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All in the Family

by Susan Purdy

You know how we are unaware of certain things, until they affect us.  For example, pregnant women always notice other pregnant women. Well, just before I left for a trip to Barbados, my son and daughter-in-law told me I was going to have my first grandchild.  I laughed, then cried. Over the moon doesnt even come close to describing my joy.  Ive waited a long time for this event.  Ive loved babies I know, and babies Ive just met, and this baby, when it was just a thought in my heart.  So I boarded the plane at JFK, heading for the balmy tropics of Barbados, with a bounce in my step and a mind-set of family.

A forty-five minute drive from the airport put me at my hotel, Cobblers Cove in the Parish of St. Peters .  This resort, situated on a crescent shaped beach on Goddings Bay, is managed by Hamish Watson, a charming Scot, born and bred in Antigua. He has helped to create a resort that feels much like an English country estate.  The majority of the guests are from across the pond, and during certain periods, the resort, usually an adult sanctuary, opens its doors to families.  This was one of those times.

 I was given a key, and led to my suite through the loveliest gardens of mango and coconut trees, Powder Puff bushes, and sweetly scented ylang-ylang trees.   I love entering a resort suite or hotel room for the first time.  Its like unwrapping a gift;  I open all the closets, check out the fridge, the bathroom, especially the basket of soaps, shampoos, and mending kits, and, like a child, I am usually delighted enough to clap my hands.  Cobblers Cove deserved a standing ovation.  My suite consisted of a large living room, a kitchenette (should I crave a cuppa at midnight); louvered doors that opened to my own private patio, furnished with the most comfortable lounge chairs; a dressing area with an iron and board; full-bath including a hair-dryer (I hate to pack irons and hair-dryers); and a huge bedroom.  Perfect. 

The next morning I enjoyed breakfast under a pink tent, overlooking the beach and bay.  Some bold birds came to share my toast, and poke their beaks into the butter dish, and I waited for the wild monkeys to visit, but they had better things to do.  A lovely older woman came to sit a few feet away, at pool-side, along with a younger woman and small boy. When she looked up and smiled, I realized she was a recent Oscar-winning actress who, for the purposes of privacy, shall remain nameless. This senior woman sat back, tilted her straw hat to avoid the sun, and began reading a newspaper.  Her grandson was sporting floatation devices around each upper arm, and his red hair told the story of this young daredevil's personality.  He announced he wanted to try cannon balling into the pool.  So our actress rose from her chair, took off her straw hat, and in an instant was transformed into just a Grandma, like you, and me to-be. They played in the pool until they puckered.

 She arrived at dinner that evening to enjoy some of Chef John Hardwick's cuisine, wearing a long, pristine, white cotton dress.  We struck up a conversation and chatted about her grandson.  Having raised two sons, I commented, I know boys and Your grandson was quite fearless.   Oh yes, she agreed.  I commented that he had counted to seven before throwing himself into the turquoise colored water.  She proudly said, Oh he can count all the way to twenty, and hell only be three in June.   We talked a bit more.  I didnt reveal my new state of Grandma-in-waiting.  Then she sat down with friends, pulled her grandson onto her lap, without a thought for her pure white dress, and cradled him as he drank his bottle.  Family!

After breakfast, it took me about eight minutes to walk from Cobblers Cove to the nearby town of Speightstown.  The town is in the process of going through a major development, restoring the 80-odd buildings, hopefully to look like Charleston, South Carolina.  I stopped in at St. Peters Methodist church, and toured the old grave yard, also being cleaned up for visitors. Down the road I found Fishermans Pub.  This is the local watering hole where Bajans and travelers meet over a frosty glass of the locally made brew, Banks Beer. It was too early in the day for me, so I followed a sign that read, Gang of 4 Art Studio, and walked up two flights of steps into a large loft.  Gordon Webster, Jr., who can trace his Scottish roots back to 1635, when his ancestors first settled in Barbados, is one of the four artists who have banded together to create a  family of kindred spirits plying their craft on this small island.  The walls are filled with colorful paintings, all in different styles, and Gordon, who reflects the mannerly and friendly attitude of Bajans, gladly answered all questions. 

I imagine that when you are surrounded by the natural beauty of Barbados, the muse must strike.  I met a mother and son team,  Goldie and David Spieler, who own Earthworks, a pottery shop filled with whimsical and functional items.  I fell in love with the candle houses designed and executed by Goldie, and the wonderful tableware called Sunshine.  The owners design and create the pottery, along with their staff, and each piece is individually decorated.  I discovered other Bajan artists living and working on Barbados including Henderson Reece, who incorporates the islands colors into his batiks on silk and cotton, and Gloria Gaskin, whose finely woven straw hats and baskets are now being sold in major U.S. department stores. 

I visited the Francia Plantation in St. George one morning, and wasnt surprised to learn that this plantation house is occupied by the Sisnett family, descendants of the Morialle clan who built the home in early part of the last century.  Jeremy, the grandson of the original owner, his wife Jenny, and their two children, Justin and Sarah, enjoy the entire house when the public is not visiting.  I loved the Victorian love-seat in the middle room which had three seats: one each for the lovers and one for the dreaded chaperone.  A magnificent 130 year-old Venetian glass chandelier, with etched hurricane shades, illuminated the 19th century Barbadian mahogany dining table.   The dining room is often used by the Sisnetts to entertain family and friends who can wander onto the verandah overlooking terraced lawns and gardens.  The gardens, which have been featured on TV shows and magazines, are particularly beautiful due, in part, to the talents of Jeremy and Jenny who own and operate a horticulture business.

Sugar has been the main agricultural product of Barbados for over 350 years and I drove by fields of cane and wagons loaded with the brown sugar stalks before the approach to the Bagatelle Great House Sugar Plantation.  Built  by the Earl of Carlisle between 1645 and 1649, the house became the property of Lord Willoughby who became Governor of Barbados and all the Caribbean due to his loyalty to King Charles II.  After changing ownership several times, the house was named Bagatelle when  the owner lost it in a card game in 1878, referring to it as mere bagatelle.  Today, this historic home is owned by a husband and wife team, Richard and Val Richings, and houses both a restaurant and an art gallery.  Richard operates the restaurant, one of the islands finest, specializing in Caribbean seafood.  Val, who is an painter, oversees the excellent art gallery, where her paintings join those of other local artists.  As I passed through the gallery,  I found myself in the outdoor lounge and bar which overlooks the lush green gardens that are lit at night by hundreds of tiny lights, giving the illusion of a multitude of fireflies. (E-mail: gourmand@sunbeach.net)

When I met Patrick Gonsalves, owner and captain of the 44 sailboat Limbo Lady, I knew I had chartered onto the right boat.  Fun and easy-going, Patrick made the four-hour sail one of the most memorable events in Barbados.  I took the wheel for quite some time and Patrick said I was doing a really great job, and asked how long had I been sailing.  When I told him this was my first turn at the helm, he didnt even flinch.  We saw a loggerhead turtle surface for air, flying fish propel themselves across the bow of the boat and a snorkelers who dotted the water like the colorful fish below.  Later, we had flying fish for lunch, the food to try on Barbados. The boat sleeps nine people and Patrick takes couples and families out for a week of fun and sailing at approximately $1,100 per person. 

That evening I packed my bag, shook the hand of the porter as he transferred my luggage (tipping is not a custom in Barbados and is not encouraged), bid good-bye to General Manager HamishWatson and Assistant Manager Christopher Eastmond, and set off for home.  I had enjoyed the families I met in Barbados, but now I couldnt wait to hear updates on Fig, my name for the much-loved fetus growing in my daughter-in-laws tiny tummy.

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