December 2002by Matt Roche
"You're not going to need that much clothing", my smarter half kept telling me while I was deciding what to pack for my fact-finding mission to Barbados. "You keep forgetting, the villas in Barbados have a full-time staff, and they do your laundry everyday. You don't need three bathing suits, honey. One will do. Remember, this is a working trip." I was hearing her, but I wasn't listening to her. I did bring only one bathing suit, but I still brought too much clothing.
I was looking forward to this trip to Barbados for several reasons. First, any excuse to get out of the office is always welcome with me, especially during an unusually cold November in Newport. Second, this was my first trip to Barbados and I love discovery. Last, Barbados is a direct flight from New York. While my flight originated in Providence, I would rather change planes in New York than in St. Martin or San Juan. JFK to Barbados was a mere 4 hours. I would be sipping a rum punch and swimming in that delightful 82 degree water a good hour or two before sunset.
On the flight, my colleagues Glenn and Bethany quickly succumbed to a peaceful slumber. I wish I were so lucky; my insomnia dictated that I read a little bit about Barbados. I like to have as much knowledge of a destination as I possibly can before I arrive. I find that it helps me to get into the local groove sooner rather than later.
Upon arrival in the airport, the walk to Immigration seems like an eternity and the queue does as well, but the local personnel are professional and polite, which always allows me to forgive most transgressions. What would you expect when two jumbo jets arrive simultaneously? Archie, our driver, whisked us off to our soon to be home on the beach. In order to avoid Bridgetown traffic Archie was smart enough to take us on the longer more scenic route through the cane fields. Sugar cane grows everywhere, and Archie informed us that they are also experimenting with growing onions and nuts, with mixed results. Also, hidden in the cane fields are oil derricks. I read that Barbados produces nearly 50% of it's own petroleum requirements.
A mere 30-minutes later and we were at "Villa Old Trees", located directly on the beach just south of the Sandy Lane hotel. Rum punch please, and make it snappy, Glenn. Be sure to put an umbrella in it too.
The following morning our colleague Severine, who had arrived a day earlier and I inspected several of the hotels Wimco represents on the island. It was a whirlwind, but fortunately for us, all of the hotels that were on our schedule that day were located on the same stretch of road between Payne's Bay and Mullins Bay on Barbados' famed Platinum Coast. We took an extensive tour of each: Royal Pavilion, Glitter Bay, Coral Reef Club, Cobbler's Cove and Colony Club. While all of the above would meet the requirements of our clients, my favorite was the Coral Reef Club. Presently undergoing an extensive renovation and expansion, the Coral Reef Club has that British West Indies feel that one imagines but has never really been. Our inspections were over, and Severine had to catch a plane to Petit St. Vincent, but first we had to have lunch. I asked our driver, Juke where we could enjoy some good Roti. Severine asked, "What's Roti?" I replied, "Trust me, you're gonna love it". Roti is beef, chicken or fish curry, with diced potatoes and folded up in a crepe wrapping. Fifteen minutes later there we were at the Surfside Beach Bar & Grill, sipping a cold Carib and enjoying our spicy hot beef Roti, while we watched beach life go by. I think I'm falling in love with this island.
There is a wonderful selection of restaurants on Barbados, and after a week's time we never had a bad meal. Actually, we ate very, very well. The first night we dined out we chose the Mews, one of our top three favorites. The Mews, once a private home, has a cosmopolitan atmosphere with spacious seating and a lovely open-air graciousness about it. For my appetizer, I had their Crispy Duck Pancakes with Cucumber, Spring Onions and Hoisin Sauce. For my main course, the Thai Green Curry Shrimp. The service at every restaurant we visited had this habit of serving our appetizers promptly, yet the main course was always on the slow side to arrive. It was after our third occurrence that it dawned on me that this had more to do with our American dining behaviors than with slow service. The British, who make up more than 70% of the island's visitors, tend to linger longer between courses. We learned from one of our hosts that many restaurant employees attended the College of Tourism and Hospitality. And, if they haven't, they just "get it". My rhythm was starting to slow down and "get it" too.
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