We could be in the Caribbean version of the movie "The Wedding Singer," even though we are vacationing at an upscale resort in Barbados and not at a wedding. The lanky lead singer of Infinity is going all out and doing the air guitar now, flinging his locks every which way and rocking out to the band's cover of some pop rock tune. Moments later, he's winding his hips with reckless abandon to a reggae beat. This guy is working the crowd with everything he's got and the band's playlist is eclectic to say the very least. We weren't sure what kind of musical journey we were in store for when Bajan quartet started with "My Heart Will Go On," Celine Dion's theme from the movie "Titanic." I guess it kind of went with the sound of the ocean hitting the beach behind us. By the end of the evening, Infinity had navigated through the Kings of Leon's "Your Sex is on Fire" to Elvis' "Hound Dog" and right on through Bob Marley's songbook to Tina Turner's "Proud Mary." They left no stone unturned when it came to musical genres.
Infinity is the entertainment at the Tamarind Beach Hotel in Barbados on this evening and they are doing an excellent job of entertaining me and my fellow travelers. I've joined a trip to the Barbados Food & Wine and Rum Festival taking place this weekend with events all across the island, including cooking demos by the likes of Tom Colicchio of Top Chef fame (who happened to be on our flight from New York) and Marcus Samuelson a Top Chef Master, along with wine and rum tastings and lots of parties. Our group of 15, gathered by SPANNing the Globe Tours, has arrived a day early and we are getting to know each other over food, of course. We feel wonderfully special seated at candlelit tables, steps from the beach under swaying palms and a clear starlit sky. We all enjoy our meal selections. I started with a crispy crab cake, not as good as the Maryland ones that I'm used to, but tasty, followed by a well-seasoned, 5 spice-rubbed piece of pork loin. Others raved about the mahi mahi. And a fellow traveler from LA by way of Houston (this distinction was very important), expertly deconstructed the pumpkin soup he had as a starter. I'm still working on remembering everyone's name as I am a bit distracted by the Caribbean's charm and a little hazy from a day of travel and a couple of rum drinks. The staff at the Tamarind wasted no time with the rum drinks, offering us one upon arrival. Their signature is a tamarind rum drink that's brown and different for most of us, used to seeing the pink kind. It's sweet, but not cloyingly so and doesn't skimp on the rum. Before dinner, I'd sample a refreshing mango pina colada, perfect on a warm night.
I've finally gotten comfortable in a sundress and sandals, my body adjusted to the heavy, hot air that blasted us in the face as we disembarked at the airport. Layering in boots, jeans, tank, long-sleeved shirt, scarf and jean jacket seemed like a good idea when leaving New York. I found some relief peeling off the jacket and shirt, but my feet were sweating and crying out for an early release from their boot prison until I reached the hotel. Our trip from the airport to the hotel took us from the island's southeast to the west on a 30-minute ride through sugarcane fields in the middle of harvesting and a series of roundabouts that would be disconcerting for American drivers attempting to drive on the left side of the road. We passed cement 2-level and low-lying cement homes with yards and uniformed children on the way home from school and then we were in the circle driveway of the Tamarind being fussed over and handed rum drinks.
We decided that we like our new home and as it turns out there are some familiar faces on my trip. I met Michelle on a Napa wine tour last year and she and I agree that the Tamarind is quaint and not overwhelmingly opulent as some Caribbean resorts can be. She's come with her mother celebrate her mother's birthday. Later, I see Mark, lawyer by day and party promoter/DJ by night, who also lives in the DC area. He's just arrived and we are taking in the resort's green space punctuated with perfectly placed rattan lounge chairs overlooking the beach. He's come to check out Barbados and see if he can get more folks like us, single professional black folk, to attend next year. Shouldn't be a hard sell, as you'll see from my pics, below. By the way, I'm photographing with a new camera, the Sony NEX 3, and I'm in love.