If you want to explore a little – or a lot – of the Barbados nightlife, the place to be is on First and Second avenues in Holetown, a horseshoe-shaped street configuration that's small on size but huge on great places to hoist a drink and listen to music.
We started out (and actually finished up) one night at Lexy’s Piano Bar at the end of Second Avenue, a dark place throbbing with, as the name implies, piano music, courtesy this night of Frankie Golden, who is billed as the “original "play-one, drink-one" piano player.
Golden plays the world over, including at the Spinnaker Beach Club in Panama City, Florida and throughout Europe. The guy is a riot, belting out old and new tunes, and leading the crowd in song and dance.
It’s not a huge place so people and music fill the space, with a bar off to one side and seating throughout. Best bet, if you want to hear the conversation of people you’re with, is to sit outside on a small patio area. But that didn’t stop a conga line that had formed inside from threading outside, around the patio and back in again, Golden’s blasting music providing the rhythmic impetus. It is a wickedly fun place and certainly one of the district’s best places to have a few pops.
We also happened by Oasis around the corner, another dark, well-lubricated venue with a chipped black bar, upholstered stools, palm trees and other vegetation growing in the dirt fringe around the inside area, canvas ceiling above, a small, elevated dance floor (with stripper pole, if you’re so inclined to use it), communal couch seating all around, the entire feel of the place decidedly Middle Eastern, including a couple of hookahs on the shelf behind the bar.
The music is provided by a DJ, is blisteringly loud and is a great place where locals and tourists mix. It is dark, somewhat grungy and definitely enchanting, in its moody way. People gather outside to smoke on broken sidewalks in observance of the no-indoor-smoking edict, but the smoke just wafts through the grates at the front of the bar anyway.
No matter, it all adds to the charm. See it at http://en-gb.facebook.com/pages/Oasis-Bar-Barbados/147390205284502
Friday Night is Prime Time in Holetown
My favorite Holetown joint had to be Coco Bongo on First Avenue, opened in November 2010 by Jim Dunne, a British contractor who saw the place as a great new opportunity. Named after the bar in Jim Carrey’s 1994 movie “The Mask,” it is a lovely place with a great red-slate and green-trim bar, colorful walls, roomy seating, and the affable Keisha, the manager who will serve you drinks like Banks beer, the local brew, and tell you all about her island. They provide live music on Saturdays, karaoke on Wednesdays and serve food definitely Brit in nature, such as pies filled with cheese, steak and kidney, and beef and onion.
Other notable Holetown watering holes would be The Mews, which they tell me is a pretty good restaurant, too, with eclectic continental menu and where, after hours, the cozy bar heats up the night. Ditto for Spago, noted for Italian cuisine and live entertainment during the week, with a great street-side verandah popular for people watching. Check it out at www.spagobarbados.com
Though I didn’t make it inside, I loved the exterior of One Love Bar, a bright blue-and-yellow painted place where people gather inside and out, and Angry Annie’s, famous for its ribs, or so said the sign outside.
If you go to bars here, keep in mind that Friday nights are the busiest, the bars jammed, the music loud. I went both Friday and Saturday nights (hey, research, ya know?) and the difference was night and day, with Saturday night being incredibly dead for a weekend night. Just go with the local flow, I figure, and if you want hopping, go Fridays, if you want to lay low and casual, Saturday is your best bet, though several of the bars close early. And closing here means pretty much whenever, but there are a string of cabs outside the places waiting to take you back to your hotel, the cabs mostly being the drivers’ personal vehicles, well kept and clean.
Holetown was the first town in Barbados, and discovered by outsiders in 1625 by Englishman Henry Powell, who was blown off course and found the island quite by accident.
He came back two years later with settlers and they named the area Jamestown, after then King James I. The name lasted two years until more settlers came and, because of the inlet from the sea, they renamed the area Holetown, which it remains today. It is the island’s third-largest town.
Something worth noting: The Barbados Holetown Festival is held in February each year since 1977 (in 2011, that will be Feb. 13-20), and celebrates its history, a week-long even of live music, dance, a beauty pageant, calypso steel bands, remembrance talks, an exhibition at the Holetown Museum, bus tours, street parades and locals selling arts, crafts, food and drink. For more, visit http://www.holetownfestivalbarbados.com/
Every Caribbean island has its flavor, day and night, and when the sun goes down on Barbados, Holetown is one of the hottest spots to be.