Wednesday, May 16, 2007

I heart Barbados

Sated on mounds of good New York food and music we flew into the sun-lined sky towards our beach holiday. There is something about beach holidays that appeals to the land/ city girl in me, something to do with water being so calming and clear after the bustle of living among a sea of people. The fact that we’d have to tear ourselves away from the beach to watch cricket was indeed a small price to pay for a week on this beautiful island. We got lucky in the ticket draws and had tickets to two matches that according to all planning and mounds of sponsorship and the heart of a nation should have been India-England and India-Pakistan. Of course they weren’t and despite his broken heart and dejected “let’s not go” statements, I managed to convince V that a week by the sea would be just the ticket to mend the cricket fracture, sun and sand will be the miracle bandage.

So here we are in Barbados, our New York shopping stuffed into our suitcase, forgotten for the moment and our young (!?) and eager minds ready to give this holiday a go for its money. I won’t bore you with the long version travelogue on Barbados. But for the sake of memory, to read back in months when there is no sun and relive it, I’m going to list down what I remember in the most orderly fashion possible.

1. I’ll start with the words that describe this country aptly - sandy beaches. I emphasize the sandy bit because Britain, though an island, is home to pebble beaches. Pebbles of the kind that aren’t kind to the delicate soles of feet. Barbados is the extreme opposite; white-light brown sand adorns the entire coast, its pristine-ness highlighted by the bluest blue sea. We promptly took residence on a beach lounger outside our room, the spectacular view of which you’ve already seen, and rooted ourselves to the spot for as many waking hours as possible. Short steps to the edge of the water, feet treading soft granules, to feel the ocean lapping at my feet was bliss. I love the ant-like feeling that being on a near empty beach gives. The one where I feel the worry of the world lifted, if only temporarily, and replaced by existential answers like “I’m so insignificant in the grand scheme of things that worry about everything is just shortening this life and so I should just stop, if only for these moment”. Of course this also leads me to think of more philosophical stuff but I am quick to brush those aside and just let my mind drift and admire the awesome-ness of nature, it’s absolute power and reign over anything manmade. In other words I am an addict of the nothingness that beach holidays allow. I long ago mastered the ability to lie in one spot under the shade of a drooping baby palm or leafy coconut tree and completely disconnect in 5 seconds. Now, now. I hear you Tsk Tsk-ing out there, telling me how wrong it is to be so blissful and happy while the world is at war, children are dying, poverty reigns. Thankfully I can’t hear you over the roar of those waves.

2. Being the wife of said sports fan I am compelled to take my holidays where there is sporting action. Thankfully the World Cup cricket allowed us to marry our two interests very well – his intention to watch cricket and mine to laze, read and swim in the sun, each of us enlightening our minds. There was no escaping the fact that Barbados was all geared to turn this sports venture into a lucrative one. From well rolled roads to welcoming messages and inflated prices, everything screamed ‘Want to watch cricket, give me your money’. Our hotel was bursting at the gills with cricket crazies, often accompanies by their bored families looking for a bit of R&R. Even though India crashed out there was no way we were going to waste our tickets. So off to the wonderfully refurbished and utterly well organised Kensington Oval it was, to enjoy a day of England vs. Bangladesh. While the entire Gujarati population of the United States tried to sell of the extra tickets they had bought in the hope of Indian fans flocking to watch a great clash, we traipsed through a well planned and executed security cordon to the stadium. Attendant in the stands were the entire England brigade, the breathless-with-wonder-at-having-come-so-far, utterly optimistic Bangladeshis, the West Indian organizers with trumpets and drums to stir up the crowd and of course, half the population of India, disappointed but determined to show off their fan-status-skills by wearing the blue India shirt. So sitting between English fans and trying to decide whom I am supporting (England because that’s where I live, or Bangladesh because that’s neigbourly) I glance over to some serious chanting in the adjacent stand. Who is it? A horde of India fans dancing and shouting slogans like “Jeetega bhai jeetega, India jeetega”. You know the ones. Victory cries. And there were others parading around them, encouraging the mob as it were, with banners lettered “Fans are here TEAM INDIA, where are you?” and “India fans want a refund”. Nice calligraphy though sadly droopy boards and SO OUT OF PLACE. I mean, its one thing to be a fan or even a super-fan but really guys, cheering for a team that got knocked out, in front of two teams who are playing, one of whom probably could do with support, NOT COOL. Good dancing though – I have a picture somewhere.

3. To break the obvious monotony, V’s not mine, of lying supine on a beach towel for 7 straight days we decided to venture out to sea one day. Quite literally we ventured. We took a Submarine trip into the deep down ocean on an Atlantis submarine. Before I came here and heard of this I didn’t think it was a commercial proposition, this having a submarine ride, UNDER THE OCEAN, WITH ALL THAT WATER ABOVE YOU. I mean its not like diving where its just you and the oxygen tank. It's a bus of people under the water and though it may not seem like a lot I'm sure it's pretty darn heavy. Lucky for us it is commercially viable. It’s a costly experience but well worth the trouble to go the 150 ft below sea level in the chilled interior of a capsule, clicking away at teeming ocean life. Beside the reef and artificially sunken wrecks there are wonderful anemone like creatures and schools of curious fish who come right up to the round porthole windows as if on an outing to discover who we are. The highlight for me were the turtles, swimming gently while nibbling away on ferns, and the sheer beauty of the sea bed, a delicate and rugged ecosystem all at once. The colours go all fascinatingly skewed at that depth: the blue of the water more pronounced, anything red or orange turning to purple-black and the whiteness of teeth becoming a comic fluorescent (like a signpost to the face). We had a lovely chatty submarine driver Peter and a conductor Stephanie, who cracked bad fish jokes while explaining the surroundings to us. Although only an hour or so under water it was an experience that will stay with me for a while.

4. What can I say about the food but that it was expensive and although by and large tasty, not outstanding value for money. Even before we arrived we got the sense from guidebooks and traveler opinion that food was expensive. I guess it is the prerogative of a country whose main business is tourism, to charge its customers high rates for walking all over their land. While restaurant meals were costly they usually consisted of fresh well cooked fish dishes in the local Bajun (pronounced bay-shun) style. Accompanied by french-fries. We especially fell in love with the WI hot pepper sauce, a dire looking yellow substance, that splashed too eagerly on meals could turn ones insides into yelling enemies. Too lazy to venture far for mid-day meals we ate by the poolside nearly everyday, absolutely gorging on the local beer called Banks (which tastes like an Indian beer) and baskets of crisp french-fries. Some evenings we deserted the hotel in favour of walks along St. Lawrence Gap which is the main tourist vein. It’s nothing but a road with pricey restaurants, information booths and souvenier stalls on either side. Sorta like the Lan Kwai Fong of Barbados only not as nice or buzzing. We ate in open air grill places and ranch-style restaurants. Some good, some average, none ugly.

5. Barbados is a quintessentially boond barabar desh, a drop in the ocean, blessed by its weather and friendly people. We shunned the grossly overpriced Mercedes-style taxis for rides in van taxis where we flag down the van on the side of the road and the conductor shuffles us into a tin-like van, stuffed between local people getting to work/ home (like sardines in a tin) before signaling the driver to carry on. The driver does so, careening at break neck speed down very thin winding roads, blaring music cutting out any honking and giving our throats a fair bit of exercise while trying to convey our destination and chat with our neighbours. All 23 of them. All simultaneously. All for just BBD$1.50 each. We also did a fair bit of walking up and down the centre of Bridgetown, the elegant capital. The architecture is a pleasing mix of old English (remnants of Colonialism) and vibrant fun West Indian style. It’s all well maintained and colour is used liberally giving the place a healthy, bright feel. The centre of the island could be described as mildly hilly, with winding roads to flamboyant housing and an overpriced tourist trap called Earthworks which sells pottery and is strictly to be avoided. Where it’s not coastal sandy beach it’s brilliant lush green vegetation. The sun shone everyday and mostly gleaned off the neat bright habitation. You need only one day to do any real sightseeing although touristy things like safari's are on offer and we avoided them all, hitting them away with the swish of a beach towel. We bought guava jelly jam ( my most favourite) and some delicious smelling ground coffee, both native to Barbados, as our souvenier. When finished we shall have nothing left to show of our trip but memories.

On reflection I can say with certainty that Barbados is indeed one of the gems that make up the West Indies. In spite of it being quite touristy, pricey and busy I’m glad we went all that way. There is nothing like a holiday on a quiet beach to remind one of the pleasures of life, the joy of knowing that however ant-like the ocean can make me feel, at least I have my fellow ant by my side. We took long walks on the beach, spent quiet moments on our loungers gazing out into oblivion, dozing under the spell of the sun, reading stacks of books and ever so often glancing up to check all was right with our world, and smiling, ever so slightly. Those moments were priceless.

Jeetega bhai jeetega, India jeetega: slogan roughly meaning 'India will win'
Boond barabar desh: Drop sized (small) country


  1. Sounds lovely ! A lot like my honeymoon in Mauritius. I can't wait for the pictures.

  2. Reading this, me thinks you will like Malta too, assuming that you are a sea person,love sandy beaches, and it's 3 hrs by air.

  3. More photos please, especially those that reflect the local flavor you described so well.

  4. Argh, I so agree with you about the "Jeetega.." slogans. It was so stupid, given that India was no longer in the running.

    The holiday sounds really wonderful...great write-up! I am trying to imagine myself on a beach somewhere, far far away from this maddening rain. Sigh...
    No wonder you were so crabby at having to come back.


  5. I'm feeling all blissful and relaxed after just reading the account! I can't imagine how awesoem it must;ve been. Lovely writing, again!
    "There is nothing like a holiday on a quiet beach to remind one of the pleasures of life, the joy of knowing that however ant-like the ocean can make me feel, at least I have my fellow ant by my side" Sweet!

  6. You have been blogrolled!

  7. Anonymous3:54 PM

    CONGRATS !!!

    Your blog have been featured on DesiPundit !!!

    Please check out the Travels section to read you Barbados blog refrence

  8. Barbados seems elysian. I second the request for more pictures!

  9. Shoefie/ Parth/ Shub/ Anon/ WannabeIP: Thanks. Pictures are up.

    Mr. J: Yeah I do like beaches. Malta is sadly not on our travel plans anytime soon. Shall have to live by these pictures for the next few years!

    Nee: Gee thanks, on the sounding so crabby! You are right though, this weather is doing NOTHING for me. As for Indian fans I bet they will say 'We are like this only'!