After being stuck at sea all day yesterday, I think Nicole and I were extremely eager to get off the boat and do some exploring on our next island. I was unsure what to expect of Bridgetown and the surrounding areas of Barbados. After reading what Fodor’s had to offer on the island it sounded like an interesting place to say the least and I don’t think we were disappointed one bit. Every night our Steward left the schedule for the next day’s events, including what the time the ship would be docking at the port and what time it would be leaving. The informational packet also included guidelines or tips regarding the port. Barbados had a few interesting ones all based on the same premise; you are not allowed to wear anything camouflage while on the island of Barbados; this includes t-shirts, shorts, pants, skirts, backpacks, bags, bandanas and anything else you can imagine. Apparently, this government or “regime” has set this as a strict law that is enforced by the local authorities. While, Nicole and I did not plan on wearing our camo shorts or shirts, this was a little alarming to me. The first thing I thought about when I read this was that either the government has been or is oppressive, there was some sort of military coup in the past, or there has been issues with rebels or something like that. I have no idea if any of that is true regarding the politics and past history of Barbados, those are what I immediately began to think about.
For breakfast, we headed down to the Pacific Dining Room and this time opted to sit by ourselves for breakfast. This was Nicole’s initial suggestion the day before, but I thought after sitting at dinner alone we would try and sit with others and be social. I should have listened to her because it was painstakingly awful (Yes, I said I should have listened to her and it’s in print…good thing I have the ability to edit previous posts in case this becomes a trend in the future).
In terms of our itinerary for the day, after reading Fodor’s I decided that we would try a beach that seemed local, hidden and secluded from where others on the cruise ship would venture or where tourists would spend their days in Barbados. The beach was called Accra beach (it had another name but this is the one I remember from the book). When we got off the ship, it was the same song and dance as in St. Thomas; a million taxis all spitting out the same rates based on how many people we had in their taxis. When we mentioned we wanted to go to Accra beach we were shuffled like a herd of cattle to a taxi driver named Jenny. After waiting about 15 minutes, a couple sitting behind us became extremely agitated that we had waited so long to leave (apparently they had waited for about 15 minutes before we got into the cab, so roughly 30 minutes and there was minimal aircon running in the taxi so it was hot. I can understand the frustration, but these people were being real pains in the ass and just flat out rude to our driver Jenny. It seemed apparent that they had not traveled very often, if at all outside of the USA. People, who have, understand that island time is just a bit slower than life in the USA, plus our fare may be the only one this driver gets for the whole day. Her goal is to drop us off and hopefully pick us up from wherever we go to make a nice roundtrip fare. If everyone is paying $8-10 for a drop-off and a pickup and there are 8 people or more in a taxi that’s a good days work for someone like Jenny. Clearly this couple didn’t know that and more importantly didn’t care. It really took a lot for me to not just simply blast this couple for how ridiculous and inappropriate they were being. I would have loved to bitch slap them.
My only issue was how Nicole and I were seated. We were in the front seat with the driver. I had a middle seat (which had some sort of seatbelt, aka the suicide seat) and Nicole had what was a proper front seat for a passenger, except sitting on the right (because it was formerly a British colony, they drive on the left. One last thing about this couple, you could tell that they hadn’t gone anywhere because they were dropped off at some fancy Hilton resort for the day (schmucks), nothing says tourist like being dropped off from a cruise ship to a resort hotel. Could you experience any less culture? Come on. That’s certainly not how I roll and how Nicole was starting to roll.
The ride to Accra beach was roughly 20 minutes or so from the cruise terminal to the beach. Maybe 30 minutes. It seemed like every beach we went too took 30 minutes on our trip. Anyway, Jenny was a middle-aged, formerly in the military, vibrant, enthusiastic, rambunctious tour guide/taxi driver. During our ride to Accra beach which included dropping off 6 other people at other beaches we learned a plethora of information. She was pointing out landmarks, giving us the history of Bridgetown and the island in general. We loved her and she was so friendly. When we were dropped off at Accra she called for a local who was working in conjunction with the bar that was also on the beach to get us set up with some chairs and whatever we needed. We told her to come get us at around 1PM. This would give us enough time to soak up the sun, walk around a little and do some shopping at a makeshift market which ran parallel to the beaches.
This beach was pretty nice. It wasn’t 100% sunny, which I enjoyed since I was burnt from St. Thomas and yesterday, however, because the sun was poking through from time to time, it didn’t really show the true beauty of the beach. The water didn’t look as aqua blue and as crystal clear and it should have, however, it was certainly a unique beach. The beach had a reef which started on land and went into the water. Contained within this reef were crabs. These crabs ranged in size from very small to fairly large. The amazing thing about the crabs was that their shells blended in perfectly with the colors of the rocks and coral that made up this reef. We also saw some hermit crabs and some very small fish swimming in pools of water brought in by the waves but trapped by the rocks. This seemed like a spot to potentially go snorkeling but after my experience in St. Thomas, I think my back needed a break from the sun.
So the deal with this beach was that renting two chairs got you 2 drinks at the bar equivalent to what you paid in Bajan dollars. I believe the chairs were 10 USD for the pair, giving us 20 Bajan dollars to spend at the bar. This bar was pretty cool. It has all sorts of drinks, both alcoholic and non, it served food and had an open-aired, roofed seating area. It was also right on the beach and very convenient to where we were seated. I decided to head up with my receipt to see what drinks they had to and to inquire about possibly renting snorkeling gear. I really didn’t want the gear but I was curious to see how much they charged for the mask and breathing tube (which come strapped together). I approached the local, who appeared to be the barback/server/helper. The bar appeared to be owned and operated by white, female sisters. When I walked up to the dude, I asked “how much to rent a snorkel?” He looked around, looked at me, made an awkward facial expression and said “Uh $20 dollars.” I immediately said “20 Bajan dollars?” “No” he replied, “$20 USD.” I returned the awkward facial expression, except mine should have been interpreted that I was saying “get the hell out of here, do I look like an idiot?” It had become apparent to me as I walked back to my lounge chair that the dude had simply made up a price. Either they didn’t rent them, or he didn’t know how much they rented them for and was just going to charge me whatever he thought I may bite at and pocket the difference or pocket the entire amount.
Again, I felt like reaching across the bar and bitch slapping this guy. I mean I understand I’m a tourist and every local assumes in these sorts of countries that we are rich, stupid, white tourists and that will just accept whatever price is given to us because we do not know any better or are just so happy to see crystal blue water and some dudes with dread-locks playing Bob Marley that we will be suckered. Now, I am not saying I have not been suckered in the past. Anyone who has read my entries from previous trips knows that in every country there is a local price and a traveler/tourist price and everyone knows that I can easily recognize when I am getting ripped off and that I try to minimize how much I get ripped off per day. If I had accepted his offer of $20 USD or 40 Bajan dollars to rent a snorkel mask and attached breathing tube, this would have been the rip-off of rip-offs. Even more then the time I fell for the old “I ran your credit card a few times and it doesn’t seem to be working, can you just pay me cash instead,”(June, 2007 Bangkok) because this would have been such a blatant rip-off. Part of me wishes I had said “ok” and just seen how the guy would have reacted; would he have smiled and walked back to get me a snorkel set? Would he have said “hold on a sec let me check,” and found out the real price, or would he have been a real pro, been stone-faced taken my money and given me the snorkel set? I’ll never know, but next time I’m in a similar situation, maybe I’ll press the issue and see what happens.
The water in Barbados was a lot warmer than St. Thomas. This was expected as we had traveled considerably south of St. Thomas. This beach was also really nice because you could literally walk 250 feet or more off-shore and still be waste high. At a certain point the water level dropped dramatically and then out in the distance there appeared to be a sandbar. I didn’t swim out to it for obvious reasons (I’m a crappy swimmer). After Nicole had a few sips of her drink, a few beers for me, we took some pictures, and I actually got Nicole into the water. Getting her in the water is not easy. It’s almost like I have to dangle something in front of her to lead her in and as soon as the water hits her ankles and there is a hint of wave again I started to hear rumblings of what was becoming one of many Nicoleisms; “the water is too rough and too dirty, I have gone far enough.” “But Nicole the water is only at your ankles,” I replied, “that’s okay; I’m in far enough thanks.” At that point, I refused to hear it and demanded she grab my hand and we started to walk out into the water. I mean you are in Barbados, at a pretty amazing beach, suck it up and enjoy it! At one point, I pulled one of my oldest tricks (one that Jenny is very familiar with), and set her up for the take down. There are two strategies for the take down, either start to incessantly compliment or go for the “hey look over there” approach and boom go for the take down. I realized that going with the “hey look over there” approach probably wouldn’t go over well. Instead, I went with old reliable and started to incessantly compliment Nicole to the point where she was unaware of her surrounding and them boom! The take down! I made sure we were in deep enough water where neither of us would get hurt. The plan had worked! She was still ruminating over all the compliments that she didn’t care that I had just taken her down (yes her head actually went below the water). We spent some more time swimming around and enjoying the amazingly warm and crystal clear, blue water and then it was time to head out and move on from Accra beach. However, before we could go I had to fill up a bottle with sand (I used one of the beer bottles I had drank and filled it with lovely Bajan sand from the beach – I was trying to get sand from each beach we went too at the request of Momma Epstein).
Our first stop was this makeshift market. Nicole was interested in getting one of those multi-purpose and colorful sarongs that girls wear in the summertime. We went to one shop and the woman didn’t have very many but said that her friend might have some. So she brought us 5 feet to the next shop. Low and behold the woman had exactly what Nicole was looking for. Initially, I thought that the price seemed incredibly high for what she wanted. I mean the fabric definitely felt like cotton and was softer than that cheap fabric you often see these sorts of things made out of (it often feels like plastic). She definitely overpaid, but based on how much things seemed to cost at the other islands we would visit, it wasn’t too bad. My theory is simple, if you want it get it because otherwise you will go home with nothing and regret not buying the things you really wanted (unless what you want outrageously expensive and out of your budget. Budget, what the hell is a budget ).
After picking up a few other trinkets, we decided to head to I guess the equivalent of McDonalds in Barbados (And yes, Barbados does NOT have a McDonalds), called Chefette. It was the cleanest fast food joint I had ever been too. We had heard the food was really good, lots of locals go there and that it was something we had to try in Barbados. We ended up getting some chicken sandwiches (Nicole got a wrap, I got a chicken sandwich), fries and drinks. While Chefette had the look and feel of a fast food joint, it was anything but fast. The food seemed to take forever to come and there were barely any patrons! If this didn’t scream “island time”, I’m not sure what would. I figured that if any place would have fast service it would be Chefette. I mean even when I was at the McDonald’s in Fiji, where a simple pizza took an hour and a half to get, the food came fast. Anyway, I would recommend Chefette to any travelers/tourists looking for decent, unhealthy meal that wasn’t that cheap for fast food (about 15 bucks for both of us).
After our lovely, delicious meal at Chefette, it was time to walk back to Accra Beach and look for Jenny. As I expected Jenny was waiting for us. Nicole took a picture with Jenny and we piled back into the taxi and Jenny started to make her rounds picking up everyone EXCEPT that annoyingly, nasty couple from earlier. Good riddens to them! We told Jenny that we wanted to be dropped off at the famous Synagogue in Bridgetown. I had read in Fodor’s about an old Temple that was built in the mid 1600’s and was considered one of the oldest Jewish temples in the Western Hemisphere. This was a must-see and Nicole was excited as well to take a look. Jenny dropped us off around the corner and gave us some good directions to get to the temple and how to get back to the main strip of Bridgetown. We were dropped off in a fairly seedy looking area. Low concrete buildings, not much commercial business around and I could tell Nicole did not like Bridgetown very much. Unlike Charlotte Amalie (capital of St. Thomas), Bridgetown was more indicative and resembling of a third world country capital city. While this was nothing new for me, and to be perfectly honest not a bad looking city, I can imagine that the small alley ways and narrow streets and lack of street lights probably makes this area of Bridgetown, as well as others tough at night.
We found the Synagogue and it was fascinating. It was clear that it had been destroyed and it appeared that the area was in the process of being restored. There were a few structures on the plot of land including an extremely old Jewish cemetery. Cemeteries freak Nicole out so I didn’t walk down into the cemetery to take a look at the tombstones. They probably wouldn’t have told me very much considering I can only read Hebrew, but have no idea what the words mean (typical Jewish Reform education, sigh). I was hoping that the Rabbi would be around, but alas he wasn’t Nicole and I went into the rebuilt temple, took some photos and then it was off to explore the rest of downtown Bridgetown. To be honest, it wasn’t that great. We went into a few shops, walked around a small mall (mainly to cool off and to find some Tchotchkes). Nicole and I had decided to collect a shot glass and picture frame from every place we went too. I was also on a mission to get some Cuban cigars for the rest of the cruise. I enjoy a nice cigar from time to time and do not pass up opportunities to get REAL Cuban cigars. We ended up finding a shop that sold all the Tchotchkes we were looking for as well a cigar shop a few shops away. This took care of the purchasing portion of the day. Also, we found a guy selling freshly made snow cones in a cup and of course I had to get one. I love ice, I love colored, sugary fruit flavoring and therefore I love snow cones! Man, it hit the spot considering how hot it was out. Also, it looked like rain clouds were rolling in and I hoped it wouldn’t start to downpour right on us before we had a chance to get back onto the boat.
After we got our snow cone and our trinkets, we decided to try and use the phone card that Nicole bought for our trip. This was a small point of contention between us leading up to the trip. I didn’t think a phone card was really necessary but Nicole wanted the ability to call her parents when we were on the islands. This was our first and really only squabble of the trip. After repeated attempts to get the phone card to work which included me having to speak with ATT customer service in America and an operator in Barbados, I became really frustrated and blurted out “Man you really must love your mother and need to talk to her”; Immediately after saying that I had realized that it probably wasn’t the best choice of words. For those that know of the movie “A Christmas Story” shown every Christmas eve for 24 hours on TBS, I had a Ralphie moment here. In the movie, Ralphie is asked by his mother what he wants for Christmas. He immediately blurts out that he wants this red rider gun and then you hear the voice in his head go “ohhhh” because he knew that his mother would never get it for him and she proceeded to say “you’ll shoot your eye out Ralphie.” That is how I felt after I blurted those words out; (Also the part where he says the F-word after he knocks over the lugnuts from the tire when his dad is changing it on the side of the road). I should have been more considerate to Nicole’s feelings realizing that she hadn’t traveled as much as I have and wanted to speak to her mom. After, I got the look of death from her and the guilt trip (“Don’t worry Josh you don’t have to keep trying I’ll call her tomorrow,”), I got it to work and she was able to speak to her mother. I figured I would call my parents (and got the same treatment from her when she said “I guess you really love your dad,”) after I spoke to him on the phone. I said “touché” we said sorry and moved on. We can’t really fight, it’s too hard because we get along too well!
The rain clouds were becoming increasingly ominous and it was time to head back to the ship. We had been harassed for like 15 minutes by the same taxi driver who kept saying “Taxi! Need a ride back to the ship, ok do you need a ride now, ok how about now,” and finally when we were ready to head back we jumped in his cab, negotiated the price down slightly and got back onto the ship and not a moment too soon. As soon as we got back on it started to pour. This was the only time it rained during our entire time. We chilled out, got some food, hung out on the 9th deck until it stopped raining, then we sat outside as the ship sailed off to the next destination, St. Lucia (Loooosha). It had become a ritual to get food after a long day out and either sit inside on the 9th deck, on our balcony or outside as the ship sailed away. It was peaceful and a nice.
Dinner was uneventful as it was most nights. We conversed with Judy and Joe and mainly ignored the other couple. After dinner we did some gambling and walked around the ship. We headed up early in order to be rested for our day in St. Lucia.