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.

Retreat from Reality - Top O'Tobago Villas

A little down time every now and then is good. So while I primarily hopped over to Tobago to see John Legend, it was also a bit of down time. Down time for me, as you know, is hardly ever relaxing. I just cannot sit still but I gave it a shot during my 3-day weekend.

This time around I stayed at the Top O' Tobago Villas - a beautiful property neatly tucked away in the hills of Arnos Vale, Tobago. Let me just say to those hotels which took advantage of the "jazz" event to enforce a 5-night minimum for guests - you suck!

Anyway, I had rented a car and so forfeited the complimentary pick up from the airport, opting instead for the emailed directions. Insert laughter here as if you did not already know or did not read THIS, I am hopelessly challenged when it comes to finding places. But kudos to Silja, the hostess on the property, for the expert directions because I made it there unscathed.

The property offers everything a person seeking a bit of peace and quiet would want. Nice views, a limited number of guests (there is one main house and three single apartments), only the sounds of the natural life around you. It's very remote; very away from everything, so be prepared for that. The pool area was a great spot for swinging back some grape juice every morning, or as some of my fellow guests had, some beer after a long day. It's a self-catering property, so you can do your own meals if you so desire. I did not so desire, but made use of the pool area to eat what little I did eat while I was on-site. Food with a view is always so much better!

Having a late lunch beside the pool at Top O'Tobago Villas, Tobago

Having pre-dinner zen session at dusk near the pool.
The pool was at the top level of the hillside property

My own private terrace to read , eat and watch birds
Remote. Romantic. Rustic. - Top O' Tobago Villas

Top O'Tobago offers guests snorkelling gear and bikes to enhance the guest experience, as there is a beach a few minutes walk away - Arnos Vale Bay - which is good for snorkelling apparently. After the concert was long over, I took a little time to bond with nature. I don't usually do nature but hey, the weather was good for it that weekend. First, a quick trip to Argyle Waterfall, then a quick drive further north, to Delaford.

Argyle Waterfall in Tobago - gorgeous

Let me just say though, if you can drive along the Windward Road in Tobago, you can drive anywhere. I was soon reminded why I had stopped going up that way when visiting Tobago, but it was truly an adventure.

The villa also offered a bit of a nature trail, which I decided to explore on my last morning. Well, it was more of a workout than I thought. The man made stairs made navigating the very, very steep incline much easier, but it was still slightly treacherous and challenging, especially coming back up. I also went further up the road just to see what else was in the area.

The sign 

The first layer of treachery, i.e. the first downward incline

The view from the bottom of second incline

Along the trail, a Mot Mot posed for photos

The "prize" at the end of the first leg of my morning adventure was this...

Arnos Vale Bay, Tobago

...then I did some more walking hiking before the early morning humidity got the better of me. Beautiful natural and untouched landscape though.

The one thing I will say is that as a Trini, my spider sense was always tingling, and so the inadequate street lighting on the way to the property, and in Tobago in general, was my only concern. I was paranoid about driving late at night back to the property, while I saw female tourists casually walking along dark roads like nobody's business. Not cool.

Other than that though, sometimes a little down time is needed and as short as it was, it was appreciated.

John Legend at Tobago Jazz Experience - And what an experience it was!

And it's on tonight
How about we go and save the night
I can see you want it and so do I
How about we go and save the night
Let's save the night
- John Legend (Save the Night; off the album, Love in the Future)

And save the night he did. Friday April 25, 2014. Pigeon Point, Tobago. Me. John Legend. Me blocking out the rest of the world. Me singing with my eyes closed. Lost. In complete utopia.

If you did not know it yet, I am a MEGA John Legend fan. When he was announced as the top billing for the World Music Night at the Tobago Jazz Experience, my friends and family did not even have to ask, cause they already knew I would be going. I literally got the first VIP ticket from the allotment sent to the outlet where I purchased my ticket how many weeks ago. I booked my flight, hotel and rental car weeks ago. I was not in the last minute scramble. I was ready.

That was the disclaimer to this review. My TT$900 was always going to be a full on investment in John and my night with John. I would pay anything for John, once it meant I would be stage side. While I did not really have an emotional investment in the other perks of a VIP ticket, I still paid mih money...

But first.

The music. The man. The Legend.
John was fantastic. I may sound biased but I can be objective even with John. I thought he was 100% amazing. He walked on that stage in his white jacket (I was also in white...lol) and it was just him, the piano and the people. Some were disappointed he did not come with the full band. I was not. I have seen him in concert before, and always with the full band, so this stripped down performance would be my first with John. I loved it. It was a real moment for lovers, but also for the single hardcore fans. Perfect delivery every time and you just got lost in the music, in his voice, in his everything. My one negative would be that he did not do enough from his latest album, and he did not do some of my all-time favourites. I was jonesin' for "Save the Night", "This Time", "Show Me", "I Love, You Love". He did do "So High" and a lot of songs off "Get Lifted", which many argue was his best album and I would not disagree, but I missed a lot of the other hits. He also did not invite anyone on stage. I guess
1) being tied to the piano all night left no room for a Trini wine session
2) the mood was not for that
3) Chrissy
4) the last 2 volunteers at the last 2 concerts were whack and
5) he saw how cute I looked and felt I should not have to scramble over the other ladies in mih nice dress to catapult myself over the barrier and on to the stage.


John was simply AWESOME!!!

The other artistes. So the other artistes on the night were Brandy and local band, Dil-e-Nadan. I was not really annoyed that Bunji and Fay Ann had pulled out of the show. I do agree with them 100% for doing so because T&T needs to show our local artistes some damn respect. But I really did not pay mih money to see them. One less band meant less fillers which meant John would be less of a wait. Sorry, Bunji. Is a love still.

Brandy. Not a fan. Never was a fan. She never won the crowd over and not for lack of trying. That girl tried but as one woman said to me - Brandy is a has-been. She is not a classic entertainer like an Earth, Wind and Fire or Lionel Richie who not really hot now, but you will pay money to see them anyway. She tried with her new songs - bad move. Noone knows them so they flew over our heads. She tried with her old songs - meh. Her voice was inconsistent. Her accompanying music too loud. I mean, when Brandy asked her guitarist "They looked bored, don't they?" I almost peed myself. That was a sign. But she tried and I do appreciate her working for her money and giving us a show, whether we liked it or not.

Brandy at Tobago Jazz Experience

Dil-e-Nadan. Not a fan. Never was a fan. Hate cover bands. HATE. So when I saw them in the line-up I sucked my teeth. Why? But I will say, that performance was the BEST Dil-e-Nadan performance I have ever seen. It was also the best Raymond Ramnarine has ever looked. He did not look like a Salvation Army charity case, but like a performer. The band has some solid vocalists. Oh gorm - write a few original songs nah. Do something with your lives besides singing songs from the Casey Kasem era. I liked their performance based on the strength of the vocalists and timing etc, but...I still went to the bar during it, and still took a selfie. lol

The other "perks" of being a VIP, or even in General. The perks associated with just paying yuh money!!!!

I need to start this on a whole new line. So from the beginning...

We were told we had to park in Store Bay or at Bon Accord and we would be shuttled to and from the venue. Noone was going to be allowed to park inside Pigeon Point, where the show was being held. Knowing the venue, this was a good idea cause the congestion would be astronomical. I put on my nice white maxi dress and my bejewelled flip flops - lol - bejewelled. Hey, I was not going to be THAT girl wearing heels on the beach like an ass. Jumped in my rental early o'clock and made my way to Store Bay. Traffic as soon as I turned off Shirvan and I sucked my teeth, but I put on some Machel and wined in the seat until I got to Store Bay. Shuttles were there in abundance at that time, and I got in safe and sound - no problem. VIPs were scuttled off to their "special" entrance, and here is where the commess start.

So your girl went to the food line first before heading to the seating area cause girl was hungry. Line long as rain, and not moving cause 2 women were trying to serve hundreds of people. Fail. While waiting I strike up conversation with 2 women and after the oohing and aahing over how I look so nice (lol), one of them asked me who was holding my seat for me. Noone, I replied. I came straight to the food line.To which she replied,

Well there are no more seats you know.

My eyebrow touched the sky with that! What you mean there are no more seats, lady? What you talking bout? I paid $900 for a seat!! Sure enough  l turned around and saw men and women dressed to death, STANDING. Naaaaaaaah. I hustled my white maxi dressed ass to the seating area to confirm that there was a seat with my name on it in there somewhere, cause there was NO WAY, I was gonna stand up all night. NO effing WAY.

I did a thorough survey of the crowd, looking for possible victims of my charm. I saw a clearing. I moseyed over with my cute self and with a smile and sweetness, found 2 seats, in the second row I will add, cause their friends were running late and it would not be fair to hold all these seats for them. This act of kindness saved many lives that night. I asked the nice lady to hold my 2 seats for me and headed back to the food line. But how can there not be enough seats? If you sell 10 tickets, should you not have 10 seats, or 11 - one for the handbags?? I could not understand this. Madness. Fail. Later in the evening, VIP was like an all-inclusive - hundreds of people STANDING. Mad-ness. I eventually dragged myself out of the slumber caused by Brandy and found my spot just in front of the stage, where I stood for the duration of John's performance but that was my choice at that time. Don't tell me I have to stand up cause you did not put down chairs for all the people who bought tickets. Mega Fail.

Back to the food line which was even longer than before. Now when we entered the place, we were given 5 chits - 3 for food, 1 for a drink, and 1 specifically for Heineken. Now I do not know or care whether Heineken was a sponsor or not, but you cannot TELL me I have to drink THAT beer, or beer for that matter. And what if I did not imbibe alcohol at all? That meant for the whole evening I would be entitled to one free drink? This pissed me off. I told the bar man I did not want Heineken, and he said I would have to buy something else then. BUY. Now I was in full on John mode, so the normal reaction was diluted but I thought that was nonsense. I had to eventually buy a Malta for $12 when my blood sugar dropped from the hunger, caused by ...

The food now - with mih 3 chits. One would assume that with 3 chits, this meant one had choice, and yes, you did have choice. A choice between bake and shark, bake and salt fish or bake and chicken. I later saw doubles and corn soup and again, diluted reaction. This was the food? Death by bake?? These people had to be crazy! Needless to say I still have 2 food chits and the Heineken chit. I had a bake and chicken cause I do not eat fish (see my predicament with the limited menu?) - bake small as mih hand and what looked like pieces of an anorexic chicken - not even condiments or a fork, or a napkin! Fail-ure!

But the piece de resistance - the shuttle going back to Store Bay. Or should I say, the lack of shuttle. Remember the "no parking in Pigeon Point" rule? Lie. Clearly, friends and family of the organisers got the bligh - hundreds of them. When I walked in and saw how many cars were in there, I knew how the evening would end. But I did not predict that I would have to take myself and my white maxi dress and bejewelled flip flops and effin walk from Pigeon Point to Store Bay. The outbound traffic was a nightmare. The shuttles were all full. Some were stuck in traffic going out. Others tried to fill up and turn where they were to avoid making the entire circle and ending at the back of the traffic, but the road is narrow and it was congested. You could not after that get a shuttle to save your life or the hem of your maxi dress. The only consolation was snickering at the girls ahead of you hanging on for dear life as they tried to navigate the terrain - a combo of sand and rocks. Walking from Pigeon Point to Store Bay is not the workout I was hoping for. It was the worst. By the time I got to my car, I was a hot mess - hot being the operative word. The humidity on the night killed what little energy I had left. Feet covered in sand. Toe nail gone. Nice. Thanks, THA. Thanks eh. And on an empty-ish stomach - because there is only so much bake one can really eat! Thank God for my $12 Malta - the one my Heineken chit would not get me. Brilliant. And even walking at 2km/hr, I still made it out before the shuttle. FAIL! FAIL! FAIL!!!

So when I say, John saved the night, this is what I meant. I need to find a way to bring the happy vibe at the start of the entry back, cause I found typing that last paragraph made me so vex, I forgot about the happiness in the early paragraphs. So I will end with this...John, you will have me as your side piece for life!

Come back soon!

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!

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