Thursday, November 29, 2012

Barbados Blog 4

Our mission this morning is to visit the east coast and St. Nicholas Abbey, since the plantation was closed on Saturday. Once we’re up the hills away from the city, we’re surrounded by sugar cane fields. The long green fingers beckon in the breeze and pretty much block the view. We whiz through several roundabouts, maps flying, travelling left then right. As we travel through little villages, we see the small chattel cottages amidst larger cement structures. There are blue and white and pink and orange homes, often surrounded by beautiful pink and red bougainvillea and other flowers. Some of the colours are very different for us; orange bougainvillea with white centres, purples and pinks that are so bright they look artificial. A few homes seem flung upon cement blocks and forgotten, unpainted and sagging in the sun. Others are lovely, a few new housing projects, but they look to be one-room cottages.

Bajans are so proud of their country. Most of them sport their flag. It’s got a wide blue stripe on either side, with a yellow band in the middle, upon which a trident appears in black. The handle of the trident is broken. The blue represents the sea on both sides, the yellow is the light coloured sand of the island. The trident has three prongs that stand for their government: of, by, and for the people. Since they have split from Britain and become their country (1966), they show the handle as broken. November 30, they will celebrate 46 years of independence. Cugina and Dennis will be here for the celebrations, the lu’y lu’y bahstahds. 

Some beautiful churches point toward the perfect blue sky with haughty steeples, while others are tiny chattel-style gospel meeting places. In several fields we come across preying mantis type machines, little oil drills? Or something to do with water? I must look this up! There are banana and mango trees, rich with fruit. We pass a few detours and end up on bone bumping roads. Wendy’s and my heads nearly hit the roof a few times, even though we have our seat belts securely fastened. At least the traffic is scarce out here on the narrowest of roads. Far from the maddening crowd, I spy a pile of tin and trailer forms towards which a sign points: Rena’s Hideaway Bar. It certainly is a hideaway, I think.

There are palm trees everywhere, including squat cabbage palms with big fat leaves. Walls, vines, stalks, trees, all line the roadways. We pass through one grove of trees that has formed a tunnel of connecting branches and leaves. Once, to our right, we spy our destination: the east coast of the island. I catch a glimpse of darker blue water, giant white caps, and dark and light green hills. The island is divided into Parishes instead of provinces or states or counties. We drive through at least a couple. The villages have wonderful names like St. Catherine’s (spelled correctly too). We pass Her Majesty’s Prison at Dodds, where I watch the prisoners toiling in the fields, mostly black skin glinting in the sun. Another thing to look up!

As we traverse another narrow road, heading out of a village, I have time to study an elderly man walking along the side. He’s extremely tall, with long lanky legs, a huge head of white stringy hair, white beard, white eyebrows, and a shepherd’s crook. He is dressed in a loose white shirt and shorts, brown sandals on his feet. He’s either talking to himself or humming as he strides along. He’s dirty, scraggly, and wrinkled, but beautiful.

I am intrigued by the old brick and stone structures that dot the landscape. Some of them are tall narrow towers that resemble chimneys, while others are more squat and round. There is a quick shower of rain. The roads are rougher here. We haven’t seen the ocean since that glimpse an hour or so ago. Suddenly I notice a pile of tin and trailer hulks towards which a sign points: Rena’s Hideaway Bar.

Shortly thereafter we stop at one of the roundabouts and study the map. Though later we claim that we were just aimlessly sight seeing and began to long for our side of Barbados, we really drove in a couple of circles around the island, got frustrated, and headed back.

We have a terrific lunch at the Bougainvillea Hotel, which is only one street down from our place. Wendy and Dennis stayed here a few years ago. It’s a lovely spot, with waterfalls and winding pools. Still, we agree we all like our hotel better, despite its simplicity, or maybe because of it. It’s not perfect; needs a bit of a “face lift” and the elevator is constantly out of order, but it’s quiet, friendly and homey.

Back at the Butterfly, we bounce in the warm ocean. Have I mentioned how soft the sand is underneath our feet here? I haven’t worn my sea shoes since the first day. It’s flat, with very few stones or shells, and feels wonderful between our toes. Have I mentioned this is the most beautiful sea we’ve ever encountered? (I know, I’m repeating myself.)

We talk and laugh, go upstairs to shower and get ready for the Manager’s Cocktail Party. We have a few rum punches and a couple of appetizers. We talk a bit with the manager, who is very friendly and nice, just as all the staff are. We praise her hotel and her team. Oneal picks us up for dinner to give the guys a break from driving, plus they can have a few drinks if they want. As we’re waiting for his cab to appear, we strike up a conversation with Jefferson, the friendly young man who runs the front desk in the evenings. He tells us to ask for Jamal when we get to our restaurant. “He’ll take care of you,” Jeff says.

Vince, me, the manager, and Cugina

 Jefferson was Employee of the Month and
we could see why.

Once again we head to The St. Lawrence Gap, this time to a restaurant that sits out on a pier of rock. Appropriately called Pisces, it’s a lovely place. We are led to a beautiful table that looks out at the harbour lights, where we can hear the waves lapping against the shore. It’s a stunning sight. We proceed to have the best dinner ever. It even tops Café Sol. Jamal comes to visit our table and the service could not be better. I have the most delicious sea food and Vince has a steak that he says was “worth the whole trip”. Wendy and Dennis ooh and ahh over their meals as well. Afterward we stroll the Gap a little bit. It’s a lot quieter tonight, though one “vendor” makes a quip that becomes one of our favourite lines: “I’m selling what you’re smelling.”

Oneal takes us up the hill on the way home, through another lively part of the Gap. Restaurants, bars, and hotels are lit up and lively. On a weekend it must be hopping. It seems that one day keeps topping the next. 
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