We arrived in Bridgeton, the capital of Barbados this morning. Our first stop after 3 full days at sea. We have traveled 1,440 nautical miles since leaving Ft. Lauderdale. Barbados is 21 miles long, 14 miles wide, and has a population of just under 300,000 Barbadians. 110,000 live in Bridgeton. Literacy is an astonishing 99% and school is compulsory until age 16. Every person we came across was articulate and amiable. Crime is negligible.
The western side is bordered by the docile Caribbean Sea and the eastern side by the turbulent Atlantic Ocean. It was first settled by Europeans in 1627. By 1680, the wild lush rainforest was denuded to make way for sugar cane production, food crops, and grassland for feeding plantation animals. Every single inch of soil was cultivated. By 1690, the island was known as the “Brightest Jewel in the English Crown”. By the mid-1700’s, Barbados had over 2,500 plantations. With sugar cane production came the need for slaves. Primarily from West Africa, they were paid no wages for the first 7 years of grueling work, as “pay back” to their owners for the cost of boat passage to the island. Barbados remained an English colony until being granted independence in 1966. Tourism is now the dominant industry.
Did you know that George Washington (our first president) came to Barbados in 1751 as an 18 year old serving in the English military? He was aghast when he witnessed how the local “negro style” was affecting white European women. In 1756 he remarked that “white Barbadian women were often heard swearing in a vulgar corrupted dialect”… Sounds to me like George needed a few belts of Mount Gay Rum; produced here for over 300 years, and still going strong.
Our first visit was in 2010 on the Queen Mary 2. Back then, we rented a topless tiny car called a “Mini Moke” right at the Port. Just as we were about to zip off and explore the island, an Armageddon inspired rain started, and never ceased. We watched our Moke fill up with water from under cover a few yards away. After 3 hours, steeped in despair, we shuffled back to the rental counter and meekly requested a refund, not thinking we would get one. But we did! The dreadlocked Barbadian cheerfully handed back our cash. The smile never left his face, as he bobbed in time to music playing on a tinny radio. “No worries, Mon … come back again sometime”.
So here we were again, 7 years later. It was a hazy, hot and humid day. Perfect for an open car, and we sparkled with anticipation as we rushed to the Mini Moke counter. IT WAS GONE. A stodgy Hertz booth commandeered their spot. Where were they? No one seemed to know. After an hour of scanning side streets and asking dozens of people, we finally got an answer. The company had recently moved to the far side of the island, over 20 miles away. If George Washington’s delicate sensibilities were offended by the ladies in 1756, his ears would have bled after hearing the string of vulgarities that escaped unbidden from my dainty mouth.
So we hoofed it around Bridgeton instead, taking in the local sights and seeking shade at every turn. We were in a foul mood for awhile; having been rendered “Moke-Less” for the second time.
After winding through the fish market, we witnessed a curious transaction on the side of the road. A local woman was buying long strands of unrefrigerated stringy meat pulled from a dirty white bucket. We inched closer and asked what it was. Pig Intestines. A common dish on the island is comprised of sweet potato pudding heavily seasoned with pepper, stuffed into pig’s intestines and served with soused pork trotters and head meat. Sounds yummy.
Back on board for dinner, we were treated to a sumptuous pasta dish created table side by the Senior Maitre D’, Sandro. It was brimming with seafood and doused in a sauce of garlic, olive oil, red pepper, and white wine. I am rethinking those elastic pants already.
Sandro was with us on the Queen Mary 2, and we are delighted to see him again. I wonder if he knows how to make pork trotters?