Showing posts from December, 2008

Tuk Band Celebration

Happy New Year! It's a season of celebrations and in Barbados, that usually means the raucous sounds of a tuk band will be streaming through the streets. Tuk bands produce Bajan folk music that truly represents the offbeat mix of African and British culture. Since traditional African rhythms were outlawed during slavery, enslaved Africans learned the music of British military and maritime bands, along with classical waltzes. After emancipation, a sound that merged all of these rhythms surfaced. The band plays a kittle drum also known as a snare drum, which was originally made from animal skins, the bass drum, a penny whistle and a triangle. The Tuk band rhythm moves progressively from a slow waltz, to a fassy or march beat and explodes into a frenetic African rhythm. Typically, the performers are a trio of roaming minstrels accompanied by a stilt walker, a moco jumbie or masquerade figure called Shaggy Bear and a man dressed as a woman with big bosoms and behind called Mother Sally

A Sweet Retreat

Sugar in all forms generally makes me happy. I refuse to patronize restaurants without dessert menus and have been known to start dinner with a decadent dessert and end with a small appetizer. Life's too short to always leave your favorite thing for last. So I was especially struck by the symbolism of this sugar mill converted into a house. Tucked onto a hill in St. Peter, this sugar mill house represents Barbados' history as a major sugar producer. It also reflects my sweets obsession in a major way. What would be cooler than living in a structure that used to create sugar? I'm sure just the sugary walls would provide creative inspiration and a jolt of psychic energy.

Chillin' In Little Bristol

A cricket obsession, a pub culture centered around rum shops and the people's reserved manner, have helped earn Barbados the nickname of "Little England." The island definitely exudes a singular quality that blends Caribbean spirit with a British sensibility. I found the best example of this in the quiet village of Speightstown, on the Eastern coast. Founded in 1653, Speightstown is the second biggest town in Barbados, after Bridgetown. It's a sleepy place filled with crumbling, historic buildings and serene beaches. I found the town charming, from my first stop at the iconic Fisherman's pub, which serves flying fish burgers and a spray of sea water if you sit too close to the beach side windows, to the outdoor market spilling over with papayas, plantains and pudding & souse. I have scary childhood memories about souse, which is a gory mix of pig parts, that my grandmother would make but it's a popular Bajan ritual to buy the stuff on Saturdays

Bajan Street Signs

Wandering through Barbados, I was struck by the wit and color of the street signs. Humor and welcoming vibes seemed to ring out from these brightly colored placards, in ways that I never see in the U.S. Even the dollar store sign looked inviting with a wash of sunny hues. The City Woman sign caught my attention because it captures the basic Caribbean sensibility of living practically but with joy. Fish frys are a cultural constant on the island but I was partial to the red sign above because it's my name, minus a "d" at the end. My favorite of course, is the Barbados Jack sign, nothing beats booty!

George Washington and Barbados

I certainly wasn't expecting to learn about American history or George Washington while I was in Barbados but that's exactly what I did. I was surprised to discover that the Eastern Caribbean island played an important role in the course of American history. Besides supplying the settlers who founded North and South Carolina and about seven of the first governors for these states, Barbados was the only country visited by George Washington and the experience left a major impact on his life. The 18th century, two story, Georgian style house where George Washington lived in Barbados for seven weeks, has been restored into the George Washington House and Museum in Bridgetown. Enveloped by lush gardens and balmy sea breezes that blow through the house, the museum presents a huge amount of information in an unlikely place. The rooms where George Washington lived are bare and utilitarian but the second floor boasts a life-size Washington that reads from his diary at the push of a

A Taste of Harlem and Passports With A Purpose

Today marks the first day for the Passports With A Purpose fundraiser. Four Seattle travel bloggers decided to rally the travel blogging community to raise money and awareness for Heifer International, which is a charity that combats hunger by teaching sustainable farming methods and donating livestock. I couldn't pass up a chance to help so thanks to a generous donation from A Taste of Harlem founder Jacqueline Orange, my raffle prize is two tickets to the Taste of Harlem Food and Cultural Tour . This three hour tour features six restaurants, tours of an art gallery, a historic bed and breakfast, shops and landmarks that reflect Harlem's storied history. I grabbed a chance to experience this whirlwind excursion last year and it opened my eyes and taste buds to parts of New York history that I never knew. Nestled in the Manhattan borough, Harlem holds some cultural tidbits that might fascinate you. The neighborhood hosts a huge Dominican population, for instance. I sampled sa