Tourism and Barbados go together like rum and coke or flying fish and chips. You can pay thousands of dollars to be truly cosseted along with music moguls and supermodels, or you can cater for yourself and go shopping with Bajans. The west coast, commonly referred to as the Platinum Coast, is the place to be seen.
The south is for beach life, nightlife, fun and games, the package-holiday end of the market with a cheerful, relaxed atmosphere and the best sand. The east is wild and untamed, a world apart, where the Atlantic crashes into cliffs, eroding the coastline and creating beaches of a rare beauty. Head to the hills inland to explore relics of colonial days such as plantation houses, signal towers, tropical gardens, museums and rum distilleries.
Of all the islands in the eastern Caribbean, Barbados is unique in that it remained British throughout its colonial history, without being passed from one European master to another. The island is divided into 11 parishes named after 10 saints, Christ Church being the 11th. Many of the parish churches are impressive buildings.
Towns have the charming English seaside resort names of Hastings, Brighton or Dover and the island was often referred to as Little England, not always as a compliment. Since independence in 1966 the country has moved closer in cultural terms to North America while also pursuing its African roots. Drum music, banned by colonial masters to prevent slave rebellions, and ‘tuk’ bands are an essential part of carnival processions. Calypso, soca and pan music are a centrepiece of Crop Over, the boisterous festival celebrating the end of the sugar harvest. However, some habits die hard. You can still go to a polo match and be offered tea and cucumber sandwiches, or watch Sunday cricket on the village green. A Test Match at the Kensington Oval, though, is a sight to behold – an example of how an English sport has been turned into pure Afro-Caribbean pageantry.