The United Colors of Bridgetown, Barbados

Barbados’ capital is full of color – colorful personalities, colorful buildings and open markets of fresh, colorful ingredients. Like most of the island, the housing is balanced between older bungalows, classic colonial homes and rustic shacks.

Established in 1628, there’s none of the Spanish pirate forts but more than a few symbols of its British past. A garrison faces a horse racing track; there’s a cricket stadium and shops sell pasties and English Cadbury’s chocolate.

Garrison Savannah Racecourse

It must be the British heritage, but horse racing and gambling are huge here. There’s a fully functioning modern infrastructure and race day brings in huge crowds. Right across Bridgetown you’ll see bars and gambling dens with screens broadcast races from around the globe. It reminds us of home (Australia) where you can gamble on nearly anything you can imagine.

The racecourse is situated directly across from the former British garrison. The track is bordered by cannons of different ages and eras, a memento to the area’s past.

The Barbados Government Offices

Situated on Bay Street, by Pebbles and Browne Beaches are the Barbados Government Offices. It is from here where most ministries operate. They are spoiled for view with the turquoise Caribbean waters of Carlisle Bay just across the road.

Harbour Lights and Carlisle Bay

Carlisle Bay is a sanctuary for sea life, with natural and man made reefs providing a rich habitat for fish and sea turtles. Just off the beach, a cluster of charters are taking people snorkeling with the turtles and by the beach, trainers from the racehorse exercise their fine steeds in the shallows. The bay is home to several ship wrecks including a party boat and a ship torpedoed by a German U-boat in World War 2. On the shore, popular Harbour Lights is the perfect place to grab a drink and enjoy the sea breeze. This roomy beer garden is sleepy by day but the happening night spot after dark.

Chamberlain Bridge

A central bridge, the Chamberlain Bridge is still covered with festive livery over the Careenage River in honor of 50 years of independence (since 1966). Originally constructed as a swing bridge in 1872, it can now be raised to let boats through and up the river. ZR vans packed with locals honk their air horns joyously to invite pickups along the way. To the left, a row of yachts, catamarans and in the distance a faux pirate ship party boat prepare for binge drinking day trippers and to the right, the canal leads up to an open marketplace and bus terminus.

The markets

Fresh tropical fruits are something we’ve missed. Here they are in abundance. Pineapples, bananas, mangoes, passion fruit – coconuts right off the palm. It’s not the main market day so the place is sparse with sellers. There are stands selling the kind of junk you find at dollar stores and knock off perfumes. The locals are not in the mood to have their stands photographed unless you’re going to fill a bag.

Downtown

Walking the streets to central Bridgetown the place has an edge to it. People are day drinking, there are gaming lounges and gambling dens every few shops. It’s not menacing, but it’s also not exactly welcoming.

The Parliament Buildings

At the top of Broad Street stands a beautiful stone building protected by a rusting wrought iron fence. A lonely guard on a plastic folding chair sits in front, sheltering from the sun. It’s the Parliament Buildings, the seat of Bajan government, built in 1874. Despite its independence, there are still clear nods to the mother country in the form of a red Royal Mail box and old British coats of arms. We can walk right into the complex and up to the door, though we cannot pass today. Not without a guided tour and it is not something we feel we need to wait for. The blue and yellow standard of Barbados flies proudly above the clock tower.

Marina and Cruise Terminal

Bypassing the central shopping area, we wander the waterfront in the direction of the cricket stadium. Under the cover of thick fog trees, the most basic sheds protect locals drinking down cans of Barbados’s favorite beer, Banks. It’s not even eleven and they look like they’ve been there for hours. The cruise ship terminals must be close – cabs line the streets waiting for an easy fare.

As a complete dichotomy, a humble marina stands directly adjacent to two luxury liners which rise above like fallen skyscrapers. Talk about excessive – these ones have climbing walls, water slides and an articulating arm that takes guests way out over the ocean in a see-through capsule. The streets around here are vibrantly colorful.

Kensington Oval to Mount Gay

The Kensington Oval is spiritual home of West Indian cricket. A brass statue of Sir Garfield Sobers graces the entrance of the 11,000-seat arena. It’s here where the greats of the 1980s played – both from an Australian perspective and from the locals, who were the best in the world during that era.

Beaten by the heat, we walk on to Mount Gay Visitors Center for icy cold cocktails. We’ve clocked almost 15km for the day and will end up taking the bus back to our accommodation. It’s been a long day in extreme heat but getting out and seeing the people and where they live has made us appreciate the country all the more.

WHAT?

Bridgetown is the capital of island nation, Barbados.

WHERE?

It sits on the south west coast of the island.

HOW?

Catch a cab from BGI airport and get around when you’re here via the ZR vans.

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