city slicker : St Michael

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The Independent Culture
St Michael, capital of Barbados, is this month home to the rum and calypso festivities that make up Crop-over - a celebration of the sugar cane harvest. To assist the holiday maker, here is an idiot's guide to the island formerly known as "Little England"

Essential items: Sunblock factor 370. All tourists planning to cook themselves until brown for the duration of their stay should not underestimate the power of the sun. The weather here makes Manchester seem like the North Pole.

Most likely sight: Your trip will be punctuated with sightings of pitiful humans painfully imitating lobsters. A combination of aloe vera and yoghurt may make the pain bearable... just.

Best beaches: Take your pick! The 22 miles of Barbados coastline offer innumerable "picture postcard" beaches. It is possible to find a different and virtually empty beach, day after day.

Food: Don't be afraid to try all the local delicacies. Flying fish is one notable dish fried in unique Bajan spices. It tastes like the food of the gods.

Crop-over Festival is the perfect opportunity to eat yourself into oblivion - barbecued pig tails are currently the fashionable snack. The best food, at the cheapest prices, can be found at the smaller restaurants or at one of the many stalls in town.

Drink: Barbados is famous for producing the finest rum in the West Indies. Duty-free shops sell rum at ridiculously low prices and will send it to the airport for collection on your departure. Just like the sun, Bajan rum should not be underestimated. It can easily be used either for human consumption or as nuclear fuel.

Biggest faux pas: Asking for chips in a restaurant. Wearing bikinis in town; bajans aren't prudish but encourage beachwear for the beach only.

Music: Barbados offers a rich blend of calypso/soca and reggae vibes. While Crop-over is in full swing the air will be heavy with soca rhythms and by the end of your stay you will have half a dozen of the hottest tunes running around your head.

Nightlife: St Lawrence Gap is the place to seek out for nocturnal excitement. The After Dark is the pick of the nightclubs. Have no fear if you cannot master the latest dance steps, Bajans have the good taste not to laugh at anyone willing to humiliate themselves in public.

Dancing: The sight of the dance floor seething with Bajans hopping and jumping in unison will astound, due to their co- ordination and timing of the apparently pre-choreographed performance. But don't worry, tomorrow you too will be "winding" and "boasting" a butterfly that will put other less adventurous tourists to shame.

Do: Take in the sights. Barbados has some breathtaking scenery. Talk to people. It's not like London - if you introduce yourself to a stranger they will be quite willing to tell you their life story... or listen to yours.

Don't: Be disturbed if people stare; they are waiting for you to say hello. Play backgammon for money against a Rastafarian on the local beach. He'll beat you... every time.

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