Rum Shop


A trip to Barbados

As in almost every island in the West Indies, Barbados has a good quality beer, Banks. But rum, that is a real institution. The Mount Gay distillery, with its three hundred years of history behind it, produces some of the most popular labels of white rum and amber rum, as well as the refined and ultra-award-winning extra old version.
ackee tree bar Boarded Hall Barbados

Ackee tree bar – Boarded Hall – Barbados | Photo by P.L. Paolini

Personally, I prefer the Old Brigand“, confides the owner of the Ackee Tree Bar, a cube of wooden planks and an undulating roof painted blue and canary yellow. Outside, a large ackee tree, standing like a sentinel on the side of the road from Richmond down to Belleplaine, spreads the shade of its large umbrella of leaves. Inside is like an old-fashioned food emporium, with shelves where there is a little bit of everything. The rum bottles, however, are neatly lined up on the shelves on the back wall.
Ackee tree bar - Boarded Hall - Barbados

Ackee tree bar – Boarded Hall – Barbados | Photo by P.L. Paolini

The Ackee Tree Bar is not a commissary or even a grocery store; it is a rum shop. And of establishments like this there must be at least a thousand more all over the island. An important part of Barbados life takes place in the rum shop: people come to drink, to play dominoes, to watch cricket matches, to talk about sports, politics, the neighbor who died or the neighbor who just had a baby. We comply with the venue by ordering a flask of the rum that was recommended to us.  At Ackee Tree Bar, as in most real rum shops in Barbados, they don’t serve bulk drinks or even rum punch, the syrupy, colorful bomb that tourists like so much. Here you do everything yourself: you buy your own bottle of rum and, if you wish, the non-alcoholic to dilute it, soda for example, or fruit juice, coke, sprite. The club provides you with a plastic cup, a bowl of ice, and lime. What you don’t get to drink you take away. After the second glass, the conversation takes on familiar tones. Another patron joins in and a fragrant, salty fish broth pops up, as if by magic. Taste it. It is accompanied by a sweet polenta made from the fruit of the bread tree. The dish is delicious, and it was a pleasant surprise to see it offered, almost as if we were old friends. What is life like in Barbados?
Ackee tree (albero del pane) - Barbados

Ackee tree  – Barbados | Photo by P.L. Paolini

To hear them tell it, this island is a happy place. A viable democratic political system due to strong social participation, low crime levels, a literacy rate above 97 percent, free primary and secondary health services and education, and an efficient pension system. Possible? The man in front of us is smiling; he has just retired. He is sixty years old and looks twenty years younger. Who knows, maybe it is true that life is sweet in Barbados … Let’s get out of the rum shop and try to do the tare, the Bajan people have a strong national pride and do not like to speak ill of their country. But every garden has its own snake.  Our first impact with the island had given us the impression of a crowded place, prey to an uncontrolled building frenzy. In the southeastern districts, houses, either concrete or wooden, chattel house style, form clusters without a head or tail, popping up on a barren and neglected looking land. But what is most disturbing is the amount of litter, plastic and garbage abandoned on street corners, on footpaths, on little-visited beaches. Blame the bad habits of residents certainly, but partly also blame the currents, which carry trash from the seas from one continent to another. freccia rossa Welchman Hall Gully

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