Sunday, March 27, 2011

Driving tour of Barbados

Yes, you drive on the opposite side of the road


Yes, you drive on the opposite side of the car

But, where's your sense of adventure? If you're a cautious driver, you can do just about anything. Although, it is funny when you go to turn on the blinker and suddenly the windshield wipers and going. And, yes, Chuck managed to do this quite a few times over the course of the 2 day car rental.

A bit about the roads...
The main highways are fine. The secondary roads are ok, dabbled with potholes, construction work, and people (few sidewalks). The local roads...yikes! There's a reason why the speed limit is 35mph. Just remember to drive're on holiday, so what's the rush? And, getting lost is half the fun!

We rented a car on two separate days. Rather than book in advance, because I wasn't sure what our mood and/or weather was going to entail, I decided to wait and book at the hotel. If you book in advance, a daily rental is about $110USD. If you wait and deal with the hotel convenience, the price is more like $125USD. Longer rentals (4 days or more) will bring the price down to just under $100USD a day. There are tons of rental car companies (no US based ones). Stoutes comes highly recommended from other travelers; however the one located at the Hilton was Drive a matic, which was just fine.

The island of Barbados isn't very big (21 miles long and 14 miles wide) but the road network isn't very developed, so it takes some time to get from place to place. For example, we drove from Needham Point (lower left of the map) and to Fish Pot in Good Little Harbour (14 miles), in roughly 35-40 minutes.

Our tour included stops at...
Bathsheba Beach - We actually stopped here 3 times. The first time, a storm was just coming in and I wanted sunny pictures, so we looped back and tried again. I still wasn't happy with the pictures, so we came back a third time!

Bath Beach - This is a lovely spot to picnic. The beach has plenty of tall trees swaying in the wind and the beach is relatively calm.

Crane Beach - Crane hotel is up on the hill. In order to get to this beach, you drive down a really narrow public access path and park. Then walk on those round disks and 2x4 pieces of wood to make your way over to the beach.

Sand Dunes Lunch Shack - This was the start of my cold. We ordered the chicken and macaroni pie. A piece of the dry chicken went down the wrong pipe and I have been coughing ever since. So either my lungs are trying to rid me of the chicken or it was the start of my cold / allergies. The short's a popular spot with the locals, the prices are reasonable, it's real Bajan food, the staff are friendly, but it wasn't my 'thing,' so I wouldn't recommend it.

St. Nicholas Abbey - This was definitely worth the drive. The entrance fee ($17.50USD) includes a tour of the property (some guided, some on your own), rum punch, and a little rum tasting, too.

Cherry Tree Hill - This is the highest point on the island and is located just a few meters away from St. Nicholas Abbey. From here, you can see the beaches of the east coast.

Shopping in Holetown -

Earthworks Pottery - I HAD to go here. It was a little hard to find, but the signage was pretty good, so as long as you trusted your gut and looked for the signs, you will eventually find finding your way back to the main road...there's the problem!

Payne's Bay - This is a popular place for the locals and is just south of Bridgetown. If you swim out a bit, you can easily find sea turtles.

Needham Point Old Fort - On the Hilton property is an old fort.

Snokeling with Calabaza Sailing

Whenever venturing to a new location, I check out TripAdvisor...I know, you're surprised, right? In any event, one of the most popular things to do in Barbados is a snorkeling tour with Calabaza Sailing. The reviews were impeccable, so away I went to book our tour.

Chuck and I have been on quite a few snorkeling and sailing trips. Our first experience was in Puerto Vallarta on the Pricessa Yelapa (in 1996) is the standard for what we will NEVER do again. We've chartered in Grand Cayman, St. Thomas, St. Croix, Cabo San Lucas, Dominican Republic, Cancun, and now Barbados.

You will never find me on a boat with more that 12 people. My favorite trips are the ones where it was just us (St. Thomas on the Rumbaba with Captain Bobby). So, after searching high and low for a semi-private snorkeling/sailing tour, I found Gina and Calabaza.

The Deets
Duration: 5 hour Luncheon Snorkeling Tour
Stops: 3 - snorkel with turtles, snorkel around shipwreck, lunch/beach/swim stop
Hotel Pick up/return: yes (around 9am)
Departure: 9:30am from Bridgetown Harbor
Return: 2:30pm
Max guests: 12
Food/Drinks: Yes, plenty and all inclusive
Cost: $110 USD per person

Sample Food/Drinks
Banana bread, fish cakes, crisps w/ hummus, bruscetta topping, curry chicken, baked fish, rice, couscous, salad, black bean salad, veggie/fruit salad, rum punch, beer, water, soft drinks, wine...and the list goes on!

TIP: Gina and her crew are very popular, so make sure you book early! I booked 2+ months in advance and my preferred date was already full!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Birthday Dinner at Champers

I'm not one to take pictures of our meals, so aside from the Roman Candle in my ice cream, there won't be any food pictures. You'll just have to use your imagination.

When I first booked our trip to Barbados, I sought out the advice of other travelers on TripAdvisor (every traveler's best friend!!). The restaurant recommendations were very high for the Tides, Champers, the Cliff, Roundhouse, Fisher Pond and Tapas. After reading the reviews and checking the menu, I decided that Champers would be a perfect place to celebrate my 30-something birthday.

Chuck made a reservation and informed them that it was my birthday, but I'm not one for fanfare or lots of attention, so they could skip the birthday singing....but we'd love a rail-side table on a little cliff over the ocean.

We arrived for dinner and were seated at a rail-side table on the left side of the dining room in a private little corner. The table was decorated with Happy Birthday confetti and every server stopped by to wish me a happy birthday. I ordered a spinach salad with apples, blue cheese, almonds, and a citrus type vinegrette; Chuck opted for the crab stuffed mushroom caps. Our main meal was a jerk pork chop with mashed potatoes and grilled veggies (for me) and Chuck had the grilled mahi mahi. Absolutely divine!

Halfway through dinner, a huge stingray floated just below our table. Even he got the message that it was my birthday :-)

And then, the Roman Candle arrived...and was lit...and almost cinged my eyebrows (kidding).

View of Champers restaurant from the ocean - We were seated on the cliff (on the rail) just left of the gazebo (under the blue covered patio).

Friday, March 25, 2011

In Pictures - Barbados

Some of my favorite pictures from my birthday long weekend in Barbados.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Day trip to Fort Worth, Texas

After the unsuccessful Southfork tour, I decided to take the rental car and head over to the Stockyards of Fort Worth. It wasn't peak tourism season, so parking was plentiful and the sidewalks/shops were clear. The drive from Dallas was easy-peazy, (almost) all freeway driving. But, I must admit, there's one overpass/interchange between Dallas and Fort Worth that feels like you are driving up into the clouds. Good thing they don't get frost or freezing temps because that bugger would be a death trap if it ever got icy!!

A few pictures:

Cowboys roam the streets on horses

Longhorns mosey down the main drag during the 'cattlerun'

Southfork Ranch

Ok, so who reallllly shot J.R. Ewing? While in Texas, I decided to head north of Dallas to the town of Parker where the Southfork Ranch is located. The published admission was $10, but I had a coupon, (yes, I use coupons, especially on overpriced tourist attractions!!!), so the fee was about $8. It's $8, I'll never get back.

The tour starts in the gift shop, which has a good array of gifts. I probably should have considered it a win, bought a trinket, then turned around and moseyed out of there. After the gift shop is a small museum, which is really just a hallway with some memorabilia and framed yellowed newspaper clippings (tacky) and a looped video clip.

Once the group has assembled, we head out to the tractor that pulls a covered series of benches....and the tour begins. The group consists of about 20 people (only 4 from the US, the rest from South Africa, Germany, France, Italy, Spain). In your best southern drawl....

Guide: Welcome, ya'll. (blah, blah, blah). If you look to the left you'll see an ol' o'l (old oil) derrick and viewing platform. The previous owner held tours. But, if I used my dipstick, there wouldn't be any o'l in there derrick.

Me (observing): The young woman in front of me (from Spain), is translating to her friends.

Me (wondering): I can hardly understand this joker. How in the world are the foreigners managing to understand this???

Guide: Ok, let's start the tur (tour). If you look to the right, in the empty pen, that's where the horses used to be. Now, if you look to the left, that's where the donkeys used to be. I miss their hee-in' and haw-in'. On the right is the stand and pen that the tv studio built, but it doesn't get used any more. On the left are some buildings used for conventions and meetings.

Me (wondering): WTH. Really? Empty pens. This is going from bad to worse.

Guide (driving us down 'the long driveway'): In the tv show, this appeared longer. It's tv magic.

Guide: Ok, Misty (or Millie or Missy or something like that) is going to give you some history about the house and then you are free to tur (tour) the inside.

Misty: Blah, blah, blah.

A few pictures:

Ok, a few things you should know about the Southfork Ranch:
1. All interior shots are from a sound stage in Culver City. Trust me, the interior of this house is circa 1970. Yikes!

2. The swimming pool is not the grand olympic size pool Bobby swam in each day. Nope, it's about an 8' x 10' pool (or a bit larger).

3. The driveway is not this long drive, it's tv magic and is just film spliced together.

4. It's flat, flat, flat. No rolling hills for Bobby and Pam to ride the horses.

5. It's really a conference/wedding center.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

In Pictures - Dallas and Fort Worth, Texas

Ok, so these pictures are from the DFW area, not necessarily Dallas and Fort Worth.

Nasher Art Museum in Dallas, Texas

South Fork Ranch, you know, JR Ewing

Stockyards in Fort Worth

MIA, but more to come

Ok, so I've been MIA the past few months, but that doesn't mean I haven't been traveling. Chuck flew back to Argentina again and, of course, with 3 days notice, airfare was a mere $2500. No thank you, I'll save my dinero and wait....once again. Although, Chuck should continue to pitch that he needs a translator. Maybe I'll brush up on my Technical Language Spanish skills!

We spent a week in Dallas back in July and just returned from Barbados. The posts are half written and the pictures are ready to go, but I haven't been inspired to finish writing. Maybe it's a sign that my travel blog is getting stale. Hmmm....that gives me a thought...