In early 2011 my cousin, Paul, and I were talking about going back to Barbados. I hadn’t been in nearly fifteen years and Paul, who was born there, had also been slacking in his visiting duties. His sister was getting married that year so for him this visit was a must. I decided to tag along for the ride, so in late May, Paul, his mother Carole, and I hopped on a plane and flew to our darling little coral island, affectionately known as Bim.
Although I don’t have any direct blood ties to the island, my father lived there for a decade of his life, my family immigrated there for some time after leaving Guyana, and three of my grandparents are interred in the same cemetery in Bridgetown. To me, Bim is one of my home-away-from-homes.
Not to mention I have some awesome family there. Technically they’re Paul’s family from his father’s side (Paul’s mother and mine are sisters), but in my eyes they’re my people — Tash, Charms, Jan Jan, their mother Auntie Jenny, the seven kids combined that Auntie is lucky to call grandchildren (honestly, every one of them is gorgeous), and all the respective husbands. It was amazing to be able to see them all after so many years had passed.
Prior to our departure from Toronto we hadn’t really planned out an itinerary for the trip. I was there for a week while Paul and Carole stayed for two, so we just ambiguously decided that any sort of sight-seeing would be done while I was still in town.
We stayed at our cousin’s apartment (which is in walking distance of Accra Beach), relaxed for a few days, caught up with family, then decided to drive around a bit.
One day we drove all the way up to the northern point of the island to visit Animal Flower Cave in St. Lucy. One day we drove to the east coast to visit Paul’s sister, Sophia, and her betrothed at their pre-wedding party. That night we stayed at a beach house on Cattlewash, Paul and I sleeping out on the deck. I will never forget the feeling of waking up to the sound of the surf the next morning. A light mist was hitting us but I didn’t even care — I was in heaven.
On another occasion we visited Paul’s aunt and uncle and I was introduced to a zonkey. Yes, a ZONKEY. What is a zonkey, you ask? A cross between a zebra and a donkey. They do exist. For some reason (which I’m still trying to figure out to this day), I didn’t take a picture. However, I do know that this particular zonkey is one of only a handful in the world. I was even able to see the resident zebra they have on their ranch. That night ended with us all sitting out on the balcony, chatting and catching up, enjoying a few rums while the geckos ran by without a care. I can still feel the night warmth on my skin from that evening.
Another day saw us visiting St. Nicholas Abbey, a plantation house in St. Peter that produces award-winning rum. I’m going to admit right now that when it comes to my weapon of choice, I prefer rum — either Mount Gay Extra Old from Barbados or Fleur de Caña from Nicaragua (must be at least five years old). I can attribute this preference to the fact that I was raised in a West Indian family (the Fleur de Caña I blame on my ex-husband who is from Nica. Thanks babe!). So when St. Nicholas was mentioned as a possibility for a day-trip I became quite excited, right down to my DNA.
St. Nicholas Abbey is absolutely beautiful. Driving up to the house you pass through centuries-old mahogany trees that are so expansive they canopy the road from either side. The Abbey itself dates from 1650-1660 and is one of only three genuine Jacobean mansions in the Western Hemisphere. Getting out of the car and walking up to the house was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before with architecture. Prior to that day I had seen pictures of the Abbey, but they do not do it justice.
This trip for me was bittersweet. I’ve been to Barbados three times now, but I barely remember anything from the trip I took prior to this particular one (must have something to do with being an angsty thirteen-year-old). In fact, I remember more from my visit when I was four then the one when I was thirteen. Funny how that works.
Bim is one destination, like New York and Vancouver, that I will always return to. It might be a few more years before I get the chance to smell that salt air again, but rest assured, it will happen.
One thing more than ever that I’m thankful for from this visit — it solidified my relationship with Paul. We’re fourteen years apart so there was a huge gap between us growing up. Now, you can’t mess with us.
Love you, Paulie Poo (awwww…cadear…).