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Must-see in Barbados: The rum-filled abbey
St. Nicholas Abbey isn't just a rum producer and rum connoisseur destination, it is a stunningly beautiful property with a rich history.
The residence you see above was built in 1658, making it the oldest house on Barbados. Not surprisingly, it was never intended to be an abbey, but functioned for hundreds of years as a sugar plantation. A visit to the abbey means traipsing through a Georgian-style drawing room with antique Wedgewood tea sets and Sailors' Valentines, looking at fascinating furnishings like a 1936 "Gentleman's Chair" and a genuine Crapper (really!), a conversation with some talkative parrots and a cockatiel, a rum punch-fueled museum tour, a peek into the distillery and a viewing of a historical film so that you don't miss any details. The brick walkways you'll see are from Scotland. The Scottish sailors would use bricks to balance their ships, and when they got to Barbados, exchange them for rum. I would say all this makes St. Nicholas Abbey one of the most comprehensive attractions in Barbados, and a definite must-see.
You'll want to request a rum tasting, as St. Nicholas Abbey is one of the finest rums on the island. The rum comes in heavy, sandblasted glass bottles, and if you buy one, you can bring it back to be refilled at half price. Alternatively, you can get a bottle engraved with "[Your Name]'s Private Collection" (or whatever you want) as a souvenir, or for your sorry friends who couldn't join you.
I highly recommend St. Nicholas Abbey as a place to visit, drink and, if your schedule permits, get married -- seriously, one look at the yard out front and the courtyard in the back and you'll wish you'd had your wedding there. This is 350 years of history, exquisitely preserved and celebrated. And they make great drinks to boot.
Gallery: St. Nicholas Abbey
My trip to Barbados was sponsored by Tommy Bahama Rum, but the ideas and opinions expressed in this article are 100% my own.