St. Nicholas Abbey, Barbados

In the lush highlands of the Caribbean island of Barbados is a beautifully preserved slice of history; St. Nicholas Abbey is a sugar plantation and rum distillery, boasting a Jacobean mansion built in 1658, beautiful gardens, and a richly preserved historical and cultural context that is expertly conveyed during tours of the house and property.

Entering the grounds, the large trees and sweeping pastoral views are striking, leaves and grass gently blowing in the steady ocean breeze and lush greenery filling every corner of the gardens. The elegant house has been carefully restored, and while it shows a bit of its age in weathered paint, it is remarkably well-preserved even after hundreds of years in the tropical climate.

Inside the house, details like a shell-encrusted chandelier and portraits of historic owners of the property add color to the stories shared by the tour guide. Walking through the home, the grounds of the plantation are glimpsed at open windows.

After pausing in a quiet courtyard, the tour continued on to the rum tasting room. Originally the stables, this charming building has been renovated by the current property owner who also happens to be an architect, to house a museum, gift shop and tasting room. Here we lingered amongst the barrels and exhibits of artifacts, including slave records, before being shown a remarkable film of archival footage from the 1930’s detailing life on the sugar plantation.

After our refreshments the tour continued on a leisurely walk through lush gardens to the bottling and production facilities. In the bottling and labelling facility, formerly the Overseer’s Quarters, rum bottles are hand labelled and the corks adorned with a leather badge, stamped in-house.

The factory and adjacent distillery includes displays of equipment for growing and processing sugar cane, and for the production of rum. The architectural details and dedication to preservation found throughout the property were remarkable, and one of the nicest surprises were the remnants of a large windmill behind the factory, where workers were piling cane for processing.

After the tour ended, we wandered the grounds, basking in the highland breezes and balmy sunshine. Artifacts are cleverly incorporated throughout the gardens, offering some unique photo opportunities.

I absolutely recommend a visit to St. Nicholas Abbey in Barbados, not only is the rum delicious but the opportunity to enjoy a close-encounter with the rich and varied history of Barbados is placed front-and-center when one takes a guided tour of the plantation property. This is a travel destination apart from the typical crowds closer to Bridgetown, and a strong sense of hospitality and pride in the place and product is very apparent.

To see the full gallery of my photos from St. Nicholas Abbey, Barbados, please visit apkphotography.com

*As a footnote, this is the first batch of images I am sharing from my new Fuji X100F, for which I could not resist using the Velvia film simulation when editing. While I continue to shoot with my full-frame Nikon D800 dslr, I wanted a smaller camera for travel, and so far the Fuji X100F has exceeded all expectations. After a few more trips, I hope to share some tips and a full review of the camera.

Christmas, Historic Adobes | Monterey, California

Along with the Harbor Holiday Light Parade, Monterey, California has a particularly unique and charming December tradition – a walking nighttime tour of the historic adobe buildings scattered throughout downtown. One rainy night I joined a few friends to explore the lovely homes and government buildings that are lovingly restored and maintained as striking architectural reminders of the not-so-distant past of California.

Many of these historic sites include lovely gardens, and as we walked toward each stop on the self-guided tour, we were greeted by the glow of lights in the trees and the traditional painted angels that decorate the city of Monterey during the winter holiday season.

Each adobe had a slightly different story and seasonal decorations, often with a mix of old and new on display. Creaking wooden floors and subdued warm light lent each space a cozy sense of stepping back in time.

At the historic Custom House, dating back to around 1827, live music and dancing filled the main room. A Mexican flag on display pays respect to the role of this particular adobe building as the primary port of entry on the Alta California coast before the territory was claimed by the United States in 1846.

At a smaller building which holds the distinction of being California’s first theater, we were greeted by a musician on the front porch, and a decorated tavern space inside. The main portion of the theater, including the stage, has sadly fallen into disrepair and was not accessible. In the spring, the theater garden is one of my favorite secret spots in downtown Monterey.

Live music was a highlight of the evening, performed by volunteers at nearly every location. Even though some of the points of interest were a few blocks apart, it seemed that the holiday cheer filled the rainy streets in every direction, as we had only to follow the sounds of musicians and carollers to reach the next adobe.

City Hall was a bustling center of activity, with locals chatting on the steps and enjoying the decorated trees indoors and out. This building is still functional at the heart of the city, hosting several municipal offices and providing Monterey residents with a scenic park for casual gatherings.

Some of the larger adobes offered sweet holiday treats, cookies and cider, and at the historic building known as the Stevenson House (after Robert Louis Stevenson who lived there for a few months) a cheerful bagpiper roamed the rooms full of artifacts and notable art.

I had lived many years in Monterey before I took part in this lovely holiday tradition, and it was a memory I will treasure. The warmth and hospitality of Monterey and Californians in general was embodied in the welcoming cheer of these historic adobes.

The tour ticket fee benefits the California State Parks and their maintenance of the buildings, and I would highly recommend it to locals and visitors alike. For information and tickets, please visit the California State Parks website – Christmas in the Adobes.

To see the full set of my images from this magical holiday night, please visit the APK Photography Christmas in the Adobes gallery