There are unexpected pleasures and surprises when you travel, that's why it is so much fun. When I stepped onto the Southern Palms Beach Club property in Barbados' Platinum Coast, I went back to a genteel, Victorian era an architectural timeless period piece.
Have you ever looked at antique tintypes of buildings frozen in time? The Southern Palms Beach Club is a traditional Barbadian plantation resort, an interlude between the past and present, with guests and staff burned forever into the daguerreotype plates.
I first noticed this special appeal at the Monday evening Manager's Rum Punch social at the Circle Terrace where I met the tall, British hotel manager, Britta, dressed in a sort of Victorian era and white lacey evening gown. Later, I found out she races her own thoroughbred, Granite, at the Garrison Savannah racetrack, the historic British military site (www.barbadosturfclub.com, or call 426-3980). I sipped a special Southern Palms Piña Colada and listened to a sewing company magnate from Canada tell me that he has been staying at the Southern Palms each year for decades, staying for months to outwit the brutal Canadian winter.
The pink property sits on one of the largest beaches in Barbados, with over 1,000 feet of its own velvety, coral sand to stick the toes in. Young palms are growing in the sand in front of the resort. The resort is not quite on the Caribbean, and it is not quite on the rougher Atlantic side, either.
Located in the south end of the island in an area known as St. Lawrence Gap, the resort is close to bistros, nightclubs, and chattel house shopping, but it also has nightly entertainment, barbecues, calypso bands, sporting tournaments, and its own duty-free shop. The entire complex makes it so convenient not to leave, except maybe to watch the running of Granite.
The Southern Palms is really a great place to stay for weeks or months at a time, as testified by the Canadian. Many Canadians and Europeans have discovered the property. What I liked about my ground-level suite was the balcony/patio offering fully-glassed Caribbean-style verandah doors for seclusion, opening into a living area, kitchen off to the side, and bedroom that had a feel of a homey apartment. You have windows on both sides of the unit so I immediately turned off the air-conditioning, popped open the bedroom windows and swept the patio doors open to catch the breezes. The bedroom closet was enormous, made for long-term living. Each unit at the resort has telephone, radio, TV with lots of stations, and cool ceramic floor tiles.
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The Southern Palms is actually more than one complex, and each three-story building (The condo unit is 4 stories.) has its own unique moniker: The Palm Court, Jasmine Court, Capri, Lady Smith, Banyan Court, and the Carlisle Rooms, which I suspect are the most upscale on the property. Southern Palms offers 92 units, in three categories: rooms, suites, and condos.
I found my way back to my suite each evening by counting the number of 6-foot high wrought iron lamp poles along the garden walkway. The resort has a secure but secluded feeling about it at all times.
Guests can dine nightly at the Club's Rondelle Restaurant, but you have so many other options, so here is a brief run down of the dining and entertainment you can expect:
Monday Casual grill or Bajan Buffet (seasonal), with music for dancing by "The Redman", beginning at 8 p.m. Bands play calypso and contemporary music.
Tuesday and Wednesday À la carte or table d'hote dining from 6:30 p.m.
Thursday Barbecue Night from 8 p.m., with entertainment by the beautiful sounds of "The All Star Street Orchestra."
Friday À la carte or table d'hote dining from 6:30 p.m.
Saturday Roast Beef Buffet, with calypso music by the popular Bajan band, "Syndikyt", beginning at 8 p.m.
Sunday "The All Stars Steel Orchestra" plays from noon; from 12:30 p.m. Southern Palms offers the popular "Pie Buffet" lunch.
A snack menu is available in the bar area from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., and room service is available from 7:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. for breakfast, and from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. for lunch, dinner, and snacks. Fresh breads and pastries are made in-house daily, or you can dine in your room each family-style suite comes with a complete set of utensils and cookware and full refrigerator and stove. I have to admit, I have never seen so many kitchen utensils in any resort that I have ever stayed at. The Thomson family, which once owned the largest travel agency network in Canada, really loves their resort.
I really enjoyed the value of the buffet breakfasts on the beach at the Garden Terrace Restaurant (7:30 a.m. to 10 a.m.), but you can also choose à la carte or continental. They serve fresh juices, wonderful coffee, cereals, breakfast-to-order, and you can catch the early morninng ocean breezes on the wide deck.
Happy hour is nightly, except Monday, from 6-7 p.m. in the Khus Khus Bar, also on the beach. The British tradition seeps into the pores of the hotel again with daily complimentary High Tea each afternoon at the Crescent Pool from 44:30 p.m.
There is a guest laundromat on the premises. Meeting rooms hold up to 100 people. I did not see guest Internet access at the hotel, but there is a well-run Internet café just a few blocks away. There are Swedish massages available at the "The Palms" unisex beauty salon on the west end of the property, as well as the talents from the Robert Fielding School of Hairdressing, and also Vidal Sassoon (428-8712). The Best of Barbados Souvenir Shop is also on the west end, and the Koko Palms Gift Shop is in the Lobby. There is a book swap cabinet and games available in the lounge, just ask for the key from the front desk. You are only about 12 minutes from the airport, away from the capital at Bridgetown, and the hotel offers free guest parking.
The activities desk for watersports, tennis, mini-golf, or other arrangements is open from 9 a.m. to noon, Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Sunday.
Tennis There are two tennis courts on the property. Night play is Bds$10 per hour. Racquets are available from the tennis pro for Bds$5 per hour; balls can be purchased. Reserve your court time by signing in at the front desk. The Pro Shop hours are from 810 a.m. and from 46 p.m. Monday to Saturday. There is a free tennis clinic on Mondays at 9 a.m., and the Round Robin Tennis Tournament is held on Wednesdays at 9 a.m., with prizes given out.
Mini-Golf The mini-golf course is a 9-hole putting range, situated to the west of the Lobby. Take the time to practice during your stay so you can enter the tournaments on Fridays at 3 p.m., with prizes awarded. Putters and balls are available from the Watersports Shop at no charge.
Shuffleboard The shuffleboard court is located next to the mini-golf course. Join in for a tournament held on Thursdays at 3 p.m., again with prizes awarded. The equipment can be collected from the watersports shop.
Table Tennis The board is located next to the watersports shop. Equipment can be collected from the watersports shop.
Watersports For all your watersports requirements visit the shop between 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., closed for lunch between 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. You can boogie board, snorkel, or windsurf. Windsurfing lessons are given on Thursday mornings at 10 a.m., so sign up with Alan in the Watersports Shop.
Scuba Diving On Tuesday mornings at 10:30 a.m. Ram is in the main pool (there are two pools) to give a scuba diving demonstration. From there you can join a dive or snorkel trip on Wednesday from 10:30 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. You can go out as many times as you like.
Note: All watersports are subject to water conditions and no watersports activities should be undertaken when the red flags are displayed on the beach.
Volleyball is also available. There is no charge for the use of any of the equipment. There are beach towels at the watersports shop, but the hotel is an environmental friendly hotel, so try to make the most use out of your towels.
The Southern Palms is all about lazing on the beach. If you want to know the ins and outs of bronzing yourself tan at the Southern Palms, my best description is to check-in and then never leave the beach. There is an after-beach shower just off the beach to keep the sand out of your shoes, and the resort offers big, fluffy towels. But, they need to change their name to the Southern Palms Beach Tanning Club, and then make me the membership director! By Kriss Hammond, Editor, Jetsetters Magazine.
Couples must apply for a marriage license from the Ministry of Home Affairs upon arrival in Barbados. The wedding can take place after the license is issued, usually at the time of application, and costs US$75, plus a Stamp Duty. A local minister usually costs about US$85. You will need a passport or birth certificate to show proof. If divorced, a proof of Decree Absolute is required; if a widow/widower, a death certificate is required; if there is a change of name, other than by marriage, proof is required. Documents must be originals or certified copies.
Comb with flowers $20
Bandeau or full headpiece $30
Photographic services include all negatives with prints in an album.
4x6 with 24 prints $230
5x7 with 24 prints $290
4x6 with 36 prints $290
5x7 with 36 prints $375
Video recording $300
Conveted NTSC to Pal $50
Music, steel pan 1 hour $125
For Catholic weddings a notice must be given about three months in advance and the arrangements made through a parish priest, who will notify the Bishop of Barbados.
Southern Palms can arrange wedding ceremonies in the garden, and they can assist you in all aspects of your happy moment. They can provide complimentary assistance with legal matters for weddings, decorated venues, fruit or sponge wedding cake, and one bottle of sparkling wine.