Did you know that Barbados is in its golden age? This November – on the thirtieth to be exact – the island will mark one of its most impressive milestones to date: fifty years of independence. If you do the math correctly, it will take you back to 1966, when the people’s passion created a political force that ushered the island into a new era. But for the last (almost) fifty years, Barbados has built its charm on embracing its new path as well as the remnants of its recent history.
So no, it isn’t happenstance that you’ve got a sense of déjà vu on glancing at many of the buildings in the capital city Bridgetown, or that you’ve passed a few road signs bearing the names of some well-known British streets. Early settlers brought familiar architecture and street names with them to create a sense of home. For such a small place, our island holds many secrets waiting to be discovered. So strap on your walking shoes or better yet, let our Concierge department hire you a private driver who already knows where to go and how exactly to get there. So let’s dive right in!
Bridgetown: a glimpse into the immediate past
Like many other world cities, much of Bridgetown’s infrastructure offers clues as to the beginnings of modern Barbados. Naturally, being the political and financial hub of the island, there is quite a bit to learn. Each historic structure in the city has some priceless fun fact that makes for great dinner table material. Be sure to tour our Parliament building- dating back to 1639, it’s the 3rd oldest Parliament in the Caribbean and is still in use, having been kept in immaculate condition. You can even sit in on the weekly Tuesday debates… but do that at your own peril; it can get pretty heated! The Nidhe Israel Synagogue and Museum, just a short walk away, holds the distinction of being one of the oldest synagogues in the Western Hemisphere, dating back to the mid-17th century. The environs of Bridgetown also play host to the Garrison Savannah, the Barbados Museum & Historical Society and George Washington House (fun fact: Barbados is the only country outside the USA that George Washington ever visited!), all impressive buildings in their own right. To drive home how distinguished these buildings are, just consider the fact that they are all recipients of the UNESCO World Heritage designation. We are more than able to organise a walking tour of Bridgetown with one of our experienced guides to help you explore the heart of the island.
The Northern Sights (And Sites!)
The historic charm of Barbados doesn’t begin and end with Bridgetown, however. Travelling further north will take you to Holetown and Speightstown, two more of the 4 large towns on the island. Holetown, originally named Jamestown, was where the English first landed in Barbados in 1625. Look out for the Holetown monument, which was erected to commemorate the landing; if you check closely, you’ll see they made a blunder (or did a bit of embellishing) and recorded the date as 1605. The annual Holetown Festival takes place in February to mark the first landing, so if you are here around then, don’t be a stranger!
Speightstown was settled a few years later and quickly became a major port and commercial centre for the island. It’s considerably quieter today but many colonial buildings still stand tall there, like Arlington House Museum, an 18th century three-storey house filled with loads of interactive features and exhibits on the bygone era. Be sure to also stop by St. Peter’s Parish Church – whose foundation makes it one of the oldest churches on the island; we say ‘foundation’ because having been rebuilt four times after falling victim to hurricanes and fire, that’s probably the only original part left!
Churches (and Rum Shops!) Galore
Only in Barbados is it a norm to juxtapose sanctity and spirits of the inebriating kind. On this tiny island, it’s estimated that the number of rum shops surpass the number of days in the year – and the only other institution that equals or outnumbers this are churches! The story goes that rum shops popped up next door, across the road, and down the block from all the churches so that when the ladies were at worship, the gents could sneak out and have a spot close by to slam a game of dominos and enjoy a flask of rum before heading back to walk home with the family. That must have been some interesting treks back home!
But not all churches are made the same and there are definitely a few that stand out: St. John’s Parish Church with its breathtaking views; the exquisitely detailed stained glass at All Saints’ Church; and the curious – and quite frankly creepy – legend surrounding the Chase Vault at the Christ Church Parish Church. So, visiting local places of worship certainly should not be limited to Sunday mornings, especially if you want to visit the nearby rum shop for a quick libation!
But to talk about Barbados without telling the story of rum would be a disservice – it was born right here, after all! Since its introduction in the 17th century, the sugarcane spirit has become a staple at local meals, business meetings and parties. To find out more (and to sneak in a few swigs), visit the Mount Gay Rum Distillery for a tour…or your nearest rum shop, whichever is closer. With that being said, we’ll let you go for that drink now and pick up in our next post on the natural sights to see on island!
To all lovers of Barbados and those who want to explore the island for the first time, Blue Sky Luxury presents the ‘From the Desk of the Barbados Buff’ series! The Barbados Buff will help you to unearth all of the possibilities the island has to offer well before you bury your toes on our warm, sandy shores! Make sure to look out for the next blog!
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