There are islands and then there are islands.
Holetown, Barbados is a pantheon of local kindness. You’ve never met such lovely people.
Lovely people are everywhere, to be sure. Bajans, or Barbadians, are just a brand of lovely that is unmistakable.
As I write this my tan has faded but the memory of our trip has never paled. Barbados is a place of aww-inducing joy where colour is a riot of green and mango, where birds carve a sky that only the islands could manufacture, where late-afternoon-sun peaks through the papery flicker of palm leaves.
When you’re on holiday, life is cleaved into let’s relax and let’s relax some more. It’s where you have rewarding naps and cold beer.
And if you’re picking up a six-pack for your mini fridge back home, you might find yourself in a car with the shortest license plate you ever did see. Z9. That’s it? For real? Nice.
Late night walks revealed ambling patterns of everyday life. And a sign for McGill Research Institute. McGill as in Montreal’s McGill? Right; I’m starting the Leigh Research Institute effective immediately and we’ll study who actually reads past the first page of anything while lounging on the beach. You might see me open a book but if you come back in a few hours I’ll still be reading the same page. I could no more read outside in the bright sun than eat a bug. But if I packed for the beach and forgot my book? Tragic.
On a walk around town we passed a restaurant called The Sea Cat, a place we agreed we’d never eat at – even if the steel pan music sounded great.
Ever eaten something so delicious you hardly talk? Slow foods really do lead to slow words. When you’re enjoying a plate of beans n’ rice that you know wasn’t put together in five minutes, all you can do is savour and smile and savour some more. A clear case of gratitude-eating.
Sometimes, one word says it all: Love.
And sometimes a surprising word comes in the blink of an eye: Toilet. “Ma’am, is there a toilet?” Because sometimes too much spice is a nightmare down under. Who rushes in a pharmacy looking for a toilet? Travellers who underestimate a little extra spice, that’s who.
Good thing we never tried the sea moss and brandy juice they were selling on the beach.
But if you want to taste something local and memorable, order a plate of pigeon peas with rice. And then head over to the Gazebo Bar in Paynes Bay for a flying fish sandwich pan-fried in marjoram and thyme. Their sandwiches are completely, utterly, and inarguably the best you’ll ever taste. So like a vitamin, we had two a day.
Picture it: I’m on the beach eating one of these memorable sandwiches. A man walks up to the woman in the lounge chair beside me. Their eyes meet. They smile. They have to be in their 70s.
“I’ve come to propose marriage,” he says as he lends his hand to lift her up.
“You’re 25 years too late,” she replies.
“Come darling,” he reassures. “Your husband’s getting on my nerves.”
She steadies herself and laughs, her arm entwined with his. “I know the feeling,” she says. And just like that, they stroll slowly back to join the annoying husband.
“I love your sand castle!” I cheerfully declared to a group of children. “That’s not a castle it’s an igloo,” says this kindergartener in fluent adult. Later, we come to find out that the Igloo Family is half English half Bajan, living in Vancouver, Canada and holidaying under the sun. And very quickly I become a patron in a make-believe shop accepting ice cream sandwiches from this little sand architect as she handed me rolled sand in palm leaves in ‘rum raisin’ and ‘rocky road’ flavours. Adorable!
Now, if I had one golden hour from this holiday, it wasn’t when I rented a snorkel only to lose the snorkel from a wave that smacked me over that drowned the snorkel that made me fumble for the snorkel only to pull from the ocean floor something leggy that wasn’t the snorkel. This, followed by an Alfred Hitchcock scream. It’s a scene asking for expression. But words fail me still. What can I say, snorkel trauma pairs well with pjs and a stiff drink.
Love to all,