Monday, 2 October 2017

Tobago: Welcome to Trinidad and Tobago

I was invited to visit the Caribbean island paradise of Tobago.  This was really exciting because I had never been there or to her sister island of Trinidad. I have to confess I love the Caribbean islands now adding two more to my list of islands visited.

We flew into Trinidad and changed to an internal flight to Tobago which took around 20 minutes to cross a short stretch of water.  You could get a ferry, however, the thought of a 2.5 hour boat ride after a long flight did not appeal to me.  Taking internal island flights is more like travelling on a bus.  We flew  with Caribbean Airlines, reasonably priced, comfortable and reliable.

Our home for the week in Tobago was Le Grand Courlan Spa Resort on the western side of the island.  It was dark as we arrived meaning we didn't see the full splendor of the resort until breakfast. Le Grand Courlan Spa Resort offers different packages such as room only, half board and fully inclusive.  Le Grand Courlan offers great views, food, service and lovely and comfortable rooms with balconies.  One of the top points is that only a short stroll down steps from the resort, through the gates at the bottom and across the road and you are on Black Rock Beach. (more photos from the beach below).
Breakfast always offers fresh fruit which I try to start each morning with.  The papaya, pineapple and bananas are so fresh and ripe that they taste completely different to having them at home.
All around the hotel and in fact the island are banana trees and palm trees offering shade everywhere.
There are plenty of forts to explore, not used now that the islands are independent but very important when they were constantly under the threat of invasion.

Fort Milford at Crown Point was constructed as a military establishment for the British army.  The remnants of the fort include six cannons, five were British and one made in France hence the 'GR' emblem is only on five of them.
Cannons pointing out to sea to protect the island from invading armies.
There are plenty of little bays all around the island.  As we were driving through a village called Lambeau I spotted this little boat and a table by the side of the road where there was a group of young men, fishermen selling their catch to local people. The locals tend to know when to stop by for their fresh fish.
The range of fish was huge including dolphin fish - but don't worry they are nothing to do with dolphins, they are just called that because their face resembles a dolphin!
Next stop on our island tour was Fort King George. Much larger than Fort Milford it was built in 1770s as a defense of the newly appointed capital of Scarborough.  It was a major fortification offering protection against invaders.  Fort King George was named after the British King George III when it was re-taken by the British in 1793.

Today Fort King George houses the Tobago Museum. Mr R is drinking a cold beer leaning on one of the cannons that used to keep watch on this part of the island.
The views from the top of this hill fortification are fantastic. The lighthouse at Fort King George is still functioning.
As we drove around the island we came to an old water wheel made originally in Glasgow, Scotland but now left abandoned. It would have been used when the sugar cane production was in full swing.  I love the precision and detail in each working part still so vibrant even though there are vines growing around it.
Walls falling down which would once have been storage rooms for the sugar cane production.
The sheer size of the water wheel which worked the machines that crushed the sugar cane was massive.  The water flowed down the side of the hill turning this huge wheel.
There are a plethora of small bays and beaches around the island of Tobago.  The beach closes to where we were staying was Black Rock Beach, an almost deserted stretch of palm trees, sand and surf.
I felt I could sit and watch the waves rolling around these black rocks for hours.  Somehow sitting at the water's edge and staring out to sea helps me to focus my mind and put everything into perspective.
While we were walking the beach we saw a man walking with a bag of mangoes.  I stopped to talk to him and he told me he was taking the mangoes and going to swim in the sea.  He would peel the mangoes and dip them into the salty sea water and then eat them.  He said the salt brought out the flavour of the mango.
Every Sunday in the village of L'Anse Fourmi this young man bakes bread in a communal clay oven.
He works full time Monday to Saturday but on Sunday he relaxes by baking bread bringing people from all over the island to buy freshly baked bread.  The smell is amazing getting people's attention as they drive by.
The bread is ready about 12:00 mid-day and a second batch around 3:00 pm.  The village is deserted until around ten minutes before the bread is ready and suddenly cars pull up and people walk from the village ready to buy their fresh bread, rolls and a cherry coconut little cake.
Another Sunday tradition is 'Harvest'.  Each village has it's own Sunday when families get together and cook up a feast offering food, drinks and music to whomever stops by.  This particular Sunday was the first Sunday of May and the village of Belle Garden was host.

We were invited to the home of a friend of our tour guide and were warmly welcomed to join the 'Harvest'. Dishes were marinating including  blue crab, tuna, iguana and other delicacies.  There will also be cassava, sweet potato and dasheen cooked in various ways leading to a veritable feast when everything is ready.
The cooking is very basic however everyone pitches in and food is soon ready and the partying gets underway.  I have had to promise I will return on the first Sunday of May 2018 however this time take part in the cooking.  For more on our Harvest experience keep an eye on my blog as I will be writing a much more detailed account.

One of the highlights of our trip was a session in the kitchen of Le Grand Courlan Spa Resort with the chefs and Mr R doning his chef's hat. 
We made a West Indian Chicken Curry, with a quick and fairly simple recipe.  The spices gave off such an aromatic aroma that was really mouthwatering!
When lunch was ready we all sat down to eat what we had made.  If you want to read more about that day click here.
This was a real foodie trip for me however I was really impressed with the hospitality and welcome we got everywhere we visited!  The community of ladies in Le Coteaux got together at the Community Centre to cook together and make some of their traditional recipes for us.  It didn't take long for Mr R to get stuck in and help grate the cassava root which would be a major ingredient in the day's cooking.
This tuna stew started cooking while we were there and it tasted absolutely delicious. You can real the full story of our day cooking traditional recipes by clicking here.
We took a boat trip from Bucco Bay out about two miles and suddenly the water gets shallower, calmer and incredibly clear and green.  It is an area known as Nylon Pool.  Nylon Pool is said to have gotten it's name when the late Princess Margaret first visited and said the water was as sheer as her nylons!  I could have stayed there all day just enjoying the warm, clear, tranquil water!
I admired the head wrap of one of the ladies looking after us (my new friend Marsha) and the following evening she brought me one. Her mother makes them and I was honoured to receive this gift.  When I got it home my granddaughter really loved it and I must admit it looked great on her so she went home wearing it!!
The beautiful sunset on our last evening in Tobago at Le Grand Courlan Spa Resort.  I found it hard to believe we had only been on this island paradise for seven days - we had done so much and seen such a lot however we only scratched the surface.  I certainly hope we get back there soon - I have unfinished business!!
On our way to Grenada we started with an early flight from Tobago to Trinidad where we were going to spend the day with the lovely Nalini, the owner of Le Grand Courlan Spa Resort at her family's latest project - restoring an old cocoa plantation!

Our first stop was just after leaving the airport in Port of Spain, Trinidad was a little cart selling by the side of the busy road. It was breakfast time and locals in Trinidad stop on their way to work for 'Doubles'.
Doubles are two patties of a fried bread and you pick the filling you want between the two.  There are usually different combinations of spices in the sauces.
And boy are they tasty! A bit messy to eat but worth it.
The plan for the day was to visit Nalini's family project.  The family have taken over a cacao plantation that has been left to run down for years and they want to bring it to it's former glory and full production.
Some of the first crop of cacao beans drying in the sun and heat and ready to be sent to a lab for analysis to see how they are progressing.  It won't be long before they can start the roasting and chocolate production.
A lot of the buildings on this plantation as well as many other plantations in the Caribbean are made with bricks from the UK.  These came from Castlecary in Scotland.  When the large transport boats would make the trip from the UK to the islands they would load the storage with bricks as ballast.  They would leave the bricks on the island and instead sail home with the cargo compartments full of cacao beans or spices.
The plan is to get the plantation back to it's former glory including this great plantation house and to offer facilities for educating local school children as well as offering working holidays on the plantation.
Before we knew it our first visit to the islands of Trinidad and Tobago was over and we were jetting off to our next destination of Grenada.  We had a really intense week but barely scratched the surface.  I look forward to spending more time on these two sister islands!

I was a guest of Visit Tobago and Le Grand Courlan Spa Resort. I was not required to write a positive review.  As usual all opinions and photos are my own. No photographs may be reproduced in any form without my written permission.

10 comments:

  1. That sounds like an amazing trip, lucky you! I've always wanted to visit Trinidad and Tobago, and even more so now after reading about your visit.

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    1. Hope you get to visit one day - we had a great time!

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  2. How lucky to get to go on such a great trip. I have always wanted to go and am in total awe after reading your post.

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    1. It is worth visiting - so much to see and do and the people are so friendly.

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  3. One of my favourite things about the Caribbean is a big plate of fresh fruit for breakfast. It looks like you had a great time and it's an island I have always wanted to visit. One for the bucket list for she explained.

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    1. Definitely one for the list - I never wanted to leave!

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  4. How fabulous, it looks like an amazing trip. I've always wanted to go to Tobago and now I'm even more keen to visit. GG

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    1. Tobago is not as developed as some of the other islands - that is part of its charm.

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  5. This sounds like such a scrumptious trip Heidi!!

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    1. Thanks Emma we did have a great time!

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