Sunday, February 01, 2004
It's a long way to paradise, but worth the trouble BarbadosBy Susy SchultzPhotos courtesy of Barbados Tourism Authority Some of the Bajan dances are magical. Visit the Plantation Restaurant's Bajan Roots and Rhythm Show for a sampling of dance and history.
Barbados sits like a bright shining pear in the Atlantic Ocean, a fruit-shaped island paradise. And it is: perfect temperatures, beautiful beaches, friendly people and breathtaking views. You can enjoy art, dance, sport, history, tropical tastes, smells and delightful foods-who knew plantains and flying fish made for a great pizza?
It is a place to really get away from everything. A good place for families to rejuvenate.
My son and I spent a long and luscious weekend there this past summer, as the guests of the Barbados Tourism Authority.
And in four days, we packed in so much without feeling worn out. We snorkeled with sea turtles, enjoyed ocean swims, took a submarine to the sea bottom, went to the center of the Earth-or at least far enough to see subterranean streams in Harrison's Cave. We also watched a limbo contest, saw a steel-drum-and-dance history of the island in an old sugar plantation theater, strolled an art fair and drove almost the entire 166 square miles of the island.
We arrived just in time to enjoy the national Crop Over Festival, a formalization of the party islanders used to throw once the sugar crops were harvested. So, we were able to watch the crowning of the festival's king and queen and wander the festival grounds, where we met and talked to many gracious and welcoming Bajans.
Barbados is off the beaten track-even for hurricanes. It's not yet an American travel destination. It is another country with a different currency and passport required.
But paradise always has a price and in this case, it starts at $650 for a round-trip ticket from Chicago.
It's a long haul with no direct flights. It can take you anywhere from about eight to 15 hours. You change planes either in Puerto Rico or in hell-OK, maybe Miami International Airport is just a taste of purgatory. If your connecting flight is in Miami, make sure you allow enough time to traverse the airport. We ended up with a night in Miami courtesy of the airlines because it was an impossible connection. It turns out that happens quite a bit.
Once there, you have so many choices. There are more than 6,000 guest rooms, ranging from inexpensive apartments to all-inclusive resorts and luxury villas. We stayed as guests of the Almond Beach Village, near Speightstown on the northwest side. It's an all-inclusive resort, which means all food and drinks are included. During the higher-priced winter season, mid-December to mid-April, a room here for a family of four is $608 a night. In summer, it's $110 cheaper.
It depends on your family and your finances- an all-inclusive price may be the ticket if you don't plan to move from the resort. But Barbados is an island friendly to tourists. You want to roam and explore. Think about renting an apartment on the south end of the island. Being tied to a hotel for meals limits your ability to explore the great restaurants.
According to our tour guide, Barbados is the only place McDonald's couldn't make it. People are too tied to chicken and fish to support a burger joint. These are folks who appreciate great food-my kind of people.
But no matter where you stay, make it to Pizzaz, an island pizzeria unlike any place you've ever been. Try the Bajan pizza with sweet peppers, smoked flying fish and plantains; it might sound strange but it was amazing.
Here are a few other must-do things:
• Snorkeling with sea turtles. At $60, adults, $30 kids, the lunch cruise is pricey, but worth it.
• See Plantation Restaurant's Bajan Roots and Rhythm show at $69, adults, $26 kids. It's very touristy-but hey, you're a tourist. The talented dancers and musicians tell the history in this outdoor theater, part of an old sugar plantation.
• Explore the shopping district in the capital city, Bridgetown.
• Check out the tourism department's Web site at www.barbados.org.
• Breath and relax. You are in paradise.
Susy Schultz is editor of Chicago Parent.