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Best Bar none; Jeremy Armstrong discovers why the stars love to go to beautiful Barbados.

Byline: Jeremy Armstrong

Every December 30, there is a party next door to Club Barbados hosted by The X Factor's very own Simon Cowell. Rumour has it that a few Club guests managed to get in once and rub shoulders with A-list celebrities as music played into the early hours.

Sir Cliff Richard, arguably the island's most famous citizen, pops down to the local shops. A roll call of the rich and famous, from Tiger Woods to Madonna, have stayed just along the road at the famous Sandy Lane resort.

The Club is on the same stretch of sand. But prices here, for an all-inclusive week complete with five spa treatments, rum tasting, water sports and other activities, are not just for the stars.

It's an adults-only resort with a high number of repeat guests and, given its location and a beautiful stretch of beach on the Platinum Coast on the west of the island, it's easy to see why.

Club Barbados is in a prime spot near Holetown and makes you feel like a star. A spa room comes with treatments, including body scrubs, Swedish massage and facials.

In the interests of research, I tried them myself and they were top drawer.

Barbados has given the sea turtle special protected status and a boat trip to swim alongside these graceful creatures in beautiful warm turquoise waters was the highlight of my trip.

Back on dry land, the hotel also offers Bajan cooking, an entertaining take on Ready Steady Cook without Ainsley Harriott but with a lesson in how to prepare island specialities and sauces.

Best of all, you get to sample the prepared dishes yourself in the Bajan restaurant - a must for any guest. As is rum tasting with the famous Mount Gay brand - officially the oldest in the world - which delivers a cheering afterglow.

You could happily while away the days on the beach or by the pool. But at 21 miles long by 14 miles wide, you can drive anywhere in Barbados in an hour. And such are the contrasts and beauty of island life, it's worth getting out and about to see every corner. I took a "reggae bus" into the capital, Bridgetown. The small vehicles are a great way to meet people as they go to and from work, hopping on and off for just two Bajan dollars, which is around 60p a ride.

The music is at the discretion of the driver and the conductor, with rap and Motown favourites on my journey to and from Bridgetown.

Passengers sway as it makes its way along the coastal route from Holetown, past sandy beaches and homes with names such as Milord, Turtle Cottage and Indigo Bay. It must surely be one of the most picturesque bus journeys anywhere on the planet.

Bridgetown is worth a visit if only for its thriving, colourful shops and markets, that and seeing the locals waving and giving each other high fives as they weave their way through the tourists.

Beware of street vendors who urge you to buy from them rather than the big stores - they start at the very top end of their price range, and it is up to the buyer to try to work their way down to the middle ground.

It's also worth taking a guided tour of the island, which will take you from Harrison's Cave in the north where there are also the amazing new marinas for the super-rich visitors, to the breathtaking views of Bathsheba, the surfers' paradise of the east coast.

Add to that a lush interior of plantation properties and chattel houses (a type of moveable home) and Barbados is a photographer's dream.

You can cram in a lot of sights in a fairly short space of time. But surely the most precious resource is the people, always ready to chat, offering help and advice or just shooting the breeze.

Back at Club Barbados, even the birds come out to greet you. The meals are a real treat, with a la carte dining in the evening combined with a brilliant buffet at lunchtime, and you can take back a bun or two to feed your feathered friends on the balcony of your room.

Like so much of this trip, it is an experience which will live long in the memory.

GET THERE

Virgin Holidays has 7nts a/i in Jun at the 4* The Club Barbados Resort & Spa from PS1,941pp based on 2 sharing. Inc flights with Virgin Atlantic from Manchester or Gatwick. Airport v-room access from PS20 adult/PS12 child. Club Barbados BARBADOS Bridgetown 5 miles virginholidays.co.uk, 0844 557 3859. Rooms at the Hilton hotel, Gatwick South start at PS100pn. hilton.com, 01293 518080. Tourist info: visitbarbados.org.

TIME ZONE UK - 4hrs

CURRENCY Bajan $ PS1 = 3.27 US$ widely accepted

BEST TIME TO GO Year round A-list place to be

Get the 'reggae bus' for just 75p

CAPTION(S):

CHILL Jeremy in Barbados

THRILL Swim with sea turtles

StILL Peace on the beach
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Geographic Code:5BARB
Date:Jan 18, 2014
Words:837
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