The view of Rockley Beach from Accra. Photo: Accra Beach Hotel
Travel for me serves so many purposes. For one, it is to get away, to break the monotony that can be everyday life in NYC. On the other hand, it can be a search for what is the same, for what feels familiar, and like home. In the beginning of December, I went on a tropical escape to Barbados with my cousin Lauren for her 30th birthday along with her lifelong friend LeAndra. I was extremely excited to go Barbados, as I had never been, and it was my first Caribbean (CARICOM) nation outside of Belize that I visited. I usually do a lot of research for new travel destinations, but I knew Lauren had it handled as she consulted co-workers and friends of Barbadian/Bajan descent. It was different for me, and a bit of travel anxiety lifted from my plate as I did not have to plan our trip day-to-day.
A cool view of Lagoon Bar. Photo: Accra Beach Hotel
We had a non-stop Jet Blue flight from JFK to Bridgetown, the capital of the country, and arrived in the early afternoon. Barbados is on Atlantic Standard Time (AST), so we were an hour ahead of Eastern Standard Time (EST). Upon landing and walking down the stairs to the ground with the sun beaming on my face, I immediately felt at home. The airport was small and reminiscent of Philip Goldson International Airport in Belize City, and I was so excited to flash my Belize passport on arrival. Belize and Barbados are members of CARICOM, the Caribbean Community, and with a CARICOM passport, travelers are able to wait on a shorter line and stay for longer periods of time in Caribbean nations sans visa.
LeAndra & I being proper millennials, Instagramming our food
I saw the line for CARICOM passport holders, beamed a smile, and went my way to have my passport stamped. This may seem like a small feat, but after receiving my Belize passport in January 2017 and making my first sister country trip to finish the year off, I felt triumphant. We gathered our luggage, snagged some bottles of spirits at the duty-free shop, went through customs, and were off to our hotel. We had a short 10-15 taxi drive from the airport to Accra Beach Hotel & Spa, our home away from home for four nights. It took a bit of time for us to check in, but that was a minor detail as we were greeted with complimentary glasses of rum punch as we waited. As I am currently building up Cas Rum Beverages, in addition to it being my cousin’s birthday trip, I called it “rum punch research.”
Rum Punch from Just Grillin’ with a sprinkle of nutmeg on top
Once in, we got to our room, put our stuff down, changed into weather-appropriate clothing, and took a short trip across the street for some food. We had lunch at Just Grillin’, a grilled chicken and fish spot offering up sizable portions with the option of veggie or rice sides, and a full bar. We ordered their rum punch which was a little bit more familiar to me in taste and reddish color, topped with fresh-grated nutmeg. We walked around the shopping area, which housed gift shops, a convenience store, coffee shop, smoothie shop, chocolate shop, sandwich shop, and a doubles stand (more on this later). We picked up a few gallon jugs of water and juice mixers for the spirits we purchased at the airport.
My food: Jerk chicken wrap with a side of roasted veggies
The sun was still beaming, so it was fitting to change into bathing suits and go for a swim (after our food digested of course.) We swam away and chilled at the Lagoon Bar, whilst becoming familiar with the staff. At this point my first two rum punches had worn off, so I figured, let’s have more, because I was on vacation. We had a few, and I felt fine, but let’s say I played myself and took a swig of straight whiskey after. In short, I had to be brought up to the room and woke up with a crazy hangover. The moral of day one? Don’t mix your liquor, and be sure to drink tons of water. Stay tuned for the next chapter of my Barbados trip!
*All photos by Andrea K. Castillo & Lauren Johnston (unless noted otherwise)