Thar She Blows!
A moment of joy
Coconut Court guests saw humpback whales from our beach last week - but it’s definitely no fluke as sightings are on the rise off the south coast of Barbados.
We're on the lookout for a photo of the event - especially if it can match the one above - which was taken by a local photographer just a few hundred yards from Coconut Court.
This great sight, pictured on another occasion but still visible from our hotel, shows the humpback whale breaching - leaping into the air in a celebratory moment of ocean joy.
A whale of a time
It's an awe-inspiring spectacle. Another humpback was filmed last month with its calf off Needham’s Point, just a few hundred yards from Coconut Court. And it was only a few days later that Coconut Court guests sunning themselves on our beach also spotted a humpback.
Whale watching is not an organised excursion in Barbados, but these wonderful mammals, which can grow to 52ft in length and weigh about 20 tonnes, are regular visitors to our island shores during the winter months.
The humpbacks feed in the cold Arctic waters and then travel south to the Caribbean to breed, living off their accumulated blubber before returning north again.
Song of the sea
The humpbacks are truly the great acrobats of the sea and are known for their tail and flipper slaps as well as that magnificent breach where they launch out of the water and create a huge splash.
Photographer Mike Harris, who took the extraordinary shot from neighbouring Drill Hall, said the whale played around for about 15 minutes and was "pretty close to shore".
The humpbacks also sing long, complex songs that last for up to 20 minutes. Scientists think the whales use the songs to communicate. They were once hunted to the brink of extinction, but the numbers of humpbacks across the world is on the rise.
Guests who enjoy the turtles nesting on our beach and swimming with reef fish in the Coconut Court lagoon can now look further to the horizon for a chance to see these ocean mega fauna making a splash. So if you took any photos last week, please let us know!
Keeping to the beat
When they’re not playing for royalty, entertaining the public or hard at work practicing, the Barbados police band are out on a beat of a different sort.
All 46 members of The Royal Barbados Police Force Band are serving officers who help their colleagues “serve, protect and reassure” islanders and visitors.
The most requested songs for these world famous musicians are Caribbean rhythms, including spouge, calypso, and reggae. They'll be playing just down the road from Coconut Court at Hastings bandstand on Saturday, March 21.
Over 130 years, they have established a world-wide reputation for the quality of their music. The original band, formed in 1889 from 19 serving police officers, wore regulation police uniforms and were selected for their “love of music and knowledge of the art”.
Click the button below for room availability and prices. See you at the bandstand!
Meet the Manager: Linda - Life is good!
Linda Lampkin is co-owner of Coconut Court and the hotel's marketing manager. She's the youngest daughter of Lorraine and Charlie Blades, who bought the hotel in 1975. She's married to Jason Lampkin, the general manager. You'll find Linda at the manager's rum punch party or maybe bump into her around the hotel.
Where were you born?
What was your childhood nickname?
Lick Mout Lou and Liggy Roochie.
How long have you lived in Barbados? Except for school in Canada for five years, I have lived in Barbados all of my life.
How long have you worked at Coconut Court?
Most of my life.
What do you like most about your job?
I enjoy meeting people and making friends from all over the world. I have a great life!
Her guilty secret? A bit of retail therapy!
How would you describe yourself in three words?
Patient, calm, caring.
Do you have any hobbies?
Yes, I enjoy reading, foreign film and, like most ladies, I also enjoy shopping!
What would you do if you didn't have to work?
I enjoy working, so I hope that I will keep busy doing what I love for many more years to come. Additionally, I would like to travel with my family more often.
What's your top travel tip?
Always pack your common sense.
Where do you go on vacation?
I have stayed with my family in a rented beach house on the east coast of Barbados for the past 12 summers. I also enjoy visiting the small island of Bequia. Both of these are lovely beach holidays. Besides those two places I also enjoy traveling to Canada and the UK to visit with our family that live there and I also enjoy the odd weekend away to Florida for some retail therapy. Life is good!
If you could visit anywhere in the world, where would you go?
I don’t actually have a specific place that I would like to visit. Instead I think that I would prefer to do a world cruise that visited many destinations – probably, Australia, Polynesia and the Orient.
MOTHER SALLY AND TILT MAN
At any festival of note in Barbados - or nowadays possibly greeting you at the airport - you’ll most likely see the infamous tuk band. Many of the characters within it are drawn from the island's folklore.
Mother Sally was traditionally a masked man dressed as a woman, but is now an unmasked woman. She has a well-padded behind, displayed with plenty of enthusiasm, much to the delight of the crowd. The band itself consists of a tin flute or penny whistle, a snare drum and a bass drum (known as a bum-drum). The tall fellow is the "tilt man".
You are of course welcome to join in, if you dare. The man in the blue shirt was just passing and couldn't resist! The tuk band also make appearances at festivals and fairs across the island.
This band was at Oistins for a food festival. The tilt man (by the way, that's not a spelling mistake, traditionally that is how the man on stilts was referred to) pulled off some amazing stunts and definitely had the best view of the night.
The name "tuk" band is thought to derive from the Scottish word to beat an instrument and may have links to the fife and drum marching band of an 18th century British regiment. Why not experience the joy and verve at first hand? Click the link below to find some suitable dates and prices at Coconut Court!
Discover the all new Cocos Bar and Restaurant
There's a fresh line-up of artists and an exciting menu for 2020 to celebrate the launch of Coconut Court's new restaurant and bar. Among the additions is guitarist Jerome Waithe, who entertains diners on Tuesday evenings. Watch the video for a taster.
The former Deck Restaurant has gone and has been replaced with Cocos Bar and Restaurant. The work was carried out during the hotel's renovation and refurbishment this Autumn.
The Cocos menu has now been completely revamped for the winter and is rotated weekly to give guests who stay longer a greater choice. There are delicious fish and steak dishes and the new menu includes three vegetarian options. It's also very competitively priced.
With Jake's steakhouse across the road, which is also owned and managed by Coconut Court, there are now plenty of great options for dinner while staying at your favourite hotel.
The full line-up of evening entertainment at Coconut Court.
NEW Look OCEAN view Rooms
Sumptuous, tasteful and five star are just some of the words guests are using to describe our newly renovated rooms.
The interior design reflects the hotel’s location. Deep ocean blues and the colours of sun-kissed sand greet new arrivals.
Pictures and prints by the family
All 37 rooms in the west block of Coconut Court Beach Hotel were stripped out and given a completely new look this autumn.
As well as an improved view of the ocean and new sliding doors to the balconies, all the rooms have new beds – we know how important a good night’s sleep is to our guests.
New bathrooms, a kitchenette and new furniture and fittings were also installed. And fantastic tropical prints by Jean and Kia Blades adorn the walls. Jean is married to Charlie Blades, the head of the family which owns the hotel, and Kia is his granddaughter.
“We’ve been really pleased with the feedback from guests who have stayed in our newly renovated rooms,” said Charlie’s daughter Linda. “They’re all fully open and the response has been overwhelming.”
One TripAdvisor reviewer, writing in December 2019, was highly impressed: “We just spent 15 nights at Coconut Court Beach Hotel in the newly refurbished rooms. The standard room block is now just like a five star room. Everything in them is brand new - even the balcony was redone with new lighting. What a great job!”
Bajan roots key to rooms
Linda added: “While we work hard to give our guests a new and improved experience each time they visit, it’s important we don’t lose sight of our Bajan roots or the fact that we are a family-owned and operated hotel.”
As well as a new wi-fi system (the rooms were part of the original hotel and the walls were quite thick) a state-of-the-art fire alarm was installed throughout the hotel.
These rooms in the west block are now known as Ocean View Rooms.
Many of the superior rooms in other parts of the hotel got a complete makeover too. All 44 of these were redecorated and have new soft furnishings. The Annex apartments across the road were not left out either.
The gift shop was also redecorated and restocked. The restaurant and bar area was transformed and renamed Cocos Bar and Restaurant. We’ll be featuring these in future blogs.
Happy holidays from everyone at Coconut Court!
It's what Christmas is all about
You can’t say you’ve experienced Christmas in Barbados unless you’ve been to Queen’s Park to watch the fashion show with a difference.
The Christmas Day celebration in Bridgetown has been a focus for young and old Bajans, all dressed up in their finest clothes, for more than 110 years.
The Band of the Royal Barbados Police Force usually strikes up at 7am for a couple of hours and other performers join in.
Many of the suits and dresses are home-made and families are colour co-ordinated for maximum effect. For many Bajans, Queen’s Park on the morning of December 25th is what Christmas is all about.
The aim of Christmas in Queen's Park is not merely to show up or show off but to be unique and bring some personal flair.
Rich and bright
The outfits are in all colours. There are whites and bright reds to rich blues and deep purples. Even the youngest children take part.
If you are here for Christmas, you won’t want to miss it. While you might want to go smartly dressed, locals will not expect you to match them in their finery.
An ancient millenial
If you’ve got time, don’t forget to check out the Queen’s Park baobab. This huge specimen has a circumference of 25 metres (it would take at least 15 tree huggers to give it a good squeeze) and is thought to be more than 1,000 years old. How a tree from West Africa ended up in the centre of Bridgetown 500 years before the Europeans got here is anybody’s guess. (The tree is there all year, not just at Christmas.)
Pigeon peas at Christmas
If you can’t make it to Coconut Court this Christmas, we’ve got a very special seasonal recipe for you to try at home.
Jug Jug has been a mainstay of the Bajan Christmas lunch for generations. Its main ingredient is pigeon peas – a lentil-like pulse originating in India and now a staple throughout the world.
250 grams each of pork and beef.
1 hot pepper.
500 grams of pigeon peas.
1 tablespoon each of thyme, parsley and chives. 1 onion.
125 grams of guinea corn.
70 grams of butter.
Directions: Cut up meat, chop thyme, parsley and chives. Cook pork for 20 minutes then add beef, season with salt if fresh meat is used. Add pepper, peas and cook for 30 minutes or until peas are soft. Strain and reserve stock. Mince the meat finely. Add peas and pound in a mortar or put in an electric blender. In a pot, add thyme, parsley, chives and onion to reserved liquid and boil for 5 minutes. Add guinea corn slowly and stir briskly for 10 minutes. Serve with parsley garnish.
Meet the Driver
In Safe Hands
Coconut Court guests using the hotel’s airport shuttle bus can rest assured they are in safe hands with former soldier Michael Springer at the wheel.
The man tasked with greeting hotel visitors at Grantley Adams International Airport spent eight years in the Barbados Defence Force driving lorries and large buses before he joined Coconut Court staff two years ago.
But the step into civvy street is not without its stresses. Juggling the needs of jet-lagged passengers who have cleared customs with those whose flights have been delayed, requires planning and clear decision making.
“Usually the flights come in five or 10 minutes apart," said Michael, 35, "so it's no problem. The guests should only wait a maximum of 45 minutes as it’s a shared shuttle. If flights are delayed, I have to put something in place for another driver to meet that customer so the guests already waiting can get to the hotel. It all needs to be planned in advance.”
The airport pick-up service is free for guests who book their stay with the hotel direct and is most popular with those who have visited Coconut Court before.
An "Appy" Man
And the best part of the job for Michael is meeting clients from all over the world and the challenge of communicating with non-English speakers.
“I’ve got a translation app on my phone – although I show them the text rather than try to pronounce the words!” Michael said.
He also runs the hotel’s free Bridgetown shuttle service which takes guests into the city at 9am from Monday to Saturday. “That’s quite popular,” added Michael. “We don’t do a pick-up, but I make sure everyone knows the different options for getting back to the hotel.”
The father-of-two, whose wife is expecting their third child, spends his spare time tinkering with a motorcycle and keeping three of his own vehicles roadworthy. He’s also a keen archer and owns a compound bow, a bow which uses a system of cables and pulleys to bend the limbs.
“Guests save a lot of money using our airport transfer and can often get there quicker. I love meeting people and getting their holiday off to a good start. It can be stressful but it’s worth it.”
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 email@example.com. Her website is https://www.barbados-funtours.com/.
Invisible App Zone