Barbados

When: December 18th-31st, 2014

Where: Stayed in Christ Church

Weather: A constant temperature of sunny ~28°C. A few scattered showers, but would not last long

 

Disclaimer: This trip has mixed emotions for me. The island’s water and beach area is amazing. The weather was hot and predictable, especially for December. But, the sidewalks are terrible. If you’re fine with taking a few excursions (pricey) and spending the rest of your time by the beach, or the great apartment, this trip is for you. There are a couple of restaurants nearby, but not many to choose from.

 

Getting There

I was pleasantly surprised that there was a direct, and relatively inexpensive flight to Barbados from Toronto. Booking well in advance could have only cost us $700 roundtrip, but we left it a little too late and it was up to $900.

Now, when we touched down in Barbados, I saw that there were stairs to get off the plane. Great. I hate being carried down stairs, as it’s not very stable. But then something amazing was brought to the plane.

It’s not easy to tell from the photos, but all tarmac disembarkments need to have this. It is a giant room on a elevator system. It raises right to the door, and you are wheeled into it (see me on the chair, with a head rest!). The whole room is then lowered. The electric chair is then put on a mini elevator platform, and brought to you! Then, the whole room can be driven to the door to the airport. You then get lowered on the elevator. This was incredible. Everyone was extremely nice.

After getting off the plane, we headed into the airport (bathrooms that were pretty good right inside) and through customs.

Next, we found our accessible taxi waiting for us.

IMG_2020

Accessible Taxis: Now, I will take an accessible taxi where I can find them and be (mostly) grateful for them. But like I said in my Cruise blog, Barbados gauges you. We used Blessed Rentals. It is actually pretty inexpensive ($50USD) per way to airport, but the excursions are a rip off. it is $50/hr for a minimum of 3 hours. And if you want to do some exploring or an activity, they wait for you and that is included in your time. So, if you want to do activities (see below), do a bunch in a day so that it doesn’t cost you so much.

None the less, they were really nice, and the taxis were spacious enough for my two wheelchairs (not sure if two seated people in chairs could fit). Me, two wheelchairs, 3 people and all our luggage fit.

Our Place

I opted to use Airbnb to find a 2 bedroom, one bath place that was in a compound. There were other (non accessible) apartments that others could rent out if you have a large party. The owner is right on site and is extremely nice.

IMG_2118

The compound was very large and had electric doors to get in and out to the street (remote controlled, you are given one). Our apartment had an odd step to get in, but we asked them to add a ramp, and it was done the next day. There is a patio (fenced in) that is private and very tranquil feeling. There are even monkeys that skirt around the trees!

The kitchen was pretty well kept. There was a gas stove that had to be manually lit.

Be aware that you can’t leave food out, as ants and cockroaches come visit. And cockroaches fly.

IMG_2128IMG_2129

The living room was large and had a lot of furniture. We rearranged it to move stuff out of the way.

Note: There is only a bar to sit at to eat food, no actual kitchen table. But the patio is covered, and it is always hot. So you can just sit out there at the lower table. If you get too hot, you can bring a fan out there.

I asked for a table and they said they would provide it. But it wasn’t there when I arrived. You can ask them again and they would probably provide it

There were two bedrooms (I only have photos of one) and it had air conditioning in it.

IMG_2122

The bathroom had a shower with a step.

IMG_2124IMG_2126

One issue is that it is narrow to get to the toilet, as the sink and the shower are close together. I was able to transfer close to it. If you need an exact measurement, you can email them.

The Area

The neighbourhood around the compound is quiet and peaceful. Note: there is a beautiful church across from our apartment and it rings its bells every half an hour and on the hour. From 6AM-10PM. Charming. Hopefully you get used to it. I learned how to tell time better at least.

Now, for those that are able bodied, the beach is about a 2 minute walk and down some stairs.

Wheelchair users: This is where my mixed feelings come in. There is a great boardwalk that is very accessible, but to access it without steps, it is about a 10 minute walk. And it can’t be on the main road because of the bad sidewalks. The walk is simple and pretty, but I wouldn’t do it solo or as a female late at night.

Pavement can be uneven, but nothing an electric wheelchair can’t handle.

Looking at a google map, type in KFC Hastings and this is where you will walk out to the main road.

IMG_2026

The BoardWalk: There are great places to sit on the boardwalk, but only a few places to get on and off of it:

-KFC

-The parking lot beside Tapas

  • Beside Blakey’s (where the gazebo is)

IMG_2032

Once actually on the boardwalk, there are some perfect spots to sit and view the ocean. There is even a spot to sit beside someone who wants to sit on the sand.

IMG_2092IMG_2094IMG_2101IMG_2037

Washrooms: Free public washrooms are located on the boardwalk. There is a large accessible washroom stall.

IMG_2031

Restaurants

There are only 2 sit down restaurants close by that I could really go to. It just depends on your patience going over uneven pavement and potentially walking on the road.

Blakey’s: This is a pub food kind of place. Everyone else seemed to like it, I was just meh. Their Caesar salad is delicious. It is along the Boardwalk (beside the gazebo).

It’s a great place to get a cold drink and watch the sunset. I think there are also music nights

Tapas: Now this place is delicious. Upscale food (albeit expensive). It is located on the boardwalk. If your chair can’t get over the small front lip (and you’re coming from the parking lot), you can just go into their parking lot and go on the boardwalk, and then go inside. They have an open concept restaurant, so you can look at the ocean. Be warned, they become booked up quickly for dinner. We had Christmas dinner here.

I liked their Mojitos, which are smooth. Rum is made in Barbados.

access to boardwalk from their parking lot

Mall Area

This outdoor complex has two floors (with elevator). There is a small convenience store, two places for ice cream, and some semi fast food places (Subway and a burger joint). There is also a Barbadian take out place that we didn’t try but other people seemed to like. The place that we did eat at was Chutney’s (over and over).

Chutney’s: This is Indian Food and was always full of customers. The curry wraps were so authentic tasting and luckily not spicy. I kept eating it, even though I was allergic to them, that’s how good they were. They are also great for getting take out to bring back to the house. The roti melts in your mouth! Ok, you get my point, I loved this place.

IMG_2028

Farmer’s Market: Saturday Mornings have the market with fresh fruits, veggies, baked goods and crafts. There is a falafel place that everyone loved (I don’t like falafel) and a juice bar, but it is up steps. So if you aren’t alone, you can get someone to go for you (not just open on Saturdays). This is located across the street from Blakey’s.

IMG_2035IMG_2034IMG_2033

Excursions

Botanical Garden: Note that there was a Christmas party and was closed, but it wasn’t on the website. Call in advance. We wasted time going all the way there for nothing. There seems to be another garden called the Andromeda Botanical Gardens that we could have gone to.

St Abbey: Do not go here. I emailed in advance asking about the accessibility. From what it sounds like, they aren’t that accessible (even though they insist it is) Also, wheelchairs aren’t allowed inside, because we are too heavy. I had some email exchanges back a forth with them about the non-inclusiveness and their discriminatory practices. They promised to give me a private tour. When I went to set that up, no response.

We did two separate days with the accessible taxi.

Day 1

Sunbury Plantation House: This house is beautiful and had great tour guides take you through each room. There are ramps to the house, through the side door. There was a bit of a lip up from the ramp (why?!) but we found a piece of wood and it was fine. I couldn’t go up to the second floor, but it was still worth it to go around the main floor. Apparently you can have catered dinners here.

IMG_2061

You then needed to walk back outside to get to the basement. Pretty interesting artifacts as well. Lots of ramps.

Back outside there was a small gift shop, and an eating area to purchase treats and drinks. Note, the bathroom was too small to close a wheelchair inside it.

IMG_2062

IMG_2060

The Grounds were beautiful, with large overhanging trees. The cobblestone was uneven in some parts, so I just avoided them.

Harrison’s Cave: Now this place was really interesting. The grounds were beautiful, as they were on two different levels. You walked to an elevator and descended down a cliff to get to the lower areas where the tours took place. There was a little convenience stand to purchase snacks and drinks.

The tour first began with a short video on the history of the caves and of Barbados. You were then escorted to little trucks that would descend into the caves. They were fitted with ramps and plenty of space for wheelchairs.

Note that the caves are muggy and very humid. You will get a bit wet as the water runs from the ceiling onto you. It feels nice. There is low lighting in the caves, except for lights to illuminate parts of the walls. The tour guide was very entertaining and gave some good facts. You get to stop a couple of times to get out of the trucks to explore. Ask the drivers questions, they know a lot more facts that you wouldn’t get from the tour alone.

Walking in shopping area: We then took our taxi to the shopping area. You can just direct your taxi to downtown. Now, there is a shopping centre, but it is crap. Just walk around the back streets, there are tons of people around. You can walk on the road, as there are no cars allowed here. There is a mix of vendors on the street and in shops. Pretty interesting to walk around.

 

What I would do next time I want to visit Barbados:

-I would stay in a condo building right on the boardwalk. That way I didn’t have to take a 10 minute walk to the beach (although this isn’t the end of the world)

IMG_2109

This condo is right on the boardwalk. A ramp could be built to get from the deck to the boardwalk.

– Potentially find a condo/apartment in the St.Lawrence Gap area. There are better sidewalks and lots of restaurants. It is just a lot pricier.

– I would do a large grocery haul at the beginning and go to the farmer’s market to stock up