Living in Dover, St Lawrence Gap, Christ Church
We picked the house that we did based 95% on location. We’re within 5 minutes’ walk to the beach and we read that Dover was one area of the island where a car was not required. In viewing the Facebook groups (Barbados Expats, Visit Barbados), when people ask for recommendations on places to stay without a car, Dover, Worthing and Hastings consistently make the cut. Maxwell has also been named, but it’s a bit further from the beach (still about a 20-minute walk from the main road, however).
In viewing a map, you’ll see Dover isn’t huge, but the area itself offers a lot. I feel completely safe walking around, day or night and everything you'd need is reachable on foot. There are several convenience stores, including a Sol gas station, within 15 minutes of our house; there is the Beach just five minutes away; there are restaurants close by, the local favorite spot Bliss Cafe (great ambience, but always busy means not the fastest, even by Bajan standards); we're five minutes from the ZR stops to take us to Oistins to the South and Worthing, Hastings and Bridgetown to the North. Plus, Elcourt Hospital is in our neighborhood, with a pharmacy that sells highly desirable and lucrative drugs that regular stores don't have (think medicine for time on the toilet...), and of course Wills Primary School. There are several other pharmacies, groceries and clothing/boutique, specialty stores, a meat market, and just about anything else you'd need just a 10 minute ZR ride from our stop.
The ZR will take us right to the Fish Fry in Oistins, which is a great way to spend a Friday or Saturday night. The first time we went, Spiderman was there, dancing and doing leaps through the crowd and I kid you not, Callen was so starstruck he couldn't even say hi to the man. The Fish Fry was one of the first things we did here and it was heavenly being a crowd of people, jamming out to live music and enjoying fellowship with others was a divine treat. The fish was great, the rum punch was strong and the atmosphere unparalleled. The ZR will also drop us right in front of the Massy's in Oistins, which is so much better than walking to Massy's in Worthing, then taking a cab back. Easy on, easy off, and if you're just grabbing a few things, the trip is 30 minutes round trip, door to door.
Dover Market is the closest store to our house at a three minute walk. During your first trip, your head my spin at the prices, but you'll soon realize that everything really is that expensive and it’s a fine shop for last minute needs or quick purchases. Staples like bread or a flour are just about the same as anywhere else.
I’ve talked about the Gap before and I’ll say it again, this is a great area for our family as far as walking to restaurants and shops. There are several places that sell ice cream, which has been a big hit for the kids. Side note, not all ice cream here is created equal (says the WI girl), so expect that some will be better than others and if you find some you like, stick with it. Sharkey’s is a family favorite; they have good food and AMAZING milk shakes. Faith has tried all of them, each of them tastes like the most refreshing dessert you’ve ever had when you take the first sip.
One and Faith and Cal's many Sharkey dates
Walking to Dover Beach every day is the highlight of every day (literally, it's the answer Penny and Cal give every day when we ask for the best part of their day). Outside of the obvious close proximity, it has a lot to offer our family personally because of its size, local offerings and proximity from the road. There are other beaches that are nice, but right on top of busy roads, or smaller, or with strong currents.
Dover seems larger than some of the beaches we've been to (ie Mullins Beach). It's long and wide with a wall cutting it off where a hotel starts and Cal and his new buddy Garner race back and forth five times then cool off in the water just as fast. It also goes far down the other way, closer to the Gap ,with a few additional entrances to the beach, some for public access and some I think just for their hotel patrons. The waves are consistently stronger the closer you get towards the Gap, so when the wind is strong, the lifeguards will advise you to head closer to the other end, filling up the umbrellas and chairs heading that way for easier family swimming.
Dover Beach itself has a lifeguard station and I can say from experience they are actively watching the swimmers to ensure safety. I know because to my extreme embarrassment, two weeks ago I was just swimming with Penny when I realized I wasn’t actually swimming towards the beach, I was just kind of treading water because of the currents. I wasn’t even far out – I could essentially stand, if the waves weren’t so big. I wasn’t struggling, just taking my time out of necessity when I look up and this strapping young lifeguard tossed a ring to Penny. I wasn’t screaming or waving for help, I was just treading water, until he took Penny from me so we could "stay closer to the beach." That was embarrassing.
The waves at Dover aren’t typically that intense, but on windy days they can be rough. My husband kindly notified me he ‘never swims out that far’ when the waves are that big, but I wasn’t even far, I could literally stand, but I digress and lesson learned. Most days, the waves are medium sized but not strong enough to suck you out and they’re just right for our family. Not as calm as a lake but generally not dangerous if you practice basic safety precautions.
Little shops and restaurants fill the Dover Beach area; there are covered picnic tables for you to eat or play Dominos at and there are outdoor shower stalls to rinse off before you head home. This weekend we tried, for the first time, the beachside restaurant Johnny Cool's. It's directly on the beach, with tasty jerk chicken, a fine enough kids menu and top notch virgin Pina Coladas (cheap beer goes without saying). The restaurant isn’t fancy; folding tables and standard plastic patio chairs fill the dining area, but it’s right on the beach and we could sip our drinks while Penny and Cal finally tried out the Dover Beach playground. They’ve been eyeing that up since Day 1 and not going to lie, it looks significantly better since it dried out, but it’s still not American-level playground. It’s got two metal swings, a metal see saw that appears to have recently added tires under each side (safety first folks), a tall set of monkey bars and grassy space to run around in. It’s fully enclosed with standard park fencing and my kids could safely run from the table to the playground while avoiding the parking lot entirely.
The shops at Dover are also lovely, selling homemade trinkets, jewelry, $5 Barbados-themed face masks (among others), colorful women’s coverups, a variety of Hawaiian shirts, vibrant girls dresses and other lovely Barbados gear.
Sunday we met several other families on the beach, for the second weekend in a row. It seems to be our new weekend tradition; last weekend hitting Brownes Beach for the first time and this weekend we requested the gang come to us, as we were meeting another family at Dover at 2 pm. When the sun went down, the kids were hungry and salted out, so we headed over to the restaurants to continue the fun. Some ate Sand Dollar Cafe, and the rest of tried Daddy's. The burgers were especially good and the price was agreeable. The beer was cheap (3 Banks/$10 USD) and the atmosphere friendly, making it a lovely time to unwind before heading home to prepare for the week. The kids – Penny, Cal, Eli, Charlotte and Jack – all loved having a playground to play in and they could sprint back and forth while waiting for their food and drinks.
The People of Dover
What we like most about Dover is that it has become our own homey little neighborhood. We see the same faces every day, Lopez, Penny and Cal knowing most by name. We know people in the area, run into them at the beach and on the streets and carry on everyday conversations like we would with our neighbors at home. Next door we have a Hindu family, originally from India but most recently living throughout the Caribbean. I haven’t officially met the Mr., but know that his work as a Sandals chef brought them here after living in Antigua and another Caribbean country prior to that of which I cannot recall the name. Shumi is the Mrs. and I was thrilled when I first saw their family outside because their son, Primo, looked around Penny’s age. When I finally talked to them, he assured me his mom had big plans for us to get together and while Shumi looked a bit embarrassed, I thought it was great.
Primo and my kids are buddies now, getting together after school to play here or there, but mostly there because Primo has video games and cooler toys. Shumi had told us about Wills and what to expect since Primo also goes there and we see her on the way home from pick up nearly every day.
Also living next door to us are Blossom and Jerry, in the one-bedroom apartment. I swear Jerry knows everyone in Dover by name; he greets and is greeted by the young and old alike. Blossom has three girls that live with her mom (their grandma) while they duke it out in court with our landlord over some 'residential disagreements.' They got into a fight a few weeks ago and she was literally hexing him on the street, screaming at the top of her lungs and cursing him out. She later told us she was happy to see the kids had left for the beach before their argument began because she didn’t want Penelope or Callen to hear her choice words. They’re both good people and Jerry often hangs out with the boys at the corner by Dover Market and then down at the beachside shops at night. Lopez and the kids are now on first name basis with each of them; they are friendly, say hi to my dog, my kids, all of us, each time we pass them. In fact, last week when Penny and Cal were at the playground, Jerry was there hanging out and assured me he was keeping an eye on them, too.
Penny has also made friends with Skylar, the 6-year-old who she met one of our first weeks here. Her grandma owns one of the shops and she helps her after school a few times a week and when Penny and Cal hit the playground Saturday evening, Skylar ran out to play with them. After dinner, Penny ‘helped’ Skylar and her grandma close down the shop for the evening, although the real help didn’t come 'til Cal happily swept the whole store while Penny and Skylar cleaned up all the toys they'd just pulled out. Skylar and Penny already made plans to meet later this week at beach or playground after school and Penny is of course, very excited.
We also just met two families, both Canadian, (like everyone here), who live in the largest condo complex right on Dover Beach. We’ve seen them nearly every day since meeting. They each have a boy and a girl and the six kids play together immediately when they see each other after school on the beach.
Between our neighbors, our Dover Beach friends and others we've met through activities like Curry and Painting night, we regularly run into people we know and life is settling in with Dover feeling like home.