Cruising Rio de Janeiro – Fort Lauderdale: Highlights, Part Three: Papillon to Barbados

by artfuldiner on July 8, 2024

in Artful Diner Review, Breaking News, Opinion, Travel

Ile Royale, French Guiana: Following two days sailing from Parintins, Brazil, we arrived at the Iles du Salut, Salvation Islands, a cluster of small Devil's Island - from Ile Royaleislands approximately seven miles off the coast of French Guiana. There are three islands in the group: Ile du Diable, Devil’s Island; Ile Royale, Royale Island; and Ile Saint Joseph, Saint Joseph Island.

For 100 years, these three islands formed the infamous penal colony of Cayenne, commonly known as Devil’s Island. Reserved for the worst criminals of France, it was notorious both for the staff’s harsh treatment of detainees and the tropical climate and diseases that contributed to high mortality. The prison system had a death rate of 75 percent until it was finally closed in 1953 (Pictured: Ile du Diable).

Devil's Island - Prison CourtyardIle Royale was the reception center for the general prisoner population. Ile Saint Joseph was the reclusion, where inmates were sent to be punished by solitary confinement. Ile du Diable, Devil’s Island, was reserved for the exile of French political prisoners.

The horrors of the penal settlement were publicized during the Dreyfus affair, when French army captain Alfred Dreyfus was unjustly convicted of treason and sent to Devil’s Island on January 5 1895. In 1938, abuses were Devil's Island - Hospitalonce again laid bare by the penal system’s most famous escapee, René Belbenoît, in his shocking memoir The Dry Guillotine: Fifteen Years Among the Living Dead. And in 1969, Devil’s Island once again came to our attention with Henri Charrière’s bestselling book, Papillon, later to be made into an extremely popular film with Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman.

Devil’s Island itself is, of course, no longer accessible to the public. There are simply no docking facilities; and the cable car system that provided access has long since ceased to function. The closest you can get is an off shore view from a charter boat. Most cruise passengers are transported via ship’s tender – as we were – to Ile Royale. Pathways allow visitors to circle the island and to wander among the ruins of prison cells and administrative buildings.

As noted above, Ile Royale housed the colony’s administrative center and the wardens’ accommodations. The complex was virtually a self-contained Devil's Island - Churchcommunity with houses, offices, a hospital, bakery, butcher shop, and church. A restoration program has been quite successful in recovering some of the buildings, one of which now houses a small museum. There is also a hotel, the Auberge Iles du Salut, which provides modest tourist facilities (Pictured Above: Church, Hospital, Prison Courtyard).

NOTE: If you would like to know more about the Dreyfus affair mentioned above, I would highly recommend An Officer and a Spy by Robert Harris. A brilliant work of historical fiction.

Bridgetown, Barbados: An island country in the western area of the North Atlantic, Barbados is located 62 Barbados - Great Signmiles east of the Windward Islands and the Caribbean Sea, and approximately 104 miles east of the islands of Saint Vincent and the Grenadine (our next port of call). The island has an area of about 267 miles. It’s capital and largest city is Bridgetown; its official language is English. As of 2008, Barbados had a population of 284,000 people; approximately 80,000 live in and around Bridgetown.

The earliest inhabitants of the island were Native Americans. Barbados was first visited by the Spanish in the Barbados - Bridgetownlate 1400s to early 1500s. It first was on a Spanish map in 1511. The native Arawaks (a peaceful farming tribe that dates back to prehistoric times. They lived throughout the Caribbean and in parts of South America) may have fled or been enslaved. The Portuguese visited in 1536. The first English ship, the Olive Blossom, arrived in 1624, claiming that the island belonged to the British king James I. Two years later the first permanent settlers arrived from England. Slaves from Africa were sent to the island to work on the sugar plantations.

Barbados has been an independent country since November of 1966. Elizabeth II, Queen of Barbados was the Barbados - Bridgetown Tree-linedhead of state. The Queen was represented locally by the Governor-General. The Prime Minister was the local head of the government. On November 30, 2021, the monarchy and the office of governor-general were abolished and the country became a republic with the President of Barbados becoming the head of state.

Since we only had one day in Barbados, we decided on an excursion that would acquaint us with the highlights Gun Hill - Path to Signal Stationof the island. Our first stop was Gun Hill Signal Station. Located in the parish of St. George, its history dates back to 1697 when it was named as one of the four points where guns could be placed in the event of an invasion. In 1818, it became part of a series of signal stations that sighted ships approaching Barbados and signaled to each other, advising as to the type of vessel and whether it could be friend or foe. A chart in the signal tower clearly demonstrated how detailed information could be relayed with the use of several flags. These signal stations were also used to warn of slave rebellions on the island.

Gun Hill - The ViewAfter the decline of the signal stations, the Gun Hill buildings fell into disrepair. These included the station with its prominent tower, a kitchen, magazine, sentry box and ruined barracks. Fortunately, in 1981, the Barbados National Trust leased the station from the government and, with the help of a government grant, restored it to its former glory. The facility now houses a collection of military memorabilia and a small restaurant.

Gun Hill - Lion CarvingWith its beautiful landscaped gardens and magnificent & captivating views of the island, Gun Hill has become not only an important tourist attraction, but also a venue for weddings and other important social events. An added attraction is the magnificent lion statue, carved out of a single piece of rock in 1868, by an office at the signal station.

Our next stop was a brief “photo opp” at the beach. Yes, Barbados has many beautiful beaches, but Barbados - Beach SceneBathsheba Beach is quite unique. Situated on the island’s east coast, its picturesque setting is, indeed, a rustic & rocky photographer’s paradise… My photo doesn’t quite do justice to the beach’s dramatic rock formations, but I just couldn’t resist this incredibly great shot.

… And for surfer’s, there’s Bathsheba’s famous Soup Bowl. Named after the area’s foamy water, the Soup Bowl is well-known as a site for international surfing competitions… But don’t even think about swimming here. Because of the rough waters & rock formations… and the extremely strong undercurrents, it simply is not safe. Fly a kite, enjoy a beach picnic, and take a few photographs… but, whatever you do, stay out of the water.

Located in the village of Bathsheba in the parish of Saint Joseph, Andromeda Botanic Gardens is an eight-acre Barbados - Andromeda Gardensorganic botanical garden created by horticulturalist Iris Bannochie, a native Barbadian and self-taught scientist. Named for the Greek mythological figure of Andromeda, it has been described by a Royal Horticultural Society judge as “one of the most unique and outstanding gardens in the world.” Comprised of twenty connected gardens, the variety of plants is extraordinary. There are over five hundred plant species, including over one hundred species of trees.

Andromeda Botanic Gardens was first opened to the public during a fund-raising event hosted by the Barbados - Andromeda Gardens 2Barbados Horticultural Society in the 1970s. It has remained open by paid admission since that time (admission is free for residents of Barbados). Bequeathed to the Barbados National Trust upon the death of Ms. Bannochie in 1988, it is currently leased to Passiflora Ltd. The company is responsible for the garden’s management and development and is a registered training provider and assessment center, offering a range of horticultural courses. The new Ethnobotanical Garden is the centerpiece of Andromeda’s mandate to conserve local flora. Created in June 2022 on 2 acres of land at Andromeda, the new garden is a community space and a celebration of local plants, how people in Barbados use plants (contemporary & historical), and local wildlife.

One additional note… After expending a significant amount of time & energy becoming acquainted with the local Eastside Kitchen Cafe 4flora and fauna, I would be very much amiss if I failed to suggest that, at this point, a bit of restorative refreshment might be very much in order. So, permit me to suggest the Eastside Kitchen Café as the perfect spot to seek out a suitable restorative. For while independently owned, it also happens to be conveniently located on the grounds of Andromeda Botanic Gardens. The Eastside Kitchen Cafe 3Eastside offers up numerous forms of pleasurable liquid libations – Whisky Sour, G&T, Real Fruit Daiquiri, Pina Colada, Margarita, Mint Mojito, Beer, Wine; as well as a host of natural juices and other nonalcoholic beverages – “when in Rome,” as they say… In Barbados, rum is clearly the name of the game. Go with either the Rum Punch or Rum Sour and you won’t be disappointed.

And the food is quite good as well. Perched on Andromeda’s open porch, it may not look like much, but Chef Eastside Kitchen Cafe 1Dwayne and his wife, Joanne, do a marvelous job of preparing a host of local ingredients – such as fish, octopus, chicken, and vegetables – with a loving care that belies their simple surroundings. You may begin, for example, with the Homemade Hummus and move on to such entrées as Whole Local Lobster, Fried or Grilled Octopus, Shrimp Linguine, and a perfectly seasoned Barracuda Sandwich.

Reviews of Eastside Kitchen Café on social media have been overwhelmingly positive. Another plus is that you may access the restaurant without actually visiting Andromeda Gardens, although I would strongly encourage you to do so.

Bon Appétit & Cheers!


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