Paradise Lost: My tale of traveling to Barbados

 

Hello Friends!! I’ll be honest with you, since starting the blog, I have done everything that they tell you not to do when starting a blog.  The number one rule when starting a blog is to blog regularly. Blog at consistent time intervals, train your readers when to tune in, make them look forward to your next post.  Well… sometimes life gets in the way. Sometimes, even though you think you have been freed from your day job because your 16 year old son has now taken over the office work, your husband suddenly gets blessed with the biggest job the company has ever taken on.  That means momma has to fill in from time to time because while son in very capable, he still has the confines of schoolwork to deal with. And because he has big goals, his schoolwork comes first. Since he works for the best bosses ever, ummmhmmm, we allow him to work when he wants.  This wouldn’t work with all teenagers but with Jackson it does. But it has meant that recently I have needed to feel in the gaps, which means less time for blogging.

And in addition to that…

Let me tell you what else I have been up to.  I won’t elaborate here because I plan to do that in a separate post.  But I have decided to get myself into shape. I have not betrayed my thoughts and how I have represented myself in this blog.  I still believe you can look cute, no matter your size. For me it is not about that, it used to be in my younger life, but now it is about much more practical matters, which I may reveal at a later time.  I haven’t decided if I want to be that real. No one is that real, trust me, the reason is something literally NO ONE WARNS you about. If you want me to reveal this, leave me a comment telling me so, otherwise I am not sure I’ll have the courage to do so.  

And now for the main attraction…

People dream of the perfect vacation to the Caribbean islands.  And with good reason, that water is something literally everyone needs to see at least once in their lifetime.  I am not exaggerating in the least when I say it is the color of the most brilliant blue topaz you have ever seen.  At a slightly deeper depth, it changes to the color of a London blue topaz and finally, in the deepest depths of the sea, it is the color of Duchess Catherine’s wedding ring.  What’s more, it is the perfect temperature. There is no having to get used to the water, and once you have been in it a while, it doesn’t get too warm. The beach we stayed on was perfectly clean, no rocks, no shells, just perfectly clean sand to walk on.  It was magical and it was enchanting… while it lasted.

I had one of Jackson’s friends, a budding photographer, who I expect great things from one day, Averie Hoyer Photography, take his photos one morning on the beach before the storm hit. One thing’s for sure, being a blonde, green eyed and tall photographer, makes for good smiles from your 16 year old son.

But it didn’t last…

Let me tell you, I know what a privilege it is to be able to travel.  Travel is expensive and if you got bills to pay, sometimes, most of the time, the last thing you can swing is a vacation.  Because it is so expensive, it makes the stakes really high. You want to have a great time; you want everything to be perfect.  But alas, we know life is not perfect and that’s where my story begins.

The first couple of days were great!

Your plane is approaching your destination.  The pilot comes on the speaker system and says, “Flight attendants, prepare for landing.” You look out the window anxious to get a first look.  The water is absolutely radiant, you can’t believe just how blue it is. It really does look like a postcard. As you get closer to the ground, you see the Sandals resort. Who hasn’t seen the steam rise off the TV monitor from the the Sandals commercial?  I can tell you if that’s reality, I need a do over on my honeymoon. As you get closer, you begin to see neighborhoods surrounding the airport, although, there are no swimming pools doting the yards, instead, you feel more like you must be in the wrong spot.  This can’t be, Barbados is supposed to be the best of the Caribbean islands, they are part of the Commonwealth and the British were here for a very long time. But no, wiping your eyes doesn’t help, it still looks like, to American eyes at least, a third world country.  Mr. Benton even remarks, “Wow, it looks so poor!”

No matter, even America has poor neighborhoods, so you really don’t think anything more about it.  Once the plane lands, you don’t pull into a gate, but you are unloaded right there on the tarmac. Oddly, this is actually a good thing, and no, not because it makes you feel like the president of the United States.  Unloading the plane on the tarmac, allows them to open the front and the back door, so getting off the plane time is cut in half. As you approach the door, you hear island music and see a couple of scantily clad dancing girls there to welcome you.  This must be where they got the inspiration for the Vegas show girl.

Since they drive on the left side of the road in Barbados, we opted not the get a rental car and just take a taxi everywhere.  They do have buses that run all over the island that you can take for only a $1, but I am not exactly a bus type of girl. It’s not that I think I am above it, it’s just that all of those stops get old and when you are on vacation, your time is valuable. Cabs in Barbados are plentiful and from what I can tell, it’s one of the major industries the locals depend on to make a living.  Now Bajans, have their own currency, but literally everywhere takes the US dollar. One piece of advice we learned pretty quick is ask the price up front to take you to your destination and don’t be afraid to haggle. We didn’t do this until we witnessed local people not taking the first price. The cabs don’t have meters so the fare tends to depend on their mood I guess, with the exception of taking you from the airport.  I think they keep those fees pretty standard. To go to our hotel, which was about 5 minutes from Bridgetown, was $26 US dollars, which was a bargain when you consider that one time we went literally one block and the fare was $7.50 US.

We arrived at our hotel, which was the Accra Hotel.  Now to be honest, I didn’t have super high expectations, because the reviews on Expedia were a 3.5.  Why did I stay there? Well this trip was more than just a vacation. Once a year in the fall, our church celebrates a seven day festival called the Feast of Tabernacles.  We get to choose from various locations and this year we chose Barbados. Sometimes we stay off site, but since we weren’t renting a car and since I had read online that traffic in Barbados can be a beast, (even a 20 minute drive can end up taking 45-50 minutes) and because we have a teen who likes to mix and mingle, we thought this year it would be convenient to stay where they were holding church.    

I found the lobby in the Accra to be slightly lacking.  I mean, the tile work wasn’t perfect and the cheesy purple and green neon lights didn’t exactly scream class but then again if all I was after was class, I’d have stayed at the Sandy Lane, next to the neighborhood where Oprah, Tiger Woods and Rihanna all have houses.  The Sandy Lane would also have set me back $1200 US a night. The Accra at $260 a night, may have lacked poshness but it was adequate and our room was clean. It also had great beach and pool area for the kids. The Accra for the money was a good choice. The food was also excellent at the hotel, and there are a number of eating options located right across the street or within walking distance on the beach.  

If you like to eat, be prepared to shell it out

Now let me tell you, one thing--you figure out really quickly in Barbados, is food doesn’t come cheap. I reckon’ it’s because literally everything has to be imported.  You feel it whether you are at the grocery store or at the restaurant. Refills are not free and don’t expect your bucket of cola over here—a large is maybe 20 ounces.  We spent more on food for our family of three than we have ever spent at any other destination, including London. To eat a meal, that is comparable to say Chili’s or Olive Garden will set you back at least $40 a plate.  That buffet you hotel offers for $35 a person for breakfast? Actually, is not so bad a deal. My advice is to go all inclusive if you can, but be forwarned, I have been told that in certain places all inclusive, doesn’t mean that all fees are covered.  Be prepared for surprises and you will enjoy yourself more.

The most fun thing we did

Our church, one afternoon, chartered a catamaran from a company called, Cool Runnings in Bridgetown.  Let me tell you, I didn’t know I was a sailor, but I see why people get hooked. Now granted, I could see the shoreline the whole time.  I don’t know how I’d do if i were surrounded by nothing but ocean. That thought kind of freaks me out. But the Cool Runnings crew were superb at their job.  They not only sailed the boat, they saw to it that each and every person on board was having great time and it literally had nothing to do with the fact that they said there were 8 kegs of rum on board.  You read that right--8 kegs. They said we’d run out of diesel before we ran out of rum. I guess that’s just how they roll in Barbados. Since it was a church trip, I am glad to say I didn’t see anyone that I thought had had too much to drink.  Mr. Benton and I didn’t imbibe. If I am going to have a drink, it has to be of the frozen variety and not just on the rocks. I did however, sample the catering and let me tell you it was fantastic. The veggie rolls they served were amazing!!!

One thing about the sailors

You know I don’t think I have to tell you that the Benton’s are pretty straightlaced.  We don’t have tattoos and our menfolk pretty much keep their hair not far from military short.  The pristine khaki shorts and white polo shirts, the crew wore, did little to disguise that some of these boys were true blue sailors and probably didn’t grow up in a neighborhood with white picket fences and June Cleaver baking cookies for them after school.  I could be wrong; it’s just a guess. And yet, they were kind and polite in every way. It was a good reminder, not to judge a book by its cover. And it was literally the best afternoon/evening we spent the entire trip.

The last thing we did before the storm hit

After the catamaran, we took an island tour by bus.  I am not going to bore you by telling you about it, because it was quite possibly the worst tour I have ever been on.  We did get to see pretty much the whole island though. One thing that did make me smile, was we stopped in this town, that I wouldn’t even consider a town.  It was a hole in the wall if ever there was one. They did have an “international sports bar and food court,” however. When you look at the pictures you’ll see what I mean.  There wasn’t even room to turn around barely and you literally wondered if something was going to run out from under the building and eat you. As an American, it was quite a shock.  And yet, and YET across the street in an open air pavillon there was a group of men playing dominoes. This spoke to us, because you can’t have Benton as a last name and not play dominoes.  You could tell this group of men probably played here every day. This was their normal. And in spite of the heat, and in spite of the primitive conditions, they seemed content… and happy. I didn’t talk to them, I could have it all wrong, but I have never witnessed anyone slam down dominoes with such gusto as this group did!

1)The first image is at The Crane Resort, where the beach is pink. 2)Moon Town, where they stopped to let us get a bite to eat… I am not even kidding 3)The international food court and sports bar 4)men playing dominoes by the sea 4)the sapphire colored water off the back of the catamaran 5) Mr. Benton taking pictures at Bathsheba 6) Jackson at Champers Restaurant 7) Me at St. David’s 8) a monkey in the wild 9) Jackson on the catamaran.

Tropical Storm Kirk decides to make a nuisance of himself

By the time we got back from our “3 hour tour,” (sung to the tune of Gilligan’s Island,) you could sense the island was in a panic.  All of the pool deck had been cleared in anticipation of the storm. At the restaurants, they were saying they didn’t know what time they would close but it might be early.  They said they would not be open tomorrow, even at the hotel. As a vacationer, this is not what you want to hear. We went to the convenience store and coffee shop and bought some peanut butter crackers and some coffee cake to hopefully get us by in case we were stuck in our hotel room.  Unfortunately, the next morning we found out our hotel room had ants. However, the storm looked like it had passed and the hotel restaurant was open. By 12 that day, everything was open. It looked like Kirk had decided to be a no show. They put the pool furniture back out but unfortunately the beach remained closed due to strong undertow.

That’s what you get for thinking

Just when the island was coming back to life, Kirk decided to hand us a nasty blow.  We were at a floor and dinner show when the bottom literally fell out of the sky. We ate hurriedly and scurried back up to our room to ride out the storm.  Personally, having been through a hurricane before, the storm didn’t seem that bad. Sure, it knocked down all of the umbrellas and threw all of the pool furniture into the pool.  We lost power, due to a transformer being knocked out. The power came back on but as we later found out it was because the hotel had an automatic generator.   The storm ended up dropping ten inches of rain that night. You know, in a a lot of places that wouldn’t be that big of deal. In Barbados, it was.

We had church in a funeral home

The rest of the time we were there, the hall we met in for church stank because water got in it and one day we even had to move church to a funeral home.  We had even less air conditioning than before because it was a strain on the generator. The pool was shut down and the beach was closed the remaining five days we were there.  I wish I could tell you that in spite of all this, we had a wonderful time, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. It was a relief though to see the planes flying over and to know that we probably weren’t going to get stuck there.  I can tell you it did make me extremely thankful to be an American.

The bottom line is things don’t always turn out for the best.  The overall story may turn out like it should or end like we want if we are believers, but that doesn’t mean we like reading or living the individual chapters.  To say I am bummed out that my trip to what should have been a tropical paradise didn’t turn out like I wanted it to, goes without saying.  But I am glad to have a home to return to that I love. A lot of people can’t say that.

Until next time,

Lady Benton

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