We recently had the pleasure of joining Solar Express Tours on one of their incredible, eco-friendly tours of Bridgetown, our capital city and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Here’s what we loved the most…
It was a warm and sunny morning when we met up with the Solar Express Tours team at their Pelican Craft Village kiosk just on the outskirts of Bridgetown. We were soon joined by a number of other guests, and friendly banter ensued including reminiscences of ‘old-time’ days in the city. We could not have guessed what an enthralling morning lay ahead, and that within the next 2 hours we would gain a new appreciation of the beauty of Bridgetown, the history and aspirations of the island’s people, and the responsibility we all share in preserving the city and the island for future generations.
As we were chatting our solar vehicle pulled up and we climbed in, eager to learn more about our ride for the morning. A quick intro. revealed that the tour is part of a larger initiative to increase awareness and use of sustainable transport within the city. As a tropical island, Barbados is blessed with an abundance of sun year-round, making solar the ideal energy source for powering the country. We currently make use of solar energy in areas such as water heating and powering shelters at bus stops, but this could be a huge leap in how we transport passengers, especially around Bridgetown.
Despite the warm weather, there were no complaints as the open-sided design kept us cooled by island breezes and provided the extra benefit of 360o visibility. As we moved off, we were also struck by how incredibly quiet the vehicle is, a refreshing change from the engine noise of cars and buses.
We cruised past the colourful and historic buildings of Hincks Street before making our first stop at Jubilee Gardens which was opened in 1888 in honour of the Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria. We observed the original cobblestones that formed this city center, learned of the Bridgetown coat of arms, and admired two of the surrounding buildings – the beautifully restored Old Town Hall and well-maintained St. Mary’s Church. Our guide also revealed that construction work in this area several years ago had uncovered artifacts and remains of the Amerindian people who first inhabited the island.
Our driver and guide kept us entertained throughout the tour, with interesting tales, historical facts, and humorous anecdotes of the city and its people, spanning nearly four centuries.
We weaved our way through Bridgetown, past the stunning architecture of The Mutual Building, to the Synagogue Historic District where we disembarked to explore the synagogue, Nidhe Israel museum and Jewish burial ground. The area also has great historical importance for the Quaker faith who established a meeting place and burial ground here in the late 1600’s.
Its place in our history was further deepened as full freedom for the enslaved people of Barbados was proclaimed at this spot on August 1st, 1838.
Our guides led us around the beautiful Montefiore Fountain, helping us to decipher the language and discover the four virtues being extolled therein. Without their help, we may well have been stuck with just 2 virtues!
Our final major tour stop was in beautiful Queen’s Park, a quiet oasis in the otherwise bustling city. The group immediately recognized the royal cypher of Queen Victoria that we had encountered on our first stop at Jubilee Gardens!
The Queen’s Park Gallery often hosts exhibits of local, Caribbean and international art, and is well worth visiting. We browsed a fascinating collection of Barbados and Caribbean art, literature & craft, and made a few purchases. The surrounding gardens are filled with tropical blooms, numerous fountains (although none were running on this day) and a huge Baobab tree that is believed to be over a thousand years old!
The return journey through Bridgetown took us pass beautiful St. Michael’s Cathedral and historic Parliament Buildings, through Heroes Square (with its Dolphin Fountain, cenotaph, and Lord Nelson statue) and along the waterfront & boardwalk.
Cheapside Market, the largest public market on the island, was one of our final sites as we returned to Pelican Craft Village.
Disembarking for the final time, we posed for a group photo alongside our trusty solar vehicle, thanked the driver and guide for an amazing tour, and heading off for lunch!
It really was a thoroughly enjoyable experience, and we leave with a clean conscience knowing that we had little negative impact on the environment.
See more tour photos and visitor feedback on their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/pg/SolarExpressTours/
Water and snacks were provided on this tour, and a tour that includes lunch is also available.
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