Authentic Experiences in Beautiful Barbados

By  March 30, 2010

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If all you want is sunshine and surf, you can travel pretty much anywhere. But if you seek that and more, consider a destination that’s rich in history and beauty – a place where the warm ocean sparkles and authentic experiences await you at every corner. Escape stress and embrace life in Barbados.

Yesterday on GlamNest, I boasted about my fabulous stay at the luxurious Coral Reef Club resort. (If you didn’t catch that post, check it out!) I indulged in the three “Rs”: rest, relaxation, and recreational drinking. But today, we’re gonna get a little more physical. That means we’re swapping out the flip-flops for sensible walking shoes and spraying on bug repellant instead of our favorite perfume. I’m taking you on a vicarious trip to experience the sensational sights and sounds of the alluring Caribbean island. Are you ready?… Here we go!

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St. Nicholas Abbey
Located in the northern parish of St. Peter, this magnificent mansion was built in 1660. One of only three genuine Jacobean mansions in the Western Hemisphere, it was built by Colonel Benjamin Barringer, and was recently renovated by its new owner, architect Larry Warren. Tourists can explore the historical home and plantation where sugar cane and rum are still produced today, utilizing machinery from bygone eras. Inside the mansion, guests will find old maps, gorgeous furniture, and one very sleepy cat – this lucky little guy calls the posh property home.

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I can honestly eat sticks of sugar cane as if they were candy. I love how when you bite into it, subtly sweet water seeps out. It’s so refreshing (and, FYI, even more delicious when it’s soaked up the liquid of a mojito!). The plantation workers talked us through the labor-intensive process of making sugar cane and rum, which is bottled and sold at the gift shop. This pretty collector’s bottle makes paying a fee to check an extra suitcase so worthwhile.

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Hunte’s Garden
This tranquil tropical garden was built in just three years by Anthony Hunte, who lives there and welcomes tourists into his lovely home for small talk and a big drink. One step on the lush manicured-but-not-too-manicured landscape, and I felt as though I had been transported to a charming fairytale. I wanted to stop everything and have an impromptu garden tea party. I was confident the eccentric Mr. Hunte would join me for a quick cup of Earl Grey. Instead he invited us into his home for a glass of rum punch. That would do.

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We sipped our sweet drinks and played with Hunte’s adorable dogs on the deck overlooking the garden. I was amazed and impressed to hear that he only has two people helping him with the landscaping. That’s a ton of work for three people. And I can barely keep a house plant alive…

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Arlington House Museum and Star Bar
Set in historic Speightstown, Arlington is an 18th-century building featuring three floors of immersive exhibits. Perfect for curious kids, the museum seamlessly integrates education with fun hands-on activities. Learn about the history of Barbados, find out if “flying fish” can really soar, and step on a scale that translates your weight into your worth in sugar. I’m ashamed?/relieved?/horrified?/all of the above? to tell you that I’m worth a whopping 64 cents… If you have the time to research and calculate my weight in pounds, I’m not gonna stop you.

While in Speightstown, stop for yet another cocktail and admire the endless ocean at Star Bar. Don’t see an actual establishment? That’s because it basically looks like a little park with benches and tables. Whimsical wind sculptures add a quirky ambiance to this surprising alfresco spot. Right across the street is a quaint gallery with antiques, paintings and other cool collector’s items. If you have deep pockets and an eye for art, you’ll like this place.

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The Holders Festival
While the curtains have closed on the 2010 Holder’s Festival, it still deserves a quick shout-out. (Before you know it you’ll be planning your 2011 getaway!) The highly regarded Caribbean arts and entertainment festival is set on a traditional plantation house dating back to the 17th century. Five acres of gorgeous gardens frame the main stage, where artists congregate each night to entertain the audience with jazz, opera, dance and other theatrical performances.

The ambiance is intimate for the exclusive eight-day boutique festival. Chic chandeliers hang from the trees, and the soft glow majestically illuminates the stage. A bar stays open throughout the performances and guests are welcome to get bottles of wine or glasses of champagne. Experienced festival attendees bring hearty picnics for alfresco dining. The vibe is at once both casual and elegant, romantic and family-friendly. During the intermission one night, a mom and her young daughter took off their shoes and practiced cartwheels on the grass. Tourists flocked to the vendors selling handmade jewelry, while others simply sipped their drinks and enjoyed the breeze. At least that’s what I did. It was a splendid way to wind down after a busy day in Barbados… Another cocktail, please!

I hope you enjoyed our active itinerary. Stay tuned for tomorrow’s post… We’re gonna take it easy again. We’ll hop on a catamaran and tour the island of Barbados. Just hold on to your sun hat – I learned that lesson the hard way. Plus, I’ll give you the recipe for the ultimate rum punch. It’s perfection in a glass.