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A cemetery and an Anglican church may seem like unusual tourist destinations. But St. John's Church and its tiny cemetery offer views to die for on the rugged, wild and unspoiled east coast of Barbados, the pretty and very British Caribbean island. It is one of the southernmost of the West Indies, a flowery place where flying fish is the national dish and where the water is described as Barbados blue.
The Gothic church sits at the edge of Hackleton's Cliff, about 825 feet above the Atlantic Ocean. It offers a commanding view of the surf and beach between Bathsheba and the East Point Lighthouse.
The limestone church itself was rebuilt in 1836 after a hurricane. It features a pulpit made of six types of wood.
There are high-backed pews and a double cedar staircase to the organ gallery.
There has been a church on the site since 1660.
The tree-shaded cemetery includes the graves of Ferndinand Paleologus, a descendant of Byzantine Emperor Constantine VIII, who was murdered in 1453. Paleologus lived on the island for 20 years before his death in 1678.
The cemetery houses frangipani trees that produce the showy blossoms made famous in Hawaii with its leis.
The trees - up to 40 feet tall and up to 20 feet wide - lose their leaves in the winter and were bare and skeleton-looking. They stood out among the island's greenery and blooming flowers.
The sweet-smelling white, yellow, pink, red and multicolored pastel frangipani flowers would not bloom until later in the year.
St. John's Church and cemetery are open from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily.
THE PEAR-SHAPED ISLAND - 21 by 14 miles - is very civilized, although it is still largely rural. Cricket is the big sport. Afternoon tea is popular. Barbados is a bit more formal than other Caribbean islands. It is nicknamed Little England.
Islanders - called Bajans, all 250,000 of them - love their calypso music. It is an island with a West Indian flair.
BARBADOS HAS A WILD
streak: Bathsheba and its surfers.
Bathsheba on the East Coast is a collection of brightly colored houses and hotels that cling to the hillsides above the wildly crashing surf. Its signature landmark is giant coral rocks right off the beach.
The big attraction is the Soup Bowl, a world-famous spot where swells combine 30 yards offshore to create waves 3 to 25 feet high.
It has been home to international surfing competitions every November for the last 20 years.
There are easier surfing options for beginners, and several outfitters offer surfing lessons and equipment rental.
The best eastern surfing in Barbados is from September through December. The best western surfing is from November through March.
For more information, contact the Barbados Surfing Association at 246-429-6647. The Internet site is www.bsasurf .com.
The east coast is not good for swimming because of those tricky offshore currents.
Barbados also offers excellent windsurfing and kiteboarding off its more-developed southern and western coasts. Silver Sand Beach is one spot.
THERE'S A LOT TO SEE AND
do in Barbados: sandy beaches, scuba diving, snorkeling, history and heritage tours, sea turtles (hawksbills and leatherbacks), hiking, caves, off-road safaris, botanical gardens, golf, boating, tennis, nature tours, the rain forest, sailing, fishing, museums, local crafts and duty-free shopping.
The West Coast, the so-called Platinum Coast, featuring posh resorts and powdery coral beaches, is popular among Europeans.
The South Coast, which has night clubs and partying hot spots at St. Lawrence Gap, is popular among Americans.
Barbados is not a budget destination. It gets nearly 1 million tourists a year, half from cruise boats.
Vibrant Bridgetown is the capital and the social hub. Its Broad Street features boutiques and department stores.
POPULAR BEACHES INCLUDE Crane and Bottom Bay on the east and Brighton and Mullins on the west.
BARBADOS IS KNOWN AS the birthplace of rum. It features tours looking at the history, refining, aging, blending and bottling of rum.
Mount Gay Rum is a local favorite and is the oldest distiller of rum.
There are an estimated 1,600 rum shops on the island. In fact, rum came from a Bajan word, rumbullion.
FARLEY HILL NATIONAL PARK at the northern end of the island features the falling-down remains of a sugar plantation that dates to 1818. The plantation home of Thomas Graham Briggs was once the most imposing mansion on Barbados. It was a setting in the 1956 film "Island in the Sun" and was later destroyed by fire.
Tyrol Cot Heritage Village at Bridgetown features the 1854 white-and-orange house of coral and ballast bricks with green shutters. It was the one-time home of Sir Grantley and Lady Adams. He was the first premier of the island, which became independent from Britain in 1966.
A local village has been re-created on the grounds, complete with chattel houses - colorful, small, movable houses owned by workers on the sugar cane plantations.
After emancipation, the one-time slaves were allowed to own houses but not land. Their homes had to be small and mobile.
THE BARBADOS NATIONAL
Trust offers a glimpse of the island's natural and cultural history on the Arbib Heritage and Nature Trail near Speightstown.
The guided walks along Whim Gully provide a look at the island's plants and geology. Hikers also visit an old plantation, a historic fort, a Bajan community and a pretty beach. Storytellers tell tales of the island's colorful past.
Hikes are offered at 9 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. Tickets are $15 for adults and $7.50 for youngsters. Advance reservations are required.
For more information, contact the trust at Wildey House, Wildey, St. Michael, Barbados; www.barbados .org.
BARBADOS GOT ITS NAME from Portuguese who visited the island in 1537 on the way to Brazil. They named the island Los Barbados, or the "the bearded ones," for the bearded fig trees with aerial roots that grow downward to the ground. English settlers arrived in 1627.
Unlike other Caribbean islands, Barbados is the top of a mountain of coral and limestone, not a volcanic formation.