• Liz Lopez

Adventures with Jennifer

Uprooting our lives and heading to the tropics was Lopez's grand plan, therefore he did most of the heavy lifting. During his research, he came across a post on Reddit from a woman my age coming to Barbados around the same time, for six months.

He messaged her and asked her to be my friend, explaining that we were taking our dog and four kids and he wanted me to have someone else to spend time with (for fear of eventual insanity). She agreed and immediately recognized his area code, teaching us that we're all from the greater Milwaukee area.

Here's the thing about Midwesterners: we’re down-to-earth and among the friendliest in the USA, we love good cheese, good beer, we like our home sports teams and we love our state. Jennifer is no different and I loved her even more after I learned she still agreed to be my friend, even when she thought Lopez wanted us to go shopping at The GAP, instead of ‘hitting the Gap’ (in reference to St. Lawrence Gap, not the American-based store).

Holetown, St. James

The first time we met Jennifer, we’d mistakenly imagined we could get to Holetown via the Zed R. You can’t do this, at least not directly, and we knew nothing. We had to take a cab and the trip was far longer than I’d thought possible on the island (this was back in the fall when we’d recently arrived).

The only restaurants we could find on Mullins Beach were fancier than we wanted with Penny and Cal in tow. Of course, I don't remember its name, nor is it listed online, but we found a restaurant shanty complete with picnic tables, hot dogs, and rum punches. Jennifer met us and we all hit it off immediately, kids included. We solidified our positions as tourists on the beach, remaining in the water after the rainfall came and enjoying every second of it.

The next time we met Jennifer, we took Bow and all the kids to her place for a cookout. Lopez graciously made dinner while Jennifer and I chatted the night away in between rounds of Marco Polo with the kids. We needed a few last-minute groceries so we walked Alice, her dog-child Chihuahua, to the neighborhood Massy’s. I waited outside with Alice while she ran in, and the vibe is definitely fancier than the South Coast. The West Coast feels more Cape Cod, scattered with different colored houses along the main road with local boutiques inside. Even the Massy’s looked nicer from the outside. I know the Platinum Coast has a lot to offer, but Jennifer also ended up enjoying the South Coast ambiance best too.

Hastings, Christ Church

10/10 would recommend living in Hastings. Just past Worthing, where the Richard W Haynes boardwalk travels through the area on the beach for visitors to enjoy. Shops and restaurants line the road with the backdrop of the beach behind it. Restaurants to note in the area include Blakey's on the Boardwalk, Tapas, Champers and Shakers. I did Blakey's with Jennifer, and of course, she knew half the staff and we were just a month into our time here. They had music and an outdoor dance floor; the food was solid and the beer cold with a fun and lively atmosphere. Paz and Molly eat at Shakers all the time and we're going to try it soon, Bonus, I saw they have the Impossible Burger, which I can't wait to try! It's hidden off the main road and doesn't look like much, but they swear by it and it looked just like my kinda place.

Jennifer and I also hit Champer's on our last night together. We had the furthest corner table right on the water and watched the sunset over the water as we sipped our drinks and shared appetizers. The drinks and the food were good, but the view was unbeatable, with awnings put in place before I even felt the rain trickling down.

Other restaurants to note are Naru, which I can't recommend because I'm not down with sushi, and Salt Cafe, which is number one on TripAdvisor. It's more of a cafe instead of waterfront dining, which puts it at the bottom of my 'to try' list for atmosphere alone. I'm more of a pub girl than a cafe girl.

ArtSplash Café

We started our evening at a gallery at ArtSplash Café. Never an art aficionado, I struggle to find meaning in art and therefore, don't particularly enjoy art. In comes Mandy, a featured artist, and friend of Jennifer’s (I told you, she made the best little community of friends in Hastings!). Mandy's partner runs Oasis on the Boardwalk, just across the road from the gallery. Mandy went through her pieces and explained what they meant. She’d experienced artist’s block when the pandemic hit; she was unable to create the paintings she loved. Enter election night in America; all the people that voted for Trump, and she couldn’t believe it as the numbers came in. Her first piece in nearly a year was born, a cacophony of colors and patterns that cast an array of emotions from one single event. She explained her other paintings, mapping out what she felt during their creation. She further explained that even if someone doesn’t understand art, she would prefer they just ask 'What does this mean?' A deeper understanding and appreciation can grow and the love of art can then be passed on, as she did teaching art to youngsters for many years.

The gallery was filled with pieces I wish I could take home. There was abstract art, paintings, and local artist’s pride hanging on the gallery walls. The café on the front porch along with the inside draws large crowds on a normal non-COVID day.

Outside of the gallery and café, ArtSplash offers what I consider to be the best playground on the island. Now I can’t confirm this based on actual experience, since my kids haven’t physically played there (the first time they went, there was a private party; the second time, a camp, and finally, COVID). But with zip lines, slides, swings, ropes to climb, seesaws, and a merry-go-round, even my playground-fanatical children were impressed at just the sight. I will get there before we leave this island, come hell or high water!

Hastings Farmers Market

Open Monday-Saturday, the Hastings Farmers Market in the parking lot of ArtSplash is a great stop to make. The last time we stopped (just a few weeks ago), there were pastries and jewelry and hand-painted canvases, and hand-crafted wall hanging. There was a booth with beautiful women’s tops and an incense booth along with homemade hummus which we sampled and then purchased. Each of the vendors I spoke with was personable, warm and outgoing with Penny and Cal as they spazzily hopped from booth to booth. I'm going back for a bracelet and more wall hangings before we head home. If you're not into awesome things + crafts, at least stop for the fruit stand, colorful and inviting from the road, and open after the remaining vendors have shut down for the day.

Residence in Hastings (SaltLifeBarbados)

Unsolicited plug here, SaltLifeBarbados is worth a look if you’re seeking fantastic but reasonable accommodations. We spent several afternoons lounging at Jennifer’s mostly private pool at her place. The complex consists of a 1, 2, and 3 bedroom apartment, all sharing the fenced-in back yard complete with grill area, loungers, and an in-ground pool perfect for lounging and games. I viewed the 2 and 3 bedroom apartments and both are lovely, but the three-bedroom, in particular, is everything you’d expect out of a great residential experience here.

Airy, bright, and modern with three bedrooms and two bathrooms (one master suite), you enter roadside through the gate up white entryway steps with a decent-sized sitting area, and from the back you can lounge on the second-floor balcony overlooking the gardens and pool below. Everything is fenced in and dog friendly; I highly recommend anyone looking for a nice stay on the South Coast to check it out. It’s just two blocks off the beach, just up the road from ArtSplash, across from the Boardwalk and walking distance to all the above-mentioned eateries in Hastings. Bonus - there's a nice driveway (fenced in as well) for playtime or sidewalk art if you have kids too.

Pool pics - see the grill area behind. And Penny's photoshoot courtesy of Key.

Horse bathing @ Pebbles Beach

One of the coolest sights in Barbados is watching the racing horses bathe at Carlisle Bay. We pulled in just in time to see the last group of horses getting out of the water. We were able to pet one on its way out, snap some pictures and chat up the handler. We took Alice to the water's edge to throw the ball and not long after, a few stragglers arrived. Jennifer and Key hopped right into the water with them and the handler was kind enough to let them swim with the horse, then on the horse, which was fantastic to watch. This was Jennifer's last morning in Barbados and what a way to go out, adding 'swam on a horse in the ocean' to the bucket list.

I've heard that the best days to go are Thursdays and Sundays, although you'll likely find them any day. Sundays - in non-COVID, non-volcano times - is the day after races, so many of the horses make it to the beach and apparenlty they can stay longer at the beach on Sundays. We arrived around 7 am, so don't hit snooze too many times or you'll miss them.

Blush Café

After the final horse left, we headed down the road to Blush Café. A page from the Beverly Hills Hotel, the café's pastel theme is accented with floral walls, vintage decorative pieces, and handmade frosted cookies that put kids' Christmas cookies to shame. If you're not into coffee or food in general, it's worth the trip for the cute pictures alone.

The menu is filled with perfectly crafted bakery items, specialty coffee drinks, and a small but tempting menu of breakfast and lunchtime fare. The first thing I noticed on the drink menu was the Caramel Crush, which I had to taste, on Lopez's behalf, to confirm if it indeed tastes like his favorite coffee drink back home. (Yeah, Faith works at Starbucks and we enjoy her family discount!) We enjoyed the chicken curry croissant and my americano was strong and tasty as well.

Second trip: did in fact confirm that Lopez loved the Caramel Crush. Also enjoyed take two of the chicken curry croissant which doesn't sound amazing, but was intriguingly enjoyable. We also tried the quiche which was good and I have it on good authority that the cookies and brownies were sinfully tasty.