Thursday, August 30, 2007


By Stacey Marie Robinson

True carnival enthusiasts know that they can travel year round and find the familiar sounds of the steel pan, a group of costumed revellers, and the music, food and spirit they know and love. They can head to Trinidad in the winter, Jamaica or Atlanta in the spring, maybe Montreal or St. Lucia for the early summer months – however, August might present a conflict of interest when Toronto Caribana and the Barbados Crop Over festivities conclude over the same weekend, before the first Monday in August.

If there is one time of year when Caribbean-Canadians, residents of Toronto and neighbours in Michigan, Quebec, or New York know that they don’t have to travel far to catch the carnival spirit, it’s towards the end of the summer when the fun, the music, the tourists, entertainment and excitement come to the streets of Toronto. Caribana weekend is a yearly vacation-at-home for many Toronto residents. However, down in Bridgetown, Barbados, there is revelling of similar proportions going on at their National Stadium, while hundreds of thousands also parade down Lakeshore Boulevard.

Crop Over is just one of the many highlights of a trip to Barbados. From it’s launch this years on May 18, straight through to the Grand Kadooment parade on Monday, August 6, Crop Over provides a variety of festivities ranging from cavalcades and symposiums, to pan performances, Junior Calypso events, concluding with Foreday Mornin’ at Independence Square and the Cohobblopot on Crop Over Sunday.

Crop Over, which began centuries ago as a celebration to mark the end of the sugar cane cutting season, was revived in 1974 to attract tourists to the island during a traditionally slow season. For those who cannot make it to Barbados during Crop Over season, there are plenty of other attractions and benefits to travelling there year-round.

Described as “naturally charming and sophisticated, alive with possibilities, as boundless as the turquoise sea, endless as the sandy shore,” tourists will find many pleasant attractions while staying in Barbados.

In the capital, Bridgetown, in particular, shopping on Broad Street will provide tourists with a wide range of gifts, crafts, and clothing. Smaller shops can also be found on Swan Street, Rolbuck Street, or Tudor Street. Pelican Village, developed in 1999, provides handicrafts and other goods for purchase, located just outside of Bridgetown. Visually stunning, Bridgetown also offers great photo ops including the Parliament Building, and National Heroes Square, along with the natural landscapes.

While Bridgetown and the south coast provide fun and festivities, you can achieve a calmer vacation on the west coast, an equally relaxing time on the east coast, or choose to appreciate a more rugged beauty of the island by staying on the north coast. While all directions will provide you with unbroken white sand beaches, please keep in mind that nudism is illegal in Barbados, due to the island’s conservative British traditions – there are no nude beaches (ala Hedonism in Jamaica). Barbados is, however, host to Crane Beach, on the south coast, which has been noted as one of the ten most beautiful beaches in the world by ‘Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous’.

Any travel itinerary wouldn’t be complete without some entertainment to accompany the shopping and frolicking on the beach. For those looking to drink and get on bad on the dance floor, many tourists head to The Boatyard, which is open 365 days a year and provides non-stop excitement with a variety of games, restaurants, bars, and other attractions like waterslides, an ocean trampoline and rope swing. The beachside Sharkey’s Bar, located at The Boatyard, is considered to be one of the liveliest spots on the island.

The home of Rihanna, Rupee, Krosfyah and Edwin Yearwood provides musical entertainment in soca and reggae at its finest, and the friendly Bajan people have proven to be great hosts. Most nightclubs are located in the St. Lawrence Gap, and also on Bay Street. A great one to check out is Harbour Lights, a beachfront open-air venue.

There is plenty fun to be had in Barbados, even for those who are not willing to sacrifice their yearly Caribana rituals to attend the Crop Over. The carnival is just one aspect of their rich heritage, and a small part of the overall appeal to this eastern Caribbean paradise.

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