Surrounded by happy people
Matching guests with the excursion that suits their budget is just one of the things that makes Vaida Blades’ job so rewarding.
Vaida runs the Activities Centre at Coconut Court Beach Hotel - she's the go-to person for advice about things to do on Barbados - and is married to Ted Blades, son of hotel founder Charlie and owner of Ted’s Tours.
“For a small island Barbados has so much to offer,” said Vaida, who is originally from Lithuania. “Sometimes people have a smaller budget. If they don’t want a taxi or a tour guide, there’s always a local bus to places like Hunte’s Gardens, Welchman Hall Gully or Harrison’s Cave.”
Love blossomed on tour
She’s had a few unusual requests over the 13 years she's been on Barbados. “Guests who got married here 30 years ago wanted me to find the minister who carried out the original service," she said. "I tracked him down and they all got together and renewed their vows. It was lovely.”
Among the most popular things to do is the catamaran tour where guests sail along the west coast and swim with turtles. The dinner show at Harbour Lights and Ted’s Tours is up there too - it was while on a tour as a guest that love blossomed and she met her husband Ted Blades.
Contact with guests
One of Vaida’s favourite activities is Hike Barbados, organised by the Barbados National Trust. It’s popular with locals and free, though a small donation at the end is appreciated to cover the organisers’ costs.
“There are two hikes on a Sunday, one at 6am which I prefer or one in the afternoon. When they go over to the Codrington area of the island on the east coast… that’s just so beautiful.” And her favourite attraction? Hunte’s Gardens in St Joseph.
It’s the contact with guests that she really enjoys. Working at Coconut Court means Vaida is surrounded by happy people.
“I love meeting people, listening to their stories and it’s great to see them return to the island,” she said. “When I see them back again, it makes me think “where has the time gone?””
You can book your excursions through Vaida – she doesn’t charge a fee or a mark-up. This also has the advantage that any activity booked in advance with Vaida can be cancelled.
You’ll find Vaida in the Activities Centre, just above Cocos restaurant. Contact her via the hotel or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Her website is https://www.barbados-funtours.com/.
Connnecting Hearts To Barbados
From Speightstown to the rugged east coast, Ted Blades loves to share Barbados.
But a trip with Ted’s Tours is not just about seeing the sights.
“It’s about about putting the people and the island together, helping them connect,” said Ted. “I want to make them part of the Barbados family – to connect their hearts to Barbados.”
Trip back in time
It’s no surprise that a trip on Ted’s Tours is often the highlight of people’s holiday – just check out Coconut Court’s TripAdvisor comments for proof of that.
Ted has been guiding tourists around Barbados for 36 years and set up Ted’s Tours 32 years ago.
He's part of the Blades family which has owned the hotel for more than four decades. Favourite stops include Speightstown in the north. “It's a trip back in time,” said Ted.
“Everything slows right down there… and that suits me just fine. I want people to go at that pace. I want them to slow down. We don’t do a really fast “zip” tour otherwise you don’t get to savour the flavour. I give people the chance to let Barbados soak in.”
Views and pews
You don’t have to beg Ted for a drink either. He makes a simple punch that everyone loves. And return guests are a feature of Ted’s Tours.
“I had a couple join me for their golden wedding anniversary. They’d also been on a tour with me for their silver!”
Other highlights include Cherry Tree Hill with its rugged coastal panorama and the historic St John's Church where some like to browse for souvenirs, some are mesmerised by the church and others just love the amazing views of the east coast.
Barbados - like a buffet
There's always plenty to explore here and you're not looking over your shoulder, he said. “There are lots of places with sun, sea and sand, but Barbados is special. It's just the right size, still quaint and it’s not so big that you can’t learn it. And of course the people are always smiling and welcoming."
People are central to Ted’s philosophy. He loves meeting clients and making their holiday unforgettable.
“I had a couple here last season. The wife told me they had to come on my tour… her son recommended it.” Turns out the son had been on Ted’s Tours 23 years ago and hadn’t stopped talking about it!
“The island is like a beautiful buffet,” Ted added. “Show people what there is and they’ll take what they want.”
To book a place on Ted's Tours speak to Vaida Blades in the Coconut Court activities centre or contact Ted on (+1 246) 262-8687. For more information go to www.tedstour.wixsite.com/tedstours.
More Rooms with a Tune: Peter Tosh, Lord Melody and Superblue
Ever wondered why each room at Coconut Court has a name? You may not have taken it in as you couldn’t wait to get down to our beach for a swim.
But the name plates are all songs from the Caribbean.
In today’s post, we’re focusing on rooms named after songs by a world legend, while the second and third are calypso heroes from Trinidad.
Freedom and injustice
Peter Tosh was born Winston Hubert McIntosh in 1944 and began his recording career with Bob Marley and Bunny Wailer in Trenchtown, Jamaica.
He was a self-taught guitarist who became one of the world’s best known reggae artists, particularly after his duet of Don’t Look Back with Mick Jagger of The Rolling Stones.
Part devil, part molasses...
While many new arrivals in the Caribbean associate reggae with the islands, regular visitors to Coconut Court will know that calypso (or soca as it is now more often referred to) is the genre that dominates Barbados and Trinidad.
A popular character in the Trinidad carnival, which is closely linked to the islands’ musical traditions, is the Jab Molassie (sometimes called the Jambolassie), a fictional character, often painted blue, who is part devil and was historically daubed in molasses.
Trinidad soca artist Austin Lyons, aka Superblue, sings about this character, a regular feature in the February carnival (and room 60 at coconut Court!).
Jab Molassie Party on de road
Jab Molassie Jab Molassie
J'ouvert oh! Jab Molassie
Jab Molassie Wine down on de road
Jab Molassie Jab Molassie.
And finally in room 58, Lord Melody, born Fitzroy Alexander in 1926, sings about his rivalry with Trinidadian compatriot and fellow calypsonian The Mighty Sparrow, who he dubbed Cowboy Sparrow. Melody was alluding to allegations that Sparrow had shot someone.
Attention, listen everyone
Beware, Sparrow have a gun
Shooting like Bill Buckaroo in the town
Ach, Sparrow have a gun
The row and rivalry continued for years. The Mighty Sparrow wrote songs about Lord Melody in reply!
You can listen to each song via the YouTube link below, but don't forget to check dates and prices at Coconut Court first so you can enjoy our Caribbean vibe and music in person.
You're Gunner Love The Garrison
It was home to the most famous American of all time, houses one of the most extensive collections of cannon in the world yet a secret lies beneath that few have explored. And the good news is it's just a short walk from Coconut Court.
This is The Garrison, known today mainly for its horse racing and as the only place outside the USA that George Washington lived, albeit for a short period during 1751.
HQ of the British West India Regiment
Here in Barbados, a youthful Washington was impressed with the warm hospitality and genteel behaviour of the islanders - nice to know that something's don't change! It was his first glimpse of a wider world outside his home of Virginia and made a lasting impact.
Just a stone’s throw from The Garrison Savannah race track is the former plantation house where the eventual first president of the USA stayed. Now called George Washington House, it was restored in 1999 and is well worth a visit.
While on Barbados, Washington mixed with the island’s military and civilian elite and noted fairly quickly that Barbados was “one entire fortification”. The Garrison was the headquarters of the British West India Regiment and consequently the most fortified British island in the Caribbean.
Evidence of this remains even today. Dotted around The Garrison and inside The National Armoury (housed in nearby St Ann’s Fort) is the largest collection of 17th century English cannons, including the famous Commonwealth Cannon.
It bears the crest of Oliver Cromwell, the man responsible for the execution of King Charles I of England.
After Cromwell’s death, royalty was restored and the first act of Charles II was to remove all traces of Cromwell’s rule. All of Cromwell’s cannons were destroyed, apart from one which remains here at The National Armoury (the other's in The Tower of London). Less famous cannons are littered around the coast and can also be seen guarding the entrance to Carlisle Bay at Charles Fort, a short walk away at Needham’s Point.
Also inside the armoury is the first Barbados flag, raised in 1966 at The Garrison when the island became independent of Britain. A much larger and newer version flies today at the spot of this historic occasion.
Once a week, there’s a re-enactment of the changing of the sentry. This takes place in front of the 1814 clock tower (that’s not the time, it’s the year it was built).
And below The Garrison is a network of tunnels, built by the British, but only unearthed and opened to the public recently. One of the tunnels runs from George Washington House.
It is thought they were built as open ditches to drain the swamps which were on the site before the British arrived. They were then enclosed with arched ceilings and used as secret passageways to move soldiers around the south coast.
Punch and Duty
Mark Blades is the maintenance manager at Coconut Court Beach Hotel. He has worked at the hotel since 1986 (apart from a four year break from 2003).
Mark also meets and greets guests with his homemade Pirate Punch and makes the family speech at the end of the manager’s rum punch party. Coconut Corner threw some questions his way to find out what makes him tick.
What do you like best about your job?
My job allows me to be creative. I really enjoy meeting people, working with my family and our staff.
What would you do if you didn’t have to work?
Travel and spend time with my family
How would you describe yourself in three words?
Friendly, dependable and punctual
What’s your top travel tip?
Things don’t always go according to plan. Just roll with it!
What do you love most about Barbados?
The hot and sunny climate. We can travel anywhere quickly from Barbados. My family and friends live here.
Do you have any goals or ambitions?
Work at Coconut Court for as long as I can. Enjoy my life and my job with family and friends.
Marine Park with huge variety of reef Fish
Regular visitors to Coconut Court will know that we have a fantastic underwater world just off our beach.
The reef balls are a sanctuary for all sorts of fish and it's well worth bringing your snorkel and mask when you come to stay with us.
But if you want to see a wider variety of fish, and some strange ones as well, you can pop along the coast a mile or two and swim in Carlisle Bay Marine Park, a free activity and a real adventure.
Protected by law
There are six wrecks which make up the park – most of the vessels were deliberately sunk to provide a home for marine wildlife. The park is protected by law and fishing is banned within the marked area.
You can swim out to the marine park from the shore – just enter the water near the esplanade using the bandstand as a marker point.
It’s less than 100 metres from the shore to the centre of the park, which is marked by buoys.
The biggest of the wrecks is the Bajan Queen, a working tug boat, later converted to a party boat and finally cleaned and scuttled in 2002.
Even though she is in about 35ft of water, the fish life around the Bajan Queen can easily be seen from the surface. The Cornwallis, a Canadian freighter sunk by a torpedo during the second world war, is in shallower water, as is a naval landing barge, which is also closest to the shore.
Kayaks or paddle boards
You'll see parrot fish, large shoals of silvery striped bream and the weird looking black bar (although it's red), with its bulging eyes and tell-tale bar near its gills. Pictured below.
And of course, you should see a turtle or two. A Coconut Court guest recently saw a spotted moray eel on the wreck closest to the shore!
The swim is perfect for confident swimmers. Guests with children or weaker swimmers can hire a kayak or a stand up paddle board from the nearby Cruising Club and paddle out. Just tie off on one of the buoys, ensuring you also secure your paddles.
Boat trips available
Alternatively, speak to Vaida Blades in the activities centre at the hotel. She can organise a glass bottom boat trip or put you in touch with one of the local dive shops who run regular snorkelling and diving trips out to the park. Enjoy!
Towel Art At Coconut Court
Guests visiting Coconut Court for a special occasion often get an extra treat.
Where time allows, room attendants bring their artistic talents to bear and create beautiful designs using simple towels.
Swans, hearts, baskets and birthday cakes are among the varied shapes that Coconut Court staff have created over the years.
For the staff, the main reward is the reaction of the guests.
“I really enjoy doing it,” said Sandra, who has worked at Coconut Court for 15 years. “Especially when you see the expression on the guests’ faces.”
Matching the design to the guest...
Sandra tries to match the design with what she thinks a particular guest might like.
“I try to observe the guests and have a think about what they might like. Once you know who it is, you can choose the right colour flowers to go with the decoration. On one occasion, I wasn't sure if a design was for a man or a woman - I just knew there was a birthday in the room.
"So when I discovered it was for a lady, I made a heart with a small basket decorated with burgundy coloured flowers.”
Based on origami?
Towel art is thought to be based on origami, the 17th century Japanese paper folding techniques.
Sandra’s favourite shape is the basket, which is easier to move off the bed. “The guests then keep it on a table and it will last for the time they are staying – and I can change the flowers or even the towels.”
Her colleague Maria is self-taught and picked up a lot of the skills from watching YouTube videos.
Her favourite shapes are swans and birthday cakes. "I love just watching the face of the guests when they see them. They're so excited!"
Jason Lampkin: Fun-Loving Fisherman
Jason Lampkin is the general manager of Coconut Court Beach Hotel. The buck stops with him. But when he's not poring over data and ensuring that everything is running smoothly at the hotel, he's out on the high seas, pursuing his favourite hobby.
Coconut Corner caught up with him during a quiet moment to ask him some questions.
What do you like best about your job?
I enjoy working with a great team of people at Coconut Court. I also really enjoy collecting data and creating spreadsheets to help us analyse and understand our business better.
What would you do if you didn’t have to work?
Go fishing everyday,
How would you describe yourself in three words?
Fun-loving, cheerful and loyal.
What is your top travel tip?
Always bring sun cream.
What do you love most about Barbados?
Hot sunny weather, the ocean and the beautiful beaches.
Do you have any goals or ambitions?
To participate in and (hopefully) win all of the fishing competitions in the Caribbean.
A taste of old Barbados
We hope you enjoy this video of Coconut Court barman Antonio mixing one of his favourite cocktails.
Corn ‘n’ Oil began life on the island of Barbados in the 18th century and was a real after dinner favourite on the plantations.
That’s probably because it’s quite strong, best enjoyed on a full stomach and before bed. More than one will probably knock you off your feet. The full recipe is below.
Antonio, barman at Captain Charlie’s Beach Bar, suggested Corn ‘n’ Oil as it's one of Charlie Blades’ favourite drinks. Charlie is head of the Blades family, who have owned Coconut Court for more than 40 years.
Corn 'n' Oil is a potent drink - it’s not just the double Mount Gay Eclipse Rum. The other main ingredient is Falernum, a spicy concoction which is also thought to originate in Barbados. It’s a syrup-based alcoholic drink with cloves, ginger and other spices.
Take it home!
If you fancy making Corn 'n' Oil at home, you can pick up Falernum, which is about 11 per cent alcohol, in most supermarkets in Barbados for less than US$10. Mount Gay is the oldest rum in the world. It too originates from Barbados. The only other ingredient is a squeeze of lemon.
So with a liquor made from molasses, a by-product of sugar cane, Corn n Oil is the real taste of old Barbados.
The origin of its name is less clear. Some say it is biblical. “Thy corn, thy wine and thy oil” is from Deuteronomy in the Old Testament.
Whatever its origins, it’s perfect after dinner at Coconut Court’s Deck Restaurant, while watching the moon on the sea and the stars in the sky. Barbados in a glass, over rocks.
Just be sure you don’t overdo it. You have been warned!
Antonio’s Corn ‘n’ Oil
Two shots of Mount Gay Eclipse Rum
One shot of Falernum
One squeeze of lemon
Shake and serve in a rocks glass over ice with a slice of lemon
Sip slowly and savour the taste of Barbados
Barbados by Car - A Day Out
So, you’ve hired a car. There’s 166 square miles to explore, but where do you start?
Coconut Court has a few ideas to help you discover Barbados by car. We’ve chosen three places you can see in a day and enjoy plenty of time for lunch.
After a leisurely breakfast at The Deck Restaurant (you’ll want to miss the rush hour traffic) get to the ABC Highway and then head west until you reach Everton Weekes roundabout near Warrens. Take the third turning and follow the road to the gully, home to the grapefruit and one of the few accessible forest areas on Barbados. It’s not far from Harrison’s Cave, another attraction well worth a visit.
Try to get to the gully just before 10.30am as a troop of wild monkeys usually arrives about this time to be fed by the staff. This gentle stroll on a well-made path takes about 45 minutes. Enjoy high cave walls with stalactites, a fantastic view point and both exotic and native trees and plants. There’s a free brochure to help identify the flora and fauna.
Admission is US$14 for adults, half price for children (there’s also a small adventure park with a swing, zip line and tree house). Between December and April there’s a guided tour at 10.30am included in the price of admission.
Next, we’re headed to Morgan Lewis Windmill, the largest and only complete sugar windmill surviving in the Caribbean.
From the gully, turn right and take the first left down the hill. You’re going to keep heading north through the parish of St Andrew.
Turn right at Shorey village and pass (or stop and have a drink) at the superbly named Nigel Benn Aunty Bar, which is run by… the aunt of former world boxing champion Nigel Benn.
Carry on up the hill until you reach the windmill with its fantastic views of the east coast. Entry is only US$5 with a guided tour for $10.
The windmill, which is owned by Barbados National Trust, was restored in the 1990s and is one of more than 500 in Barbados which were used to crush sugar cane.
A guided tour of the windmill is a great way to understand the importance of sugar to the island. Exhibits include machinery used to produce sugar and there’s a small café. Entry to the grounds and the café are free.
No swimming here!
From here, we re-trace our steps to the east coast road and head to Bathsheba. On the way you’ll pass Sand Dunes Restaurant - a great place for a drink and some local food.
Further on, there are laybys where you can walk down to the beach, admire the surf and enjoy the salt air.
Remember, DON’T SWIM HERE – the currents are too dangerous.
A break in Bathsheba
Then it’s on to Bathsheba where you can watch experienced surfers tackle the break at Soupbowl, a world famous wave home to international surf contests.
If you arrive at low tide, cool off in the safety of the pools at the north end of the beach (by the Roundhouse restaurant) while watching the surf break on the reef. Again, no swimming!
Speak to Vaida
The route home to Coconut Court takes you up the very steep Horse Hill – alternatively you can hug the coast road to the south through the parish of St John, though the road is not very good. Either way, follow the signs to Bridgetown until you reach the ABC Highway and then it’s back in time for happy hour at Captain Charlie’s Beach Bar.
For more information about any of the above, speak to Vaida at the Coconut Court activities centre. She can also help with car hire.