With a week off for Spring Break, we hopped on Air Canada for a flight down to Trinidad and Tobago. We spent the first three nights in Buccoo, a small fishing village in Tobago. Buccoo is very laid back; our days consisted of coffee and buns at the local bakery, hanging around the pristine beach, and watching the fishermen bring in their catch and the goats get ready for goat racing (yes, it’s a thing).
We stayed at Miller’s Guest House, which was an ideal location for us. They have an on-site restaurant, Luvinia’s, where we sampled a few wonderful dishes, but they also have a communal kitchen, where we cooked some freshly-caught cavalli fish with potatoes and carrots and mixed our own Angostura rum and Cokes. Also in Buccoo is the Sunday night party called “Sunday School”, an open-air forum where a steel band plays from about 9-10 pm, then a dj plays and the crowd, both local and tourist, dance until the early hours. A small bar sells Carib beer and rum drinks, and local vendors set up food stalls so you can try Tobago’s traditional treats, such as shark and bake (a fried fish sandwich on local bread), callaloo and saltfish, jerked chicken, macaroni pie, and beans. All of which is, of course, delicious.
From Buccoo, there are options for sightseeing. Pop’s Tours will set up a fishing expedition, a glass-bottom boat to the Buccoo Reef, a swim in the Nylon Pool, or an island tour to see some waterfalls. Healing with Horses is a local stable that will take you on a horseback ride along the beach to the popular Pigeon Point. We decided to take the local bus (always an adventure) into Scarborough, the biggest city on the island. There we visited the library (I’m a librarian, and I always like to see local ones- this one was really nice!! and air conditioned!!) and then we walked up to Fort King George to see the view and tour their museum, well worth visiting. We had a local lunch in town and then took the bus back (another adventure!).
Then we took the 30 minute flight (at just $25, it’s really a much better option than the 4-6 hour ferry, which is often late and one of which caught on fire this week) to Trinidad, where we stayed in the capital city Port of Spain for three days. We stayed at the Inn at 87, a small inn by the Queen’s Park Savannah. Port of Spain is….well, it’s a big city, by island standards, and like all cities it has its high points and its low points. Arapiata Avenue, called “the Avenue” by locals, is where Carnival happens in February and where the bars and restaurants are located. The Queen’s Park Savannah is a large park which features a sporting stadium, and most nights (or at least weekends and festivals) there is a set up of local vendors and food stalls. There we were able to try the Trinidadian specials we had been on the look out for: doubles (a kind of Indian fry-bread topped with chickpeas, hot pepper sauce, sweet chutney, and coleslaw); roti (chapati with meat and aloo and pepper sauce); corn soup; and pholouri (a kind of dough ball, fried, and dipped in mango chutney or tamarind sauce).
Along the western edge of Queen’s Park there is a row of the “Magnificent Seven”, some historic buildings that date back to the 1800s, when Trinidad was a British colony. Along the northern edge of the park is the zoo, and next to that is the Botanic Gardens, nice to stroll through. South of the park (which some say is the largest roundabout in the world, 3.7 km), around the Woodford Square area, you can find the Old Library (a lovely building, being restored), the Red House (the prime minister’s office), the Old Police Station (much nicer than the current “Hall of Justice”), and a museum. We used my GPSMyCity app to go on a self-guided walking tour of these buildings. Unfortunately for us, all of these were closed for the Good Friday/Easter weekend, but we did get to see the gorgeous facades. Happily, Bob’s on Marli (street) was open during the holiday so I didn’t starve (although not much else was open- Trinidadians take their public holiday VERY seriously).
For my last day in town, I hired a driver and explored out of Port of Spain a bit. He took me down to the Pitch Lake, the largest tar lake in the world. I got to walk around the spongy tar surface- don’t stand in one place too long or you’ll start sinking!- and I visited the museum there, which I thought was fascinating. Most of the world’s roads are made with pitch (tar) that comes from Trinidad! There’s another tar lake in Venezuela (actually it’s the same as Trinidad’s lake, as they used to be connected millions of years ago) and one in Southern California. We visited a hot pepper sauce stand with some amazing sauces (so of course I had to buy a bottle to take home for Chris), and then we went by the Temple by the Sea, a Hindu temple in village of Waterloo (there is a large Hindu population of Trinidad, which greatly influences their cuisine). We also drove along the Caroni Bird Sanctuary, but it started to rain so we didn’t see many birds (there are over 480 bird species in Trinidad, many of them quite rare. They are known for their Scarlet Ibis).
I flew home overnight on Air Canada, and had Sunday to rest up before heading back to work, ready to finish the last quarter of the school year. Chris had left Trinidad the day before me, and is visiting St Lucia for a few days before heading home. Here’s a shot he sent me from his hotel.
*A note on visiting Trinidad and Tobago: currently, you pretty much have to land in Trinidad first and then fly on Caribbean Airlines to Tobago. However, a possible deal with JetBlue is in the works to get a direct flight into Tobago from some US cities. If I were to visit again, I’d skip Trinidad altogether. But, I am glad that I visited it this week, because that way I can give you all the facts about both islands in this interesting country. (okay, maybe not all the facts but you know what I mean).
Questions/comments about Trinidad or Tobago? Let me know in the comments section:
6 thoughts on “Trinidad and Tobago: Two Islands, One Nation”
Interesting read! I didn’t know trinidad and tobago were seperate islands.
They really had quite different feels to them. I definitely got the feeling that Tobagodians feel they are quite different than Trinidadians, they corrected me a few times when I mentioned Trinidadian food.
Tobago sounds lovely, I’d love to try all that exotic food. And Pitch Lake sounds really weird.
Pitch Lake was definitely a highlight! And I did love the food in both Trinidad and Tobago. Worth visiting!
I love visiting historic houses! Those look gorgeous! and…goat races? How strange!
I know, right? But we really enjoyed chatting with a goat racer guy while he was giving his goat a bath in the ocean. Local traditions are the best!