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Sunday 27 October 2019

The Caribbean and Beyond - Winter Sun and Broken Toes



Dear Readers,


I don’t know about you, but I think it’s time for a bit of luxury.  A total and utter change.  The weather is getting colder, and although people put cute posts on Facebook with autumn leaves, cashmere socks and cosy fires, fireworks and walks in the woods, the reality, I am afraid, dear Readers, is a tad different to that…Unless you live in sunny climes, it rains, and rains, and rains…So we need something to take our minds off the rain and the dark evenings (yes, the clocks went back today which makes it all the more depressing) and to transport us to a different world of sunshine and jet skis (more on those, later…not quite the missing bikini top incident – see previous Blog post – but equally as hilarious).


As the Winter draws in, we’re going to cheer ourselves up with Winter sun ideas for budgets big and small.  Today we’re looking at those with deep pockets and where better to start than Barbados.

Image result for barbados map


Tourism to Barbados is not new, in fact, would you believe that since the late 17th century when Lawrence Washington visited Barbados under his physician’s recommendation of the warmer climes, Barbados began as a destination for the upper echelons of European society.  It was really a thing then to visit warmer climes to ease various ailments as of course, medicine then is not what it is now.  Barbados was seen as the very tonic, and its warmer temperatures mixed with the cleansing sea air were perfect.  Interestingly, over 100 years later, the travel writer, Sir Robert Schomburgk wrote expensively about the potentially positive impact of Barbados’ climate upon patients’ health, noting that there were none of the common diseases of the time such as Tuberculosis found amongst the indigenous populace.  Indeed, in the late 19th century, Rev J H Sutton Moxley, Chaplin of the Military Forces in Barbados, wrote a book “An Account of a West Indian Sanatorium and a Guide to Barbados” where he suggested its function as a health resort.

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Bathsheba was one of the first places to become established as an excellent place for bathing and “bathing houses” were built.  This grew along the South and West coast of the island.  Hotels were built (the Atlantis being one of the first) and a railway was used (later collapsed due to overuse!) to ferry guests to such places as Bathsheba and interestingly enough, The Crane which is magnificent today.  However at the time, Moxley describes it to us as 6 or so furnished sea-houses along a cliff which “are generally tenanted, at least in the warm season, by planters, who bring their families to spend a month or so, in the fresh sea breeze.”


By the early 1900s the locals realised how important tourism was and what potential it had to the economy.  As hotels grew in St Lawence, St Joseph and The Crane in St Philip, with its beneficial sea air, tourism could do nothing but grow.  Today, Barbados welcomes over 1 million visitors and tourism generates over 50% of the country’s foreign exchange.


Less about that, I hear you cry, dear Readers, we want to hear about the crystal clear waters, the sand fine and white and the beautiful places to stay.  One thing I would say, is if you are going to do Barbados, do it properly.  Why not?!  So let’s start with the weather.  When is the best time to go to Barbados?  Well, it’s Winter sun, so an excellent time to go to get rid of those January blues is, well, January.  The season starts from about November until about April.  This is the dry season, with the average temperature around 30 degrees. 


Next, we need to talk about the flight.  Whilst economy is fine going to Mallorca, the flight to Barbados is somewhat longer (about 9 hours)…so why not do it in style?  I am not saying we’re all millionaires, and can afford to go first class, but I have to say, from personal experience, that premium economy is an excellent option.  But beware, these seats go very quickly, so you have to get in quick once you’ve decided on your dates.  To give you an idea, flying Virgin Atlantic from Manchester for a week at the end of January 2020 premium is £2,727.88 currently although there are very few seats left.  Or, you could pay three times that and go first class…or you could get really, really lucky like you Hapless Blogger did on one occasion and get upgraded to first class…Honestly, readers, my heart was in my mouth:  having boarded the plane as premium economy passengers, which was very nice, sat down and given a glass of fizzy wine, admiring the size of the seats and the leg-room, the host came up to us and asked us if we could come with him…”Why are we being thrown off?” I wondered…Was I drunk?  No…not yet.  Was I carrying drugs? (as an interlude, why am I always worried about this at the airport?  Does anyone else get the same, weird, irrational fear?  I don’t take drugs or come anywhere near them, but for some reason at an airport I am always paranoid that some random drugs have found their way into my hand luggage…or maybe it’s just me…)  Still no.  Where were we going?  Having gone upstairs to premium we were now going downstairs again!  Oh no!  They took my glass of fizzy wine from me….Oh nooooooooooo!  And replaced it with a posher glass of real Champagne…weird…oh no I am not being thrown off, I am heading for first class! 

Image result for virgin atlantic first class


Having all your birthdays and Christmases come at once is an odd feeling.  You keep thinking they have you mistaken for someone else.  But here I was.  Little old me.  In first class.  Banging!  For those of you who have experienced first class, fair play to you.  For the rest of us, it’s an unusual experience.  Not, what one might call, cosy…I suppose it depends how much you like your companion and if indeed you have one.  Rather than sitting next to one another, you each have a separate little pod, all facing inwards so you don’t have to look at anyone else.  You’re kind of self-sufficient in your own little pod, which, at the call of a hostess, turns into a bed or a silver service dining experience.  Unlike the plebs down in economy or premium, you are given a menu and are not tied to meal times, and can, indeed order your meals whenever you so wish.  Unfortunately enough for them, the Champagne was unlimited…When in Rome and all that…It was truly amazing to be able to lie down and be tucked in on a flight I have to say.  Having looked up how much it would cost, however, I think I’ll stick to premium…


Another thing with first is that you get to disembark before everyone else and go through a special passport control with no queues.  Once landed, I noticed that many of the first class passengers were filtered off a different way following signs for Sandy Lane.  Now, clearly if you are going to stay at Sandy Lane, you only travel first class such that they have a designated area for you.  So let’s have a look, dear Readers, at the Sandy Lane Hotel (I told you we had deep pockets!).

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You will find Sandy Lane in St James, a short drive away from Grantley Adams airport.  It opened its doors in 1961 and now bills itself as one of the most prestigious hotels in the world, expectations would be high.  It has 3 golf courses, offering some of the best facilities in the world.  It also has a huge spa and is, undoubtedly, gorgeous (www.sandylane.com) although having asked a few people who have stayed there, it isn’t perhaps as relaxed as the next place we’re about to go to, but it is a legendary place to stay.  Do you really want to know how much it’s going to cost to stay there?  Well, ok, just because you asked…to match our flights we looked at earlier, if we wanted to stay in a deluxe sea view room it is upwards of £2,179 a night…

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Or, if you didn’t fancy all the pomp and circumstance I can whole-heartedly recommend just the other side of Holetown, so no distance away, the Colony Club (www.eleganthotels.com) which is literally, dear Readers, heaven.  An old colonial building, it has retained the style and essence of those days reflected in the potted history we had at the beginning.  You are welcomed with the famous rum punch, and greeted as they take your bags to your room.  As far as rooms are concerned, you want to go for a beach view room on the ground floor.  That way you are right next to the beach with a large patio which is so lovely to sit on at night, listening to the waves right next to you.  It’s just basically relaxed luxury.  If you didn’t want to move from the resort for the whole time you’re there, it doesn’t matter.  It’s so homely and chilled, you bed in right away, even if the first few mornings you get up at the crack of dawn due to the time difference, you’ll soon relax.  In fact, you’re kind of expected to, as breakfast is 7am-9am so no late sleepers here.  In all fairness, you do not want to miss out on a Colony Club breakfast.  A big fan of hotel breakfasts, Jolly Hockey Sticks (my mother, for those who haven’t read previous Blog posts) and I judge a place very much on its breakfasts (breakfasts of note are the Atlantic hotel, Newquay, the Hotel Hanneshoff, Austria and the Deganwy Quay hotel, Wales) but none of them come anywhere near the Colony Club.  I think it’s partly thanks to its American influence and I really noticed that in Barbados, that despite it being a British colony from 1627 until 1961 when internal autonomy was granted and then in 1966 when it became fully independent, and it still is very British, it has that American level of hospitality.  No Basil Fawltys here!  Also, I suppose, because a large number of its tourists are American.  For them, they go there for Winter sun like we would go to the Canaries.

Image result for colony club beach barbados


Sorry, back to the breakfast:  anything you can imagine, eggs anyway you want, pancakes cooked fresh, meats, cheeses, smoked salmon, literally anything you can think of. All served with a smile.  It goes without saying that of course, you are right on the beach.  It is the beach of dreams.  If you did want to get off your sun loungers, there are plenty of things to do:  you can go for a potter down the coast, walking past the other resorts right on the beach and end up at a little bar where Rhianna drinks (pop star from Barbados for those over a certain age).  Do be careful on the rocks, though, dear Readers.  Your Hopeless Blogger somehow managed to break her toe…and there’s not much you can do with a broken toe, but it does rather hamper you progress.  It was probably weak from the incident on the moped in the Cook Islands…again, a previous Blog post…Or you can potter (or hobble) down the lane next to the resort (next door is the most beautiful house honestly it is beyond your wildest dreams and I suppose they must be used to nosey holiday-makers by now but oh boy what a place…I think it’s owned by the owner of JCB…) and out onto the main road, minding out for the crazy Bajan mini-buses, into Holetown.  Holetown is lovely.  A mix of traditional Bajan and shops for the tourists (Louis Vuitton, anyone?). 

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Or, if you’re feeling energetic, and this is dangerous when it comes to your Hapless Blogger, you can partake in the local water sports.  They offer kayaking, catamaraning and being pulled along on a doughnut free…or, if you’re feeling brave, have a go at jet-skiing.  Now, what’s the phrase?  I know, “pride comes before a fall”.  Being a bit of a petrol-head, your Hapless Blogger may or may not have owned a jet-ski in a previous life (long story) and feeling extremely smug with herself, decided to pretend to her companions that she had never ridden one.  Always one to be racing the boys, on she got, and much to their surprise, did a 360 in front of them and shot off…It wasn’t the actual jet-ski ride which was the problem, dear Readers, and as you can imagine, much showing off was done, it was the aftermath.  I couldn’t move.  I must have pulled every muscle in my body.  It was so embarrassing.  So with a combo of broken toe and nil mobility, I am pleased to inform you that they do a very good room service…they come and lay out a lovely table on your patio so you don’t even need to drag your broken body to the restaurant.  This is actually one of the nicest things about the Colony Club:  sitting on your patio, with lovely food and wine, and listening to the waves crash on the shore.  To give you an idea of prices, if you wanted to stay at the Colony Club the same time as our January flights you are looking at £838 per room per night.

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If you do fancy going out, I recommend pottering down to Groots.  This is not posh.  This is a typical Bajan spit and sawdust bar with cold Banks beer and a very famous clientele.  If that’s not your scene, try Simon Cowell’s favourite restaurant, Lone Star.  A short distance from the Colony Club, Lone Star is an idyllic setting right on the beach, with traditional fayre and a great wine list.  It is gorgeous.  If you want to dress up, then go to The Cliff.  This is the stuff of dreams and if you do go to Barbados, you should dress up and go to The Cliff one night because it is simply out of this world.  Everything:  the food, the d├ęcor, the location, everything.

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For our last stop, we are going to The Crane (www.thecrane.com).  Having mentioned this above as one of the original venues for visitors to Barbados, The Crane is now magnificent.  Based further South than the other two at the bottom of the island, it is steeped in history.  If you are part of an ownership programme, you can exchange into it as well.  Perhaps not as cosy as the Colony Club but undoubtedly beautiful with all the accoutrements that go with it, you are looking at about £488 per room per night.

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So what are our conclusions, dear Readers?  Go to Barbados and don’t try to do it on the cheap?  Probably.  Dream holiday?  Definitively.  However one thing I would really stress is make sure you spend at least one night with the locals in one of their bars too…you’ll have a wicked time and you have never met people so hospitable and so much fun!