Mare and I moan in delight upon entering our luxurious Hyatt Hotel room that overlooks the Gulf of Paria in Port of Spain, Trinidad. We slip into hotel robes, crack some Carib beer, and then sit on our private balcony where we stare at silent cargo ships. Today is Christmas Eve. Santa’s sleigh arrives as a room service cart. Oh yeah, Babe, that’s what I’m talking about. This is a trip where we do nothing but relax.
On Christmas day we roam around the hotel before deciding to not use the gym facilities. Instead, we have some spicy tuna pie for breakfast. Ah, the tropics certainly are nature’s version of Viagra. All shops downtown in Port of Spain are closed anyway, and warm rain forces us to stay inside. For Christmas dinner, let’s sip martinis and eat sushi.
The day after Christmas is Boxing Day. Yes, everybody drives on the left side of the road here. We hit the streets and find that again, all shops and restaurants are closed. We take a two-hour walk in the humidity, around the Queen’s Park Savannah and along a row of plantation owner mansions called “The Magnificent Seven.” These mansions were built in early 1900. Trinidad gained independence from the UK about 50 years ago. Different from most Caribbean Islands, Trinidad has a thriving oil industry and is not dependent on tourism. Perhaps that is why folks around here seem genuinely friendly.
Okay, time to do something. We arrange for Ian, a friend of the concierge, to drive us north, along the twisty Saddle Road over the mountains, to Maracas Bay on the Caribbean. Trinidad is the southernmost Caribbean island. Long ago, this hunk of the Andes mountain range broke from South America, and now sits across from Venezuela. Tobago is the tourist island of this country, and we choose to avoid the ferry that could take us there. Instead, we hang with the locals on the beach.
Hot Bake Shark highlights every vendor’s shed in the small beach community of Maracas. A ball of deep fried dough is cut in half, and then filled with breaded, deep fried shark. Hot peppers, tamarind (I wish someone would have told me not to eat the seeds) garlic sauce and lettuce are some of the fixings for this tasty sandwich. Despite all the deep fry, we rarely spot any folks who are overweight. As a matter of fact, most men, women and children are downright beautiful. One man explains that most folks fill their glasses with scotch. No wonder they are so friendly. “Come back during Carnival,” he says. “Everybody shares food and booze and nobody’s a stranger.”
Although Mare and I have been together for some 24 years, we’re acting like young honeymooners. Yeah, babe, nothing like a tropical island to kick things ups a notch! Later, back at our hotel we find an escape from deep fried food, and munch on some fresh grilled kingfish and veggies.
After two days on the beach, we look forward to returning for our final night of paradise in the luxurious Hyatt. The beach is great, but the Maracas Bay Resort offers an overpriced (US100) block cement room that should only earn maybe US30 nightly, if it were not the only game in town.
Back in Port of Spain, we venture onto the now busy streets to taste some street food, Roti, the unofficial national dish. Roti comes with goat, beef, chicken, shrimp or vegetables, cooked in curry and smothered in sauces from mango to potato, and then rolled in a cornbread/like tortilla. Full and satisfied, we head back to the Hyatt…where we relax one final evening. Ron Mitchell