There’s No Substitute

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A pop star on a pedalo? A showbiz celebrity at the shops? A footballer in a bar? You’re almost certain to bump into a big name if you take a break in balmy Barbados.

It is the sunshine retreat for the rich and famous, after all. Simon Cowell, Sir Cliff Richard, Cilla Black and local girl made good Rihanna all have homes here.

Pretty swanky ones, too, alongside the sun-kissed ocean in the exclusive St James area.

Inevitably, where there’s that kind of money, there’s everything to cater for that kind of lifestyle. Multi-million-pound yachts in the new marina, exclusive golf courses and hotels, top-name brands in the shops, the finest restaurants.

All of it under a golden Caribbean sun and against a backdrop of palm trees, pale yellow sand and an aquamarine ocean.

Big names ... the BA Legends tournament

Big names … the BA Legends tournament

Trust me, it’s special — extra special if you’re a football fan jetting in during the month of May. That’s when some of the greatest names in the game gather here for the British Airways Legends tournament, a six-a-side challenge played out at the world-famous Kensington Oval cricket ground in the capital Bridgetown.

So just imagine strolling down the beach and spotting ex-England captain Alan Shearer soaking up some rays as he chats with old Newcastle United team-mates Steve Watson and Shaka Hislop.

Or spotting the legendary Gianfranco Zola taking a coffee with former Chelsea buddies Jimmy Floyd-Hasselbaink, Gus Poyet, Frank Leboeuf and Roberto Di Matteo.

And is that Dwight Yorke in the white baseball cap and shades, sipping a freshly-made fruit punch and laughing at Andrew Cole’s antics on a jet ski? It sure is.

League of its own ... the Almond Casuarina Beach Resort Hotel

League of its own … the Almond Casuarina Beach Resort Hotel

But hang on a minute, don’t even think about trying to take on Teddy Sheringham at cards as he relaxes in the shade with ex-Spurs men Darren Anderton and David Howells.

Teddy’s just getting ready for his next poker tournament, his new passion since finally ending a glittering soccer career that included spells at Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur, West Ham United and Millwall.

Quite a gathering of football folklore then, all in one place and all at one time.

A footie fest for fans, an autograph hunter’s dream and a wannabe WAG’s paradise.

The Almond Casuarina Beach Resort Hotel had never seen anything like it. Forget four stars, this was 50 stars all under the same roof.

And a jolly time was had by all at this superbly-situated beachfront hotel, especially if you were lucky enough to occupy one of the spacious rooms with a sea view over-looking the splendid bay. Great food, too. A wide-ranging choice of breakfasts to enjoy on the terrace, daily barbecues on the beach for lunch and excellent a la carte dining in the evening with the waves lapping on to the sand close by.

Legend ... Gianfranco Zola

Legend … Gianfranco Zola

Don’t worry, though, if you can’t distinguish Wayne Rooney from Wayne Sleep or John Terry from Halle Berry.

If star-spotting’s not your style, there’s still endless scope for fun on the island.

You could just go to the beach, lie back on your sunbed and just chill every day — well OK maybe chill’s not the best word when it’s almost 90°F out there!

But that would be a shame because Barbados has so much more to offer than simply sun, sea and sand. There’s so much history and tradition here, not to mention stunning scenery.

So why not jump into a jeep for a safari of the island, from the breathtaking coastal roads to the dense forest in the hinterland.

Visit the old sugar plantation homes and travel back in time to the days when they were in full flow rather than museum pieces.

Take a trip around a nearby rum distillery and sample a drop or two of the local nectar, but be warned, go steady!

Especially if your next outing is going on one of the many boat trips that sail around the island. That’s a hell of a way to see the island from a completely different perspective.

Another great opportunity to have fun and see the island is on a Segway.

Don’t know what a Segway is? It’s what the security guy uses in the movie Mall Cop.

Still not sure? Well it’s basically a motorised two-wheeler that you stand up to ride and control with the handlebars and your body. Lean and push forward (smoothly and gently!) to go forward, lean and pull back to move backwards.

It only takes about five minutes to master the machines and then the island is yours. And those Segways can’t half shift if you are a bit of a daredevil, boy-racer type.

Or you can go as smooth and slow as you like. Either way, it’s hours of fun and you get to explore at the same time. A real win-win scenario.

Which sums up Barbados, really.

It’s one of the very few places on the planet that really can be all things to all people.

So get out there and see for yourself.

Because if you can’t have the perfect holiday here, well there’s something wrong with you, not this idyllic island.

I am definitely going back — and the sooner the better. Now where did I put my mankini?