Barbados; Culinary, Beaches, Nightlife and Shopping

If you are looking for a hip little island in the Caribbean where celebrities such as Mick Jagger hang out and unwind, then look no further than the pear-shaped coral island of Barbados.  After all, if it is good enough for Mick - it's good enough for us. While you might not get a chance to glimpse Jagger strolling through the streets of Bridgetown, it is rumored that the likes of actor Steven Seagal spends time in Barbados and even takes the local bus every now and then.

Considering the fact that the island is a popular celebrity hangout then it goes without saying the food, the accommodations and the attitude must be just right.  For my part, I found Barbados to be one of my favorite Caribbean islands.  Clean, friendly and with a lot of heart, the Barbados people are proud of what they've got, 166 square miles of not only sandy beaches and lapping waves, but also rugged, jagged limestone cliffs. 

Culinary Delights
The culinary offerings on Barbados are never more pronounced then during one of the popular food festivals, most notably Eat! Drink! Barbados.  Eat! Drink! Barbados is a unique epicurean experience featuring the food of Barbados with a mixture of Europe, Asia and most importantly the traditional Bajan recipes.

Barbados has several restaurants that cater to even the most delicate palate, Daphne's (whose sister restaurant is in London), The Cliff and La Terra are suggested restaurants to begin.

Barbados chefs, both local and international, pride themselves on using the freshest local produce available.  "Gourmet" magazines well-known New York City fruit detective, David Karp was at Daphne's during Eat! Drink! Barbados to assure the quality of fruit served at dinner was just right. Karp enjoyed his role too, as he examined the watermelon martini and then explained appetizer, entree and dessert, each dish highlighting the signature star of the evening - local fresh fruit.

Daphne's bills herself as a modern Italian restaurant offering food by the sea.  Contemporary and chic, the beachfront setting, crashing waves in the distance and candlelit cubby holes set the mood for a tasteful, albeit expensive evening.
Eat! Drink! Barbados was especially proud of The Cliff restaurant's chef offering as they touted Gourmet's Executive chef, Sara Moulton.  The Cliff was recently voted one of the top 50 restaurants in the world by the U.K.'s Restaurant Magazine.  The menu for the evening was a combination of local Barbadian food and produce enhanced by wines.  As the evening promised some of the best food of the Eat! Drink! Barbados spectacular, yachts docked nearby to attend the special dinner and reception.

For the last night of the culinary feast Villa Nova was the place to be seen.  Situated in the countryside of Barbados, the feel is more West Indies than Caribbean.  This island property once stood as a famed Great House, but is now a 27-room boutique hotel.  The chef at the property teams his food combinations by adding a touch of Asian with a splash of Barbadian, creating Caribbean fusion. 

The Eat! Drink! Barbados event saw the appearance of top London chef Kevin Hopgood from Elena L'Etoile - one of the oldest French Bistro restaurants in London.  Beginning on the Gazebo with appetizers, the three-course meal was taken inside at the Terrace at Villa Nova, surrounded by lush, tropical gardens.

For the epicurean tastebuds of those who want to get to know the local cuisine without the fanfare, enjoy the national dish and island emblem, flying fish.  Other local favorites include cou-cou (cornmeal and okra), pepperpot (spicy stew) and jug-jug (Guinea corn and green peas).  There are more than plenty of local beach front restaurants where you can sling your shoes off, sit back with some rum and eat until you fall asleep gazing at the azure blue water.

Finally, if you are in Barbados on a Friday night then you must attend a fish fry.  The Oistins Fish Fry is the one that everyone raves about, but there are others.  Locals spend their Friday nights mingling with island visitors and one another as tastebuds give way to the samples of hot, steaming fish cakes, dolphin and tuna.  You can party at the fish fry until at least 11:00 p.m.  After your tummy is full from the feast make your way to Lexies and sway to the beat with the local island ballroom dancers.  

White Sandy Barbados Beaches
Barbados lies on the Atlantic and Caribbean making the coastline diverse - one day you can bask in the white sand, the next you can contemplate the rugged cliffs and the crashing surf below. 

The western side of the island is home to most of the hotels and lulls sunbathers to beaches such as Mullins Beach, Church Point and Paynes Bay.  For bonafide sunbathers one of these beaches will be your island paradise.  On the other hand, if you want some adventure and waves for surfing then the east coast beaches of Bathsheba/Cattlewash will be to your liking.  One of my snorkeling buddies mentioned Needham's Point and Dover Beach as the best place for that activity.

For a celebrity sighting take a drive to Bathsheba with miles of untarnished beach along a rugged coastline.  Recently named one of the best beaches in the world by "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous," Crane Beach boasts cliffs, dunes and pink sand - beware though that the strong currents can make swimming dangerous.
Late Night Barbados
After a day of drinking rum on the beach and sunbathing, and an early evening complete with a signature five star cuisine, there is only thing you'll be lacking.  Late night on Barbados can be casual or as loud and boisterous as you allow. 
If you're still up for a drink jump onboard the Jolly Roger for a fruity island drink and a spectacular sunset.  Or, stay on dry land and explore Baxter Road (better known as the street that never sleeps). 

Dinner shows are all the rage so the calypso, limbo folklore dance show "1627 and All That" was first on my list of must-sees.  Floor shows come complete with the sultry rhythm of the island so first stop was Harbour Lights in Bridgetown and on to After Dark in Christ Church.  The Boat Yard is another stop for drinks, for us we made our way there pre-dinner for local beer and rum punch.
If you're still feeling romantic from your five-star dinner then make it a point to find your way to Sandy Lane's Starlight Terrace where steel band and string quartets are the norm.  Just over at Cobbler's Cove saxophones and guitars rule and finally, it's never too late for a wine tasting at 39 Steps Wine Bar or Peppers Wine Bar and Bistro.

Don't Forget to Spend Your Money
Before you leave Barbados check out the shopping and don't leave without a few island favorites.  Besides taking home a bottle or two of rum, cruise down Broad Street in Bridgetown, the island capital, and spend your money wisely and even better, tax-free. 
We stopped in at Madison's, which is located at Accra Beach Hotel and found linen shorts, cocktail dresses and evening gowns.
My colleague on the trip was especially in need of some much appreciated shopping as her luggage got lost on the way to Barbados and she ended up with no clothes.  Barbados might never be the same after her shopping spree at Bridgetown, and while she did finally receive her suitcase, it was definitely heavier on the way home.

For a tropical feel in earthenware make it a point to stop in at Earthworks Pottery.  There is also a studio tucked away snugly in the hillside of St. Thomas, so if you have some time take a look at the blue and green designs that designer Golden Spieler has to offer.

Evenings might be for candlelight and soft music, but the daylight hours on Barbados are all about having fun.  There was no better way for us to do that than catch a ride on the Foursquare Rum Shop Safari.  Not for the faint at heart, the jeep safari (specially-rigged 4X4 Land Rover) hurried us away to rum shops around the island - shortcuts were the norm - as we off-roaded it through gullies and ditches glimpsing some of the best coastal viewing on the island. 

Barbados wouldn't be Barbados without the great-tasting rum, an integral part of island life.  As we made our rum stops throughout the day we were served up "rum shop style" - in other words, pour your own rum and mix it with whatever works for you.
By the time I returned to my hotel I had made best friends with the driver, an appointment with one of my jeep-mates and I knew every other passenger's birthday from the safari.  Not bad for a six-hour tour.

Getting There: Fly into Barbados Grantley Adams International Airport via American Airlines, US Airways, Air Jamaica or BWIA.

Currency: The Barbados dollar is tied to the U.S. dollar and is roughly at the rate of BDS$1.98 to $1U.S.

Departure Tax: $25 Barbados, $13 U.S.

Language: English 

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