Over the Mother’s Day weekend, Ryan and I flew down to Trinidad to visit his grandmother. I had never been before, and the last time Ryan had visited was five or so years previous, so we were both excited to explore.
Day One in Trinidad
Ryan, his dad, and I arrived at 4:30am on Saturday morning and one of Ryan’s uncles picked us up. On the drive from the airport to Port of Spain, we stopped at an overlook to see the city waking up in the early dawn light. In the photo above, the open space at the left is the Queen’s Park Savannah, the world’s largest roundabout.
A massive millipede, as well as birdsong and rooster crowing, greeted us at Grandma’s house. Ryan and I arrived just at the end of the dry season/start of the rainy season, so there weren’t many mosquitoes. We did, however, bring bug spray and a mosquito net for sleeping. Our ankles were bitten in the evening, but there were no where near as many mosquitoes as Ryan remembers.
Grandma’s house has a little courtyard for plants and laundry (and lizard-catching, for kids). We dropped our bags, met Grandma, and then changed into shorts and t-shirts. For breakfast at 8 am, we piled back in the car and went to buy hot doubles, which were even better than the ones we get in Toronto and super fresh! We had planned to bring them back to eat at Grandma’s house, but when we stopped by a family friend’s house to surprise them, we were strongly encouraged to eat the doubles fresh and hot, without a moment to lose! We spent part of the afternoon napping as we had barely slept on the 5.5 hour flight.
In the evening, we stopped by the Savannah to get fresh coconuts to drink. The vendor whacked at the green coconuts with a machete for us to get at the refreshing coconut water inside. We then stopped by Ryan’s dad’s weekly lime spot at the edge of the Savannah. A ‘lime’ is a casual get-together, and this one took place every Saturday evening for the last forty years! A bunch of old school friends still play football together on Saturday afternoons; when the sun sets, they bring out ‘supplies’ – that is, snacks and dinners and drinks and dessert. Since it was the day before mother’s day, someone showed up with ice cream and a cake! After meeting everyone, we headed over to the Savannah night market where several tents were set up and vendors were serving hot food. We bought a bowl of delicious and creamy corn soup, thick oxtail soup, a bag of pholouries with tamarind sauce, and fried kingfish. The lines were not long and everyone was very friendly. Unfortunately there weren’t many seats in the public area, so we did what most people do, and ate in the car.
Day Two in Trinidad
Another view of Grandma’s courtyard and the stairs leading up to the lane. On Mother’s Day, we woke up early (it’s too hot to sleep in, plus the singing birds are so loud!) and had a breakfast of toasted hops bread (white buns), roasted melongene (eggplant), saltfish, baby bananas, and pomeracs.
The temperatures soared to 30C (feeling like 36C with the humidity) and the sun was blistering, but that means gorgeous plants and flowers grow everywhere!
The lane that leads to Grandma’s house.
On Mother’s Day, we went out to get ‘supplies’ for an afternoon lime. That means lots and lots of fluids!
We picked up a case of Carib beer as well as a case of Carib shandies. A shandy is a beer cocktail that is very sweet and comes in different flavours – we got sorrel, ginger beer, and lime. The rest of the day was spent in Grandma’s living room, meeting Ryan’s aunts, uncles, and cousins who came by to wish Grandma a happy mother’s day. One of the aunts cooked a delicious lunch of coconut bake, callaloo, stew chicken, and salad. This was all washed down with copious amounts of beer, shandies, rum, and babash – the local moonshine. Many of the visitors then went to the first floor of the house and jammed on anything from a guitar and mandolin to the box base and harmonica. It seems everyone in Trinidad knows how to play at least one instrument!
Day Three in Trinidad
On our third day in Trinidad, we went to the beach. Apparently the beaches were packed on the weekend, so we got up nice and early on Monday morning to have the beach all to ourselves.
Unfortunately there wasn’t much opportunity to walk around the city, but I was able to snap photos on our drive to the beach.
Here is a shot of the Savannah in the daytime. It’s an open field where people play football and other sports like cricket. Joggers and walkers lap the 3.5 km loop of the Savannah.
These magnificent ‘castles,’ mansions from the Spanish colonial era, surround the Savannah.
On our third day, we headed to Maracas Beach and Las Cuevas Beach. On the way, we drove by Ryan’s dad’s old school.
The students had open-air classrooms that faced onto the valley – a gorgeous setting.
The drive to Maracas Beach was only 14 km, but it took us almost 1.5 hours to drive there because of winding roads over the mountains. Here we stopped at a lookout and we could see Maracas Beach in the distance.
Pink and orange bougainvillea were everywhere.
Two or three food stalls were set up at the lookout and sold sweets, salty snacks, and pickled fruit. I tried a pickled pommecythere, which was equally salty, sour, and sweet. Despite having traveled to various tropical places in southeast Asia and the Caribbean, there were some fruits I had never seen or heard of before, like the pomerac, pommecythere, noni, chennette, and chataigne. Not all of them were in season in early May, so I definitely want to come back and taste them all!
Las Cuevas Beach is less busy and less touristy than Maracas Beach, and the water is generally calmer. Although the day we visited we were pummeled by some waves and Ryan lost (and then luckily found) his glasses. The beach itself was very clean and beautiful, with soft sand and shaded areas to leave our bags while we went in for a dip.
Ryan and I visited Trinidad just at the beginning of mango season, and we spotted dozens of trees just dripping with green mangoes. Ryan had always told me of the numerous varieties of mangoes available in Trinidad, and I just wanted to try each and every one!
Apparently the following week was the start of turtle nesting season. Several species of turtles nest on the north and eastern shores of Trinidad.
Luckily, we didn’t visit during Portuguese man o’ war season!
After swimming at the beach and getting covered in salt and sand, we stopped at Richard’s to buy bake and shark for lunch!
We were given freshly fried bake and fried shark, and then we attacked the toppings bar!
We loaded up on shadow beni sauce, garlic sauce, tamarind sauce, lettuce, shredded cabbage, tomatoes, and cucumbers. I skipped the mustard and ketchup and didn’t miss them one bit!
They were so delicious! Pity I only ate one…
On our way back from the beach, we visited another of Ryan’s uncles. He had several types of orchids growing in his front courtyard.
The orchids just seem to do their thing here in Trinidad. Meanwhile, I’ve already murdered two orchid plants in my Toronto apartment.
The neighbourhood roosters woke us up at 5 am every morning.
Spot the lizard!
After bringing back bake and shark for everyone at Grandma’s house, we headed out to the local mall. We visited Long Circular Mall to buy snacks and gifts for friends back home, including tamarind balls, barfi, paw paw balls, and toolum, a sweet made from brown sugar, molasses, and coconut. I spotted this t-shirt and just had to snap a photo!
On our drive back from the mall, we finally spotted a mango vendor. He was selling several types of mangoes by the roadside, but we just got two: starch mangoes and Julie mangoes (along with another fruit called pomerac). The mangoes were smaller than the ones we get in Toronto, and had a different but familiar taste similar to those I’ve eaten elsewhere in the world. Ryan and I polished off eight mangoes by breakfast the next day.
Day Four in Trinidad
Our last day wasn’t a full day, as we had to catch a 1 pm flight back to Toronto. After waking up and eating hops bread and cheese and mangoes for breakfast, we packed our bags and headed to downtown Port of Spain for our final stop. A few years ago, Ryan’s mom had given us a bottle of very potent, very dark vanilla essence from the wholesaler that supplies all of Trinidad with food flavours and colours. Obviously we had to get a big bottle of the delicious vanilla; we also got smaller vanilla bottles for gifts, as well as small bottles of butter, pistachio, ginger beer, and passionfruit essence. These are so strong that we only need a few drops to flavour whatever baked goods we make, but I am already regretting not buying more!
We arrived at the airport and got ready for our flight back to Toronto. It was only a four day trip, but I think I got some idea of what Trinidad is like, and I can’t wait to go back!