For food, fun and festivals, Port of Spain, the capital city of Trinidad and Tobago, is your ideal Caribbean location. The country’s complicated history connects indigenous, Spanish, English, French, African, Indian, Middle Eastern, Chinese and Portuguese cultures — and this wide array of influences is reflected throughout the city. There’s always something going on in ‘Town’ as Trinidadians call it.
Queen’s Park Savannah
Smack in the center of Port of Spain, the Queen’s Park Savannah is 260 acres of rolling turf. The perimeter’s 3.5 km long and dotted with fresh coconut vendors — perfect for a stroll or a run. The Savannah is next to the Emperor Valley Zoo and the Royal Botanic Gardens. It’s surrounded by the Magnificent Seven, fanciful Victorian mansions that harken back to the days when Trinidadian cocoa was king.
Greatest Carnival on Earth
There’s no Carnival like Trinidad and Tobago Carnival and Port of Spain is its focal point. Exhilarating pre-season soca fetes (dance parties) start as early as August as excitement slowly builds towards the annual spectacle. Two days before Ash Wednesday, the capital’s streets are crammed with mas (a collective name for Carnival costumes), calypso and steel pan. Spectators and participants are welcome.
History and leisure ‘Down the Islands’
‘Down the Islands’ is what Trinidadians (Trinis) call the rocky islets in the jewel-green sea around Trinidad’s northwestern Chaguaramas peninsula. Board a motorboat shuttle just outside Port of Spain for a short historical tour to a former leprosy asylum, a 20th-century sedition internment camp and a former whaling station. Swimming, diving and fishing are options for more leisurely day tours. You can book tours through the Chaguaramas Development Authority.
True Trini breakfast
Trini food largely blends African and Indian influences — with pepper. The Femmes du Chalet Breakfast Shed on Wrightson Road, Port of Spain, is an informal buffet serving up the best of Trini breakfast and lunch to eat in or take out. A local favorite is sada roti (flatbread) filled with choka (seasonal veggies roasted, seasoned and whipped with oil). It’s on the Waterfront, so you can also take in the view of the city’s port.
Tassa drums of Hosay
Who would have thought that a commemoration of the martyring of Shia Islamic saints would be the basis for a street celebration? But that’s Hosay, an annual procession that takes place over three nights in the Islamic month of Muharram. Elaborately decorated tadjahs (floats), which can measure up to 30-feet in length, represent the tombs of the martyrs. Processions are accompanied by rapid-fire tassa drumming which draws thousands to St James, a town on the western side of Port of Spain.
Lighting up Patna Village
Divali is an annual Hindu celebration of light over darkness and knowledge over ignorance. Trinidadians still light traditional clay and coconut-oil lamps, called deyas, in their homes and yards on Divali night and share feasts and homemade sweetmeats with friends and neighbors. The lighting-up at Patna Village in Diego Martin, west of Port of Spain, is open to the public. Expect to see deyas shining in fanciful bamboo frames on the darkest night of the year.
Bocas Lit Fest
The NGC Bocas Lit Fest is a five-day event held at the end of April and features daytime and nighttime readings, screenings, discussions, workshops and street performances. Internationally prominent writers like Mann Booker winner Marlon James from Kingston, Jamaica, appear with local scribes. Penguin Random House named it one of the best literary festivals in the world. All events are free; daytime events happen at the National Library, a modern architectural treasure in downtown Port of Spain.
The trinidad+tobago film festival
For two weeks in September, filmmakers descend on Port of Spain drawn by The trinidad+tobago film festival (ttff), an annual international event which hosts most of its screenings in the city. Named one of the coolest international film festivals by Movie Maker Magazine, the ttff includes screenings of cutting edge local and Caribbean diaspora films, workshops and a film marketplace.
Emancipation Day, Aug. 1, commemorates the end of African chattel slavery. Port of Spain hosts a Pan African Festival that peaks in the moving and vibrant Emancipation Day street procession. At the festival’s Lidj Yasu Omowale Emancipation Village in the Queen’s Park Savannah, you’ll find African and local folk food and goods and nightly cultural shows.
The sweetest lime
Liming (hanging out) is a Trini specialty. Trinis have perfected the lime on Ariapita Avenue, a Port of Spain street where you’ll find restaurants, bars and nightclubs of all kinds. Start with an after-work drink at The Hog & Whistle and you might find yourself still there liming late into the night.
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