MY TRAVEL BLOG
Barbados is a fantastic holiday destination for singles, couples and of course families. There are more than 70 miles of beaches and over 3000 hours of sunshine each and every year! It’s name derives from Bearded Fig Trees that were once found in abundance on the island. It is completely surrounded by the atlantic ocean and is the only coral island in the region with all white sandy beaches! Perfect for swimming, snorkelling and of course sunbathing. The average temperature on the island is 27C and the weather is generally warm with an average day time high of 30C. Plenty of celebs hang out in Barbados as well as having homes there. Rio Ferdinand, Rihanna, Gary Lineker, Wayne and Coleen Rooney, Oprah Winfrey and Simon Cowell to name but a few. The West Coast is more elite than the South as more celebrities head there and overall, restaurants, bars and hotel costs are all a lot pricier. Basically, the West Coast is that much posher than down South where you can have just as much fun, if not more, for half the price!
How to get there?
Airlines that fly direct to Bridgetown, Barbados from the UK are: British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, Condor, Thomson Airways and Thomas Cook Airlines. Other airlines include American Airlines, Delta, Air Canada and Avianca. If you decide to island hop to other areas of the Caribbean whilst there, Liat fly from Bridgetown too, at reasonable prices. If said with a Caribbean accent, Liat is actually pronounced ‘Late’ as it is late by name and late by nature! Depending on when you want to go and when you actually book your flights, you can get return deals for as cheap as £500. Summer season is usually pretty expensive, but if you book early enough, the months of June and July are pretty feasible. Later on in the year is also a great time to visit. It doesn’t get as busy as the summer months, it is slightly cheaper to fly, the weather is a bit cooler (reaching a high of 29C in the day and dipping to a pleasant 23C at night time) and December is considerably drier than October and November. January is the official start of its dry season, so be sure to check out those January sales from different airline companies!
Where to stay?
I stayed at the Dover Beach Hotel on the South Coast, not too far from Oistins and Miami Beach. It was a cute little hotel, not too expensive at all, roughly £100 per night, per room, which also included breakfast. It has it’s own swimming pool and access onto Dover Beach and the great thing about all the beaches in Barbados, is that non of them are privately owned so you can visit any which one you like. A lot are attached to hotels but you can just walk on through and head out to the sea! This hotel has a new list of trips to take every day and will arrange transport for you too. It serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, but honestly, the dinner wasn’t great. It is so close to Lawrence Gap, that I would advise talking a two minute walk to the gap and dining there instead. The staff were all lovely and they have a meet and greet evening every Wednesday with free rum punch, where you can get to know the team and other guests a bit better. There is a live singer/steel drum player and a lady selling hand made jewellery comes by every Tuesday.
To one side of Dover Beach hotel was Turtle Beach Hotel, an all inclusive resort with a spa. It is more expensive than Dover Beach, but you can see where your money is going. It offers all the same facilities, but on a grander scale and that much more upmarket. Room prices really vary depending on when you want to stay and what type of room you want, so best to check before you book your holiday!
To the other side of where I was staying was Ocean Two. Well this hotel is just the best! We filmed here and I thought, ‘Why aren’t we staying here?!’ well the answer to that was the price! The most salubrious of the two hotels so far, this serves serious quality in all it has to offer. Food, drink, entertainment, activities and facilities. It is very grand and very beautiful and right on Dover Beach. If you’re looking for somewhere expensive and all inclusive, then try here. There is a Sandals near by too, but this just had the edge for me.
What to do there?
Top of my list for tourist attractions would have to be the catamaran trip! I did mine with a company called Stiletto and it was brilliant. There are a few different companies that do it, you don’t have to go with Stiletto, but a lot of them do it via your hotel, so you could always book it through wherever it is you are staying. You can choose to do a 3 or 5 hour cruise; three hours means you miss the lunch option and 5 hours means you can indulge in as much food as much as you like! I decided on the five hour trip as I love my food! To start off with they get you in the spirit by offering out some rum punches and then you set sail to find the turtles.
After about a 20 minute journey of spoken history and facts on certain parts of the coastline we went passed, we stopped off for our first chance to dive in and snorkel with tropical fish and turtles. Snorkelling and floatation gear is all provided, you just need to bring a swimsuit and towel! After our first stop we sailed on further to find more tropical fish and turtles and had a little bit longer to explore the ocean. My parents were with me and they’re not confident swimmers, but the guides were brilliant and swam out with them to keep them feeling safe. After our second stop, we dropped off those that were only on for the three hour trip and lunch was served. Stewed chicken with rice and peas, veg and salad with banana cake for dessert, delicious! We got to take our own time swimming around by a beach on the West Coast, before we were called back ready to head home. A great day out for all of the family, around £80 each for 5 hours and £65/£70 for 3 hours depending on what company you choose and I would definitely recommend it to anyone!
Next up would be Harrison’s Cave. At the heart of Barbados lies one of its greatest wonders and it’s located in the central uplands of the island. It’s a beautiful, crystallised limestone cavern, a great day out for the whole family and a true testament to nature’s mastery. I went with my mum and dad and we were driven around in an electronically powered tram. My mum hates being enclosed in small spaces like caves, tunnels or coves, but the flowing streams, deep pools of crystal clear water and towering columns that make up the breathtaking design of the living cave, helped her to soon get over her fear! Stalactites hang from the roof of the cave and stalagmites emerge from the ground and in some places the stalactites have reached down to the stalagmites to form a sort of pillar. Some people got out of the tram and headed into the water for a dip, but we decided to stay warm, stay dry and watch from afar! The whole tour lasted for about an hour and the cost depends on how many people are in your group, who you book with and how good you are at bargaining! At roughly about £20-£30 per person, it is well worth it!
After that you have to check out the Rum Tour, where the famous Mount Gay rum is made. They show you the distillery, barrels the rums are made in, how to test the age and quality of a rum and of course the best part, they let you taste them all too! There are three tours to choose from; the Signature Rum Tour at around £7pp, the interactive Cocktail Tour about £35pp and the sumptuous Bajan Buffet Lunch Tour, for just under £45pp. You get to experience the history of Mount Gay Rum as you are taken around on a journey learning of its heritage and the craftsmanship of the world’s oldest rum. If you were to book this through your hotel, which you can, it would be more expensive as you’re paying to be picked up, driven and brought back, but that’s totally worth it. The restaurant there is so good, and not overly priced, as I initially expected being it a tourist spot, but great food at around an average spend of £30pp.
To get a real feel of Barbados, the lifestyle and the nightlife, head to Oistins on a Friday Night: “Oistins Friday Fish Fry” is the place to be, each and every Friday. The food is the main draw, fresh fish caught daily alongside lobster, chicken, prawns etc all in an extremely informal setting. A stage is there, ready and waiting for either a band or locals and tourists to get up, dance, sing, laugh and be jolly! The night usually starts from around 6pm but goes on until the early hours of Saturday morning. Music is played all night, food served all evening and drinks to keep your whistle wet! Not only are there food stands galore, but you can also find lots of craft items on sale, including jewellery, clothing, leather craft work and accessories. It’s free to go and there’s something for the whole family, so why not try it out?!
Lastly, a great location to visit and one of my most favourite beaches was Miami Beach. Again on the South Coast, this beach was so peaceful and never did it get crazy busy. The locals head there for their morning swim as well as using the free exercise bars for their daily workout. You’ll find a lady called Bev there that rents out sun loungers, umbrellas and boogie boards for just over £3 each. There’s a cute snack bar called Mr Delicious where you can get a number of different local beverages such as a fish cutter, (which is basically a fish roll..!) for under £3 and a glass of fruit punch for just under £1! It’s literally a 5 minute walk down from Oistins and it’s exactly how you would imagine a white, sandy beach!
Where to eat?
The top 3 restaurants that I can recommend are all on Lawrence Gap which is a popular street on the South Coast. I can only really talk about this area in particular as this is where I stayed during my time there. Lawrence Gap, which is near Dover Beach, is an area that really comes to life at night time. Along it you can find everything from street food to quality restaurants, as well as stalls selling local craft items and small supermarkets selling essentials. It’s a prime tourist spot with many hotels and resorts and it’s lined with friendly locals as well as visitors wanting to get a taste of local life. At the top of my list is ‘Harlequin’, a fusion of Caribbean meeting European. Well, what can I say? Basically my Mum always finds something wrong with a meal wherever we go and this time, not only did she not complain once, she couldn’t stop talking about how good the food was on the stroll home! My Dad had the local catch of the day which was Mahi Mahi, I had a prawn and scallop dish and my mum was lucky enough to get two dishes in one! Basically, this restaurant gives you the option of having two different meals in one portion, so technically it’s half of each dish put together, which means you pay half of the price of each dish added to one bill. Get it?! Anyway, my mum was so happy as she could not decide between two menu options; grilled snapper and steak and she got the best of both! Dessert was an absolute treat as I stole my mum’s idea of having half and half! Average spend per person is around £40, but be sure to book ahead as it is rather popular!
Next up would be Sharkey’s. Open during the day as a smoothie bar come lunch joint and a bustling restaurant in the evening, this place is so colourful and typically Caribbean. Reggae is played through its speakers, TV’s are on and cocktails mix in with the wonderful, bright decor. The food here is a mix of Caribbean and American and although it may not be as A La Carte as Harlequin, the price is roughly the same, so you’re looking at around £40pp. The burgers there are wicked, but be sure to try something more traditional!
Thirdly, head to Irie Foods. It’s a Jamaican restaurant that is very casual and laid back, but has some real good Jamaican dishes. They import most of their food from Jamaica, so you know you’re getting the real deal! The curry goat roti was my favourite dish and it really wasn’t expensive at all, close to £20 per person, if that.
How to get there?
You cannot get a direct flight to Aruba from the UK but you can find one stop journeys that don’t have too long of a wait over time. Mother and I flew from London Heathrow direct to Miami (about 8 hours) and then from there to Aruba (around 2.5 hours), but you can also go via Amsterdam as Aruba is a constitution country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Basically, Aruba along with Curaçao, Bonaire, Sint Maarten, Saba and Sint Eustatius make up the Dutch Caribbean as they call it.
Where to stay?
We stayed at The Mill Resort in Palm Beach which is a family run hotel, rated as a 3.5* and only a 6 minute walk from the beach. It was very clean with good sized bedrooms that included a kitchenette; had two perfectly proportioned swimming pools, hot buffet breakfast, evening BBQs on a Tuesday and a bar with a waiter ready to create whatever we fancied!
MY PROPERTY BLOG
HOW TO SELL YOUR HOME FASTER AND FOR MORE MONEY BY SPENDING JUST £100
It’s a common misconception that all potential buyers will be able to see past the clutter, the weird wallpaper that you’ve been meaning to change for the last 15 years and the old and outdated avocado bathroom suite.
The easier you make it for them to see themselves in your property, the more likely they are to put in an offer, and it doesn’t need to cost the earth to do it. Even just £100 can make a massive difference. So in addition to the usual advice of clearing the clutter and removing the chintz, here’s a rundown of what you can achieve with four levels of budget: £100, £250, £500 or £1000.
£100 – Get those paint brushes out and neutralise as much as you can
Paint is a magical thing – it can make a huge impact for next to no cost. With just £100 to spend, focus on making your walls as neutral as possible. White is the easiest colour as it’ll go with all your other décor, fixtures and furniture and it’s normally the cheapest option, but light grey is also very on trend at the moment – whatever you do, just don’t go for magnolia!
A fresh coat of a light coloured paint will do wonders for all your rooms, but it works particularly well for smaller ones as it will help to make them feel lighter and more spacious – two things buyers crave the most.
When it comes to the finish, I always stick to matte as it is easy to apply and looks great. Get those perfect straight lines by using some good quality masking tape and definitely invest in some tester pots (only if you’re choosing a colour obviously) before you buy the full sized pot.
With £100, you probably can’t paint all your rooms, so prioritise the entrance hall, the living room and the main bedroom to make a strong first impression.
£250 – Get crafty with colour schemes
The living room and bedrooms are normally the most lived-in rooms in the home, so for this budget, focus on making these rooms as strong as possible. Avoiding bright and garish colours, choose a colour scheme that features three complimentary colours that’ll work with your existing furniture and carpet. Light grey, dark blue and copper would work well for example.
Paint the walls in a neutral colour and temporarily put into storage anything that doesn’t fit in with your new colour scheme – then invest in bedding, rugs, curtains and cushions that fit with each room’s the new look.
There are plenty of shops with great deals for matching curtains, cushions and bed cover sets, and they’re a great way to completely change the look of a room in next to no time.
£500 – Replace that old avocado bathroom
Bathrooms are so important when selling your home and believe it or not, you can get a full suite (sink, toilet bath and shower) for as little as £300. Old fashioned and dated bathroom suites will put a lot of people off, especially the colour of them. The greens, the blues, the burgundies, in fact every colour other than white, just need to go!
Many buyers would be daunted by how much work they think it would be and how much it would cost to replace a bathroom, when in actual fact it’s much easier and more affordable than you might think.
Recent research from Bathrooms.com found that almost half of the UK said if a house had an avocado bathroom suite it would put them off from making an offer. So it makes sense to get rid of your old and outdated bathroom and replace it with a stylish new white suite to attract more buyers. Keep it simple, crisp, white and fresh, you need nothing more!
£1000 – Cheat your way to an upgraded kitchen
If you don’t have the time or budget to completely rip out your old kitchen and add a new one, then you can make a few clever changes to almost make it look like you have. Replace cupboard doors with fresh new white ones – or very dark blue is particularly on trend right now.
Replace your worktop with a clean and fresh white surface and either paint the tiles with specialist tile paint, or replace them to completely transform your kitchen. Consider replacing the floor with affordable but high quality laminate floor boards – some of them are so good now, it’s difficult to distinguish between real wood and the laminate.
Small touches like adding small potted plants or herbs to the windowsills, matching the colours of tea towels with place mats and stylish appliances such as kettles, toasters and coffee machines can make a big difference. And finally, get stick-on spotlights to place underneath cupboards to give an impressive glow to the work surfaces.
RETRO TRENDS THAT COULD BE DEVALUING YOUR HOUSE BY THOUSANDS
Here are my 14 interior design disasters to rid your home of, to increase its value.
AVOCADO BATHROOM SUITES
I have seen many hideous bathrooms in my time and as much as avocado coloured ones were all the rage back in the day, they tend look tired and outdated now. As well as the dreaded avocado suites, 70s bathrooms often came in a rainbow of colours: peach; burgundy; pink; blue…in fact any colour other than white. If you have one of these suites, it is time for it to be recycled. 44 per cent of potential buyers said a property with an avocado bathroom would put them off buying it and 33 per cent said it was one of their most hated retro décor trends. Believe it or not, you can get a full suite for as little as £300, so to increase your home’s saleability and value, opt for a sleek white one. Almost three quarters of the UK (71 per cent) said a stylish new bathroom would increase the likelihood of them putting in an offer to purchase a property, so what are you waiting for?!
WOOD CHIP WALLPAPER
We’ve all come across wood chip – whether that’s at your parent’s or grandparent’s, or pretty much in every student house out there. However, as much as the texture adds detail to a wall, it is now incredibly out of fashion. So much so in fact, that over 40 per cent of potential buyers would walk away from a property and decide not to make an offer on a place if it had this type of wallpaper.It is not difficult to remove so just invest in the right equipment, like a wallpaper scoring tool and wallpaper removing liquid and within minutes, the troublesome stuff will be gliding off your walls. Be sure to get advice before tackling it yourself though, just to be on the safe side!
In a nutshell, Artex ruled in the 70’s! This retro trend is probably just as uninspiring as wood chip, and 40 per cent of us say it would stop us making an offer on a property. Used to add texture and design to ceilings, Artex is actually a company trademark name, but it became synonymous with that spiral or textured effect. When having Artex removed, be sure to seek professional advice and maybe even call in the professionals, as any coatings added before the 80’s and some since then, could contain white asbestos.
I can understand why people don’t like these. I think they’re unnecessary and have no real purpose other than collecting dust. Eyelet curtains are simple, easy to use and you can find them almost anywhere. Buy a metal curtain pole rather than a wooden one and feed it through your curtain holes. They are so simple and stylish, and they can add a contemporary feel without much effort.
OLD FASHIONED LIGHT FITTINGS
Everyone loves a chandelier or a statement lampshade, but some fitted light styles are now very dated. My favourite option is always spotlights. They are easier to fit than you might think, can work in any room and they make homes feel modern and luxurious. In some bathrooms that I’ve redeveloped recently, I added blue bulbs in the spotlights over the bath to give a high-end finish.
CARPET IN THE BATHROOM
Why was this ever a thing?! Carpets in bathrooms were voted as the UK’s most hated retro décor trend – it’ unpractical as it collects water and can begin to smell and it just looks so dated. Tiles, laminate flooring or high quality vinyl are the best options when it comes to bathroom flooring, as they are easy to mop up and keep clean compared to carpeted bathrooms.
Oh how they loved textured wallpaper back in the 80’s! My new flat has embossed wallpaper all the way up the stairs– it makes the whole place look really old fashioned and it takes away any charm that the property may have had on first impressions. 34 per cent of buyers said it would put them off from making an offer; so it’s time to rid your walls of the spongy stuff! Wallpaper design is very personal, so if you do decide on using it and you’d like to replace it with a more modern design, keep it simple. A feature wall always works in my opinion; choose one, usually a central wall in the living room or behind a bed in the bedroom and give it a touch of classy wallpaper. Keep the other walls plain, clean and neat and this will help impress any potential buyers.
OLD FASHIONED, BUILT-IN BRICK OR STONE FIREPLACES
These turn almost 35 per cent of people off from buying a property. Fireplaces can be beautiful, but clunky.
Modern fireplaces are readily available and easy to find, but to save you from having to rip the whole thing out, focus just on updating the hearth. Perhaps with some beautiful slate, or some modern tiles and then tone down the stones by painting them a light colour.
Finish off by replacing all clutter and ornaments with one large vase of flowers in the middle of the hearth. This will make the fireplace look more modern, but will also stop it from being the first thing buyers see (and dislike) as soon as they walk in.
OLD FASHIONED WOOD PANELING
The worst thing about this is that my parents still have wood paneling in their living room! They do not, however, have any intention on selling their house, but we are planning to renovate it soon and the wood will be the first thing to go! Wood paneling can make a property look dated and tired with 46 per cent of people saying it would actually put them off purchasing a property. It’s surprisingly easy to remove, so swap it for some fresh and tasteful wallpaper. Or, a quicker option is to paint the paneling in a neutral colour – white or light grey would be a great option. Paint the nearby walls the same colour and your room will instantly feel brighter. This should increase its value and make it more attractive to potential buyers.
BRIGHTLY COLOURED 70s KITCHENS
I used to love watching ‘That 70’s Show’ and ‘Austin Powers’. The bright colours, the bold patterns, the psychedelic prints, but let us leave those in the past and for films and TV to reminisce over, not our kitchens! 10% of people said an old retro kitchen would put them off buying a property – it’s understandable as they probably think it’ll be costly to replace, whereas in reality, if you’re smart you can cheat your way to what looks like a completely new kitchen just by replacing cupboard doors and choosing modern handles and finishing off with new tiles.
A DATED BUILT-IN BAR
More than a third of us (41 per cent) say if they walked into a property and saw a dated built-in bar, they’d walk straight back out again. Although they’re great for parties, they’re definitely not everyone’s cup of tea. It’s likely many people would be put off by how much work they think it would cost to remove one.
So, to stop putting buyers off before they’ve even seen the outside space, focus on toning it down as much as possible. You might not be able to demolish the whole thing, but if you remove the bar stools and drinks, paint everything a neutral colour, and then add in some family pictures and a large bouquet of flowers in a lovely vase, you’ll make it look far less scary.
HEAVILY PATTERNED CARPET
Once the height of fashion, this is now more of a reminder of a time when style was very different. A third of the UK (35 per cent) would decide not to purchase a property with this type of carpet.
The easiest and quickest way to make this seem less daunting is to focus on first impressions. So, look to replace the carpet in the entrance hall and the living room before you put your home on the market. There are some good quality and very budget friendly options available that would be quick to install, and could completely change the feeling potential buyers get as soon as they walk in the door.
Crazy paving was hugely popular and can be seen all over the UK on driveways and in gardens. Now, it’s not as trendy, and even though it would be quite a big job to replace it, it could devalue your home. 33 per cent of UK homebuyers said it would be enough to make them walk away from a property.
There are two key things you can do with this before you put your place up for sale:
- The more valuable, but more costly option – cover it in wooden decking. There are tonnes of options out there and some are far easier to install and cheaper than you would have thought.
- The cheaper and less valuable option is to disguise the area with an abundance of pot plants. Choose large sprawling plants like palms and grasses and group pots together so the buyers see more plants than stones.
BUILT-IN WARDROBE CUPBOARDS AROUND THE BED
Built-in wardrobes are lovely – they keep everything hidden away and they save space. But the ones popular in the 80s that surrounded the entire bed are less popular now. So much so that 30 per cent of us would choose not to buy somewhere if it still had them.
An easy fix is to focus on removing the bridging cupboards that go over the top of the bed. Unscrew the doors, and then either dismantle the cupboards, or using a hammer bash the middle bits down. You might need to paint that back wall behind the bed, but those small changes will make the room seem bigger and more modern, which should help to attract more buyers.