Friday, June 9, 2017

Sights to See: Cafe Mariposa, in Lopinot Village, Trinidad


LOPINOT Village  NE of Port of Spain.  Reaching this small village requires a scenic drive through rainforest.  You might spot an ocelot, anaconda snake, or man-eating crocodile (our guide joked that they attack and eat only naked men with “dangling bait”).  The area has 5 natural caves and 12 species of hummingbird, including the ruby topaz.  The village remains largely unchanged despite the fact that many cocoa estates were cleared to facilitate building a school, church, and houses.  Now a historic site, the villagers are restoring old structures to maintain the historical village appeal and natural beauty. 
 

Cafe Mariposa  58 Lopinot Settlement.  At this sweet cafe owned by the Guerrero sisters, the aunties are in the kitchen and a nephew is the waiter.  The cafe started as a butterfly sanctuary--thus the name--but the butterflies dwindled.  
mosaic butterfly welcome sign at Cafe Mariposa in Lopinot Village in Trinidad
mosaic butterfly welcome sign at Cafe Mariposa in Lopinot Village in Trinidad


Fortunately, hummingbirds took their place and now fly all around and you can sometimes even feel one fly by.  
mosaic hummingbird at Cafe Mariposa in Lopinot Village in Trinidad
mosaic hummingbird at Cafe Mariposa in Lopinot Village in Trinidad




Hummingbird feeders (filled with 1 part white sugar to 4 parts water) attract the birds and also some bees in huge numbers--12 of the 18 species of hummingbird found in Trinidad are seen here.  
bee at hummingbird feeder at Cafe Mariposa in Lopinot Village in Trinidad
bee at hummingbird feeder at Cafe Mariposa in Lopinot Village in Trinidad






Firebush and other bird-friendly plants keep them from becoming dependent.  The four-course lunch served here is a farm-to-fork experience.  Many ingredients are grown on site, including the biggest, most delicious avocados I’ve seen in a long time.  Many plants on the property have medicinal properties, and no pesticides are used.  
medicinal plant garden at Cafe Mariposa in Lopinot Village in Trinidad
medicinal plant garden at Cafe Mariposa in Lopinot Village in Trinidad

My group’s visit was punctuated by downpours, but we were protected on a large open-air porch.  The first course was fried cassava sticks and plantain rounds.  
cassava sticks and plantain rounds at Cafe Mariposa in Lopinot Village in Trinidad
cassava sticks and plantain rounds at Cafe Mariposa in Lopinot Village in Trinidad

Next came a divine pumpkin-chocolate soup, 
pumpkin-chocolate soup at Cafe Mariposa in Lopinot Village in Trinidad
pumpkin-chocolate soup at Cafe Mariposa in Lopinot Village in Trinidad

then chewy homemade tacos filled with a choice of pulled pork, ground beef, or chicken.  
tacos at Cafe Mariposa in Lopinot Village in Trinidad
tacos at Cafe Mariposa in Lopinot Village in Trinidad

The fourth and final course was avocado and cocoa ice creams.  
avocado and cocoa ice creams at Cafe Mariposa in Lopinot Village in Trinidad
avocado and cocoa ice creams at Cafe Mariposa in Lopinot Village in Trinidad


We were warned to be careful with the pepper sauce, which is made with the scorpion pepper--the world’s hottest--and indeed it was HOT.  After lunch, we were serenaded by six of the seven sister chefs singing a parang selection, 



with nephew accompanying on an unusual box bass made by his uncle.  The bass had a curved, harp-like bamboo reed with a single string.  
unusual handmade box bass at Cafe Mariposa in Lopinot Village in Trinidad
unusual handmade box bass at Cafe Mariposa in Lopinot Village in Trinidad


Bed & Breakfast is also available; all rooms are en suite with a balcony overlooking the gardens. 


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images and videos ©2017 Carole Terwilliger Meyers


Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Sights to See: Indian Trinidad, around Carapichaima in Trinidad


INDIAN TRINIDAD
With a population that is more than 40% East Indian, Trinidad has organically incorporated Hindu traditions and cuisine into the cultural landscape.  This area shows the Indian culture most dramatically. 

Highway Roti Shop  in FREEPORT.  With a range of curries from chicken to vegetarian and from mild to spicy, Indian cuisine in Trinidad offers a plethora of tasty street foods as well as simple restaurants and fine dining.  Dishes are made with both traditional recipes and modern twists, perfuming the air exotically with cumin, ginger, coriander and more.  At this roadside roti cafe, all fillings are curry and all meats are cooked with bones in for flavor.  Goat and duck are the most popular, but I found the veggie garbanzo-tomato-potato filling to be superb.  Here for 35 years, the kitchen knows what they are doing.
sign for Highway Roti Shop in Freeport, Trinidad
sign for Highway Roti Shop in Freeport, Trinidad

menu at Highway Roti Shop in Freeport, Trinidad
menu at Highway Roti Shop in Freeport, Trinidad

dining patio at Highway Roti Shop in Freeport, Trinidad
dining patio at Highway Roti Shop in Freeport, Trinidad

veggie curry at Highway Roti Shop in Freeport, Trinidad
veggie curry at Highway Roti Shop in Freeport, Trinidad

Dattatreya Temple and Yoga Centre  Off the Old Southern Main road, on Orange Field Rd., in CARAPICHAIMA.  The temple is considered to be spiritually connected with India.  Two gray concrete elephants provide water for washing feet before entering the main temple.
exterior of Dattatreya Temple in Carapichaima, Trinidad
exterior of Dattatreya Temple in Carapichaima, Trinidad

ornate door of Dattatreya Temple in Carapichaima, Trinidad
ornate door of Dattatreya Temple in Carapichaima, Trinidad

colorful dome at Dattatreya Temple in Carapichaima, Trinidad
colorful dome at Dattatreya Temple in Carapichaima, Trinidad


          ●Hanuman Murti statue  This colorful 85-foot-tall statue is of the Hindu god Lord Hanuman--who represents wisdom, righteousness, and strength--is the tallest outside of India.  It is quite a surprise to see it towering over houses in a suburban area.
Hanuman Murti statue at Dattatreya Temple in Carapichaima, Trinidad
Hanuman Murti statue at Dattatreya Temple in Carapichaima, Trinidad

          ●ET-like camel statue
camel statue at Dattatreya Temple in Carapichaima, Trinidad
camel statue at Dattatreya Temple in Carapichaima, Trinidad

Temple in the Sea at Waterloo  On Gulf of Paria, in CARAPICHAIMA.  Causeway 6am-6pm; temple hrs. irregular.  Begun in 1947 by a devotee (his statue is seen in the parking lot) but completed by others in 1995, a walkway leads from the water’s edge across the water to this floating Hindu temple.  It was built on the water because it was forbidden by colonial officials to build a temple on land.  Though a sacred site for Hindu worshipers, it welcomes visitors.
entrance to Temple in the Sea at Waterloo in Carapichaima, Trinidad
entrance to Temple in the Sea at Waterloo in Carapichaima, Trinidad

exterior of Temple in the Sea at Waterloo in Carapichaima, Trinidad
exterior of Temple in the Sea at Waterloo in Carapichaima, Trinidad

god statues at Temple in the Sea at Waterloo in Carapichaima, Trinidad
god statues at Temple in the Sea at Waterloo in Carapichaima, Trinidad

elephant god statue at Temple in the Sea at Waterloo in Carapichaima, Trinidad
elephant god statue at Temple in the Sea at Waterloo in Carapichaima, Trinidad

colorful flag display at Temple in the Sea at Waterloo in Carapichaima, Trinidad
colorful flag display at Temple in the Sea at Waterloo in Carapichaima, Trinidad

exterior altar at Temple in the Sea at Waterloo in Carapichaima, Trinidad
exterior altar at Temple in the Sea at Waterloo in Carapichaima, Trinidad

Indian Caribbean Museum  On Waterloo Rd., in CARAPICHAIMA; www.icmtt.org.  Free.  This small museum is dedicated to preserving the material history of more than 1 million Caribbean East Indians and South Asians.  Artifacts include vintage hand irons, a pick axe, musical instruments, and gold jewelry including a nose ring.  A primitive East Indian “tapia house” is being constructed near the entrance.
exterior of Indian Caribbean Museum in Carapichaima, Trinidad
exterior of Indian Caribbean Museum in Carapichaima, Trinidad

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images ©2017 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

Friday, June 2, 2017

Things to Do: Lynfred Winery, Roselle, Illinois


Lynfred Winery  15 S. Roselle Rd., in Roselle, (630) 529-9463.  Daily 10am-7pm.  Tasting $11/person.  Tours Sat & Sun at 2 & 4pm; free.  Located unexpectedly out in the burbs, this full-on winery offers a tasting at its spacious bar that includes seven wines.  A large variety of special event tasting options are also available, including an evening tour with wine and cheese tasting.  Many of the wines are made from grapes brought in from California.  I enjoyed a light white Vermentino made with grapes from Lodi, California, and a tasty red Aglianico made with grapes from Clarksburg, California, as well as two dessert wines--a light Strawberry made from California berries and a lip-smacking Ruby Reserve port made with grapes from Washington state.  Bed and Breakfast suites are available.  


wine storage at Lynfred Winery in Roselle, Illinois
wine storage at Lynfred Winery in Roselle, Illinois

wine tasting at Lynfred Winery in Roselle, Illinois
wine tasting at Lynfred Winery in Roselle, Illinois

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images ©2017 Carole Terwilliger Meyers


Thursday, June 1, 2017

Sights to See: Mount St. Benedict Abbey/The Abbey of Our Lady of Exile, Trinidad


Mount St. Benedict Abbey/The Abbey of Our Lady of Exile  Off St. John’s Rd., in ST. AUGUSTINE in Tunapuna region.  Established in 1912, this is the oldest Benedictine monastery in the Caribbean.  About 10 monks reside here.  It is well known for its monk-made yogurt--soursop, almond, and pineapple are among the flavors--and monk-made pastries that are purveyed in a small store.  And it is the place to get a new car blessed.  Because it is located at 700 feet, it often has a cool breeze.  In addition to visiting the church, you can enjoy a nature park with trails and year-round good birdwatching.  Retreat lodging is available in the Pax Guesthouse.  

exterior of Mount St. Benedict Abbey in Trindad
exterior of Mount St. Benedict Abbey in Trindad


interior of Mount St. Benedict Abbey church in Trindad
interior of Mount St. Benedict Abbey church in Trindad

yogurt at Mount St. Benedict Abbey in Trindad
yogurt at Mount St. Benedict Abbey in Trindad

pastries at Mount St. Benedict Abbey in Trindad
pastries at Mount St. Benedict Abbey in Trindad


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images ©2017 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

 

Friday, May 12, 2017

Sights to See: Paramin village, Trinidad


PARAMIN VILLAGE  On Maracas North Coast.  This rural village is located on one of the highest points of the western area of the Northern Range--it peaks at 2,800 feet--and includes part of the Maraval area known for its expensive homes and golf course.  It is a sprawling, steep, and mountainous village whose residents have traditionally been farmers, producing herbs such as chives, thyme, and parsley, as well as vegetables such as tomatoes and yams.  Tomatoes are grown on almost vertical plots.  To maneuver the route, most locals and visitors ride in jeeps, which turns out to be a lot of fun, especially with a stop on the way down at the Kool Breeze Bar.  

view of Paramin Village over vertical tomato fields in Trinidad
view of Paramin Village over vertical tomato fields in Trinidad

jeep tour drivers in Paramin Village in Trinidad
jeep tour drivers in Paramin Village in Trinidad



 

exterior of Kool Breeze bar in Paramin Village in Trinidad
exterior of Kool Breeze bar in Paramin Village in Trinidad

interior of Kool Breeze bar in Paramin Village in Trinidad
interior of Kool Breeze bar in Paramin Village in Trinidad

view from Kool Breeze bar in Paramin Village in Trinidad
view from Kool Breeze bar in Paramin Village in Trinidad


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images and video ©2017 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

 

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Great Sleeps: Hilton Trinidad & Conference Centre, Trinidad


Hilton Trinidad & Conference Centre  Lady Young Rd., Port of Spain, (868) 624-3211.  418 rooms.  Pool; fitness center with 2 saunas, treatment rooms; 2 tennis courts.  Guests drive up to the top of a hill to enter the lobby of this hotel known as the “Upside Down Hilton,” whose rooms cascade down a small hill.  Built on the site of the former colonial French Governor’s residence, this hotel is set amid 25 acres of tropical landscape.  All guest rooms feature a private furnished balcony overlooking the bucolic surroundings.   
view from guest room balcony at the Hilton Trinidad in Trinidad
view from guest room balcony at the Hilton Trinidad in Trinidad

Facilities include one of the city's largest swimming pools--it is shaped like Trinidad--and a kids’ pool--shaped like Tobago--plus a terrace lined with lounge chairs shaded by umbrellas and trees.

pool area at the Hilton Trinidad in Trinidad
pool area at the Hilton Trinidad in Trinidad

The Terrace Garden restaurant features three-story-high ceilings and glass walls looking out to the green pool landscaping.  It is a delightful place for breakfast, when the buffet includes made-to-order omelettes as well as some local items--I became very fond of both the spinach-like calaloo made with dasheen leaves and the pumpkin choka fillings for fried bake breads--and an array of more familiar items. 

Terrace Garden restaurant at the Hilton Trinidad in Trinidad
Terrace Garden restaurant at the Hilton Trinidad in Trinidad

LUCE Sushi Bar is an independent restaurant known for its excellent sushi and cocktails.
LUCE Sushi Bar at the Hilton Trinidad in Trinidad
LUCE Sushi Bar at the Hilton Trinidad in Trinidad

Technically the hotel is located walking distance from Queen’s Park Savannah and the botanical gardens.  However, I took the “path” down from the hotel--it was actually a very steep, paved, decidedly unbucolic narrow service road used by hotel employees.  It passed noisy hotel machines, and when I reached the bottom there was no cross walk.  After watching locals, I literally ran across a confusing road beside a traffic circle and then had to do the same yet again to get over to the Savannah park.  It was then a looong walk to the gardens, and then I needed to cross the busy thoroughfare yet again--in a downpour that drenched me even with an umbrella.  Later, I wound up walking through a flooded grassy road edge to retrace my path back to the hotel.  My sneakers took two days to dry.  My advice--take a cab!


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images ©2017 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

 

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Things to Do: Maracas Beach; Good Eats: Bake and Shark, Trinidad


Maracas Beach  On north side of the island; 1-hr. drive from Port of Spain.  Unlike many of the northern beaches of Trinidad, Maracas Beach is protected by a deep bay.  It is one of the most well-known and beautiful beaches in Trinidad.  It is also famous for the dozen huts located across the highway from the beach that serve Bake and Shark, a native Trinidadian dish that consists of deep-fried shark stuffed in a "bake," or bun.  It is basically a fish burger served with condiments galore--pepper sauce, garlic sauce, coriander/cilantro sauce, tamarind, veggies.  The bread/bake is cooked in very hot oil so it is not greasy. 
 

Maracas Beach in Trinidad
Maracas Beach in Trinidad
  
Richard's Bake & Shark sign at Maracas Beach in Trinidad
Richard's Bake & Shark sign at Maracas Beach in Trinidad

 
preparing Bake & Shark at Richard's at Maracas Beach in Trinidad
preparing Bake & Shark at Richard's at Maracas Beach in Trinidad

adding condiments to Bake & Shark at Richard's at Maracas Beach in Trinidad
adding condiments to Bake & Shark at Richard's at Maracas Beach in Trinidad


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images ©2017 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

Monday, May 1, 2017

Sights to See: Caroni Swamp & Bird Sanctuary, Trinidad


BIRDWATCHING
Trinidad’s lush landscape provide the perfect conditions for the more than 450 species of birds that call the island home.  Key birding spots on island include:

Caroni Swamp & Bird Sanctuary  Off the Solomon Hochoy Hwy., 8 miles south of Port of Spain.  US$10 for 2 1/2-hr. cruise.  This 12,000-acre, mangrove-filled wetland is the top nesting site for the Trinidad national bird--the Scarlet Ibis (pronounced eye-bus).  Best viewing is in morning and evening.  Approximately 15,000 of these big red birds gather here at dusk each evening to roost in trees.  Among the more than 100 additional tropical birds seen here are snowy egrets, blue herons, green kingfishers, and bicolored conebills.  You might also see caimans amid the mangrove roots and boa constrictors entwined on branches.
boa constrictor in tree at Caroni Swamp & Bird Sanctuary in Trinidad
boa constrictor in tree at Caroni Swamp & Bird Sanctuary in Trinidad

Scarlet Ibis roosting in trees at Caroni Swamp & Bird Sanctuary in Trinidad
Scarlet Ibis roosting in trees at Caroni Swamp & Bird Sanctuary in Trinidad

single Scarlet Ibis heading to roosting trees at Caroni Swamp & Bird Sanctuary in Trinidad
single Scarlet Ibis heading to roosting trees at Caroni Swamp & Bird Sanctuary in Trinidad

flock of Scarlet Ibis heading to roosting trees at Caroni Swamp & Bird Sanctuary in Trinidad
flock of Scarlet Ibis heading to roosting trees at Caroni Swamp & Bird Sanctuary in Trinidad


Boat tours are available on site, though some tour companies arrange in advance.
     ●Nanan’s Bird Sanctuary Tours  38 Bamboo Grove Sett, No. 1, Uriah Butler Highway, Valsaya P.O., (868) 645-1305.  Depart at 4pm, return by 6:30pm.  In business for 60 years, this tour concession uses wood boats equipped with life vests.

Nanan's Bird Sanctuary Tours boats at Caroni Swamp & Bird Sanctuary in Trinidad
Nanan's Bird Sanctuary Tours boats at Caroni Swamp & Bird Sanctuary in Trinidad


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images ©2017 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Sights to See: LeRoy Clarke home, Port of Spain, Trinidad


LeRoy Clarke home  This popular contemporary native Trinidadian artist focuses on African art, and his paintings are usually very large.  As like calaloo--a popular island stew--is how he describes the mix of races in Trinidad.  Clarke is also a poet and, at age 78, has strong opinions, and so is loved by many and not so loved by others.  He lives in a small gated community in De Legacy House of El Tucuche, which was built to his specifications and where he graciously welcomed my group of journalists into his private space.   The soft-spoken artist says he uses his “sweet man voice around women,” and claims that he was the favorite of nine children. 


exterior of LeRoy Clarke home in Port of Spain, Trinidad
exterior of LeRoy Clarke home in Port of Spain, Trinidad


front room of LeRoy Clarke home in Port of Spain, Trinidad
front room of LeRoy Clarke home in Port of Spain, Trinidad


front room of LeRoy Clarke home in Port of Spain, Trinidad
front room of LeRoy Clarke home in Port of Spain, Trinidad

dining room of LeRoy Clarke home in Port of Spain, Trinidad
dining room of LeRoy Clarke home in Port of Spain, Trinidad

painting porch of LeRoy Clarke home in Port of Spain, Trinidad
painting porch of LeRoy Clarke home in Port of Spain, Trinidad



artist LeRoy Clarke at his bedroom desk in LeRoy Clarke home in Port of Spain, Trinidad
artist LeRoy Clarke at his bedroom desk in LeRoy Clarke home in Port of Spain, Trinidad


artist LeRoy Clarke in his library at LeRoy Clarke home in Port of Spain, Trinidad
artist LeRoy Clarke in his library at LeRoy Clarke home in Port of Spain, Trinidad


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images ©2017 Carole Terwilliger Meyers