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From the archives: Caribbean day trip #1 A walk in Bridgetown

My friend is here from New York and on her 'to do' list is a visit to the capital city. So, cameras in hand, we make a trip out in the morning. With it's mix of crumbling colonial architecture and bustling market stalls, Bridgetown offers a taste of real Bajan life far from the opulent resorts of the west coast.

We drive along the coast road in the parish of Saint Michael, past the rust red walls and shuttered windows of the 18th century Garrison buildings, the green curve of the island's only racecourse and lollipop bus stops saying 'To City'. Between the buildings are bright flashes of turquoise sea.

We park the car and head to the Cafe by the Waterfront overlooking the busy Careenage lined with yachts and catamarans, for a quick cappuccino, before taking a wander around.

We skirt around stalls selling sun hats and rasta caps and cross Chamberlain Bridge. This stretch of water is know as Constitution River and ahead of us, on it's north bank, sits the impressive coral and limestone Parliament Buidlings.

What we see:

Smiling vendors selling ripe plantains and breadfruit laid out on rickety tables outside Cheapside Market. Inside: a grand old market hall with high ceilings packed with row upon row of stalls. Mounds of tropical fruit and local vegetables, emerald green papayas and ruby red wedges of watermelon, smooth shiny white cabbages and plump tomatoes. Bags of spiky maroon sorrel and bark-brown tamarind pods.

A string of brightly painted shop fronts mint green, orange and pink. Opposite, a derellict colonial building, all cracked walls, peeling paint and broken glass with the branches of a tree growing from its windows.

A man sitting in the window of the barber shop, his head curved forward, having the nape of his neck buzz cut. We pass a woman outside with braided hair in jeans and platform shoes holding a baby girl dressed in a frilly pink tutu.

The dim interior of a small bar, men sitting on stools drinking beer, a woman serving them. My friend asks if they sell coffee. They don't. 'We have beer though?'

We wander into Yvonne's Bakery and peer at the coconut bread, raisin scones and lead pipes - a pastry roll filled with a sweet sticky syrup - through the glass counter. We buy two slices of coconut bread and eat it warm from brown paper bags.

A crowded beauty parlor - women standing and chatting, sitting and waiting. I wish I could go inside and chat with them. But would would I say? What would they think of me? Maybe next time...

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