Oh. My. Goodness. The OLLI acronym is certainly coming into its own now isn’t it? I feel incredibly fortunate that my girlfriends and I chose last week as our ‘holiday of a lifetime’. During our time there we managed to avoid much of the media and have a fantastic time in the island paradise that is Barbados.
We returned on Monday 16th March, and by the following day, an announcement was made that that all international air travel was to be stopped. Tui actually announced that day no more package holidays would be happening until at least 20th April
So yes, I realise things are rather askew for everyone right now. All we can do is take things a day at a time. My intention is to post daily during this historic period. So long as I don’t succumb to the virus and become incapacitated … We’re doing our best to distance ourselves from anyone, being in the vulnerable ‘over 60s’ age-group. Living on a boat makes it a lot easier and I believe more pleasant, than on land.
For now, here’s an overview of our week in a brilliant Bajan (the name for everything to do with Barbados) time-warp bubble.
Worth Every Single Penny
Organising what became known as the ‘Oh no! Six-oh!‘ celebration, was an interesting (and exhausting at times!) exercise. Especially for Kerry who was our leader. There were a variety of parameters to consider.
- Finding a destination none of us had previously visited
- Suitable dates for all
- A package that flew from Birmingham
- It had to be hot and not in the wet season
One thing we all agreed early on, was that we wanted the holiday to be very special. So cost wasn’t an issue. Within reason! When Barry asked (after we’d eventually found dates and place and booked!), how much I’d paid, he was rather aghast. Seven days and nights, all inclusive, plus flights, was just over £1,800. I’ve never paid so much for a holiday!
We stayed at Turtle Beach Resort, a short walk from St Lawrence Gap, on the south of the Caribbean Island of Barbados.
The week before we flew I was becoming concerned that we may not get there due to the emerging crisis.
I travelled the day before the flight, and stayed with Sarah at her mum’s. I took the opportunity to arrange to meet a very special person, who I worked with at Good Hope Maternity Unit for 14 years from 1987 to 2001.
Loretto is the reason I was able to stay in midwifery even as a single parent. She was so flexible with my hours for many years. A wonderful woman, who worked tirelessly to improve maternity care until she retired a few months after I left to travel to NZ for the first time in 2001.
Just In Time!
After almost two years of thought and planning, we made it to Barbados. An early morning taxi ride, smooth check-in, and through to departures without hassle.
Before we were allowed to walk through to arrivals and customs, every single person had their temperature taken using an electronic device pointed to our foreheads. That was a bit surreal – but just the taste of things to come at that stage I guess …
Turtle Beach is classed as a 4.5 star resort. We were rather tired and jet-lagged on arrival, with a time difference of four hours ( we had an extra long day!), and the transfer time was extended by ‘Island Time’ lack of hurry for the mini-bus to the hotel. But we soon managed to perk up and explore our surroundings.
Until last year I’d not experienced an ‘all inclusive’ holiday. In 2019 there was Menorca and Corfu. Now Barbados. The old adage “you get what you pay for” is very true. Despite the others being ‘all inclusive’, there were actually restrictions of what drinks and food you could have, and at what time. At Turtle Beach it really was ‘all inclusive’. All branded spirits, a menu of delicious cocktails (admittedly mainly rum based!), snacks and hot drinks all day, water sports, activities, and ‘pop-ups’ each day. The daily schedule was extensive – so much so that it was tempting to just stay there and chill on the beach, by the pool, or in the bar!
Sarah and I played croquet on the ‘ocean garden’ the first day and met a few fellow guests as well as the great entertainment lead. Unsurprisingly we didn’t quite make the indoor cycling class!
During the week I made the most of the facilities and played more croquet, bowls, table tennis, yoga (my idea of heaven, yoga outside near the ocean – sublime), pilates, and the catamaran trip in the bay (more on that to come).
I’d taken my snorkel and mask with me, despite never quite managing to get enough confidence to snorkel in open water in the seven years since I bought it (I made a pathetic attempt in Fiji in 2002, and a slightly better one in Bali in 2012). This time, mainly because there was a ‘bar’ of boulders in the sea to protect snorkelers from the currents, I was successful! Which led to me having enough confidence to finally snorkel in the open water. I was so proud of myself. The mind is an amazing organ – it took a lot of self-coaching to overcome my fears or at least make them manageable.
I could write endlessly about our experiences, but I realise it could get monotonous! Here’s a few of my favourites things:
- The Bajan food. Every day there was something to sample. Fried chicken livers or fish for breakfast – sounds weird, but worth a try and I enjoyed both! Cou cou (pronounced cuckoo) is basically corn meal cooked with water until smooth with okra added. A bit bland but okay. Lots of fish and meat, fried chicken of course is a favourite (no MacDonalds on the island, they refused to have them yay! They have their own version though called Chefffette I think).
- The temperature – around 29 degrees in the daytime, rain or shine, and around 23 degrees at night-time. Bliss.
- Warm water in the ocean – with an abundance of tropical fish and of course turtles at certain times and places.
- Birds – their songs and colours. It was fascinating that they flew all over the place, as the main dining area was open. It didn’t bother me at all, but i know for some people they would find this untenable.
- Pure fresh tap water – filtered by the coral I think.
- Golden soft underfoot sand.
- Cleanliness – we saw hardly any litter, a very clean, green and environmentally friendly island.
- Stunning sunsets – regrettably I only managed to persuade myself to get up at 6am one morning, the last day, to see a sunrise and it wasn’t a great one.
- Private beaches are banned by the government – even for the very rich. excellent!
Around The Island
Having shelled out almost £2,000 for the holiday, we all said we wouldn’t spend anymore on trips. Haha! We went to the Tui talk the first day and realised we didn’t see the point in being in Barbados and not seeing more of it. Three of us booked the Bajan Island Tour, and we all booked the Catamaran day. They were both good value for money and very worthwhile.
We took the ‘reggae bus’ on our second day for a walk around the capital Bridgetown. It reminded me of Napier on the east coast of the north island in New Zealand – very art deco style buildings.
After wandering enough for our legs and feet to ache, we fortunately found ‘Pirate’s Cove‘ hidden behind a large building. What a fabulous place! A few ‘Banks’s’ lagers and a chill in the hammock were relished …
Barbados Island Tour
The west coast of the island lies in the Caribbean Sea, and hosts all the holiday hotels and apartments. There’s apparently not that many all-inclusive hotels – but there are so MUCH more expensive places to stay! One such establishment we heard about costs thousands of US$ per night, with a minimum stay of 14 days/nights from November to April. To me that’s obscene. But I guess even spending £1,800 for a week would seem that way to many people in the world.
We traveled up the west coast from our base close to St Lawrence Gap, right up to ‘North Point’ and the Animal Flower Cave, where the Caribbean Sea meets the Atlantic Ocean. It reminded me very much of Cape Reinga, the northernmost point of New Zealand, where I visited with mum and dad in March 2002; 18 years ago probably almost to the day. The Pacific Ocean meets the Tasman Sea there …
I treated myself to a shell I fell in love with – from ‘Don’s’ stall. That was my dad’s name. He’s the guy on the right of the photo.
After sampling some Bajan fishcakes, with spicy Bajan sauce, and of course the obligatory rum punch, we continued down the east coast to Cherry Tree Hill and Morgan Lewis Sugar Mill, the Caribbean’s largest and only surviving working windmill. Next was a stop to gaze at the ocean again at Bathsheba, so called due to the whiteness of the wild waves which resemble milk. If you recall Bathsheba in the Bible bathed in milk? I know. Strange. But makes sense.
Then onwards to the Sunbury Plantation House, built around 1660 by an English/Irish man Mathew Chapman, one of the first settlers on the island, for a delicious buffet-style lunch. En route we saw cotton picking, and mile upon mile verdant fields of sugar cane. From which, no doubt you know, molasses come from – and rum! The island’s main produce.
It would’ve been rude not to visit a distillery for Barry! We wandered around the Four Square Distillery at Six Roads, where everything produced is used in some way. Another case of the environmentally friendly nature of this country. We all had the obligatory sample. I think others enjoyed it far more than me! Barry will be sampling the Four Square Spiced Rum I bought for him this evening …
That’ll do for today I think! I’m halfway through our week and don’t want to overwhelm you. Tomorrow I’ll continue. Even if no-one else reads my posts I know they’ll be here for me to reflect on in future …
We’re both fine. Eating well (yes I did stock up on fresh and non-perishables once I returned to the boat so we could isolate ourselves asap). And of course keeping our blood alcohol levels topped up each evening to ward off the nasty critter …
Keep safe everyone till tomorrow 😉