November 6, 2017

Adventure : Barbados

We had a really crappy summer up here in Quebec, one of the worst I recall in recent years. It rained all the time, we had almost no sunshine and the number of weekends lost to bad weather still makes me cringe.

While hiking the Katahdin range with The Dragonfly at the end of September, under yet another  cold and rainy sky, she lost her usual positivity. “I’ve had it”, she said. “Let’s go somewhere sunny for our October vacation”. The original plan to run Javelina Jundred took a quick 180 and, a couple hours later, we were booked for Barbados.

We opted for a flight-and-accomodation package, because we’re not much the all-inclusive types and we like to support the local economy when we travel. We chose The Meridian Inn ( , a cute, clean local little hotel by Dover Beach in Christchurch, in a spot called the St-Lawrence Gap.

Barbados' famous ZR "buses"
From the moment we exited the airport, we loved the vibe of Barbados. Instead of taking a taxi, we walked a couple hundred yards to a local bus stop where we were picked up by a “ZR”, a variable-capacity van usually packed to the brim with locals going about their day. They unceremoniously made a little room for us and our backpacks, charged us the mandatory dollar and kept going along one of the regional routes to the happy tunes of local reggae bands blaring out the radio. The sun was shining, the day was beautiful and we grinned in delight from ear to ear.

The Meridian was easily reached and gave us a warm welcome. They even switched our room to a little penthouse apartment at no cost. We had an awesome rooftop terrace of our own with an ocean view, and the friendly staff made us feel right at home.

Barbados has truly outstanding beaches, and Dover Beach is no exception. Amazing fine sand, warm waters and steady rolling waves make the country a paradise for all water sports. Needless to say, we were really happy we had brought our snorkeling kits, and quickly decided we wanted to go diving, too.

The Dragonfly and I, swimming with the fish
We took a trip with Eco Dive Barbados, a locally-owned shop focused on the preservation of marine life and the promotion of sustainable diving practices. No fish-feeding here, that’s for sure! It was really cool to meet and share the passion of enthusiastic divers who care for nature. Dive master Andrew and our captain Mikey quickly made it clear that they favor slow, calm diving with as little movement as possible to truly enjoy what reef life is like. They took us to one of their favorite spots with abundant marine life and we enjoyed exploring a reef and a couple shipwrecks sitting in Carlisle Bay Marine Park. It was all I love about scuba diving.

Wonderful Crane Beach on an amazing day
We met wonderful people during the trip, one of which turned out to be both a local Bajan (what Barbadians call themselves) and a Montrealer. Our new friend Rudy took us for a little road trip around the island and showed us a few amazing spots like Crane Beach, with its amazing cavern, and Bathsheba, a gorgeous piece of paradise up in the Northeast. We got to meet his 96-year-old mother, a lovely lady who still lives in the house where Rudy grew up.

Going out and about is simple in Barbados; they have an extensive public transport service which is very easy to navigate. You can choose between the bigger, government-run buses which go along the main routes, or simply walk along pretty much any street and wait for the colorful horn tone of a ZR van (I swear each one has their own!), wave your hand and ask the driver or their helper if your destination is on their way. Yes? You hop in. No? You wait another couple minutes and you find one going the right way. Simple as that.

We took advantage of the easy transport system and visited spots all over the island :

Animal Flower Cave, view from the cliff top
Animal Flower Cave, at the northern tip, is a nice scenic bus ride but not worth the asking entry price. If you go, just walk around the park area, where the panorama overlooking the caves is quite stunning.

Orchid World is a real treat
Orchid World was a lovely experience, with its thousand exotic flowers and plants.

Charming Bridgetown
A walk around Bridgetown is kind of a must, although that’s where most of the cruise crowd hangs out, so usually this is not where you’ll find me.

The Carlisle Bay beach
The surrounding Carlisle Bay is gorgeous, the beach is impeccable and the scene is quite festive!

Running in Barbados...
Mind the inverted traffic!
If you plan on running in Barbados, well, let’s just say it’s far from ideal. The sidewalks are kind of random and the traffic is very dense, with vehicles whooshing close by in a cone of diesel fumes. Drivers are very polite and will make way for you, but too often there’s just not enough space for everybody.

Beach running, at least along the southwest coast, isn’t easy either because most beaches are along relatively small coves, separated either by cliffs or large lava rock wave breakers, so most beaches aren’t interconnected. There is a lovely seaside boardwalk in Hastings, but it’s not even a mile long. Barbados is a paradise for many things, but sadly running doesn’t seem to be one.

Although everything isn’t perfect in Barbados, it’s an awesome country filled with cool, nice people and gorgeous views. I loved the general attitude of the people and the ease and safety of going around. The island is blessed with some of the dreamiest beaches I have ever seen and has a lot more to offer visitors than just an ocean swim and a tanning spree.

Julie taking a picture of me taking a picture of Rudy

The week went by too fast for us and we would have loved to stay longer and enjoy more of what Barbados has to offer. Among others, I would’ve really liked to visit one of the artisanal rum distilleries and spend some more time diving various sites along the coastline.

Barbados has reconciled me with the Caribbean, by showing me it’s possible to travel outside of the ubiquitous all-inclusive package deals and enjoy an up-close encounter with a friendly population whose standard of life seems pretty good, all the while feeling welcome and relaxed. Barbados is a picture-pretty island where adventure and relaxation can go hand-in-hand; it was the perfect place for us to go recharge our batteries, enjoy some off-time and meet some friendly new faces. It was a lovely, lovely adventure!

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like you had a great time in Barbados and yes runners can find it a bit of a challenge. Maybe next time you visit you can take part in the Run Barbados festival, held in early December. There's usually a fun mile, 5K, 10K, half marathon and full marathon - see