Bridgetown – A Walking Tour of Barbados Capital City
A few days ago Alison and I really enjoyed the tour of the Barbados Garrison and George Washington House put on by the Barbados Garrison Historical Consortium Inc. However, that tour does not actually take you to the sites of downtown Bridgetown so today we are returning by ourselves to see what Bridgetown has to offer.
Getting to Bridgetown is simple – we hop into one of the ZR’s, Barbados private minibuses that are mostly used by the locals, but are perfectly safe for tourists as well. You can’t beat the price of $2 BDS or $1 US. The ZR careens along the coastal road and eventually is packed to the gunnels, including one enormous Englishwoman who easily has to weigh over 300 pounds and actually tips the ZR in her direction. All the ZR’s going to Bridgetown end their journey at a central staging point where we get out among a throng of locals and tourists headed into the city for the day. Everyone heads in the same direction towards the Charles Duncan O’Neale bridge across the Careenage which marks the entrance to downtown Bridgetown. Along the way there are dozens of small stalls selling everything from fruit and vegetables to clothing and electronics. Most people don’t seem that interested and in my experience buying things at the first market stalls you come to is usually a mistake – besides I don’t want to be mistaken for just another over the hill Englishman wearing a cheap Bob Marley T-shirt.
There’s a couple of places I want to see in Bridgetown, but in no particular order so we just go with the flow of the locals who seem to be headed for the busy streets to the right of the bridge while most of the tourists veer left to the Boardwalk and sites along the Careenage. It’s immediately obvious that Bridgetown drivers obey the traffic signals as do the pedestrians making the walking a lot safer than in a lot of other supposedly more civilized cities – Athens, I’m thinking of you. The first stop is at an optometrist’s to buy a pair of reading glasses to replace the ones I broke yesterday. No problem.
Then we traipse by some very modern stores before coming to a pedestrian area that is the city fruit and vegetable market.
Our friend Helle had complained that you couldn’t get fresh produce in the Barbadian stores. Maybe that’s true, but you sure could here as every imaginable type of tropical fruit and vegetable was on display at reasonable prices. This fellow had an interesting take on potential customers. It certainly amused Alison.
Moving on through the market we came out on Swan Street and followed it to the imposing St. Mary’s Anglican Church, which dates from 1825, but apparently it has been consecrated ground since 1641 making it the second oldest in Barbados.
Although I am not a religious person, I still can appreciate fine architecture and religious based artwork. Inside this church I find just such an example in the fourteen stations of the cross that are beautiful examples of painted plasterwork. Here are two of them.
The church also has a very tranquil cemetery with some fine specimen trees including one huge silk cotton tree or ceiba. The online guide to the church says the following about that tree, ” There is also a gorgeous silk cotton tree located at the eastern side of the church yard, which was said to be used for public hangings. ” Somehow that reminds of something right out of Monty Python. I can see Graham Chapman, dressed as an old lady, saying “Oh, what a gorgeous tree” and Terry Jones, dressed the same, responding ” Yes, let’s find somebody to hang from it.” On that note I leave you with this scene.
Continuing our tour of Bridgetown we wander back down Broad Street towards what I presume to be the Barbados’ Parliament Buildings given their prominence across from National Heroes Square where I meet Lord Nelson once again. Previous encounters have occurred, in chronological order, in Montreal, London, Dublin (blown up in 1966 three years after my visit), Halifax (his portrait graces the Lord Nelson Hotel even though he never set foot in the city), Edinburgh and Birmingham. The man gets around.
We cross the street from the Nelson statue and enter the courtyard between two buildings that face each other. I presume that the grander of the two is the House of Parliament. Entering same we are greeted by a very pleasant young lady who no doubt spends most of her time telling people that this is not the Parliament, but rather the West Wing (has a familiar ring to it). It does house the Barbados Museum of Parliament and the National Heroes Gallery which we tour and learn that Barbados has the third oldest Parliament in the Commonwealth.
The actual building where the legislators meet in Bridgetown is across the way in a much less imposing building which unfortunately we cannot visit because the guide who is usually there is taking a mental health day.
Our last stop is the Barbados Museum which is actually on the Garrison Grounds so we hop a cab and take the short ride there getting out in a sputtering of rain. Hey, it’s raining in Barbados and I’ve already planned a trip to the museum!
I’m not going to pretend that this is one of the world’s great or even good museums, but it does give a decent overview of Barbadian natural and anthropological history. I found the exhibits on the mysterious Amerindians who lived on Barbados for 20,000 years, but had disappeared by the time the Europeans showed up, the most interesting. Also very interesting was the list of Barbadians who had served and died in the two world wars. There were at least a dozen who had served in Nova Scotia regiments and many more who had served in other Canadian regiments. I counted a number who died at Vimy Ridge, Ypres and Passchendaele. Since I will be visiting those places in a couple of months I will keep my eyes open for more about this little known Canada/Barbados connection.
The rain had stopped when we finished out museum tour and the sun was out again. Time to head back to the Bougainvillea for a quick dip and a sip. Join us tomorrow as we get out on the water and snorkel Carlisle Bay.