Winter escapism | Bright and bold Barbados

This January morning, I am sitting at my kitchen table, watching the deep midwinter pre-dawn gloom just outside. Cars hiss along the street in icy darkness, their headlights illuminating canyons of piled snow. It is 7:29am and there is still no sign of the sun.

Being from California where gardens never stop growing, I am particularly drawn to the quiet, dormant beauty of this season in Western Canada; the stillness and insular peace of a snowbound prairie horizon is more comforting than I expected. When the wind whips down from the North, the cold air carries drifting curtains of snow, and even the trees appear to shiver.

However, while I genuinely enjoy these philosophical moments of winter from a cozy indoor perspective, it has also become my habit to use the short days and dark hours to escape into editing colourful photos from warmer places and times. I’ve started 2019 off with a dip into last year’s visit to Barbados…

This was my first trip to a truly tropical climate since living in Hawaii over a decade ago. Immediately, the vivid blue hues of the water and the unabashed lushness of the plant life were a tremendous relief after a few months of monochrome winter weather.

Gentle sea breezes filtered through curtains of palm fronds and the constant soft movement of clouds and waves were hypnotic and soothing. Looking at these photos, I can almost feel the calming warmth of this slice of Caribbean paradise…

If you need a little more warm weather and colourful, tropical escapism, this batch of scenic details and many more have been added to my Barbados Scenery & Flowers gallery.

North Point, Barbados

At the northern end of the island of Barbados, dramatic cliffs overlook the waters where the Caribbean Sea and Atlantic Ocean meet. Creating huge swells and smashing waves swept by powerful winds, with a backdrop plateau of limestone boulders and lush green plants, this is a wild and dramatic place.

The colour of the water is a stunning shade of aqua blue, and the swirling surf is mesmerizing. Some people venture out along the cliffs overlooking the churning surf, and nearby a restaurant serving local flavours offers a scenic spot to sit and take it all in.

There are paths winding along the edge, past blowholes and interesting ancient rocks bearing the marks of fossilized coral. There is even access to the caves below, famed for their populations of sea anemones.

This is a lovely day-excursion when visiting Barbados, and a welcome break from the more crowded urban areas. Even when it seems many people are headed down the path to the cliffs, once there, the space to explore allows one to quietly enjoy the wild, beautiful scenery in peace. Just watch your step, those blowholes are deep!

Find more of this stunning spot and other locations around Barbados, in my archives.

Tofino, British Columbia

Any coastal locale in the month of May is likely to be a beautiful place, but Tofino, British Columbia seems to have natural beauty and charming village scenes to spare. Set in the forested mountain landscape of Vancouver Island, with wild west coast beaches, this stretch of Canadian coastline is bursting with blooming rhododendron flowers in May.

The flight into Tofino is scenic too, skimming along the mountains of Vancouver Island and dropping through the clouds on a final approach over the ocean, to land in the forest.

There are picturesque lodges of every size and price point, and every single one offers postcard views of the remarkable scenery. I enjoyed a memorable stay at Middle Beach Lodge, which is a short drive from the Tofino town center, and overlooks a gorgeous stretch of rocky forested shoreline and sandy beaches.

Tofino itself is very walkable, colorful, and full of art, food, and personality. This is a hub for sightseeing seaplanes and fishing expeditions. The restaurants favor fresh, local ingredients and there are almost too many enticing eateries to choose from.

On a morning walk along one of the quiet beaches, awash in the warm sun, sounds of the ocean and a gentle breeze, I discovered sea shells and natural treasures. At sunset, the entire landscape transforms into an ombre palette of peaceful hues and shimmering water, set against beautiful mountains on the horizon.

To see more photos from beach walking in Tofino, British Columbia, I have a story on the blog about the beauty of the kelp swaying in the tidepools; Just beneath the surface in Tofino, BC – and for the full gallery of Tofino photography, visit the apkphotography.com archives.

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.