A Room With a Tune
Whenever it is you choose to visit Barbados, you won’t escape the music. It’s a pulsating thread running through the island’s tapestry. Blasting out of mini vans, bars and cars, you can’t miss it.
In celebration of this part of our culture, each of the hundred-plus rooms at Coconut Court is assigned a song of its own, drawn not just from Barbados, but from across the Caribbean.
Today we’re looking at three Coconut Court room songs written by or featuring Bajans.
Barbados is famous for its calypso – also known today in its most recent form as Soca. While it may not be fair to describe calypso as a call to arms, much of it is definitely a form of social protest.
None was so popular and so vocal as the Mighty Gabby, who is still a force in Barbados today. He’s now a cultural ambassador for the island but his songs have fired more than the occasional warning shot across the bow of the authorities in the past.
Boots – Room 39
With Boots in 1983, Gabby (aka Anthony Carter) questioned whether a small island like Barbados really needed an army when there was so much poverty. It was a dig at the prime minister of the day Tom Adams, and consequently banned for a while from the airwaves.
Can we afford to feed that army?
When so many children go naked and hungry
No, no, no, no
Can we afford to remain passive?
While that army grow so massive
No, no, no, no
Well don’t tell me
Tell Tommy, he put them in St Lucy…
Red Plastic Bag
Red Plastic Bag, also known as Stedson Wiltshire, has won it 10 times and is still performing around the island. His song Ragga Ragga is infectious.
It mocks grandparents who complain about a new, loud and unintelligible music (sound familiar?).
How de hell they sing like dat and don't bite a hole in dey tongue?
Beautiful Barbados - Room 11
And no tale about Bajan music would be complete without The Merrymen, perhaps the most famous of all Barbados calypsonians. They performed at the Superbowl in Miami, at The Whitehouse before a president and for British royalty.
The song Beautiful Barbados is a classic and virtually the island’s second national anthem. So next time you check in, check out the tune in your room.
Three things To Do In BaRBADOS BY BUS
Many visitors to Coconut Court come just for our beautiful shaded beach and warm hospitality, but Barbados has plenty to satisfy anyone with a sense of adventure.
There’s lots within easy reach of the hotel for the curious - the island’s efficient public transport system make it very easy to explore.
Local buses – blue yellow or the route taxis (ZRs) stop outside the hotel and are very cheap if you don’t have a car. And feel free to ask directions if you’re lost. Bajans are usually more than happy to help.
Monument to the early space age
The HARP gun is well worth a visit if you want to stretch your legs.
The Sam Lord’s Castle blue bus, heading east from outside Coconut Court, takes you to within a 15 minute walk of this huge monument to early space-age technology. And much of that walk is along a cliff top path with spectacular views of the Atlantic.
Ballistics engineer Gerald Bull was in Barbados during the 1960s to develop gun-fired satellites and the High Altitude Research Project (HARP) set a world gun-reached altitude record of 92km (58 miles).
Much later in his career, Bull went on to work for Saddam Hussein, helping the Iraqi dictator develop the long range Scud missiles. Bull was gunned down in 1990. No one has admitted responsibility for his death and his assassins have never been brought to justice…
Today, the huge gun sits rusting on the cliff top, pointing out to sea. It’s best avoided on weekends as it is occasionally used as a paintball venue.
A riot of colour
For something to do on a Saturday, why not visit Cheapside Market?
It’s a bustling riot of colour and noise, full of interesting characters selling all sorts of produce, most of it local.
Cheapside Market is great for photos of people (although ask permission first). There are also herbs, teas and strange local drinks to try, as well as souvenirs and gifts.
Visit the Bridgetown synagogue
If your trip to Bridgetown is mid-week, visit the Nidhe Israel Synagogue and Museum, open weekdays.
There’s currently a guide working from 10am to 3pm who is happy to show visitors around. The synagogue was built in 1654 and is the earliest temple of its kind in the western hemisphere. It houses a recently discovered mikvah (a ritual bath house) which has been fully restored.
The HARP gun: The Sam Lord’s Castle bus (12A) stops outside the hotel and will drop you just after a red rum shop at Gemswick. Then on foot, take a right turn, follow the road round to the left and take first right. Carry on until you reach an old rum shop. Turn right on track until you reach a house ahead and walk down slope. Turn right – the gun is on cliff top a short walk away. By car: Keep the airport on your right then turn right at a red rum shop. Then follow directions above.
Cheapside Market: From outside Coconut Court take any blue bus to Princess Alice station, Bridgetown, and follow Wharf Road with the catamarans and fishing boats on your left until you reach the new immigration office. Cheapside market is one block north.
The Nidhe Israel Synagogue and Museum: Bus to Princess Alice again and walk down Broad Street, before heading north (right) after the Republican Bank for about 200 metres.
"Coconut Court is my extended family"
Shontelle King may not be the first person guests see at Coconut Court, but all the staff know her – one of her jobs is to pay the wages.
The 38-year-old started in the gift shop in 2006 but within two years she’d moved into the accounts office.
“The transition wasn’t that difficult as I’d had some experience with accounting before,” she said.
While most of the training was on the job, she also attended night school to get her accounting certificate.
She discovered that being an accounts clerk involved far more than paying invoices and putting through payments.
Keen to learn new things
While guests may only see her fleetingly, she deals with Coconut Court’s suppliers. So in her hands lies the reputation of the hotel as a good and prompt payer of its bills.
“I try my best to make sure everything runs smoothly,” said Shontelle.
She’s keen to see the island from a guest’s point of view and is visiting the island’s attractions.
“I’ve been on the Atlantis submarine tour and I’m heading over to Bathsheba for breakfast one day soon. Harrison’s Cave is also on my list." She also want to learn new things.
Life has a way of changing plans…
She once harboured an ambition to teach. “I like keeping busy so I did an early childhood classroom management course. It was something to do in the evenings.
"That helped me understand my nieces and nephews. My first career choice was teaching, but life has a way of changing your plans.
“All the staff know me and I know all their names as I’m the person in charge of pay roll. I love the people at the hotel… this is my extended family.”
EVER SWUM IN AN AQUARIUM? WELL, NOW'S YOUR CHANCE!
Just a few metres off the beach, Coconut Court Beach Hotel has a small lagoon with 18 reef balls providing a sanctuary for fish.
A myriad of tiny fishes - and some big ones too - swim in and out of the structures which have been part of the hotel’s underwater architect since 2000.
They were installed just inside the breakwater by James and Mark Blades, members of the family which runs the south coast hotel.
Too fast for the camera
The tiny French angelfish, with its yellow stripes against a black body was camera shy and one of a kind, although it swam with a shoal of silvery jacks.
Unlike the inquisitive red fish with its big eyes. It was very interested in the tiny hand held camera.
Blue tang and silver jacks moved around in shoals. Others sought the safety and privacy inside the reef balls, occasionally glancing out to see what all the fuss was about.
The beautiful Sergeant Major with his tell-tale stripes was fairly common and easily identifiable.
And there was a large parrotfish which escaped the camera, moving too fast and unwilling to pose, but darting in and out of the reef balls and the breakwater. You may also see spotted eagle rays and turtles, especially the critically-endangered Hawksbill, for which Barbados has become famous.
There are some that still need to be identified… Just who is that red fellow with the bulging eyes?
Conservation in action
Fortunately there was no sign in the Coconut Court reef balls of the lionfish, the foreign predator which lunches on the reef fish of Barbados. Despite its poisonous spines, it has become a tasty snack on the island, so watch out for it at local restaurants.
While it’s a chance for guests to get off the sun lounger and explore the sea, the reef balls serve a greater purpose. Reef fish in Barbados are under threat so this is a great chance to see conservation in action.
So next time you visit Coconut Court Beach Hotel, don’t forget your mask and snorkel!
Fancy a holiday? Check out our dates and prices below!
ANTONIO'S SECRET? HAVE MORE FUN THAN YOUR CUSTOMERS!
Antonio Gilkes – bartender extraordinaire – is a hard man to interview.
If he's not cracking jokes or cleaning the bar, he's running up and down the beach delivering ice cold beer and cocktails to hotel guests who are soaking up the sun. Did we mention that he knows everybody’s name?
Awkward? Who, me?
Antonio says he was a “shy and awkward” teenager.
One night, he visited a friend who was working as a bartender at a local nightclub.
As Antonio watched, he quickly realised that his friend knew everybody in the place and they knew him!
“He was having the time of his life!” Antonio said. He decided there and then that he wanted to meet people and have fun.
No two ways about it that meant becoming a bartender too!
Antonio loves his office!
Antonio has been running Captain Charlie’s Beach Bar at Coconut Court Beach Hotel for more than 10 years. He's happily married with a nine year-old-son. Among the things that he say that he loves most about his job are meeting guests and making friends from all over the world, his working hours (the perfect mix - not too early and not too late) and of course, the view from his “office window”. Life’s a beach right?
Working at the beach
But Antonio takes his job very seriously. “It’s important to anticipate people’s needs," he said. “The secret is to have more fun than your customers – you have to love people to do this job well.” He added: “To be able to do this job and to hang out at the beach all day…who wouldn’t love it?”