Matteo’s family have strong connections with Barbados and they know it well. I quickly learned that discovering the island as a newcomer was best done by car, listening to soca music, and taking in the scenes. Beautiful beaches, surf shops, shabby yet colourful houses and endless greenery (it’s the rainy season). The food was exquisite. We had fresh fish, coleslaw, mac pie and rum punch at what felt like every meal. I’m a beach girl at heart, so the simple pleasure of swimming in the sea everyday and being able to lie on the sand with my boy made me so happy. The island lifestyle suits me very well.
The vibe of Barbados is chill. No one is in a rush, whether you’re walking down a street or being served in a restaurant. While it can be frustrating coming from a frantic city lifestyle where everything moves so very quickly, the slow pace opens your eyes to think you might not have seen. You are not constantly thinking about the next thing. My favourite example of this was a day when we were at a restaurant on the beach whingeing about how long our food was taking. We glanced over to Matteo’s grandfather and he seemed transfixed, just staring at the water and the sand, the one of us not complaining. We chuckled at how he seemed to have drifted away. That was until we realised what he was seeing that we weren’t – a nest of turtles hatching and making their first tiny steps to the water. We stopped our complaining and watched this gorgeous natural show, thankful for the delay in our lunch.
In contrast to the leisurely pace of day-to-day life was the energy and vivacity of Crop Over, six week long festival, originally to celebrate the harvest of the sugarcane, and now a breathtakingly vibrant, fun filled occasion. We watched the colourful parade of bands and floats on Kadooment day amid blasting Bajan music, with drinking and dancing with the locals in a joyous celebration. I was struck by the positivity of the women, who regardless of their age shape and size, dressed in glitzy bikinis coordinated with their party and danced with confidence and pride. It was empowering. There was such range in body types with no air of self-consciousness or judgement; it was wonderful. Not only that but we saw Rihanna dance through the crowds to say hello to the Prime Minister and get a mango.
I was thrilled to find dotted around the streets of Barbados were one of my favourite flowers – frangipani trees. I remember vividly from my very early trips to Australia that frangipanis were my Australian Nana’s favourite and I’ll always associate her with the soft smell. I remember I was Australia in 2013 and I made it my mission to find some to leave at her grave. My dad, brother and I ended up driving around the suburbs looking for frangipanis we could pinch. We made a real game of it and I ended up dashing out the car and stealing some from a random gardens and jumping back in for a clean getaway. I played a similar game in Barbados with Matteo with equal success.