View from Oceans Edge
by Matt with Anne-Marie and friends
This report is an account of my personal vacation. I suspect that’s why this report has been the most difficult to put on paper. Previous WIMCO business has brought me to Italy, St. Martin, Barbados and, of course, St. Barths. Each trip has required a journal of my travels, but my accounts were more from a reporter’s point of view rather than that of a participant.
This story begins back in November 2002. My colleagues and I were sent to Barbados for a villa and hotel inspection. There were so many amazing villas to describe to you, but that is not what this story is about. On our final day of touring villas we visited a very pretty two-bedroom villa located directly on the beach. What was different, aside from all the other gorgeous villas on Barbados, was that I imagined myself here on vacation. I asked our host how much it rented for in the low season. Our host stated that it was $3,200 and it included a cook and a housekeeper. I immediately got on my cell phone and called my fiancée Anne-Marie (yes, that Anne-Marie). I said “I found it. I found the perfect villa for our next vacation.” Alas, Barbados would wait two more years as it was first time to “meet the parents” in Europe.
When it came time to plan our vacation, the villa I had hoped for wasn’t available for our preferred dates. Oh the dismay! So we asked our Barbados specialist, Glenn, for her recommendations. We had three requirements: The villa had to be on the beach; it had to have a pool; and as we were traveling with friends, it had to have at least three bedrooms. Glenn recommended one of the Barbados villas at Merlin Bay (RL MER). Beginning April 16th $3,500 gets you three bedrooms on the beach with two pools, a housekeeper and a cook. Over a glass of wine with our friends we selected Ocean’s Edge at Merlin Bay. After the second glass of wine, we also collectively agreed that seven nights wasn’t long enough for a proper vacation. Later we learned that Ocean’s Edge wasn’t available for an extended stay. Again we asked Glenn for her recommendations. Glenn suggested that we begin our vacation at Port St. Charles and then move to Ocean’s Edge at Merlin Bay. Okay, it’s settled.
It’s a Great Place to Be
We arrived mid-afternoon at Grantly Adams International Airport. I was very pleased with not only the physical improvements they had made to the airport since my last visit, but more importantly the improved attitudes of the airport personnel. Enduring a major renovation at an International airport is sure to fray even a Bajan’s gracious demeanor.
After grabbing a bottle of Mt. Gay in the duty free we walked outside to meet our transfer. He drove us through the heartland of what I find to be, one or the most interesting countrysides in the Caribbean. One might ask, what is so interesting about sugar cane? Well, for one thing there are oil derricks spotted throughout the cane fields that supply nearly 50% of the islands needs.
Beach in Barbados
Soon after arriving, there we were on the beach, in our swimsuits enjoying a late afternoon swim, a rum punch and ten whole days on Barbados in front of us. It’s a great place to be.
That evening we dined at my favorite restaurant on Barbados. Discovered from my previous visit to Barbados, the Fish Pot is located directly on the water a mile up the road from Port St. Charles in Little Good Harbor. We enjoyed grilled local fish and a nice bottle of Domaine Ott, while delighting in the sounds of water slapping against the rocks beneath us imagining the fun we were about to have.
It’s Important to Feel Welcome
During our ten day stay on Barbados, aside from the very brief, and occasional tropical shower, there was only one true rainy day. What a great opportunity to take the obligatory tour of the Mt. Gay Distillery! (It isn’t really the distillery, but rather a tour facility.) No matter, a rainy day was a fine time to sample some of the country’s famous libation. We drove the forty-five minutes to Mt. Gay only to learn that it was closed, unscheduled due to “end of the season, mon”. Oh well. We decided to continue on to see what we could see. I had read about the Ostins fish fry held every Friday night, so we plotted our course. The bad news is that the street signs and the road maps of Barbados are poorly designated. The good news is that Bajans are some of the nicest people on the planet and are more than delighted to help you on your way.
We drove through Bridgetown. Skip it, especially in the rain, unless you’re checking in on one of your off shore bank accounts. Eventually we happened upon Ostins and its famous fish market. The downpour pretty much dampened any thought of our partaking in the weekly Friday night fish fry. We decided to do the next best thing, and buy our own fish. I was about to buy some mahi mahi fillets when all of a sudden a local fisherman sauntered up to the counter intent to sell an enormous, whole red snapper he held in his hands to our fishmonger. Snapper won.
We were leaving the market stalls about to brave the rain to the car park when an elderly Bajan woman yelled at me, “Come over here darling!” I shyly walked over the old woman. She took my left hand and said “How come you not married?” I replied, “I’m engaged, does that count?” “Not to me” she replied as she winked at Anne-Marie. Then with a hearty laugh she pulled me towards her and landed a big kiss on my cheek and said with a smile. “We love Americans. Enjoy your stay.”
Saturday we checked into Ocean’s Edge at Merlin Bay. This was not only our first villa vacation, but our first villa vacation with a full-time staff. How obtrusive would they be? How much privacy could we expect? Uncharted territory. Lillian our cook and Pauline the housekeeper greeted us, albeit demurely, but with great big beautiful Bajan smiles. They quickly made us feel right at home by giving us a tour of the villa and asking us about our particular needs. I piped in with “Let’s see how the days unfold. Would you mind, though, making us Flying Fish for dinner tonight? Oh, and where’s the blender? And, how is the ice supply?” After that, clearly communicating your needs assures you a wonderful experience.
It’s Nice to Indulge
Days at Ocean’s Edge were spent lazily around the pool, reading books, taking naps and, of course, swimming. We played cards and board games, too. While in Barbados no matter how late we stayed awake the night before, we were always up with the birds, swimming quietly in the ocean. We would make our own breakfast before the ladies arrived in the morning, but they cleaned up after us. If we weren’t going out for lunch, Lillian would come out to the pool and ask us what we wanted for lunch. If we didn’t go out for dinner we would have Lillian prepare dinner for us and leave it in the oven. Long after the ladies went home for the day we would reheat our dinner when we were ready to sit and eat.
Some of our more memorable dinners prepared by Lillian included her pumpkin soup and sweet dumplings. Oh my! I’m still trying to duplicate her Indian chicken curry, though with marginal success.
Undoubtedly the more memorable moments of the entire vacation included having evening cocktails and watching the turtles feed a mere 10 ft. from shore. One evening we joked about how we should rewrite the villa description to read. “Enjoy sunset cocktails while watching the sharks feed on the baitfish on the beach below.” We felt we had found a little slice of heaven, and we weren’t ready to share it with everyone. One evening we did reconnaissance for Tiger Woods and enjoyed sunset cocktails at the clubhouse up at the Sandy Lane golf club. No problems here, Tiger. Having lunch and drinking cold beers under the thatched roof with our toes in the sand at Cocomos was divine too. Anne-Marie and I went scuba diving four times.
Aside from the Fish Pot, our favorite meals out included Olives and Ragamuffins, both located in Holetown. One night we dined at the Lone Star. Housed in a former garage, the Lone Star is the latest darling in the British media for those affected types that find it more important to be seen rather than be delightfully surprised when forking over ungodly amounts of money for dinner. On a lighter note, in the British West Indies roti is what hamburgers are to Americans. I asked several locals where the best roti was to be found on the island. Waiters, bartenders and housekeepers alike all replied “Oh, you gotta go to Chefette, mon”. The roti was so good that we brought it on the plane with us for our meal on the flight home.
As this was my first bona fide villa vacation, I now truly understand why so many of our clients rebook the same villa, year after year. Anne-Marie and I have already rebooked our return to Barbados.
Originally published in 2004