Original free writing: Barbados via Cobblers Cove
Barbados: This former British colony became an independent country in 1966 and is exposed to both Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea. It is the eastern-most isle of the lesser Antilles and the flattest of the group. If the other islands are the robust, volcanic children of Gaïa, Barbados is their tamer cousin from a smoother world.
Cobblers Cove: There is a wealth of hotels in Barbados ranging from loud luxury to discrete B&B. Opting for the family-owned former plantation Cobblers Cove will turn out to be the best choice you’ve made all year. Found in the pear-shaped island’s powdery sweep of sand known as the platinum coast, it’s what the doctor ordered when you’re in need of a break. Punctuate your arrival with a walk through the property’s lush verdure, a listen for late-day bird chatter, a first rum sour at the oceanfront bar, and a ritual-esque bath in the clear flat water as the sun tucks itself into the horizon.
> The rooms, spacious Brits-go-to-the-beach-themed flats, have generous proportions and cozy feels - capturing the fundamental link between style and place. Some face the garden, others the water, with two special suites above the main house that boast private pools. In their shabby-chic way, they felt like home, an effect that is echoed throughout the entire property.
> Once a family-oriented address, the contemporary at Cobblers is a well-traveled soul who knows that they’ll find deep R&R. We are a 25 and older family of experienced travelers who appreciate subtle luxury.
> The delights of Cobblers Cove dwell in its minutiae. Unique rattan furniture that has been made (and remade) by the same local artisan for the last 40 years, environmentally conscious REN products in every room, and a uniquely sensitive staff. (Curious be respectful smiles at our request to have our linens and towels changed every few days rather than the customary daily rotation).
> Homemade turmeric tea and poached eggs for breakfast, sipping Bajan rum sours on the deck before dinner. Flavors are consistently phenomenal. Special notes for the “catch the day” (Mahi Mahi, red snapper, swordfish) hauled in by fisherman Barker every morning on his small moses boat. The vegetarian selection displays the chef has indeed found his vocation, en plus he never prepared the same thing twice.
> In true post-English fashion, the hotel offers complimentary high tea every day at 4 PM sharp.
*Big ups to the bar for featuring biodegradable straws and the kitchen’s efforts to source products locally within the limits of aesthetic and gustatory excellence.
> The mini elliptical reef in front of Cobblers Cove turns out to be an ideal place for leisurely snorkeling. It is home to the common octopus, skittish spotted moray eels, the occasional camouflage-ready reef squid, balloon fish, peacock flounder, duets of flying gurnards, flashy schools of blue tang surgeonfish, and a handful of angelfish variants. Fumbling into a few IG worthy GoPro-assisted clichés is a given.
> For the less landlocked, drift out to a subaquatic cloud nine to meet the group of five turtles who live a short swim out from the hotel’s leeward coast. After ten minutes of slow, investigative crawling, you’ll arrive in their general neighborhood. (We were never not greeted by one or multiple of the dauntless hawksbills). Heads quasi-submerged in the gentle Caribbean, enjoy their soaring movements for as long as they feel like hanging around.
> For guests who are less apt to swim out, Rick and Roger from the watersports pavilion will ferry you over in the hotel’s pink and purple Boston Whaler.
Luck of the draw
> One night, we witnessed a great hawksbill giving birth in a shaded enclave just beneath the hotel’s beachfront, and on the next evening, the hatching of a batch of anxious babies. The Barbados Sea Turtle Project was phoned in to take control of each happening so that we guests could swoon and coo properly and wholeheartedly.
Barbados hors Cobblers
> The island demonstrated ample variety. A first outing took us to St. Nicholas Abbey – one-time plantation turned rum distillery. Symbolic of the island’s rum producing history, the abbey offers educational tours and tastings, which give insight to the site’s (and the island’s) slaver history and evolving identity. Plantations, slave villages, foreign influence, flora, fauna, and rum. The distillery is still active as are the sugar cane fields, which are harvested for rum. Multiple inexpensive alternatives like beet sugar have taken over its market share in the past years, but like on this plantation, cane sugar is still produced around the island making it the country’s second largest industry after tourism. Walking the paths of the abbey’s surrounding gullies introduced us to spiky sandbox trees, rising monsteras, goliath Mahogany, and a plethora of palm variant. The depths of greens reminded of the island’s fortune in being avoided by Irma and Maria. Fate that allows roots to grow deeper and canopies broader.
> A short ride away is Cherry Tree Hill, where we had our first glimpse at the rugged Atlantic coast and the pulse of whitewash thumping its shores. Days later we would come to know them more intimately as we visited Bathsheba’s Soup Bowl. Through the chop and the Sargasso seaweed adding heft to the swell, a boy and his father paddled out together on his 8-foot board. The father efforted them into a wave and the boy stood tall all the way into the beach as we hooted. No doubt, in a destination like Barbados we wouldn’t be the last tourists to expropriate these moments as being a special part of our day, but the boy smiled and threw us an easy shaka as he strode past. We were as much part of his décor as he was ours, a sentiment that held true throughout our stay on the island.
> Another excursion brought us to discover Hunte’s Garden, which takes its namesake from Anthony Hunte, the Bajan-born horticulturalist who conceived and executed the small park from within a collapsed cavern. Blazing green covers the hollow’s entirety, giving playful terrain for local green monkeys and humming birds to crisscross overhead. On that August day, we were among the few groups to enjoy the garden’s cavernous hush. A return to the hotel on a sunshine yellow reggae bus gave contrast to the garden’s calm as Rihanna buzzed through the static-prone boombox on the dashboard. As naturally as the surfer boy’s shaka, seated riders offered to hold our backpacks until our stop. Unassuming Bajan generosity marked just about every interaction we had, and, coming from Lyon where the arrogant Frenchman stereotype is alive and well, we lived all of these little moments as treasures.
*Other special notes go to Speightstown, the island’s barely-there former capital. The area was once home to a vibrant community of fishermen, only few of whom remain. The streets are lined with patinaed facades a decaying colonial structures that mingle with newer constructions. A good stop for stocking up on provisions at the supermarket or a local beer at the trendy 111 beach bar.