new islands. What was even more surprising, many of the English and Canadian visitors spend the entire winter season on the island every year. It certainly made us “short termers” with our two week vacation.
My curiosity about these long term repeat vacations prompted me to ask why they returned year after year. Their answers centered around the friendly locals, variety of lodging that caters to long term visitors, sunny weather, great food and a standard of living that is conducive to making the island a second winter home.
After a week of being beach bums, we ventured out to the southern coast, and found the St Lawrence Gap. As we walked the mile long Gap area, I knew this would be our future spot on the island each year. The west coast is rather sedate, and spread out compared to the lively south coast. We found more than 20 restaurants, hotels, nightclubs, shopping, and a great beach all in one area. We could hardly contain ourselves til next years vacation. The love affair with Barbados was in full swing.
Thirteen years later, we are still in love. The same driver picks us up at the airport each year, and welcomes us back home. As timeshare members, we have made many friends over the years. Who would have thought that fourteen years ago we would have English, Canadian, Danish and Bajan friends that we keep in touch with throughout the year, and can’t wait to see each winter season.
As soon as winter hits here in the Midwest, I have thoughts of eating flying fish and seeing the green monkeys playing outside our balcony in the morning. Do the fish really fly? Well, they skim over the water, and they do have wings. Are the monkeys really green? Their color could best be described as a combination of green, brown and yellow.
The real reality is the sun shines brighter, the water is like a warm bath, and some of the most friendly people occupy this 160 mile paradise. I feel safe there, and unfortunately gain weight each year eating great food from one side of the island to the other. And when I get a travel request for Barbados, I can hardly contain my excitement telling a client all the inns and outs of the island.
This is a brief story about a love affair with an island, and its people. At times I feel guilty about not having the same feeling about the other islands I’ve visited in the Caribbean. After all, I am a Caribbean travel consultant, and I am not supposed to be partial to just one island. I love all of the Caribbean islands, but I’m in love with Barbados.
If your curosity is peaked after reading this article, then be advised after one visit, your future travel plans may head you back to the island with the most return visitors.