The X Factor judges are off on their holibobs (sorry, working extra hard with their categories for Judges’ Houses). With Louis Walsh’s Saint-Tropez, Gary Barlow’s New York, Nicole Scherzinger’s Antigua and Sharon Osbourne’s LA, this weekend's X Factor is sure to be a feast for the eyes.
But why not go the whole hog and head to Barbados – the choice of X Factor supremo Simon Cowell.
Go big in Barbados…
For glitz and glamour Sandy Lane is the only address to consider when you’re holidaying in Barbados and all-inclusive hotel The Club Barbados Resort and Spa is ready for you with a rum beverage or two. Quite literally. You are greeted with a cocktail on arrival (transfer from Grantley International airport is around twenty minutes) and then a bottle of rum is brought to your room once you check in. It’s the Bajan way.
THE CLUB BARBADOS
The small and intimate reception area of this Elite Island Resort hotel sets the tone of the adults-only hotel; a horseshoe shaped nook, where guests and staff quickly get to know each other. Look out for returning guests – 'Mr 72 times' sits pretty at the top, embraced like family upon arrival to this 161-room hotel. You’ll quickly feel part of the furniture too as staff get to know your favourite beach, restaurant spots and tipple at the bar.
There are three swimming pools to snooze by (one including a jacuzzi) or the small beach with plenty of sun beds. Those feeling truly famous should be aware that all beaches in Barbados are public, so there’s no private spot to tuck away in, but it does mean you can happily explore the nearby stretches of unspoiled sand.
Beach sellers are aplenty, but they are good-natured and will give up easily. They’ll also offer you some handy deals for water-based activities. After all, it wouldn’t be a complete Cowell-inspired trip without a spin on a jet ski and you can get around thirty minutes for 50 Barbadian dollars (also known locally as Bajan dollars), which is around £15. If you ask, they can even whizz you up to the very villa Cowell and the boys stayed in.
More like this
Turtle trips are also a popular choice, with a quick zip in a speedboat enough to plonk you in their territory. The turtles are savvy and know a boat means food, so you're likely to spot at least one. A good trick is to keep an eye on when they come up to take a breath – the closest you'll be able to get. These can be arranged via the hotel reception too, with all snorkeling equipment provided.
Given the relatively small size of Barbados (21 miles long by 14 miles wide), a trip around the island is easily completed before lunch, with The Club offering guided tours for roughly 75 Barbadian dollars (£23). Bathsheba Beach on the east coast is a striking spot to stop for some wonderful pictures of the iconic mushroom shaped rock formations.
Rum shacks are a local favourite and bottles are available to buy all hours of the day. Indeed, the only day that drinking is a no-no is election day. The tour will carry you past many a shack and, after some hard-earned trials of the local wares(!), Doorly’s rum is well recommended.
Time your stay at The Club Barbados correctly and you may very well find yourself in the company of Simon Cowell. Well, sort of. Sources at the hotel revealed that Mr X Factor holds a pre-New Year's Eve party in a villa literally next door to the hotel – the kind of party you’d like to accidentally on purpose find yourself in, by all accounts.
If you find your invitation lost in the post (or that wall too high to scale) The Club’s Piano Bar is open from 11pm until 2am, with a nice tune to accompany your nightcap and an on-site Rum Shop Bar offering a huge range of local rums to sample.
The nightly entertainment is top notch too, or you may choose to head out to a local rum bar. In fact, if you ask at reception they can even help you out with a quick drink in Sandy Lane Hotel's bar – although it is much the same as The Club but with a hefty price tag attached. You'll easily spend £15 on a cocktail.
Of course, the rum all follows a delectable trip through the hotel’s cuisine. The main beach-front Sunset restaurant serves both breakfast and lunch buffet style, with eggs and pancakes, fish and meat cooked to order.
In a welcome twist, Sunset switches to an à la carte service for the evening. This offers the perfect change of pace for your evening meal, although this does mean you must book a time for dinner in the morning (oh, the trials of holidaying, eh?). Here there is a healthy selection from vegetarian options to fish of the day, but paid-for alternatives are available for that extra special meal.
However, a trip to Enid’s restaurant (the Club’s traditional Bajan restaurant) is the highlight for most diners, with what feels like many a family recipe bursting from the menu. Fresh fish, succulent chicken (the most popular dish eaten locally) and hearty soups are followed by gooey desserts and sharp sorbets.
You can even learn a thing or two from Enid’s chefs, by taking part in Enid’s Cookery School. You’ll walk away with a handy little recipe book (including a few for rum-based drinks, naturally) and perhaps even an achy shoulder if you’re called on to have a go at mixing up a batch of local favourite cou-cou; a corn flour based dish traditionally served with Flying Fish. Critical to master if on the lookout for a Barbadian husband, we learned. Take from that what you will…
For some A-lister-style pampering, book onto the ‘SpaBados’ package (yes, SpaBados. Inspired, no?) You’ll enjoy five treatments during a one-week stay, from scrubs to back and shoulder massages and you can chill out in the sauna or ramp up the activity in the gym. The facial can’t be recommended enough, with tailored advice for your skin and even a quick eyebrow tidy if you want it.
The accompanying garden SPA suits (closest to the spa for extra convenience) offer a full living room area, bedroom, balcony and bathroom with extras including a fridge and tea and coffee making facilities, safety deposit box, iron and hairdryer. The SpaBados package includes a bathrobe, slippers and a spa gift set too. There are two TVs and plenty of air conditioning units and fans to keep you cool. The perfect hideaway.
Even when it rains (liquid sunshine if you please) there's no stopping the smiles in Barbados. Come on, even Mr Nasty loves it...
A few extra facts…
1. You can drink the local water.
2. Camouflage print clothes must not be worn outside of your resort. Seriously. It’s for the military only.
3. There are no sharks.
4. There are no snakes – mongooses were brought onto the island to eradicate them.
5. McDonalds didn’t take off in Barbados (locals eat far more chicken than they ever do beef) so for fast food head to KFC or the local chain Chefette.
6. If it says no swimming, don’t swim. Hidden currents are treacherous.
7. Travel on the bus. There’s a lot of music. It’s worth it. Trust us.
8. There is a cash machine opposite The Club Barbados so don’t worry if you forget your travel money.
9. The Barbadian way means things will be done tomorrow – the perfect holiday message.
10. And a final message from our tour guide – learn, never regret.
Seven nights in Barbados – £1,642pp (spa package)
Seven nights in Barbados with Virgin Holidays, including scheduled flights with Virgin Atlantic from London Gatwick direct to Barbados, accommodation at the 4V The Club Barbados Resort & Spa on an all inclusive basis with transfers included starts from £1,642. Price is per person based on 2 adults travelling and sharing a one bedroom garden SPA Suite, including all applicable taxes and fuel surcharges which are subject to change. Price is based on a departure on 13 November 2013. Virgin Holidays is a member of ABTA and is ATOL protected
Visit www.virginholidays.co.uk, 0844 557 3859 or visit one of our 100 stores located in Debenhams, House of Fraser, Tesco and Sainsbury’s stores nationwide.