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Barbadians, or Bajans in local parlance, consider their island nation the most British of the Caribbean: Queen Elizabeth II is still head of state, and English products are stocked in many of its stores and restaurants. Barbados is known as the birthplace of international pop star Rihanna, but it has also produced some of the biggest Caribbean calypso and soca music stars. The summer Crop Over festival is a huge carnival event. With live music and crafts for sale, the popular Friday fish fry at Oistins Bay is a fun place to mingle with the locals.
Centered around a waterway called the Careenage and its handsome Chamberlain Bridge, the historic center of Bridgetown, the country's capital, was granted UNESCO World Heritage status in 2011 for its wealth of British colonial architecture dating from the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. Among the famous figures who visited Bridgetown when it was at its peak was none other than George Washington, who spent two months in 1751 in a house that still stands today, on his only trip abroad.
Barbados is only 34 kilometers (21 miles) long, and even if your time is limited, you can explore much of the island using Bridgetown as your base. The less populated, rugged east coast of this coral island is strikingly beautiful and home to a number of different turtle species. The west coast, often nicknamed the "Platinum Coast," is where you'll find some of the island's most popular beaches and biggest mansions. The interior, with its 340-meter-high (1,115-foot-high) Mount Hillaby, historic sugar plantations and lush gardens, will lure you away from the beach for a few hours.