Barbados is the most British of the British west Indies having been under British rule since it was first colonised in 1627.
The flat, low lying island was ideal for growing cane and all arable land was soon put under cultivation leaving only a few wooded gullies and steep hills.
Wealthy plantation owners sent their children to England to be educated and later took to living there themselves. Absentee ownership is largely responsible for the failure of the BWI to modernise their sugar production to remain competitive with Cuba, Brazil, India, Mauritius and Louisiana.
By the time slavery was abolished, it was more profitable to produce sugar in giant mills with paid labour than in traditional plantations and sugar was no longer king in the Caribbean.
Barbados gained internal self government in 1961 and became an independent member of the British Commonwealth in 1966.
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I was pleased to see the Parliament Buildings that I recognised from my last trip here in 1978. How time flies, that's twenty three years ago!
I came here for a week of rest and recuperation from the stress running the "Société Québecoise d'Initiatives Pétrolières" that I had founded eight years before. I needed a break and spent most of the time lost in science fiction books beside the swimming pool of my hotel. I forgot the name of the hotel but I do remember the Jolly Roger behind me in this old photo.
Actually, there were two "Jolly Roger" two masted schooners that sailed daily with a full complement of fun loving pirates for a few hours of drinking and dancing in the sun.
Those were carefree times before anyone worried about UV radiation or HIV! We had a ball in those "good old days"!
Fun cruises still leave the Careenage but now they use modern catamarans like this one.
Looking at this happy bunch I can see that the open bar is as popular as ever but I remember with nostalgia the days when sex was a sport like tennis.
Some landmarks were still there but Bridgetown had grown considerably since my last visit. Here is Broad Street with colonial style Dacosta's Mall and the modern Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC) building.
Canadian banks are found everywhere in the Caribbean. Bank of Nova Scotia leads with 143 branches followed by the Royal Bank of Canada with 109 branches and the CIBC with 58 for a total of 310 out of the 482 foreign bank branches.
And here is another fine colonial relic marked "Barbados Mutual Life Assurance Society" on the corner of Broad and Prince Alfred streets.
It is now being restored after being occupied by a branch the Barclays Bank whose founders, David and Alexander Barclay made a fortune in the slave trade before they expanded their London financing business to Jamaica in 1836.
Lively pedestrian Swan Street is lined with shops and thick with street vendors working the crowd (watch your wallet).
Barbados is endowed with many fine beaches that have been well developed for tourism, particularly on the west and south coasts that are protected from the strong Atlantic winds. Upscale resorts are mostly on the west coast north of Bridgetown while budget accommodations can be found along the almost uninterrupted succession of beaches south of the capital as far as Oistins.
Barbados is not cheap. I settled for a basic room in the "Angle House" on Upper Bay Street some distance from town, for 25$US which was the cheapest I could find.
Between the Angle House and the nearby Barbados Museum is an area called Bayville where I took several pictures of "chattel houses" so characteristic of the Caribbean islands. Here is the first one.
I took many for my own pleasure but I'm showing only two so you won't get bored.
The vast majority of Barbadians, also called Bajans, live on the west coast between Oistins in the south and Speightstown in the north. I started my exploration by Oistins. This is Oistins' beach looking south towards the hospital.
And this is Oistins' pier seen from the hospital.
Oistins is the island's principal fishing centre. There is a fish processing plant just next to this large fish market.
Flying fish is a delicious speciality but cleaning these small fish is a lot of work.
After Oistins I enjoyed a very interesting evening at the home of an Internet friend, Ed Brandon who teaches philosophy at the University of the West Indies. We debated the pros and cons of tourism and solved all the world's problems but I forgot to take pictures.
The next day I went around the island by bus, stopping at Holetown, Speightstown and Bathsheba. Here is a shot of Speightstown's church taken from the town pier.
The Fisherman's pub is a lively spot well located between the beach and Speightstown's main street, Queen St.
Crossing over to the east coast I passed by this cane field being harvested by a motorised cane harvester like those I had seen in Cuba.
I also came across this old windmill that used to power a small cane crusher before it was rendered obsolete by the development of bigger steam driven mills in the 19th century.
Here as in all the Antilles, the east coast is much more windy and exposed to sea swells than the west or leeward coast. That is excellent for surfing but it is dangerous for all but the most expert swimmers. Anyway, it's nice to look at and meditate.
And the terrace of the Bajan Surf Bungalow on Bathsheba Beach is an ideal place to enjoy a beer while watching the big ones roll in.
The beach was deserted except for Joanna, a barbadian writer, and her friend Debbie, a girl from Toronto who moved down here permanently to get away from the cold.
Barbados was the last island on my route this year and this beach picture is appropriate to close this chapter before going on to Central America