Christmas cards keep arriving, whether delayed by post office inertia, actual mail strikes or our move to a historic lake-side town, it’s hard to say, but they do belatedly remind us of friends in distant places.

Our Cobblers Cove wedding

We sent out more cards than usual this year, since they served as useful change of address notices as well. The holidays have come and gone, the decorations are down, the fallen pine needles swept up, and all the leftovers are history, but this year it seems that this is the season that keeps on giving. The nice thing about receiving cards from afar, is that it takes us to places where we’ve enjoyed the company of friends or where we have pleasant memories of journeys taken.

Friends in Barbados have reached out to remind us that we’ve been absent too long. My beloved and I spent a wonderful holiday there, to celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary. We’ve just had out 13th and its hard to imagine how quickly those three years have flown by, weighed down as they were by the pandemic and consequent travel restrictions.

A card from our friends at Cobblers Cove tells a good news story.

A perfect pink paradise

This has always been one of my beloved’s favourites Caribbean spots, with her many previous visits BN (before Nigel). We were married there as a result. Not quite on the beach, for the tide came in too far that day and we had to retreat to the terrace above the beach, but with a backdrop of the setting sun and an unexpected audience of the manager’s weekly champagne reception, we had a memorable ceremony. Our lovely friends Ian and Marguerite stood up for us and we’ve been able to see them on every visit since. We were welcomed back for one holiday by old school chum Will Oakley, who had become the manager. He kindly offered an Old Oundelian discount. Now he’s moved onto manage the private Jumby Bay Island, just off the coast of Antigua and reachable only by boat. He and his lovely wife looked after us exceptionally well.

The Godsal family bought the hotel back in the 60s. Hugh and Sam are the current generation and still intimately involved. Soane Britain had done a major decorative overhaul on our last visit and my beloved, with her innate designer’s eye, caught sight of a set of Victorian fern prints hanging in the entry. We have the same hanging in our house. We were relieved to see that the signature pink and white striped beach umbrellas had survived the renovations. Now we learn that the restaurant has been refreshed, although it is hard to imagine how perfection could be improved.

Tiami Catamaran Cruises

On my last visit, I sat at a waterside table there every day. After savouring a breakfast dish of fresh island fruits and a few bites of warm toast and marmalade, I took a proffered glass of bubbly, while I wrote notes for a screenplay, a light Christmas romance. It was hard to conjure up scenes of snow, but the atmosphere did make writing the romantic bits easier. I’ve just learned that my screenplay of Christmas Comes to Trickle Creek has been greenlit and will be shot this snow season. Perhaps we’ll enjoy a visit to the new resto when the royalties arrive.

Hugh and Sam’s late-arriving card tells us that both Barbados and Cobblers have weathered the trials of the last year or two. Barbados, they say, remains the most popular destination in the Caribbean and Cobblers has (yes, again) been voted the best luxury hotel on the island. We send congratulations streaming back along with all the happy memories.

Highlights of many visits

St. Nicholas Abbey Heritage Railway

Tiami catamarans top my list of favourite day trips on Barbados and one which I’ve repeated every visit since a banker friend told me the name stands for “This Is A Massive Investment.” At the time I think they just had one boat and now they have eight catamarans sailing daily, so clearly the investment has been worthwhile. I like them because I always have a good time, the food and drinks are great and we’ve been able to snorkel and swim with the turtles. I like it even better when the wind is right, the crew get the big sails up and we whistle along at a great rate of knots.

St. Nicholas Abbey is not just a historic plantation house and worthy of a visit, but also the site of one of the last rum factories on the island to use its original machinery. I love to watch the great clanking machines chew through the sugar cane and press out the juice that makes both sugar and rum. The distillery is worth a visit for some excellent rum, whether one indulges in the newer white rum or the darker 12 and 15-year-old expressions. The 1658 Jacobean mansion stands as a memory of past glories and has been well and authentically restored. The estate’s crowning glory is the steam train which pulls a couple of passenger cars up towards the viewpoint at Cherry Tree Hill. The narrow-gauge engine was rescued from a sugar plantation in Java, but is very similar to trains which would have run in the days before the island railway was abandoned. On my last visit to St. Nicholas, I was honoured by being allowed to ride on the footplate with the engineer and stoker and even toot the whistle. That’s always a thrill for steam train enthusiasts.

With my beloved on Bathsheba Beach

Bathsheba Beach is not a place to go swimming, where the waves and strong currents have sculpted very strange mushroom shaped rocks into alien shapes. For great views and a cooling breeze, visit the fine restaurant overlooking the rough Atlantic waters. The Round House was once a stop on the island railway. Today, this historic property serves an excellent lunch. Curiously, many of the rails from the old railway were recycled into the construction of Cobblers Cove’s main house.

Finally, a trip to Barbados would not be complete without taking in the lively Oistins Friday Night Fish Fry. Watch the sun set over the authentic fishing village, where the boats bob in the harbour, until the food stalls come alive after dark. I was first taken here by my local cameraman Errol, who wanted me to savour authentic Bajan cooking, and I’ve been coming back ever since. There are many spots the choose from, serving a wide variety of fresh cooked fish, grilled or fried, with the ubiquitous sides of peas and rice, plantains, mac and cheese or corn. It’s all very rustic and you could be sitting next to a couple of old timers playing dominoes, or dancing to a reggae beat when someone pops a Bob Marley tune onto the juke box. If you’re lucky, a Tuk band might be playing. It’s not an occasion for quiet reflection, but over the chatter and music once can still hear the waves crashing onto the beach.

Featured image: A lovely woodcut card from Cobblers Cove, Barbados

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This is Nigel’s 361st blog on Gentleman’s Portion. The SEARCH function at the top works really well if you want to look back and see some of his previous stories, or check under CATEGORIES.

With our first blog of the new year, we take this opportunity to wish all our readers a healthy and joyful 2023.

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