Welcome to paradise! Where the water is warm, the sky is blue and where the greenery is lush with tropical beauty. Barbados!
A beautiful island situated in the western area of the North Atlantic, and despite being classified as an Atlantic island, Barbados is considered to be a part of the Caribbean, where it is ranked as a leading tourist destination.
Inhabited by Kalingo people since the 13th century, and prior to that by other Amerindians, Barbados was visited by Spanish navigators in the late 15th century. An English ship arrived in Barbados in 1625 then taking ownership of the island. In 1627, the first permanent settlers arrived from England, and it became an English and later British colony.
Basically, in history, culture, nature and climate you can not find an island more unlike my home island of Newfoundland. So when given the opportunity to interview Dionne Hunte from The Daily Connection I was thrilled. So if you are like me and dealing with the cold harsh winter and looking for an escape or just wishing to learn more about this piece of paradise check out this interview. You may find yourself placing Barbados on your travel bucket list.
Can you tell us about the country you were born?
I was born in Barbados, which is an island in the Caribbean. Specifically, it is the most easterly island in The Lesser Antilles (lower region of the string of islands making up the Caribbean region). It’s small but beautiful, only 166 sq. miles. The locals are called Barbadians but we have shortened that to Bajans. It is the island home of Rihanna and also the birthplace of rum.
What is it like there?
It’s a beautiful island with sunshine most days of the year. We don’t have traditional seasons, only a Dry Season that runs from December to May and a Wet Season that’s from June to November. It’s mostly flat, so no mountains or volcanoes to speak of.
I know people wouldn’t speak badly about their country but no country is perfect and all have some negative features. One of those for Barbados is that the wet season is usually hurricane season for the Caribbean. So it’s a risk of getting really wet and having floods when the storms/hurricanes pass us by. The silver lining is that because of where Barbados is located on the map, we have been mostly spared from the really devastating weather. Another negative is that the cost of living can be kind of high. And that is as a result of the policy that was put in place that sees most of our education being free to a certain age. One more negative that annoy most Bajans, is when people think that Barbados is a section of Jamaica.
One of the most positive things I think are the people, they can be very helpful and friendly. So much so that a lot of celebrities like to vacation here without worrying about locals crowding them.
If I just landed in your home town, where should I go first?
Definitely the beach. On a good day, you can get a nice suntan, have a swim, go kayaking or do a catamaran cruise and just relax.
What are some places in Barbados that you have traveled that you would recommend visiting by someone who has never been there?
- The Beach – Most beaches are lovely and we have 70 miles of beaches
- Barbados Museum – For a good overview of most of History of Barbados, this is the place to go. Even the museum itself has its own history since it started out as 19th Century Military Prison.
- Harrison’s Cave – This cave is home to beautiful rock formations. And the tour of the cave gives insight to the formation of the island. Barbados has mostly coral as its foundations, which also act as a natural filter of the water supply.
- Codrington College – This is oldest Anglican Seminary in the West Hemisphere. Originally it was a plantation house and later became the first institution of higher learning for Barbados. Most of it has become ruins now but still a beautiful sight to see.
- Gun Hill Signal Station – is home to a great white lion carved in stone by a British soldier. You also get an excellent view of the St. George valley from the Lion as well.
- Oistins – This is one of Barbados’ towns and is located in the south of the island. It is home to a fishing area and also it’s the place to go on Friday night (Oistins Fish Fry), to enjoy music, karaoke, dancing, and food.
- Sunbury Plantation House – is a Great House where you have access to all the rooms and see how the rich lived way back when. It also has nice grounds and is one of the areas that weddings are held.
- Riverbay – is a beach/picnic area in the very north of the island. It has a hill climb but the when you get to the top you get a real feel for the Caribbean breeze and as you walk towards the end, you will find yourself at the cliff at the very edge of the island but don’t drop off!
What are 5 things that every person should do when traveling to Barbados?
- Do an Island Safari tour of the island
- Do a dive on the Atlantis Submarine
- Do a historical tour of the Island
- Do one of the festivals (depending on the time of the year)
- Do the BEACH!!!
I want a local’s perspective… Any tips for first-time visitors to the Barbados?
For First time visitors:
- Walk with a Camera & Bathing suit(s).
- Must have a valid passport and plane ticket.
- Driving is on the left, like in Britain.
- Dolphin on the menu is not related to porpoises like Flipper and is actually a fish called mahi mahi or dorado.
- US $1 is approximately BDS $2
- There is VAT on everything – 17.5%
What are some local foods that you would recommend for a traveller to try?
Local Foods to try:
- Cou-cou and flying fish (National Dish) – Cou-cou is cornmeal/polenta that is cooked with a generous helping of finely chopped okras and done to a particular consistency and topped with Flying fish stew/gravy.
- Fish cakes – fried cakes with salted cod, flour, herbs, and pepper. Try them warm/Just out of the frying pan.
- A Cutter – a Bajan Salt bread that sandwiches either ham (ham cutter), fish (fish cutter) or cheese (cheese cutter). You can get these in most rum shops.
- Pudding & Souse – is a local delicacy made with cuts of pork meat, served with a sweet potato pudding and topped with pickled cucumber. May also come with boiled breadfruit on the side. It is a Saturday ritual for most locals to eat pudding and souse.
- Roast breadfruit – getting this is really dependent on the time of year when breadfruits are plentiful. While it can be roasted on the stove, its not surprising to find local youths roasting a breadfruit on a wood fire, sometimes stuffed with pig-tail, corn beef or fish. Serve with a generous helping of butter.
- Great/Black Cake – is a dense fruit cake but so much different to the American version. The chopped fruit used in the cake is soaked for 3-6+ months in rum, falernum and port wine. This makes the fruit very aromatic when it’s opened The cake is dark in colour because of the fruit and a little browning. When it is done, it has that unique taste and smell, hmmmm. Because of the rum used in the recipe, this cake can be stored for a long period of time, just keep putting on a little rum/falernum to keep it moist.
Is there a certain time of year that is better for travelling to Barbados? Why?
Because Barbados mostly has the sunshine, almost any time is good. However, if you want to take in the local festivals, you should come in July and stay until the first week in August. We have a local festival that is called Crop-Over, which came about as a celebration of the end of the Sugar Cane harvest. Sugar Cane is not the island’s main income earner anymore but the festival lives on. It is the island’s biggest festival and climaxes with a huge carnival known as Grand Kadooment on the 1st Monday in August every year. The next best time would be in November to really get a view of everything local. Barbados celebrates its independence on November 30. Next year (2016), the island will be celebrating 50 years of Independence.
What should I wear?
If you’re planning to visit the island, come to relax so that includes the clothes as well. Think nice, airy, and light, short pants/cargo pants, crop tops, etc.
Let’s talk about culture…
Can you explain to us what the culture is like in Barbados?
The culture of the Barbados was always a mix of West African and British cultures since most the blacks on the island are descended from slaves and we were colonized by the British. The influences of this mix of cultures is seen in different aspects. For instance, some of the architecture around the island is a testament to the British influence. The West African influence is seen in our language, as we have our own Bajan Dialect. It is also seen in our music – Calypso, Spouge, Soca, Tuk and Reggae as well as in our cuisine. We have lots of food shops/rum shops (small shops that just sell food or just rum and maybe snacks as well) and lots of food vendors.
What are the people like? Daily living?
The people are friendly for the most part. We are mostly Black (locals and other Caribbean islanders) but we also have Whites, Chinese and Indians as well. We locals can be very community-minded people, willing to lend a helping hand. And some Bajans are very adventurous – it is said that you can find a Bajan anywhere in the world (usually identified by our accent, so people tell us).
Let’s talk about you….
What are three things that make you proud to be from Barbados?
- I am proud of our infrastructure. We had some very forward thinking leaders who put things in place that allow us to be considered very developed for our size. But I believe we can do so much more.
- I am proud of those Bajans who represent wherever they are or wherever they go. It really fills my heart with pride when they are doing their best and not ashamed to say that they have Bajan roots.
- I am proud of the food – I love Bajan food, I don’t eat everything but I love it nevertheless
What is on your travel bucket list?
On my travel bucket list, I would like to go to Italy, France, Israel, Australia, England and Hawaii.
Would you like to be interviewed and featured on The Chatting Compass?
If you have any suggestions for questions to ask our Chatting Compass bloggers please let me know in the comment section below… Stay tuned for next weeks post, which will now be featured on Tuesdays.