Barbados Flowers Followed by Flying Fish Sandwiches

Day two of the Barbados trip dawns clear and bright with the waves continuing to crash quite loudly not far from our balcony. Getting up early to write a post I have my first beef with Bougainvillea Beach Resort and while it’s pretty minor on the overall scale of pluses and minuses it is an issue to a travel writer – the wifi sucks. It is spotty, slow and frustrating. It takes forever to upload pictures. I learn later that day that this is not a problem unique to this resort. Apparently ever since one of the two Barbadian internet providers bought out the other to create a monopoly, little money has been spent on upgrading connections. The benefits of competition once again fade in the face of corporate greed. That’s all I am going to write about this problem, but it will mean more time behind the computer and less out exploring starting with Barbados flowers.

Every time before visiting a new destination I check the web to look for a “What’s on this week” type of site and for Barbados it’s What’s On in Barbados which provides a wealth of information about local events. For example, I have discovered that today the Barbados Horticultural Society is holding its annual Flower and Garden show. Apparently this event is a prelude to helping select participants in the world’s largest flower show, the Chelsea Flower Show in London. That event is so big that even Ticketmaster sells tickets for it. So I am not going to miss a chance to visit this version of the flower show minor leagues or perhaps more charitably, the play-ins. If Barbados flowers are not your thing fast forward to the end of the flower pictures, otherwise have a look.

On the map the location of the show doesn’t look that far away so I ask at the front desk about walking and get a look like I’m some kind of lunatic, so we grab a taxi instead and as it turns out it was too far and mostly uphill. I pay the driver the fare and add a few dollars for the tip and he replies” No mon, honesty is the best policy”. I figure that maybe he’s insulted because I tipped him, but then he shows me that I gave him a $100.00 bill thinking it was a $10.00. He could have kept it and I would not have had a clue – if this is an example of Bajan culture I’m all for it. He also shows where we can walk a short distance after leaving to catch a bus back to The Gap. For the record his name is Julian Alleyne of Alleyne’s Taxi Service – (246) 423-5587.

The Barbados flowers show is being held inside what appears to be an old sugar plantation as there is an old mill that overlooks the open grounds where vendors have set up tents selling plants, cut flowers, gardening supplies and local crafts – it’s very colourful, but I’m here for the Barbados flowers.

Old Mill at the Barbados Flowers show
Old Mill at the Horticultural Show

The first exhibits we come to are the cut flowers, but unfortunately many have wilted in the heat, but not this prize winning rose.

Award Winning Rose at Barbados Flowers Show
Award Winning Rose

Next up are the flower arrangement entries and some of these are extraordinary while others like this boogie board themed one are just a little bizarre.

Boogie Board flower arrangement
Boogie Board flower arrangement

This huge floral arrangement of Barbados flowers titled Sailor’s Valentine Garden is apparently headed to London for the Chelsea show in May.

Sailor's Valentine Garden, Barbados Flowers Show
Sailor’s Valentine Garden

Bonsai plants have always held a special fascination for me and it seems the Barbadians too as there are a great number of really nice bonsai including this bougainvillea. It’s amazing that the plant has been shrunk to minuscule proportions, but not the flowers that are the same size as in a regular specimen.

Bonsai Bougainvillea, Barbados Flowers Show
Bonsai Bougainvillea

As you would expect for a tropical environment there is a great variety of ferns, which are interesting for their foliage rather than their flowers, with this huge bird’s nest fern leading the way.

Bird’s Nest Fern
Bird’s Nest Fern

However, the stars of every horticultural show are almost always the orchids and it was no different this morning. Here is what greeted the eye on stepping down some old steps into what was probably the former basement of the old manor, the rest long gone.

Barbardian Orchids, Barbados Flowers Show
Barbardian Orchids

Here is the award winner.

Prize Winning Orchid
Prize Winning Orchid

And second place.

Second Place
Second Place

Here’s a version of one of the most elegant orchids of all, the lady slipper.

Lady Slipper
Lady Slipper

After about an hour and half taking dozens and dozens of pictures of Barbados flowers I am photo shocked and it’s time to head back. We follow the directions provided by Julian to the nearest bus stop and along the way we pass a couple of really interesting churches. The first is what I took to be a modern ruin when we passed it on the way from the airport yesterday. However, passing by on foot today I can see that is indeed a church with large cinder block walls that has no roof, but that there is a completed basement with the ground floor of the unfinished church acting as a roof. The sounds coming out of this subterranean church are amazing – modern gospel singing at its loudest, with touches of reggae, soul and r&b thrown in. We would have liked to listen a little, but were given a distinctly ‘move on ‘ look from a woman guarding the door. According to the sign this was the Tower of Power Global Network Ministries, although I can’t seem to find much about them on the web other than apparently a husband and wife team are the prophet and prophetess of the ministry. Maybe the band Tower of Power that has been around since the 1960’s, should investigate.

Walking further toward Highway 7 we came upon a much more traditional looking church from which the deep, rich sounds of a full choir signing traditional hymns emanated. Peeking in we could see the place was packed. This was the Providence Methodist Church and shortly after we arrived the congregation started to emerge with the choir members cloaked in velvet blue robes leading the way followed by the other members decked out in their Sunday finery. It is apparent that the Christian religion is alive and well in Barbados and although I am not a believer, as long as they don’t want to kill me for that, I wish them only the best.

Providence Methodist Church
Providence Methodist Church

Hungry by now, we took the bus back to The Gap and strolled around looking for a more traditional place to eat than the more expensive waterfront places. We settled on Daddy’s which was one of a number of small take outs located in a public area behind Dover Beach. The menu was small and put up in chalk beside the small counter that doubled as a bar. It’s been almost twenty-four hours and I’ve yet to sample one of Barbados’ most famous offerings – a flying fish cutter. They are on offer here for $7.00 BDS. We each order one, along with a side of rice & peas and two drinks. Grand total with small tip – $27.00 BDS – that’s about $15 bucks canuck. The cutter is essentially a sandwich on a very fresh roll or bun topped with a variety of different veggies including lettuce, tomato and cucumber. Add a little Bajan hot sauce and my God you’ve got yourself some good eating. I vowed right then to have one every day. Not only will I have great lunches, but it will average down the cost of the evening meals. Pure genius. BTW I was so anxious to bite into that little sucker when it arrived I forgot to take a picture.

Daddy’s St. Lawrence Gap
Daddy’s St. Lawrence Gap

After lunch we walked back to the Bougainvillea along the beach after getting to it through the same narrow lane beside the Dover Beach Hotel that we used the night before. Time now to talk of a very bad neighbour. If you look at the Dover Beach Hotel you will see a wonderful beach with a breakwater in the distance. Before you jump to conclusions, it’s not Dover Beach Hotel I’m pissed at, but the property that sits between it and the Bougainvillea, none other than that paragon of purported virtue, Sandals. The Barbados location opened only weeks ago after extensively renovating a large existing property. On its website it promised “No stone unturned with every aspect of the resort to undergo major enhancement”  (that’s their version of English, not mine). Well apparently they meant that to be taken literally because this is what we saw as we returned to the hotel this afternoon.

Creating a breakwater on Maxwell Beach
Sandals improving on Mother Nature

I really couldn’t believe this sign.

Beach under Construction
Beach under Construction

Since when do you construct a beach? Don’t you go look for a great beach and then build a resort on it? The hubris of this enterprise is mind boggling. Here is a link to Sandals’ Environmental Policy – note the part about minimizing the environmental impacts of their operations. Apparently that only applies after they have constructed the environment they deem suitable for their guests. Here’s how the beach will look in future.

Sandal's Breakwaters
Sandals’ Breakwaters

Here you can see how balkanized the beach in front of Sandals has become. Supposedly the idea is to create a wider beach, but sand does not magically generate because you build a bunch of devices to trap it. The sand has to come from somewhere and in all likelihood that means poaching it from your neighbours. I suspect there is something a little more obvious going on – Sandals simply wants to make it much more difficult for non-guests to walk the beach in front of the resort. Even though all Barbadian beaches belong to the people, apparently Sandals has its own special rules.

Here’s the beach in front of Bougainvillea. Which would you prefer?

The beach at Bougainvillea
The beach at Bougainvillea

Now that I have my rant against Sandals over with, let me tell you about the beach and water at Bougainvillea. In one word – fantastic. The sand is very fine and just the right consistency for walking on – not too hard or soft. There is little to no coral or broken shells on the beach or in the water so you don’t need beach shoes. The water is warm, but not hot – very refreshing. Best of all, the waves here are great for body surfing, using a boogie board or just plain horsing around. Other beaches up the way had the red flag up (no going in) because the waves were too big, but here they are perfect. There is no steep drop off so you don’t need to worry about finding yourself out over your head if you don’t want to be. While I wouldn’t recommend these conditions for little kids, for everyone who likes surf, they couldn’t be better.

For dinner tonight we went to another restaurant in The Gap that had a beautiful location on the water, but it had just opened and frankly didn’t really have its act together so I’m not going to name it because it could turn out to be very good in the future.

Did I mention it was Superbowl Sunday? After our meal Don and I are watching the game while the ladies confer elsewhere. Go Pats!

So we’ve gone from Barbados flowers to flying fish to giving a flying f*** about what Sandals is doing. Next we’ll visit Mount Gay the world’s oldest rum distillery. Please come along for the visit and stay for the drinks.