Just a quick note before this latest blog, to say that this is my 100th consecutive post for 2015. When I made the pledge late last year, it was more on a whim than anything else, but over the past few months, I’d like to think my writing has improved, and that perhaps a few of you have enjoyed reading at least a few of my many, many posts. Thanks for reading!
For our last full day on the beautiful paradise of Barbados we spent the majority of our time in the capital and largest city of Bridgetown.
The centre is pleasant enough, with a traditional square, bus station and a few government buildings. On the face of it, it is like any other capital city, albeit on a much smaller scale with a population of about 100,000. Bridgetown is the cultural, recreational and financial hub of this island, and about half of Barbadians live in and around the city.
Today we passed through the well kept central area and headed out westwards from the centre towards the more industrial area on the edge of town. As we passed the immigration office and the city’s market, the floodlights of the legendary Kensington Oval came into view. The ground has for me, always embodied West Indian cricket. Barbados are one of the most successful island’s at regional level, as well as supplying a disproportionately large number of Test players for the West Indies.
The tour of the ground was far more relaxed than those I have experience at other Test grounds, and while not that long, did include a chance to walk onto the hallowed turf of the outfield itself. The 3 W’s stand looms over the ground, redeveloped along with most of the stadium for the 2007 World Cup, and houses the members areas of the Oval. As we strolled passed the Sir Garfield Sobers Pavilion, we also saw the stands named after Hall, Griffith, Greenidge and Haynes.
The startling difference that struck me when compared to English Test grounds, was the large empty area devoid of any construction. This wide-open area is a designated ‘party area’ when the Test is in town. An artificial beach, hot tubs, deck chairs, bars all appear out of nowhere to provide one of the most unique cricket viewing experiences in the world. Whilst it was easy to imagine the atmosphere that could be conjured up within the ground on match day, it still looked to me as though they had some work to do ahead of England’s visit early next month. The media centre looked in desperate need of a lick of paint, the clock on the pavilion was in disrepair, and the ground needed a good scrub. But the outfield was immaculate and ground hummed to the Barbadian beat I had expected it to.
After a cricket themed morning, it was onto Mount Gay Rum distillery for the afternoon’s entertainment. The distillery was extremely impressive, and the tour was made all the better due to the effervescent tour guide who took our tour. It was reassuring and pleasing to know that every single bottle of Mount Gay rum was bottled and produced on the island, and every bottle passed through the hands of one of twelve bottling staff. From the outside, it appears as though Mount Gay has got the balance right between modern business and family values, but of course that was how they wanted to portray themselves. My positive views of the company may have something to do with the lashings of rum we were sampling. Dark rum, white rum, 5 years old, 10 years old, double blend, we seemed to work our way through the lot. After that, and with the sun continuing to beat down bringing temperatures up to the low 30’s, we decided it was best to head back to the hotel.
The rest of the day was whiled away in the sunshine with a couple of beers in the pool and a great steak before bed. Tomorrow is our final day here in Barbados, as we head across to Antigua to catch up with Alastair Cook and his men. It’s easy to see why so many make repeat visits to this island over the years, I hope I get the chance to return one day.