Charles Fort Cannon Walk at the Barbados Hilton

Friday, September 18, 2009

September 18, 2009 by Phil Stilton

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Bridgetown, Barbados -  Just south of Bridgetown in Barbados, you’ll find one of the nicest stretches of beaches in the Caribbean from Carlisle Bay to Needham Point.  Mixed in these beautiful and picturesque beaches, you’ll find Charles Fort on the grounds of the Barbados Hilton.

The fort was built in 1650 by the British Navy to protect the capital of Bridgetown and Carlisle Bay from attack by Pirates, Spaniards and whoever else might have come by to take the Island away from the British.     

After years of neglect, the fort has been restored into a historical eco park of sorts.  A brick lined walkway was constructed that winds through the ramparts and overlooks of the fort, passing by 24 cannons that have been retrieved from the seas in one of the most picturesque settings you can find in the Caribbean.

Nearby you can also find Anns fort which was built in the early 1700’s to compliment Charlesfort.    The fort lies next to the new Barbados Hilton.   You can make an entire day out of Charles Fort and Anns Fort by adding a hotel day pass at the Hilton in which you can use their pools, spas and facilities while spending time at the fort.

Hint for parents:  If you plan on visiting the forts of Caribbean, bring some pirate attire for the children.  A bandana, eyepatch and plastic saber would do the trick and make it an enjoyable exeperience they’ll never forget.  Otherwise, they’re just being forced to look at a bunch of old junk with mom and dad.

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September 11

Friday, September 11, 2009

I originally wrote this on 9/11...

I, too, was stunned to hear the news this morning and continuing throughout the day.

It was just something unbelievable.  My husband and I were on a Land Rover 4X4 tour of the off-road areas of Barbados when we first got the news.  

At first, when we got the very first news, around 9:30 am, I thought that it was some tale that the driver was weaving...and that there would be a punchline.  As the day wore on, more interest was on the radio than on the tour.  Some of the people in our Land Rover were from New York City and they were terrified for friends and family.  

What an awful day in history this is, one of those that we'll always remember where we were when we got the news.

Like the rest of you, I am stunned, absolutely shocked that this could happen, using our own planes, no less.  I cannot imagine the terror of the people on those planes, or in the World Trade Center...or the Pentagon.

We were basically stuck in Barbados.  Phones to the US didn't work well, email was slow to non-existent, all we knew was what we got on CNN, incessantly.  My mother and son had been with us the week before and had just flown back the Saturday before.  I was so glad that they had gotten back home ok, then my son off to college.

We were supposed to fly home on the next Saturday, but if was iffy if that would happen since the airports were closed for the longest time.  We were flying into the DC area. The lines to the Barbados airport and to American Airlines were always busy.

Finally, we decided to give it a shot, packed up and went to the airport to see if we could fly out or not.  They could only guarantee the flight as far as Puerto Rico.

The San Juan airport was crowded with Americans trying to get home, flights being canceled due to closed airports, people sleeping all around the airport, using backpacks for pillows.  It was a very difficult time.

We did finally leave for home later that night.  This is what I wrote the next day...

I flew on American Airlines last night (9/14/2001).  We left Barbados on time but the connecting flight, originating out of Aruba was very late, and we waited for a long time in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

After that flight had arrived though, we were all sitting around, hoping they'd board the plane soon.  All of a sudden, there was cheering in the hallway.  We turned to look - our pilot and crew were marching up the hallway with a huge American flag.  He stopped and talked to us.  He explained that the copilot would hang that flag outside his window as we taxied out of Puerto Rico and into Dulles.  The flag was making the rounds of American flights all over the country and that the yellow streamers hanging down were being signed by all the American crew members.  He posed for lots of pictures (I have some I'll post later, when my eyes are less bleary!), then, as they were going to get the plane ready, he asked us in a loud voice if we were ready to fly to Washington and everyone cheered.

Along the way, he thanked us so much for having faith and flying (like we had any choice!).  The headphones for the movie and the drinks were all free on this flight!  He also told us that there were a lot of fighter planes in the Washington to NY corridor and not to be surprised if we were intercepted by one, who would just be making sure that we were "who we said we were".  I thought that would be kind of neat to see, but I didn't see them.  We arrived in Dulles (Washington, DC) with a jet fighter escort.  At the time, that sounded so comforting, but it turned out that they had been there to shoot us down, if we'd made any funny moves.

Then, when we arrived at the terminal, the captain said that we were back in "the land of the free, and the home of the brave" and got some more cheers.

It was a memorable flight for someone like me, who is terrified of flying under the best of circumstances.


Us, on 9/10. Who knew?

9/14, San Juan Puerto Rico:
After the crew marched down the hallway.


The captain, letting others have a chance to fly the flag.

This young woman lead us onto the plane.

I wrote this in 2008, from memory, when I was rebuilding this blog after hackers...

Memories - 911

The year of 911 my mom and my son had been with us for the first week. My son had to be back at college so on Sunday he shepherded my mom through the airport, customs and all and got her back home before he headed back to UMass/Amherst on Monday. Thank goodness they got back before the mayhem started!

On Tuesday we were out on a 4X4 from Island Safari with our favorite guide, Zario. Zario is a fun guy and and very knowledgeable about Barbados and world events. We were very happy to have him again because it was the "luck of the draw" which driver/guide we got.

I remember that morning being kind of stressed already - I was having trouble with one of my contacts and I was just grumpy.

Zario picked us up first, one of the benefits of staying at The Crane - everyone picks us first for everything and drops us off last. Then he picked up another couple from New York City who were staying at Bougainvillea.

The tour started off through the fields, down cliffs as usual. Zario had the radio on in the background. When we got to the first stop he told us that there was a "problem" in New York. That it seemed that a plane had hit a building. We thought that there was going to be a punch line somewhere. There wasn't.
As the tour went on, the news got worse. The couple from NYC was very worried about relatives.

By the time we got to lunch and met up with the other 4x4s everyone had heard. We were in a little chattal house restaurant, the TV was on CNN and everyone was just watching in silence and horror. Usually this lunch is very festive and fun. Not a care in the world. Not today.

We left the New York people off at their hotel and went "home". The TV was full of New York news, then Pentagon news. We know people who work at the Pentagon. The news just got worse as we went along.

When Saturday came we had no idea if we could go back to the states or not. But we had to try.

We were able to fly to Puerto Rico with no idea if we'd be able to leave there or not.

Eventually, we were told we could fly out on American Airlines, on the first plane to get clearance to fly back to the states. We were flying into Dulles Airport, outside Washington, DC.

The captain and crew came marching up the corridor with huge American flags and everyone cheering wildly.

When we settled in, the captain thanked us for flying American - like we had a choice! - and more cheering.

When we got back to DC airspace we were met by two fighter planes, one on each side. There may have been one behind. The captain tried to tell us that they were there for our protection but I was sure that they would shoot us down in a heartbeat if we tried anything funny.

While we taxied both out of Puerto Rico and into Dulles the co-pilot held that flag out the window. Wild applause when we finally landed safely.

A very memorable trip!

Port Guide - Cruise Port - Barbados

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Barbados is one of the most popular Caribbean holiday destinations of all time. It is a gorgeous tropical paradise that is far from most of the other Caribbean islands. For this reason, it hasn’t been overrun with tourists especially since only a handful of cruise ship itineraries include it.

Barbados is part of the Netherlands Antilles chain of islands, with a decidedly English flavour. Cricket is the sport of choice and the island has been home to more world-class players than any other country.

Bridgetown is the capital city and is full of activity just about any time of the day or night. Visitors could spend their entire holiday just in the city proper and still not run out of things to do. There are fabulous facilities, including luxury hotels and resorts, along with a limitless array of restaurants and eateries appealing to all tastes and budgets. There is also a wide range of museums and archaeological sights, in and around the capital, that highlight the unique and rich heritage of this little island paradise.

The nightlife in Bridgetown is non-stop, with nightclubs galore and live music and dancing going until the wee hours of the morning. The city is very easy to get around and taxis are plentiful and readily available. There is also an extensive bus service on the island that will take you just about anywhere for a very reasonable price, usually around 75 cents, but make sure you have exact change. You can also rent a car for about $75 per day or you can hire a private car with driver if you would like a custom sightseeing tour. The driver also doubles as your guide and most are intimately familiar with the entire island.

Shopping is a popular activity in town and there are stores and other retail outlets to suit just about any budget, from upscale designer showcases to places that sell touristy type gifts that are perfect for friends and relatives or shops offering a variety of uniquely Barbadian craft items. While the Barbadian Dollar is the official currency on the island, the U.S. dollar is also readily accepted just about everywhere.

The weather is ideal most of the year. The only time it can be bad is between July and October, which is the hurricane season, when there will be more rainfall than usual. Temperatures during the day for most of the year hover in the 70’s (F), down to the 60s (F) at night. A sweater or light wrap might be desirable in the evenings.

There is much to see and do in the Bridgetown area, including visiting Harrison’s Cave and exploring the underground world of the island from an electric tram and trailer. You can view underground streams, tumbling waterfalls and deep pools of subtly lit water. Stalactites hang overhead, while others rise from the floor, creating an eerie glow that visitors find enchanting.

Visit the Flower Forest, which is a tropical paradise located on a former sugar plantation. The garden also boasts sweeping panoramic views of both the Chalky Mountains and the Atlantic Ocean. While in the area, make a stop at Welchman’s Hall Gully, where you can walk a trail that winds through the island’s only remaining rain forest.

If more active pursuits are your game, Barbados is known for its spectacular diving and snorkelling opportunities. It is also a haven for just about any type of water sport, including windsurfing, fishing, kayaking and sailing.

Barbados is also home to many excellent beaches, each with its own unique charm. Some cater to the young crowd, with upscale resort hotels located nearby, along with a full range of amenities including outdoor eateries and bars, and water sports rental kiosks. Other beaches are more secluded and offer a quiet haven for people who just want to relax and enjoy the pleasures nature has to offer.

Horseback riding is also a popular activity and the Caribbean International Riding Centre has nearly 40 horses in its stables and will offer guided trail rides to people of all riding abilities. You will get to see some of the most panoramic sections of the island, including the hilly terrain of the Scotland district, where you’ll view ducks in their natural wild habitat and some of the most beautiful water lilies in all of the Caribbean.

Most people arrive in Barbados by air, but the island also has a good many cruise ships calling by. The cruise ship terminal is a modern facility located at the front door of Bridgetown, making it easy for passengers to get around the city, especially if they want to tour independently.

Whether you arrive by air or by cruise ship, staying a day or a week, Barbados is the perfect holiday destination and is sure to please the entire family.

A combination of old world colonial charm, coupled with the most modern facilities and amenities, Barbados offers a little something for everybody and a lot of long-lasting memories. It’s a place you will want to return to again and again.



Island Destinations

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The Caribbean holds many great treasures when it comes to island destinations. Barbados is just one of these great places. This single island is its own independent country and is located close to South America, a bit over 250 miles from the coast of Venezuela. It is east of Saint Lucia and north of Trinidad and Tobago. The island itself is only about 165 square miles of low-lying land, but the tropical trade winds, beautiful rainforests, and, of course, lovely sandy beaches make it popular for tourist travel. You too can enjoy a vacation in Barbados.

According to the United Nations, Barbados is the fourth most developed of all the developing countries in the entire world. It may be small, but almost every resident of this island nation enjoys a very high standard of living, and this extends to the tourists who visit the country every year, so you can expect your travel in Barbados to be nothing short of fantastic.

If you plan to travel to the sunny beaches of Barbados, you will probably fly into the single major airport on the island, Sir Grantley Adams International Airport. Many major airlines fly into this airport from almost everywhere in the world, and it is actually a major hub for the Caribbean, so no matter where you are traveling in this region of the world, you may fly into Barbados to catch a flight or cruise to another island.

Some of the best things to do while you are in Barbados are centered on the beach. Surfing is very popular because the waters here are perfect for it, with the Soup Bowl, located near the town of Bathsheba, being a popular surfing destination. The western and southern coasts are most popular, and you’re sure to be able to enjoy a number of sunny days lying on the pink sand if you like to sunbathe.

However, if the beach isn’t your thing, you can also enjoy the shopping in the duty-free tourist centers. You can also check out the fun and exciting night life, the wildlife reserves, and the festivals that take part all over the island in July and August. Popular tourist destinations include Farley Hill National Park, Animal Flower Cave, Hackleton’s Cliff, Sharon Moravian Church, Orchid World, Gun Hill Signal Station, Garrison Savannah, and Barbados Historical Museum. Large towns that in Barbados in which you can stay include Bridgetown, Speightstown, Holetown, and Oistins. You can also stay in any one of the small local towns dotting the island while visiting this beautiful country.