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Rochdale Observer - - TRAVEL -

TEPPING off the plane in Bar­ba­dos, I’m hit by the warmth. Not just the 30-de­gree heat, though that’s very wel­come when you’ve flown in from rain-bat­tered Bri­tain; it’s the friend­li­ness of the peo­ple that re­ally stands out.

Bar­ba­dos – the east­ern­most isle of the Lesser An­tilles in the West In­dies – is beau­ti­ful from shore to shore, but many agree its west coast is best.

Fringed with quiet sandy beaches, it at­tracts bil­lion­aires like Bill Gates, and vis­i­tors seek­ing peace and per­fec­tion.

I sam­ple a taste of the A-list life­style when I stay at one of the is­land’s most fa­mous and his­toric ho­tels, the Fair­mont Royal Pavil­ion, which has re­cently un­der­gone a re­fur­bish­ment.

Perched right on the beach, in the parish of St James, the prop­erty orig­i­nally opened in the 1940s as the 12-room Mi­ra­mar Ho­tel, but the build­ing has changed hands sev­eral times and grown in size.

Re­de­vel­oped just be­fore laws were in­tro­duced re­quir­ing ho­tels to be set fur­ther back from the shore­line, all 75 rooms face the sea, and you can be in the wa­ter in sec­onds.

The ho­tel also has a se­cluded three-bed villa, where shy celebri­ties some­times stay.

My room has a king-sized bed and wide bal­cony over­look­ing the ocean, along with a cir­cu­lar sofa and a tempt­ing tray for cock­tails.

The ser­vice is ex­cep­tional, with friendly, ef­fi­cient staff, plus a team of but­lers to tend to your ev­ery need – from iron­ing your clothes, to bring­ing de­li­cious canapés to your room ev­ery evening.

The ho­tel’s two main restau­rants over­look the white sands and serve in­ter­na­tional cui­sine and tra­di­tional lo­cal dishes.

Run by Ba­jan Ex­ec­u­tive Chef Kirk Kir­ton, they spe­cialise in seafood; fish like red snapper and mahi mahi are served with veg­eta­bles from around the Caribbean. Kirk is happy to show you his kitchen and share his culi­nary se­crets.

There’s also a beach club and a pool­side bar over­look­ing the sea, where colour­ful cock­tails are on of­fer.

While strolling around the Fair­mont’s gar­dens, fes­tooned with 200-year-old trees – some of them are 100ft tall – I’m greeted by the smell of lemon bay leaf.

These are much big­ger than British bay leaves and are great for ward­ing off in­sects, if rubbed on your skin.

I also see abun­dant plan­tain, Ba­jan cher­ries, co­conuts and lit­tle green tail mon­keys play­ing in the high branches.

There’s no ex­cuse not to get out on the wa­ter ei­ther. The Fair­mont of­fers com­pli­men­tary ac­tiv­i­ties, such as kayak­ing, pad­dle­board­ing and ten­nis; or in­dulge in one of the many spa treat­ments avail­able, in­clud­ing mas­sage and aro­mather­apy, in the pri­vacy of your room.

If you want an ac­tive day out, take a cata­ma­ran cruise (around £75-£120 for a four-hour trip, in­clud­ing lunch and drinks). After be­ing picked up from the beach, we sail along the co­conut tree-lined coast, ac­com­pa­nied by fly­ing fish.

Us­ing snorkels and masks pro­vided, we swim in the clear turquoise wa­ter with tur­tles.

There’s some­thing very ther­a­peu­tic about div­ing down deep, sur­rounded by rain­bow-coloured fish and com­ing face to face with a serenelook­ing tur­tle star­ing at you, as if you’re just an­other strange sea crea­ture.

Step out­side the ho­tel and just a few min­utes’ walk away, you’ll find golf cour­ses, bars and de­signer stores in Ho­le­town, a trendy area for vis­i­tors at­tracted by restau­rants like Nishi, which of­fers ter­rific Asian and Caribbean cui­sine, and is also great for par­ties.

Or drive 10 min­utes north to Speight­stown, where the lovely beach­side restau­rant The Orange Street Gro­cer has its own pizza oven.

Also close to the ho­tel is Lan­caster Great House, run by John and Rain Chan­dler, who en­ter­tain us with tales of is­land life and the celebri­ties they have hosted over the years.

I try pan-seared fly­ing fish with

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