It’s pretty hard to get over a trip to the Caribbean. The holiday blues still linger, I long to be back on the west side of Barbados chilling on the beautiful sandy beaches, marching through the hustle and bustle of Carnival in Trinidad and relaxing in beautiful Tobago.
I had the dream holiday, far away from the realities of Brexit, the ongoing obscenities of Trump and the coldness (people and weather) that London can bring. Don’t get me wrong, London is a brilliant city but this trip was so far the other extreme; life is slower, people are friendlier; it was refreshing to escape ‘always on’ London for a moment.
This holiday was a real opportunity to experience the local culture led by our friends with Bajan and Trinidadian roots.
Here are my highlights from Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago and I hope that it offers inspiration to other travellers too.
WHEN IN BARBADOS
- GET ON A YELLOW BUS!
How can I come back to London and get back on the dull public transport now I’ve experienced the yellow buses in Barbados?! Wouldn’t our morning commutes be so much better if blasting reggae and 90s R&B kept us company as we gear up for the working day? Of course it helps that the sunny Caribbean disposition contributes to this experience but surely we could lighten up a little and rejuvenate the grey days here just by introducing some music…
2.VISIT SPEIGHTSTOWN AND BEACH
One of my favourite things in Barbados was exploring Speightstown, also known as Little Bristol. Speightstown is full of old colonial charms; it has a rawness to it that the more developed Bridgetown doesn’t. We stopped off after a walk to bathe in the turquoise and tranquil sea.
3.EAT AT OISTINS ON A FRIDAY NIGHT
You MUST dine at Oistins. Oistins is an active fishing town and on a Friday night, Fish Fry is the big event. It’s not glamourous, it’s not pretentious and it’s not expensive. It’s wonderful food, local vibe. I’m dreaming about the smell of grilled fish cooking on the barbeques, take me back!
At Oistins, I’d highly recommend ‘Georges’. We were recommended this place by several locals and I promise it doesn’t disappoint. (Also a tip is to grab a table seat and not queue for food as they actually do table service.) I followed my friend’s recommendation, the Blue Marlin, a rather meaty fish steak served with macaroni pie, salad and rice. It was SO GOOD. So good that on my second visit back to Oistins I didn’t dare stray away from this.
4.SEE HARRISON’S CAVE
It’s pretty easy to just play in the sea and sleep on the beach so if you’re looking for something cultural to do why not visit Harrison’s Cave. It’s super impressive and you can take a tram tour in and around the cave where they drop you off at different points so you can take photos. It gets quite wet in the cave so wear trainers. We tried to book a walking tour but it seems they don’t run these very often as they cancelled on us before we arrived but the tram is still a great experience.
5.GET ON A BOAT CRUISE AND SNORKEL OVER A SHIP WRECK AND SEE TURTLES
We booked ourselves on to the ‘Jammin Cruise Catamaran’ and it was one of the best highlights of our trip. The package comprises of free drinks and great food too and lasts from 9am -2pm. There’s an opportunity to swim in the sea after snorkeling too. And party with the staff, they’re brilliant!
After Barbados we headed to Trinidad. Our first few days here were spent exploring south Trinidad where my friend was from and we stayed with her lovely, welcoming family in Siparia.
WHEN IN TRINIDAD…
1.SEE PITCH LAKE
Pitch Lake is the largest natural deposit of asphalt in the world, ‘discovered’ by British adventurer Sir Walter Raleigh in 1595. It’s a truly impressive lake and as you take the tour it feels like walking on marshmallow, soft and squidgy underneath your feet. You feel how alive it is, you can feel the warmth of the tar as it bubbles and radiates beneath the surface. And here you will see the most beautiful natural formations of algae, sulphur and iron ore. These ‘sulphur pools’ are a natural remedy for healing skin conditions and visitors can bathe in them.
2. SEE A STEEL PAN GROUP
One of my other favourite moments in Siparia was watching the Deltones steel pan group rehearse through the evening. I cannot get over the sheer effort, talent and dedication I witnessed, an incredible melody that blew us away in the middle of the night.
3. VISIT TOBAGO
Before more friends joined us from London, we headed to Tobago to stay in the most wonderful villa, overlooking the beautiful mountains on the island. What a view.
We wanted to make the most of the calm before the storm (Carnival was about to hit us!) Magnificent sunset and amazing company was all we needed.
Highly recommended Air B&B: Eagles Based Villa
4. PLAY CARNIVAL
So then we travelled back to Trinidad for Carnival. Carnival is a season but there are two big days. Monday is J’Ouvert which means “dawn” or “daybreak”.
At 4am we are ready for the large street party in Port of Spain (North Trinidad). J’ouvert is super messy, partygoers chuck oil, grease and liquid and powder paint, essentially painting the streets with mud and colour as the sun rises.
The second day is Carnival Tuesday where bands take to the streets. The parade is a colourful affair; bands adorn full outfits and make up, feathers, glitter and sequins. The sea of colour that dominates the streets is beautiful to watch. But I think the true experience really comes from playing ‘Mas’ not just observing it. Unfortunately we left it a little too late to play Mas, with outfits costing up to 300 USD by the time we had all agreed on it as a group, so book early!
One day I’ll see the rest of the Caribbean but for now I’ve been grateful enough to experience all of this so far and it’s been truly wonderful.