August 2005by Doug Snow
The purpose of our trip to the island of Barbados June 12-18 was relatively straightforward. Let's call it Information Gathering 101. As members of the Wimco staff we regularly travel to the properties we represent in order to become familiar with them so that we can make good recommendations and offer our clients qualified advice. Our charge on this junket was to get to know the island, its people, the food, and an assortment of noteworthy villas. It's tough work, I know, but somebody has to do it.
The trip turned out to be so much more. Fantastic really sums up our Wimco Barbados adventure. The quality of the villas themselves, the happy disposition of the Bajan people and in particular the Bajan staffs who manage those villas, the lush if varied beauty of the island—all of it conspired to set this destination well apart in my mind. It is truly a special place.
Thanks to an early morning flight from Providence, RI, with one connection through Philly and timely arrivals at every corner, Wimco agents Glenn Ormiston, Anne-Marie Caye, Barbara Pierce and I found ourselves swimming in crystal-clear Caribbean water off Gibbs Beach in front of beautiful Villa Sandalo by four o'clock in the afternoon. Our driver Donald had been waiting for us at the airport and it was a pleasure to enjoy our first glimpse of the island through his seasoned eyes.
Sandalo would be our home for the first part of the week, a beautifully renovated British colonial-style residence on the leeward west coast fronting the beach at Mullins Bay and shaded by a stand of luscious mahogany trees. What a magnificent place! Four bedrooms occupy the upper floor and a fifth is available in an adjacent guest cottage. There are balconies overlooking the pool, the grounds and the Caribbean, and a state-of-the-art media room if you are so inclined. It is supremely comfortable and incredibly civilized. We enjoyed chilled towels, fresh lemonade and an endless supply of home-baked fish cakes day in and day out.
As is typical of Wimco's Barbados properties, Sandalo is fully staffed. When we arrived, the front door opened and there to greet us was our impeccable Bajan retinue, every attendant dressed in a pressed, rose-colored uniform, every face beaming with that warm indigenous smile we would become so familiar with and touched by during our stay. Chef Rodney wore his tallest chef's hat in our honor.
Having a staff makes the Barbados villa experience special in many different ways. Cooks and housekeepers at any given villa tend to have been there for years and take singular pride in the property itself and the quality of service they extend to visitors. Whatever you want and whenever you want it—it's there, presto, as if by magic. The food at home is so good that you are reluctant to go out for meals. Villa chefs apprentice at restaurants all over Barbados and lay claim to delirious repertoires. Our own Rodney at Sandalo was right out of sushi school. We ate like samurais.
Within days of being on Barbados it occurred to me that the Bajans who staff these houses in fact reflect the Bajan population at large. This is a proud and happy island nation, well-educated, and the friendliness we saw in our villa extends outward from parish to parish. Schoolchildren, so endearing and so polite, stride about to and from school in their cute brown uniforms like packs of little UPS envoys. Shopkeepers, cab drivers...they all pitch in to make your time here as refined as it is memorable.
We spent the first four days of our trip absorbed in villa visits, meals at local restaurants and life at Sandalo. Our movements were consigned predominantly to the lush and tranquil west coast facing the Caribbean between Speightstown to the north and the capital city Bridgetown to the south—the Platinum Coast, as luxury travelers call it, dominated by St. James parish. This is where Wimco’s properties are located. The beaches are gentle and the vegetation is tropical and deep green, with trees towering well over 30 feet, vibrant birdlife and gardens thriving everywhere.
By contrast, the center of the island is made up of flatland dedicated mostly to sugar cane and interspersed with rolling hills. The east coast facing the Atlantic Ocean and buffeted by trade winds is rocky and rough, fascinating in its rugged primal beauty.
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