About Me

Living in the Caribbean is probably like living anywhere else, with the same ups and downs. But it does have its own vibe and flavour and gives me a unique perspective on most things. I'm often sarcastic, mostly funny, always looking for a new adventure. I have not boxed myself into any one category of life. I love a lot of things and dislike a lot more. I write about them all.

Saturday Brunch at Dianne's Tea Shop, Maraval

After a really bad week and a late night at the office on Friday, I was not looking forward to waking up early on Saturday. But I was looking forward to meeting up with the girls, as promised. One had to happen for the other to come to pass, so I got up and got going, and headed to Dianne's Tea Shop on Long Circular Road in Maraval.

Firstly, pet peeve...pet peeve. There needs to be a sign. If you don't know where you are going, you will never find it. My co-pilot had seen a photo of the place and so we parked and hoped for the best as we exited the vehicle and ventured to the front door. Signage generally is needed. If there is indeed a sign, it is not strategically located. I had to double back. Not cool. Fail.

However, let's go inside. Beautiful. Very sleek, very modern. If you like the look and feel of a posh tea shop, this is the place for you. For some, the all white exterior was not warm and inviting enough for a tea shop but it really does come down to personal taste at the end of the day. What I will say, regardless of what your decor tastes are, you surely felt the warmth from Dianne at the front door. Genuine warmth and welcome. Gold star.

Time to eat and I was a bit disappointed in the menu options. Maybe being new, the menu is a bit limited but I had a hard time choosing something as the options for me, were not that varied. But it being close to lunch, I decided I would try the pasta - Neapolitan rustic scented with garlic basil and white wine reduction, with grilled chicken. My friends ordered different things from the breakfast and lunch menu, and so we waited.

Well, let me also say that for a tea shop, the range of hot beverages also seemed a bit limited and this was a real deal breaker for me. The range of teas as offered to us by our server did not seem to be very wide, and of course I asked about coffee and was offered the choice of a latte or a cappuccino. That's it. If there were more options, we were not offered these. I was really disappointed by this - total fail for me. I was also distressed by the long wait for our hot drinks. Some cappies came with cinnamon and a spoon, some did not. Had to ask. Limited cold beverage service as well. I mean, I know it is a tea shop, but most tea shops I have been to still offer a mimosa! I was really jonesin' for a Saturday morning mimosa with my brunch!! Had to settle for a glass of water. Not cool. Fail.

The food got there, and it was tasty, but it seemed standard. Presentation was also a bit lacking with the pasta I had ordered. The eating experience did not live up to the meal's description either. I also had to ask for parmesan. I should not have to ask.

My pasta order - the chicken just kinda lay there. 

DH Sandwich - turkey breast, enmenthal cheese, peach jam, radiccio
and alfalfa in multigrain bread slices. Much better presentation!

Panini time!

One of my friends had an unusually long wait for her order - it came long after we had gotten ours and we had started eating.

Dianne's also has a lovely array of products such as preserves and cookies, as well as kitchenware from which to choose while at the shop. So you can have tea and then take home some nibbles for later. Always a winning outcome!

Still, as a new establishment, there were some pros and there were some cons. I am sure there are a lot of teething issues to be sorted out, which I am sure will  be sorted out soon. The enthusiasm and good nature of the owner truly indicates that this is a work in progress, and judging from the number of guests there that morning, there is certainly a lot of interest and certainly there are a lot hungry bellies out there. Best of luck!

21 ways to know me

So I don't usually do these types of things, but I was tagged by the lovely Ray.

1. Are you named after someone? No. I am unique.
2. When was the last time you cried? A couple months ago I think.
3. Do you have kiddos? No. But my nephew and niece are like mine anyway. They have kidnapped my heart.
4. If you were another person, would you be a friend to yourself? Most definitely! I’m fun, crazy, but I am also fiercely loyal to those I let into my world.
5. Do you have a guilty pleasure? Not sure how to answer this. Haagen Dazs and Friday nights, maybe.
6. Do you like your handwriting? I used to when I was younger – before the age of computers and fast-paced corporate life. My handwriting is now like a doctor’s scrawl.
7. What’s your favorite cereal? Cheerios. I buy nothing else. The plain one too – not the sugary one. Sometimes though I add muesli or if I really want to pig out, some Special K or Honey Bunches of Oats!

Cheerios - the best!

8. What’s the first thing you notice about people? Their smile and how they interact with people. You can tell if someone is genuinely warm by the way they smile and greet you. I don’t do fakers/haters.
9. What is your eye color? Chocolate brown. Like the rest of me.
10. Scary movie or happy endings? Meh. I like old-school scary movies like The Omen. New-school scary movies are not scary, so I guess I like happy endings more. However, I like endings that are not cliché so if it is happy for the sake of putting a happy ending, then no.
11. Favorite TV show? I have to pick just one? No way. Game of Thrones, Hannibal. I stuck to two. That’s reasonable. I just want to add that I don't like sit-coms so I don't watch them. I like dramas all the way.

Hugh Dancy as Will Graham in NBC's"Hannibal". Hugh Dancy is my everything! 

12. Summer of Winter? I live in the Caribbean!! I have lived in London and I can tell you though, I don’t hate winter. I LOATHE it. However, being the diva that I am, I love winter fashion, especially being able to wear boots. If I had to say one thing about living in the Caribbean, one cannot wear boots here as a regular thing. I hate that.

Leggings and boots - super sexy, yet casual. Love.

13. Hugs or Kisses? I love both. Who wrote this?
14. What’s the furthest you’ve ever been from home? Somewhere in Europe. I don’t want to check the map to see which was furthest!!
15. Do you have any special talents? I roll my eyes like a champion!!! I also sing and I have been told when I really put some effort into it, my writing is tops. My blog is not a real reflection of that.
16. Where were you born? San Fernando, Trinidad.
17. What are your hobbies? Too tired for hobbies. Lol. But okay okay…cooking, writing, travelling.
18. Do you have any pets? Fidel the dog. He is not really MY pet. He is the family dog and I don’t really take ownership. I love dogs but when my dog was dognapped several years ago, it broke my heart. I have never gotten over that so every dog that has followed, I have divorced myself from it.
19. Favorite movie? Again, I cannot choose one. The Godfather, The Lord of the Rings, Gladiator. Will stop at three. I like dramas here too, but will watch a rom-com or chick flick, depending on the quality. I will watch most anything starring Sandra Bullock for example. She is just a natural rom-com actress.
20. What color is your car? Metallic grey.
21. What do you want to be when you grow up? Happy.

Island Girl Problems - Perfect and not so Perfect Vacations

Inside the Byodo-In Temple,
Oahu, Hawaii
Initially, vacation was off the cards for this year. I have a major project which is ongoing, which I felt would be negatively impacted by the expense of a vacation. Four months into the year, I am already bored, frustrated and tired. Vacation is back on. The theme now is Make it Work.

I have no idea where I want to go though, or more importantly, no idea where a limited budget can take me. Now a limited budget can take me to a few places, mainly in the immediate vicinity. I think I have commented more than once that I am not a huge fan of island vacations though. I live on an island. The novelty wore off years ago. Unless the island has more going for it than lying on a beach all day, I am not going to dedicate my big annual vacation to an island vacation. A weekend, yes. A week - pushing it, but doable. Three weeks - no way. Only Europeans and people stuck with never-ending winters do that. Big shout out to the lovely Scottish couple I spent time with on my birthday trip to Tobago - spending 2 months in Tobago. I would go crazy!

This brings me to the last extended island vacation I did. Every year I do something for my birthday and for the big 3-0, I did an island vacation. The horror, one may say, but it was not just any island. I spent the first half of the vacation on Oahu, one of the islands which make up Hawaii. It was actually a birthday present. Yes, I have awesome friends. I had really high hopes for this trip. I had done research and knew what I wanted to do, and what I wanted to see. I wanted to hike up Diamond Head, go to a luau, lie on Waikiki Beach with an adult beverage. None of this happened, as it rained and rained and rained. On my actual birthday, it was a virtual hurricane, both inside and outside my hotel room, as disappointment and depression washed over me. This after an 18hr plus trip to get there!

Waikiki Beach - the one day the skies were covered in bright blue.
But it was still very chilly and I sat on the beach in a hoodie.

Always the optimist, on the last day, I booked a guided tour to salvage what I could from this disaster once-in-a-lifetime (better believe it would be once!) experience. This is where it got really exciting (insert a dollop of sarcasm).

First off, as I have noticed time and time again on my travels, I am truly the Super Brown Tourist. I am ALWAYS the only brown tourist on the damn bus. Do white people have a monopoly on tours? And do old people rule the tour bus? I mean...my goodness!!! Where are the young people? The brown people? The tour guide seemed to want to make me some kind of special project as well - seeing that I was from an island too. It was almost as though he was on a mission to please and impress me as he kept singling me out during the tour.

The tour itself was shit. The bus stank and the tour was devoid of anything interesting. It brings me to the argument I have with friends here about the beauty of Trinidad and Tobago and the fact that we have so much to offer. Real attractions. Beautiful places. I mean, this guy drove around the island and he stopped to show us a patch of sugarcane and a paw-paw tree, also known as papaya tree. I could barely believe that my hard earned money had paid for this guy to stop so he could show us some half dead looking sugar cane stalks and some paw-paw. What was even more distressing was when the British couple next to me told me I was blocking their view of this island wonder as they tried to take photos. The wife actually physically pushed me backwards so they could snap snap with the camera. In fact, I was the only one not whipping out her camera to take pics. I live in what used to be the sugar belt of Trinidad - I grew up with sugar cane around me, and with my dad and uncles cutting cane for us to suck, chew up and spit out. The dude was not impressing me, not even a little bit, and it clearly showed on my face. I think it was more disgust than being unimpressed and he kept staring at me in the rear view mirror, disappointed. lol.

The Dole Plantation was okay but I am not a huge lover of pineapples, and the store was a pineapple mecca. Pineapple body wash, soaps, stuffed pineapple toys, chocolate covered pineapples. It was just too much!!! But it leads me to argue that we can do the same with mangoes and local fruit and make a killing off tourists, as the tourists on this trip bought all sorts of pineapple shite at this place.

Dole Plantation, Oahu, Hawaii

The worst part of all was what was listed as the "Shrimp Farm" stop on the little tour guide pamphlet, where we would stop and have some of the "best shrimp" on the island. We were given menus beforehand to choose how we wanted our shrimp and were told we would stop at this place for lunch. By now, most people know I am literally OCD when it comes to food prep, food hygiene etc. I cook 90% of what I eat and the 10% I buy, I am anal about where it comes from, what the chef looks like, how he smells, what the kitchen looks like. I am chronic! So imagine my ABSOLUTE HORROR when the bus pulled into a clearing, in which maybe a dozen or so old buses were parked - buses doubling as shrimp kitchens, with smoke coming out busted windows and where locals were cooking and serving food. The food I had just ordered and paid for, I don't eat street food, especially in strange places. I just don't. At this point I thought I would cry. I took the styrofoam box and got back on the bus, hungry, angry and knowing all too well, the food would not touch my lips. The rather expensive food too, I might add. Shrimp Farm, my ass. Food - dustbin. I had too many thoughts of me ending up in Honolulu Memorial, or whatever the hospital there was called, from food poisoning or worse. Worse yet, I had a 17-hr plus trip back - and being stuck on the plane with ummm...stomach issues was not on the cards for this trip.

There were some highlights, like the Valley of the Temples Memorial Park, and the beautiful, absolutely beautiful natural landscape and there was an actual surfing competition at the Banzai Pipeline.

Byodo-In Temple in the Valley of the Temples Memorial Park, Oahu, Hawaii.
Fave part of this crappy tour

But I was bored, and slept for the rest of the tour.

On my own, earlier in the trip, in-between rain showers, I did the zoo and Waikiki Aquarium, and of course, the shops, since they were dry - no rain inside! But again, was not excited too much. I love walking through museums and galleries, and seeing castles, temples, ruins, doing a moderate hike, or something adventurous. Great food, maybe some wine tasting, clean and fun foodie experiences, interesting day trips/tours and meeting new people. Island vacations - not for me, unless as I said, there is really something fantastic about the island. Something more than drinking out of coconuts and tanning. I don't need a tan! I am dark chocolate brown. A tan?

I would do Hawaii again but under different circumstances and definitely not the overly touristy Oahu.

Last year, I walked through the amazing history of Madrid and Rome, and loved it. Not sure what this year will bring yet. On a budget. Still thinking. Plotting. But the crazy notion I had of "no vacation" has been thrown out the window!

Travel Adventures - The Bad Passport Photo

Usually around this time of year, I start thinking of extended time off from work and a trip that would allow me to recharge my batteries and more importantly, renew my spirit. But while I love the destination and the adventures that come with a vacation, I hate some of the other stuff, like packing, hotel hunting and trying to stay within budget. One of the things however that has drastically improved over the years?

My passport photo.

No...that's not me. Mine was much worse.

Let's go back several years when I was still in high school and therefore obligated to my parents for everything. My mum took my brother and I to get new passports, and this meant passport photos. My teen years were not cute by any stretch of the imagination, and worse than that, passport photo take-outers don't have any consideration for your awkward teenaged looks. The result therefore was catastrophic! It was simply the most hideous photo ever and my mother did not even bat an eye. She did not offer to have it re-done. She simply paid for them and took them. I would be stuck with this gruesome identification marker for ten years!

Not even babies are immune
from the bad passport photo!
Fast forward to my first trip to Barbados, and I am no longer the awkward teen but a young professional, with movie star looks (okay, okay...maybe not movie star but cute enough). I step towards the Immigration desk, passport in hand and smile an award winning smile. It was a trip that held a lot of promise and excitement and it showed in my entire being. I was beautiful and beaming. Beaming...until...

Immigration guy: This is you?
Me: Yes, it is.
IG: (looking at me, then the pic, then me, then the pic) This is not you.
Me: Sadly, it is.
IG now calls Immigration woman.
IW: This is not you, man. What is your name?
Me: (annoyed, I give my name)
Together now, they now contemplate what to do next but one thing was certain, they were not contemplating letting me in the country! lol.
IW: You have any other ID?
Me: My US visa is in there. The pic is better.
They scan passport for my US visa pic and sure enough, stamp my form and send me on my way, but not before...
IW: I would change that photo, miss.

I was really expecting to be taken to the back room you see on tv - you know the one with the one dim lightbulb and the metal chairs? Needless to say, short of losing one's passport and going through the runaround of getting a new one, you're pretty much stuck with this heinous photo until your passport expires.

After that, I had a chronic fear of the Immigration desk. I would stride confidently to the desk when it was my turn in much the same way a drug smuggler would approach Customs - brimming with fake confidence to distract the authorities from the sheer panic he feels while carrying a suitcase full of 'blow'.

I was also stopped a couple years later in Paris and almost not let back in London because of said photo. Again my US visa and my Schengen visa as back up, saved my ass. While flattered that all these border officials thought I was too damn cute to be the creature in my passport pic, it was a real pain and slight embarrassment, lemme tell you.

London Gatwick - many a tale I can tell about my passport here

So when my passport finally expired, I made this photo thing into a real production - back in the day when you took your own photos to the passport office. I made sure my hair was camera ready, took some time on my makeup, wore a flattering colour (I was in black in the heinous photo cause I was almost goth in high school with the black) and accessorised. It still managed to not be the hottest thing ever but it was a vast improvement. Never again did I have to send people to the back of my passport to my visas to avoid being put back on the plane or sent to the little back room. I had been properly traumatised from those incidents and from that photo. And now, with the photos being taken at the office, even more time and thought goes into the passport photo get-up, not to mention, strict attention to timing because when that photo is snapped, most of the times by a surly Immigration Officer, you want to make sure your facial expression is passport-friendly!

Still, it was not as bad as someone I know who was forced to remove her wig at the Immigration Office before having her picture taken, because 1. the hair covered her face and 2. the Immigration Officer had no sense or decency to simply offer her time to brush it back. What was under that wig was NOT camera ready and after waiting months for an appointment, she simply could not go through with having her passport marked by a photo of her with nashy "under-wig" hair for 10 years!

Travelling has so many twists and turns. So many different factors make up this amazing adventure. How do people not love it??

Missing Airliner - When that Dream Vacation becomes a Nightmare

I have been following with rapt interest, the story of the missing Malaysian airliner, MH370. As a citizen of the world, a girl whose passport is her life, and for whom getting on a plane for a long haul flight at least once a year is a must, this story is particularly disturbing.

CNN Breaking News at 3.30amET, March 15, 2014

Even after September 11, I think many of us take air travel for granted. We plan these amazing vacations, get totally excited about the trip and all that will come with it, or we take those routine trips for work, or weekend getaways, and we just never blink an eye in worry. I can honestly say, I am so at home on a plane that I seldom think of anything bad happening while at high altitude. Admittedly, I do pray before each flight, particularly during takeoff and landing, and ask God to steer the plane safely to my destination - but once locked in to my seat, I take a nap, watch a movie, gape and become totally oblivious to any danger. Now following this story, I will confess, I am now petrified. Never one to refuse a trip off the island, I am now a bit gun-shy.

Where is MH370?
Photo credit: Boston.com
With officials not knowing just what happened with this plane, the situation is even more disturbing. Did it crash? Was it hijacked? How does a plane just disappear? I think what makes it scarier is the fact that we all believe that we are being tracked and monitored while in the air. I mean, if the plane catches fire, not sure what the people on the ground can really do, but there is a certain comfort knowing that people know where you are and what is happening. Now, do we really have that comfort? The speculation, with the theories changing every 5 seconds is a bit alarming. Now it seems as though the plane was deliberately disabled by someone. The pilot? A passenger? Whatever or whomever is responsible, a huge plane is just missing. A plane does not just disappear! But apparently it can!

One moment, you are laughing at a movie scene
and the next, you go missing?
My heart goes out to the families and loved ones of the 239 souls on board. Simply not knowing what happened to the husband you kissed goodbye or the sister, brother or friend you are waiting for at the destination airport has to be the worst possible scenario. It is a sobering reminder that nothing is to be taken for granted. It is easy to think "This won't happen to me", but it can. It can definitely happen to any of us. Anytime. Driving to work may be routine, but it just takes one moment to change your life forever. I am fully aware of the risk at least twice a day once on the killing field that is our highway. Taking that trip of a lifetime has to fall in the same bucket as we now are so sadly reminded. And of course with each event like this, we will see stricter checks pre-travel and at the airport. What's next?

The entire thing is just bizarre, scary and extremely sad, especially for those families. I simply cannot fathom how my family would feel, or how I would feel for that matter, if someone I loved never made it to their destination.

 I read an article today on CNN (I check in fanatically on this story) and the ending really affected me.

The father of a passenger on the missing plane is hoping for an outcome that would sound shocking under normal circumstances. "I hope the plane was hijacked, because then, at least, there is hope," Li from Hebei Province said. He did not give his full name.  Li is waiting at a Beijing hotel with dozens of other passengers' family members awaiting word on the fate of their loved ones.  "But if the worst happened then I will have no meaning in my life. This is my only son," Li said. As he walked away, he bent his head and cried.

God bless them.

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