Doing History in Barbados (part 1)

This blog post was written by Kim Marchant and Ros Ablett, students on Will Pettigrew’s undergraduate history excursion to Barbados. 

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After a long day of travelling we finally arrived in Bridgetown! Getting off the plane was a shock to the system, it must have been at least 25 degrees, a lot hotter than the miserable weather we had left in London.  After making it to the hotel, we had the unique opportunity to have some home-cooked Barbadian food.  Cooked to perfection, Loretta’s grandmother catered for everyones tastes. It was a feast! Macaroni pie, fried fly-fish, chicken stew, rice, salad, vegetables and pickled breadfruit; no-one left hungry. The local treats just kept on coming. Trying ‘Pulse,’ a fizzy pineapple drink was an acquired taste, and ‘Banks’ a local beer, a refreshing way to end a long day of travelling!

Tuesday morning was our first full day. After having breakfast at the hotel, we began our adventures of exploring the beautiful island of Barbados. We started our trip by stopping at Sunbury Plantation House. Demonstrating what a typical plantation estate would have been like in the 18th and 19th Centuries, Sunbury was an amazing opportunity to see both the inside and outside of such a beautiful house. Although it was a beautiful house, the tour guide did take every opportunity to distract us from the sinister nature of what would have happened here. The experience was more of a celebration of the family which owned the house rather than the slavery which the house would have been primarily used for. The plantation house was very dismissive of the slaves and focused primarily on the role of Victorian culture of slavery. The tour guide did specify that the house was separate from the plantation at the beginning of her tour. The separation of the plantation house and land, which is still worked today, was another reason to justify the dismissal of slave culture. The lack of concentration on slavery characterises the way that Barbados thinks about their history. The country are more focused on their own history, in particular independence than the role of slavery.

After the tour, we started our journey to Spieghtown.  Passing the ‘bassa’ monument (the leader in the rebellion to end slavery in Barbados) and the Cuban memorial (remembering ships which were destroyed), we drove through Holetown. The buildings that we passed here were amazing! Seeing the house that Rihanna owns and stays when on the island was incredible! Entering into Spieghtown, it was lunchtime! We had lunch in a local fish bar where we overlooked the beach. We tried everything! Fishcakes (dried salt fish e.g cod mixed with flour, battered and then fried) and plantain (fried slices of the banana family) were a group favourite.  Again, lunch together was a great way for us all share the amazing experience.  After lunch, we had some chill out time. Spending some time on the beach (where the boys enjoyed the sea, even though they had not brought swimwear so went in in their clothes), a few of our group went into the town museum.

After this, we decided to experience something truly local. We took the bus to Bridgetown. WHAT AN EXPERIENCE! Throughout the entire journey there was regional music playing. Constantly, we had to remind ourselves that we were on public transport, it was so relaxed. Moreover, space was not a concern. When we thought that the bus was full, another 8 people got on. And again, when we thought the bus was full again, yet more people managed to fit. In England, this would have made people restless, but here it was so normal. Everyone singing to the music and enjoying their journeys.

Once in Bridgetown, we walked towards the Parliament building, a complete contrast to the House of Parliament.  Seeing and walking over the bridge which the town was named after, we went to a local bar.  Looking over the beautiful marina, we all reflected on the day with a drink, making full use of the wi-fi to catch up with life in Britain! Finally, we ate! Chefette, a Barbadian fast food restaurant was so much nicer than the greasy options at home.

Everyone was exhausted after dinner, so the fact that we had to wait 25 minutes on the bus before being able to leave was frustrating.  Humidity had been at about 70% all day, so being crammed on a bus was not ideal. The locals were also not overly impressed, and we experienced how the locals ‘persuaded’ the driver to hurry up! But yet again, the music made everything better. Maybe stagecoach could learn something… The hour bus back to the hotel just topped off the experience of our first day in Barbados. And, if today was anything to go by then the rest of the trip is going create some incredible memories.

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