Monday, July 26, 2010

Veni Mange, Bars in Trinidad and Carnival

They reckon they like a good knees up in Brazil. A Carnival there too apparently, lots of dancing, loud music, dressing up in even louder outfits, that sort of thing. Been there, done that you might say.........and then you come to Trinidad......... and realise those samba groovy South Americans are only playing at having fun. Assuredly, no nation on earth likes to party more than the Trinidadian, “Trinis” to one and all.

An old journalist pal, a carouser, wit and night owl of international repute, now sadly departed, was embraced by strangers like a long lost friend when first encountering hospitality Port of Spain style. “I feel at home here”, he mused within the hour, and shortly afterwards I watched in awe as he brought the house down with an impromptu dance routine during an incendiary, full-on soca night where only foolhardy foreigners dared to tread. Oh yes, “Crash” Lander was a true Trinny in truth.

Any well laid plan for a night out with a Trinidadian is only ever a starter for ten though.....or a dozen..... or a score of other options. Just as you think everything’s fixed and you know what you’re doing, where and when, you’re propelled into a tangential scenario... with a totally different time frame. Zany, capricious and prone to flights of fancy, the Trinny reveller is dangerous to know and hard to categorise. The basic rule is then.... plan nothing. Go with the flow, and watch your step.

The city has spectacular mega clubs like Zen and 51 degrees with dress codes, VIP rope offs and all the trappings but the street culture is just as entertaining... and costs far less. For years, the myriad bars of the Western Main Road in St.James were the favoured haunts, culminating in raucous bonhomie at Smokey & Bunty’s bar around 4am, but now the scene has changed and the Avenue is the hipster’s boulevard of choice. Ariapita Avenue to be exact, home to Rosemary and Allyson’s legendary bar and eaterie, Veni Mange, and newcomers on the block like Coco’s, More Vino, Shakers and lots more.

A fortnight back, I was sat minding my own business, supping a Carib in this neck of the woods when I witnessed something you might only glimpse in Harlem or the Bronx, and possibly not even there nowadays---an extraordinary half hour demonstration of pavement gymnastics by a group of young blokes, who were not really showing off, and definitely weren’t drunk, as though engaged in some wildly exuberant private competition. Olympic coaches would have been proud, patrons in adjacent bars put aside their drinks and gazed in admiration, mesmerised. As did I. It was that good. Not even Lander could have pulled off some of those moves.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Dominica Traffic - Caribbean Norm or Witches Curse?

It’s everywhere you go. Even the Caribbean has more than its share nowadays, though Anguilla is never overburdened and several of the smaller islands beyond the capital cities are usually untrammelled. We’re talking traffic, lots of it. Kingston Jamaica, Port of Spain Trinidad, Bridgetown Barbados, Castries St Lucia are increasingly clogged with cars as journey to work times continue to expand.

Last week I experienced a strange variation on the theme. The narrow one way systems of Dominica’s main town of Roseau are rarely congested, unless one of the giant cruise liners just happens to have docked at the waterfront, but this was not one of those days. I’d pootled into town from Goodwill in the north, clattered over the river bridge into Queen Mary Street and was quietly minding my own business when the light traffic in front inexplicably ground to a halt.

There was no obvious obstruction ahead, no breakdown, no minor collision or stray dog, just some sort of impasse. It happens all the time of course around the islands, drivers passing the time of day with each other, handing parcels over etc., just as you want to get somewhere fast. I could see passengers gazing sideways where people were thronging the porticoed sidewalk in steadily growing numbers so I turned off the engine, sat awhile because there was no option, and strained to see what the fuss was about.

Eventually, with time ticking on, I leaned out and inquired of a sensible looking citizen “whappen down de road, sir?” His response was immediate, and throwaway; “Nuttin’ much sah, a witch jussa block de footpath” ! Whhaaaaaat?? Apparently then, if a pedestrian comes face to face with a witch, black or white, it’s common courtesy to pass to her right so you won’t be affected by any spell. If she doesn’t allow it, a stand-off ensues and a blockade develops. This had just happened, effectively bringing the whole of downtown Roseau to a halt as drivers stopped to await the outcome.

They may still be there, it wouldn’t surprise me; nobody was budging so I somehow manoeuvred a nifty reverse and made my getaway down a sidestreet. You’d think stories like this were apocryphal but here they’re commonplace. In Elma Napier’s wonderful evocation of a 1930’s bohemian colonial life here in “Black and White Sands” published by Papillote press last year, she muses “it has never been easy to analyse, to define the mysterious charm that has lured some people to stay in Dominica forever, and from which others have fled without even taking time to unpack”. Incidents like this at least give us a clue. Yes, Dominica’s different, very different.

Monday, July 12, 2010

The Standpipe - Caribbean Newsletter - July 2010

Did you know that we publish a quarterly newsletter? We aim to feature each season's happening events and what's new and exciting around the Caribbean. We feature interviews with leading personalities throughout the islands and recipes from our favourite chefs!

Why not have a look at the topics we cover below and click through to read it?

Editor's Note - We have moved to a new website, with a new newsletter -

Old articles refered to below will be loaded onto the new site shortly...

In this edition Stephen Thorpe talks to Colin Hunte, GM at Villa Beach Cottages, we have a look at Diving in Dominica, Boat Building in Carriacou and give advice on where to go for that special Caribbean family holiday.

Our recipe this month is Roasted Plantain wrapped Snapper Fillet with Virgin Salsa and Tomato Coulis, a Signature Dish from the AAA Four Diamond-rated Great House at Nisbet Beach Plantation and Spa, Nevis.

Happy Travels!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Dominica Accommodation - Geotourism on the Nature Island

It strikes every visitor at once on arrival---a place where humanity and its impact come a poor second to the all consuming power of the natural world. The sheer profundity of the vegetation is hard to assimilate at first, such is the overwhelming effect as narrow strips of tarmac road vie for a presence amid the greenery. Pavements are non existent in rural areas and not for nothing is Dominica the self styled “nature island”. Even Columbus and his crew were taken aback one fair Sunday morn in November 1493 when their ship hoved to through a misty dawn on the eastern seaboard. Landfall was impossible on this rugged coastline and the seamen gazed in awe at the prospect before them. Not much has changed in over 500 years. Only rarely does an island stand alone in the magisterial grandeur of its landscape, and Dominica can lay claim to the most arresting mountain panoramas in the eastern Caribbean. The Morne Trois Pitons National Park was rightly accorded World Heritage Site status by Unesco in 1997.

Topography has defined its singular stance in modern day tourism too, with beach life and the regulation holidaymaker a rare commodity indeed. Instead, the hiker, whalewatcher and birder rule the roost with world class diving another major draw. Recently, community based tourism has gained strength in the wake of native New Yorker Anne Baptiste’s laudable ethos from half a century ago when setting up the Papillote Wilderness Retreat. Her seven rooms sit in two hectares of lovingly tended gardens replete with hot springs, waterfalls and a top class creole restaurant where she’s employed generations of villagers from Trafalgar in the Roseau Valley. Perhaps they should call her the Godmother of Geotourism, the buzzword that defines tourism that sustains or enhances the geographical character of a place—its environment, heritage, aesthetics, culture and the wellbeing of its residents.

Fae and Atherton Martin of Exotica Cottages on a ridge 1400 feet above the capital Roseau have developed the theme in latter years, combining health and wellness, local agriculture, flower growing, traditional music and cooking demonstrations in their hugely successful Community Gardens Culinary Tour which embraces the skills of local villagers from Giraudel and Eggleston. Fourth in National Geographic’s Geotourism Awards in 2008, they’re now hoping to enlist Greenpeace in marketing the concept while Dominica is also set to host the inaugural Green Investment Conference in early October. The location for this is the remarkable wild forested mountainside development at Jungle Bay in the far south east near Delices, the brainchild of environmental activist and visionary Sam Raphael. Dominica is in the vanguard of forward thinking, sustainable development in the Caribbean and this major gathering of concerned individuals will hopefully drive the necessary implementation programme.

For more information, please see the Definitive Caribbean Guide to Accommodation on Dominica.
Bookmark and Share
Related Posts with Thumbnails