There are all sorts of ways to experience a milestone birthday: A blow-out party, cozy family event, festivities in all configurations. And of course travel… my favorite way to celebrate anything.
It was an honor to join a friend’s milestone birthday celebration in Barbados. A brilliant way to acknowledge gratitude for years past and anticipate the years to come with a gathering of friends and a smattering of spouses who joined for the last few days.
Here’s how it went down…along with some practical how to’s for your own milestone celebration.
First, about the birthday girl…she’s the friend we all want in our lives: fun-loving, gracious, a compassionate listener when the sky falls, possessed of a generous and inclusive spirit with an unequivocal, committed passion for causes she believes in.
We met roughly 40 years ago as newbies in New York’s advertising world. Ensuing years brought binary lifestyle choices that defined us for a while: suburbia for me; city life for her. Eventually, I circled back to New York and to the warmth of her close and inclusive friendship.
Now settled into our 3 score and more years she’s often led the way to bold new vistas in our travels together so Barbados seemed a natural selection as a birthday destination.
1. Why Barbados
The combination of old world West Indies charm, dependable weather and an easy flight from the U.S., direct from NYC, Atlanta, and Miami, make Barbados an ideal place to relax, restore and celebrate. The ‘shoulder season’ of early May means fewer tourists (yea!) and economies all around. Plus, there’s just something about an island: an aquamarine sea edged with pearly sand, the golden hue of sunsets… other-worldly perfection.
Even on the one rainy day, there was a stark beauty…
2. Where we stayed…
Through no small amount of pre-planning on our hostess’ part, we stayed at the exquisite St. Helena villa. It accommodated our group of twelve in gracious comfort…
The wonderful staff attended to all needs and requests. Evalene, below, in kept us well-nourished and with the help of the entire team, well hydrated (!)…
3. What we did….
There was a good amount of catching up, conversation on myriad topics around the pool, at cocktails, at dinner when we all collected to relive the day, tell stories, and laugh – alot!
But also, swimming in the pool and sea; for some more than a dip….
Reading on the porch:
Off to snorkel, and find the turtles (we did!)…
Shopping, of course, via the local bus amid school-girl chatter…
Water aerobics in the villa’s pool…
And umbrella drinks….
Some popped off to the famous local spots for lunch and refreshment….
4. Where we went (and you should, too):
Here are some stops you don’t want to miss!
The “abbey” part is misleading for it is really a 17th-century Jacobean mansion, one of three remaining in the Western Hemisphere, on the grounds of a plantation that still produces rum from the sugar cane cultivated on the acreage. The day we went was rainy so the gardens for tea/lunch were out, but the house tour was magnificent. And the rum chased away the chill…
Regretfully, I stayed behind for this side trip. At the time it seemed a good idea to resist the temptation as I’ve never seen a piece of hand-worked pottery that I didn’t want to buy…but now I wished I’d tagged along…
This local attraction is a must – the only cave with direct access to the Atlantic, along Barbados’ wild seaward (Atlantic) shore. You can make a full day of it: lunch, crafts shopping and photo ops galore. Here “shoulder-season” travel really paid off: NO crowds; we felt like royalty.
This local attraction is a must – the only cave with direct access to the Atlantic, along Barbados’ wild seaward (Atlantic) shore. You can make a full day of it: lunch, crafty souvenir shopping and photo ops galore.
The cave tour is a must: in sight of an open horizon at all times which mitigates claustrophobia.
With a guide, you descend into the limestone cave, an eye to the outside, ending in a to a very salty and buoyant pool. Believe me, it is worth the trip. Just be sure to pack rubber-soled beach shoes – this is no place for bare feet! But if this crew can make it, so can you!
We dined out twice – and these are restaurants you need to know about:
*** The Tides
A wonderful seafood restaurant with an eye on the catch of the day! Would be great for lunch too, and they accommodated our large group without a blink, right down to the birthday wishes emblazoned on the dessert plate.
What a delightful seaside, indeed cliff side, restaurant! Fresh and delicious food; the lit water below gives diners a ring-side seat to the marine life below. Might there be something on tomorrow’s menu?
And then, as all good things must end ..but with full hearts, sand in our shoes, and more than a pocket full of memories. How can a milestone birthday be better than that!
Tips on planning a travel-based milestone celebration
Barbados as a destination is just one way to celebrate….
1. You don’t need to travel far. A local destination in national or state park offers wonderful accommodation
One treasure of the U.S. National Parks system is the availability of rental cabins, many of which offer a variety of activities in addition to being in the center of nature’s splendor. The popular destinations – think Yosemite – fill up far in advance, so it’s important to book early. Get started with this ‘greatest hits’ list of national parks with cabins.
Most states’ park systems have cabins for rent in or near the parks. Search “state park cabin rentals” – adding the state’s name for further clarity and bingo – you’ll have an inclusive list.
Want a pet-friendly cabin in a state park? Here’s a list to guide your decision!
2. Consider using a travel agent and concierge services.
Even if you’re an expert at DIY travel, this could be the time to call in the pros if you’re considering a condo or house rental. A travel expert can help narrow down the destination options and help with various participants’ travel arrangements and other logistical concerns.
Much like a wedding planner working through the details of weaving all the threads of a special day, a travel agent will do the ground work working within your budget and present options, probably through a real estate firm that specializes in destination rentals. He/she makes a commission from the recommended venue, so there’s likely no other cost to you unless you’ve established a fee-based arrangement.
Once booked, I highly suggest using any available concierge services to work out the many loose ends and answer all of your questions during your stay. This person will make sure food/wine is stocked, dinner reservations and other bookings secured and transportation, including airport runs, are arranged. The list is endless, and believe me having a local, on-site person in charge – someone NOT part of the party – is invaluable!! This is big: make it a gift to yourself. Save the Air B&B search for another adventure
Altman Villa Rentals managed the Barbados celebration and our concierge, Jennifer Allen, was terrific: she dropped in each morning to answer questions, attended to small requests that popped up during the week and in general made sure our stay was flawless.
3. Balance activities with free time – don’t book every second of the day.
It’s great to have some adventures planned and arranged: in Barbados, St. Nicholas Abbey and the visit to the Animal Flower Cave were booked in advance (via the terrific concierge). Beyond that, over the 5 days we were just as happy to manage our own day schedules – beach walks, reading, shopping, exploring the Earthworks pottery works, lunch….the unscheduled afternoons left plenty of time for serendipity – or just a nap.
So, happy whatever! Make your 3 score & more milestone a memorable one!
© 2017 3 Score & More