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Falling for Barbados

In the third hour of our stay at the elegant yet supremely comfortable Coral Reef Club, my friend turned to me and pronounced, “I have a major crush on Barbados.” I agreed. The island has everything: one coast with soft, lapping Caribbean waves and another with dramatic Atlantic surf; world-class golf courses, restaurants, spas, shopping and fun spots for after-dinner revelry; a rich history and a culture of graciousness and of style.

Each of the world’s destinations has a personality, and every place I’ve ever visited has a fingerprint, good or bad. Like meeting a new person, an initial visit to a place produces a first impression that can go either way. To my delight, a recent trip to Barbados revealed that the island marries the chilled-out, relaxed vibe of the Caribbean with the mannered charm of England. A personification would be a dignified, intellectual, relaxed man who wears linen clothing and loafers (no socks).

Just as a person’s hometown helps mold his or her character, Barbados’s geography has shaped its development. One hundred miles east of the other Lesser Antilles, the island is closer to Venezuela than to Florida. As a result, it has a distinctly tropical landscape. Visitors are more likely to see a monkey cross the road than a bicyclist, and the rainforest-like Bajan topography is marked by numerous gullies, caves, hills and vales. The lush greenery encouraged the cultivation of sugarcane, which produced associated infrastructure and significant wealth. The island is fortunate, moreover, in being largely shielded by its southeastern location from hurricanes, which has meant that residents and the social scene are year-round, not just seasonal.

And like the child of parents from different countries, Barbados has developed a bicultural sensibility, part English, part Caribbean. For centuries Brits came to the island, attracted by its financial success, weather and colonial splendor and bringing with them grand architecture, furnishings and a very English sense of proper decorum, plus traditions like afternoon tea and cricket. (Fun fact: the Concorde had only four main hubs: New York, London, Paris and Barbados.) But the Caribbean ethos reigns supreme, as witness the steel bands that accompany many dinners, the warmth exuded by locals, the slow pace of life and the importance placed on relaxing outdoors.

The result is an island nation with an old soul and with very specific priorities: manners, tradition, nature and the cocktail hour.

What more could a girl ask for?

Published onNovember 10, 2013

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