And that was about it, really. We had one more day of lying around relaxing after our epic swims, and then we flew home, back to the greyness of a British November and a Lido which was a full fourteen degrees colder than the water in Barbados, which was a rude shock to the system, I can tell you. Which leads to the question, holiday: marks out of ten?
First off, I should say that I’m in an incredibly privileged position, being able to mark a week in Barbados out of ten, rather than just dream about it, and I’m totally aware of that. And from the sun, sea and sand angle, it was amazing. The beaches are beautiful, as good as any of the pictures in the holiday brochures, and the weather is glorious.
The swims were brilliant!
On other fronts, the organised swims were fantastic, and the company second to none. We had a couple of fabulous tours of the island and saw some glorious sights, including the north west coast where you definitely can’t swim because there are no beaches. The Atlantic ocean rolls in unchecked and carves the cliffs into fabulous caves and extraordinary, razor-sharp rocks. It’s a sight to see, especially on a bright sunny day when you can stand by a sink-hole carved by the storms and watch the waves rush in and boom and spray beneath you. And there are other sights we didn’t see, including some beautiful gardens in the interior of the island. And of course, there were also the turtley awesome turtles, which I’ve already written about.
Animal Flower Cave, in the island’s north west.
So what wasn’t great? First off, it’s a small island and dependant on tourism, and a lot of the tourists are very wealthy, which means, as you’d expect, that it’s very touristy. Almost everywhere seems geared to tourists. Personally I prefer to get a bit more into the day to day life of a place, which didn’t seem that possible in Barbados. First off, many of the local places seemed to be located in American-style strip malls behind the beach road, so they weren’t that different to being in a bar or sandwich place anywhere else. It seems a bit spoilt-bratty to say I want the authentic Barbados and then complain that it’s not sufficiently picturesque, but it was a choice between pretty for the tourists and functional for the locals. I guess that’s what I mean by very touristy – all the nice beachy bits had been snaffled by hotels and tourist places.
I also didn’t feel that I would be comfortable or, perhaps, safe, exploring around on my own as I have done elsewhere. I suspect that’s not particular to Barbados but is a feature of any place where there’s a lot of wealthy tourists and a lot of unwealthy locals. I have to add that all of the locals we met were absolutely lovely and there was only one time when I felt that any of our party might possibly have been in any danger, and it was brief and minor. Nevertheless, the whole place felt to me as a tourist as though it was divided into the bits where I was supposed to stay corralled and the rest of the island. It’s very hard to judge on a week and I’m aware that this may be entirely unfair, but I didn’t get the sense of a place which I could just wander around.
Also not great, from a touristy point of view, was that it wasn’t really possible to swim anywhere, any time, because of the preponderance of jet-skis and motor boats off every beach. We did swim, but nervously, and with one eye looking out for motorised lunatics who might not have seen us, which isn’t very relaxing, especially when you want to be concentrating on the glorious sea life below you.
For me particularly there were a couple of other disappointments. Firstly, the food. Barbados is an island and I’d been hoping for some lovely seafood, but the standard tourist fare was a Bajan Barbecue, which was generally a choice of barbecued fish or meat with rice and beans and macaroni. It was nice the first time, ok the second time and a bit boring the third and subsequent times. This is not to say that we didn’t have some lovely meals, but the Bajan Barbecue was a bit too ubiquitous for my taste. The other issue for me, as a hearing-aid wearing deaf old bag, was the music. OMG, the music! Amplified wrap-around pop music which was REALLY LOUD and also, sadly for me, ubiquitous.
But these are small niggles, and probably say more about my unrealistic expectations of what the Caribbean would be like than anything else. And, happily for me, they have a greater effect on the question of whether I would go back than on the week I had. The important things, the people and the experiences, were amazing, and thanks to that, I had a fabulous week. As for the Barbados Open Water Festival, if you’re looking for a wonderful open water swim, in beautiful surroundings, I can recommend it!
At the airport, having marked the holiday a strong 7 1/2 out of ten. Cheers!
And that’s it for What I Did On My Holidays. Next up, another intermission – Christmas!!