MESSAGE: Trinidad & Tobago

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI previously made the mistake of lumping all Caribbean Islands together, but they of course all have their individual personalities – especially Trinidad & Tobago! What a fun, warm, welcoming culture!

As the southern-most islands in the chain, lying a mere 7 miles from the shores of Venezuela, the dual island nation has historically been ruled by the Dutch, Spanish, French, and British, finally winning independence from the Commonwealth in the early 1960s.

During my short time there I discovered how truly lovely the islands are. Here’re my 7 insider tips to Trinidad & Tobago (otherwise known as T&T):

MEET (Cool Meet Ups) – Maracas Beach: Just a short drive from the capital Port of Spain, Maracas is one of the country’s best beaches, known for its long bay and tropical beauty. The day we went there were a few rain showers but that didn’t dampen the fun!

Trinidad_Scorpion_Butch_T_PepperEAT (Tasty Eats) – Scorpion Peppers: Trinidad is known to be home to one of the hottest peppers in the world which is important to know when you’re ordering food. Spice is included in everything, so when asked, it’s advisable to always reply “slight” in terms of spiciness.

SHOP (Gotta Have) – Zabouca Breads: OK, full disclosure, this is my friend’s artisan bakery. But nepotism aside, it truly has the best-tasting fresh baked bread anywhere. Even better – all the flour is organic.

The multi-grain is heavenly, as are the hand-made breakfast bars. If you’re in the neighborhood, stop by early since they sell out. They also have a gluten-free line of breads, muffins, crackers, cookies, and pizza. Zabouca, by the way, means avocado.

SEE (Must-see Sights) – The panyards! I wandered around one day as the bands were gearing up for Carnival. The panyards are home to steelpan bands, which used the tops of 5-gallon oil drums as instruments. Considered the national instrument of the islands, pans play a central role in Carnival and competition among your local band is fierce.

Here’s a sample:

Can’t see the video? Click this link: Steelpan Bands

Pan playerACTIVITY (Gotta Do) – Liming: Actually liming is the distinct lack of activity, otherwise known as “chilling” or “hanging.” You do it day or night, always with friends. Not to be confused with a raging party (known as a “fete”), limes usually start with just a couple of friends sitting around the yard. The most important aspect of liming is that you do it casually, without trying. You simply lime.

GIVE (Greatest Need) – Healing With Horses: This nonprofit organization was created to enable children from different backgrounds and varying physical abilities to participate in therapy and creative play.

Located on Tobago, the org introduces children to rescue horses and promotes bonding and affection with the horses, along with the physical benefits of strengthening and improved balance from horseback riding. Want to get involved? You can volunteer and donate on the web.

ENJOY (Extra Fun) – Carnival. Trinidad and Tobago’s Carnival is one of the most multicultural, combining Amerindian, European, African, Indian, Chinese and Middle Eastern influences. This global dynamic is further shaped by the country’s famous calypso music and the more recently popularized soca music.

The hotly contested music competitions name a Calypso Monarch and a Soca Monarch, as well as King and Queens of the Bands. In addition to the music, costumes and dancing take center stage.

Occurring each year on the Monday and Tuesday before Ash Wednesday, I missed Carnival this year by a matter of weeks, but I won’t make that mistake again! Carnival in 2016 is Feb. 8-9 and Feb. 27-28 in 2017.

I’ll be returning to Trinidad & Tobago again and fully expect to participate in Carnival, enjoy the fetes, and practice my lime. Want to join me?

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This entry was posted on Friday, January 30th, 2015 and is filed under North America.

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