The rainy season is coming to an end in Barbados, making this the perfect time to plan a vacation to loll on the island's many uncrowded beaches and to soak up a liquid that the island is famous for: rum.
Barbados is the easternmost of the Lesser Antilles islands, and its 166 square miles are filled with fields of waving stalks of sugar cane, which frame dramatic views of the Atlantic Ocean on the island's east side and the Caribbean Sea on the island's west side. Once harvested, this sugar cane yields molasses, which is fermented, distilled and aged into rum.
Rum has a long and colorful history on Barbados, and you can learn how it all began with a visit to the carefully restored Bridgetown Synagogue and the newly opened Nidhe Israel Museum, both on Synagogue Lane, in the island's capital Bridgetown. In the mid-17th century, Jews fleeing the Brazilian Inquisition settled on the island. These refugees brought sugar cane along with them -- as well as the know-how for its cultivation and harvest.From that point on, sugar and its many products, including rum, became an economic force on the island, shaping Barbadian political and social life for centuries. This history is well-detailed at the Arlington House on Queen Street in Speightstown, to the island's north. The recently opened museum is housed in a restored 18th century building, and its multimedia exhibits are particularly eloquent on the subject of slavery.
Next, head to St. Nicholas Abbey, a mansion and plantation dating back to 1650. On house tours, film presentations are usually pretty boring, but the one shown here is an exception. Produced in 1935, this is a droll look at rum production prior to modernization. St. Nicholas Abbey still harvests 225 acres of sugar cane, and your visit will be much enhanced with a sample of the 10-year-old artisan rum that they produce and sell on the premises.