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(2012 - Fall/Winter Issue)


From sultry strolls on endless stretches of sandy beaches and rum-splashed happy hours in the bustling bars to spirited festivals year-round, a vacation in Barbados is a sublime antidote to the chilly winds at home.

Sitting pretty between the Atlantic Ocean to the east and the Caribbean Sea to the west, the easternmost island in the Caribbean is home to nearly 300,000 friendly folks and gaggles of loyal tourists who return year after year for a winter respite. “Barbados has been welcoming Canadians to our beautiful island for decades,” says Cheryl Carter, senior business development manager, Barbados Tourism Authority (BTA), “the character of our island is unique to any other.” 

With tourism a major contributor to the economy and crime rates amongst the lowest in the Caribbean, locals are proud of their country and revel in showing it off to visitors. “One of the things we hear most from visitors is how welcoming the people of Barbados are and how safe the island is,” adds Cheryl. “Visitors aren’t limited to their resorts and can go out and mingle with the locals at hot spots such as Oistins or the neighbourhood rum shop.” 

Time Travel

As the story goes, Portuguese explorer Pedro a Camposnamed the island “Los Barbados” or the “bearded ones” after the fig trees whose hanging roots resemble a beard. In 1625, British Captain John Powell claimed the island for England and the first European settlement was established on the west coast. Unlike other Caribbean islands that changed hands several times, Barbados avoided domination by the Danish, French and Spaniards who were busy sparring over the rest of the region. Barbados celebrated independence November 30, 1966, and today, Bajans recognize that day as their national holiday.  

With a storied past, the main street in Bridgetown called Broad Street leads to National Heroes Square and the statue of a young Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson, protector of the island. Facing the square, the Parliament Buildings house the Senate and House of Assembly and, a little farther on, the Cathedral Church of St. Michael and All Angels was the first wooden church built on the island. A stroll away, the 350-year-old Nidhe Israel Synagogue, one of the oldest in the western hemisphere, welcomes tourists for services conducted by members of the congregation. 

One of only three Jacobean mansions in the western hemisphere, St. Nicholas Abbey was built in 1658 with curved Dutch gables and a Chinese Chippendale staircase. Surrounded by manicured gardens featuring majestic silk cotton trees, the Abbey is home to the four-poster bed once owned by Napoleon’s second wife, Empress Marie Louise. The Morgan Lewis Mill, the last remaining sugar windmill in Barbados, impresses all with its four giant arms and gears that rotate to face the direction of the wind. Visitors can climb almost to the top for commanding views of the eastern hills.

Good Mood Food

On the south coast, dinner at Oistins is an edible rite of passage with vendors dishing up traditional fare from grilled flying fish with a creamy wedge of macaroni pie, green peas and guinea corn called jug-jug to a scrumptious mélange of corn meal and okra called cou-cou.

Every seat boasts a view of the sea at The Cliff where Chef Paul Owens' menu tickles the taste buds with succulent Cajun salmon and char-grilled white asparagus with black trumpet mushrooms. The A-list haunt for hip hop royalty such as Jay-Z, Beyoncé and homegrown superstar Rihanna, the funky eatery boasts a chic cocktail lounge that’s just right for people-watching while sipping a glass of Canadian Vidal oak-aged ice wine.

Celebrating 10 delicious years on the platinum west coast and made famous by its London namesake and sister restaurant, Le Caprice in Manhattan, Daphne’s dishes up pasta perfection courtesy of Chef Marco Festini Cromer’s Fisherman Linguine and Roasted Pumpkin Ravioli. The Rum Collector menu pours exclusive brands while the Pumpkin and Chocolate Tart is unapologetically sinful. Life, as the locals say, is too short to skip dessert.

Make a Date

New Year’s Eve is loads of fun on 1st and 2nd Streets in Holetown. At the stroke of midnight, fireworks on the beach are a guaranteed crowd-pleaser.

On January 21, the Mount Gay Rum Round Barbados Race invites sailors to compete for the fastest time around the island.

From mid-January through March, the Barbados National Trust’s Open House Program welcomes visitors to tour historic homes.

From February 10 to 17, the Holetown Festival commemorates the island’s first neighbourhood, which was originally called Jamestown after King James I, but changed to Holetown in honour of the small stream called “The Hole,” which provided safe landings for ships. This weeklong, family-friendly party includes open-air concerts, a parade of vintage cars, a crafts fair featuring plenty of vendors and a culinary kaleidoscope of local food to sample.

“With Air Transat as our third and newest airline partner,” added Cheryl Carter, “we’re thrilled that more people are able to see for themselves how spectacular Barbados is.”

Travel Planner

Beginning December 23 and continuing through April 14, Transat Holidays will offer flights to Barbados every Sunday from Toronto. A selection of hotels and excursions are also available. Flights depart Toronto at 6 a.m., arriving Barbados at 12:35 p.m., while return flights depart Barbados at 1:25 p.m., arriving Toronto at 6:15 p.m. For bookings, visit transatholidays.com or consult your travel agent. For more information on Barbados, log onto visitbarbados.org.

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