While Trinidad and Tobago Cricket legend Brian Lara holds the record for the highest ever first class cricket score in a single match, I was marking a record of my own on arrival in Port of Spain, capital city of Trinidad and Tobago. Or T and T. Lara hit 501 runs NOT OUT for Warwickshire back in 1994 against Durham at Edgbaston. My arrival into the Caribbean made it 51 countries NOT OUT on my personal quest to travel the world. The reason for me mentioning Brian Lara is of course, he is from Trinidad! He was born in Santa Cruz. As well as his 501 record, he is the only batsman to have ever scored a hundred, a double century, a triple century, a quadruple century and a quintuple century in first class games over the course of a senior career. Some record, eh?! Anyway a day in Port of Spain…
First things first – a map of Trinidad. Strangely it is not dissimilar in shape to Wales!! Even with an Isle of Anglesey off the top left (north west). This island, Trinidad is one of two main islands in the country of Trinidad and Tobago. Apart from cricket, this small country have also boasted Dwight Yorke, and in 2006 they qualified for the FIFA World Cup, doing themselves very proud. They are the smallest nation in population terms to ever have qualified for a World Cup, beating the previous record held by my own country, Northern Ireland. Trinidad and Tobago has a population of about 1.2 million. 96% of that live in Trinidad with the other 4% living on the much smaller island of Tobago, to the north east of Trinidad. Incidentally Dwight Yorke hails from the smaller island.
The stylish Trinidad and Tobago flag. Looks a bit like the Sealand flag too! Arrival into the Carribean was into the main airport at Port of Spain (Puerto Espana) on the island of Trinidad.
My Caribbean Airlines aeroplane – I flew in from Caracas in Venezuela.
The view of part of Trinidad on my flight in.
Flying over Port of Spain just before landing.
Suburban housing in Port of Spain taken from my flight.
Touchdown in 51 NOT OUT.
The impressive tail on the aeroplane I flew on – cricket and tropical birds.
More tropical birds and an advert for the Republic Bank on arrival at Port of Spain.
This was actually the “transit desk” for those who were just staying in the airport. Ironically my immigration procedure and stamp was a much shorter queue.
This might sound odd but the first thing I had to do on arrival in Port of Spain was to buy a small backpack on arrival. I saw a sale on at Fredrics in the airport and found a decent wee bag in there. The bag I had on me had been damaged, ripped and to be honest just needed binned. The bag I got to replace it was much better and I still use it for work these days! Once I binned my old bag and put all the stuff into my new bag, I was off to see some of the city.
I was unable to withdraw money here on most of my cards, so had about 80 Trinidad and Tobago dollars for the day. That should be enough for a tour of the city, some lunch and a beer I presumed. But it wasn’t so I had to use some of my US Dollars in the end. I must have spent about $60 US Dollars that day but I know looking back it was a lot but it was worth it for the memories and the amazing city I saw!
Passport stamp on arrival. I had 3 days officially in the city, and although I crossed into the second day, it still felt like a transiting trip, but one which allowed me a full day in another incredible city.
I picked up a map of Port of Spain – one company wanted to charge $100 for a day tour including lunch, dinner and entry into some sights etc. I just picked up a free map and then met a guy at the airport who was friendly and local and basically not doing anything with his day but waiting for a tourist to take round the city. His name was Dale Coa and he showed me round Port of Spain – I was travelling alone. I got in his car and it was then I realised how far away from the city the airport is, and I was glad to be in on a personal guided tour with him. I met two Dutch guys at the airport and initially tried to get them to go with me on a day tour of the city, but I got suspicious when they started holding hands. Yes, the first ever gay couple I had met on my travels! So I left them to it…
My first steps outside the airport and the proud T and T flag. Plus a nice mountain range in the background.
Out the front of the airport. Why not take photos like that? I have the memory cards for them, and you’ll never be there again at the same time. “Capturing the moment” I like to call it.
These dudes are on display just past immigration in their airport. Local celebrities, via politics.
I got some more money changed at the airport – 16 T and T Dollars is probably about 2.5 US Dollars.
So we left the airport and veered round the roundabout onto the highway headed for the capital city Port of Spain. Though it is NOT the biggest city on the island. That accolade falls to Chaguanas. A city I must admit I hadn’t heard of until this point. I must also add that the main language here is “Trini” a kind of funky Caribbean dialect with a hint of English. English is the official language which was a hell of a culture shock to me, having been in Spanish speaking countries for over 2 months. The next two countries on my list would be Dutch and Portuguese speaking too, so without realising it, Venezuela was actually my final Spanish speaking country on this entire trip. That fact hit me soon when calling the city Puerto Espana didn’t go down well,nor did saying “gracias” as thank you. It was back to basics and took me a while to get used to it again.
I was a front seat passenger in Dale’s car. The view along the main highway was immense. The heat was, well, hot! So the air conditioning was welcomed as was Dale’s ongoing stories about things out the window. Dale was a good guide (but a bad photographer!) so if you are looking for a car rental in Tobago visit Guys AutoZone.
Taken at face value, I believed most of what he said. Almost everything written here is what Dale told me in the car that day – a slightly different way to tell a story on my blog, as I normally look things up and check them – but this was an extra bonus day on my adventures so I’m just taking this straight from my notes! Any inaccuracies let me know, but they are (in this report especially) to be expected.
What I didn’t realise was that the airport, Piarco International Airport is almost the same distance from Port of Spain as it is from Chaguanas. You reach a fork near San Juan – left is Chaguanas and straight on is Port of Spain. So there was an option there too. I thought I didn’t have time to see both cities (which I didn’t) so I went for Port of Spain.
We passed this building, NP which is the gas distribution place for the island. No need to stop of course. But I was making notes and taking photos. NP might be National Power, but I’m not sure.
Just next to the gas station HQ was a small river. The waterworks are also here – El Socorro.
The gas place again. I’m not too sure why Dale spent so much time explaining this and even drove past it. I came to the conclusion that Trinidadians must be proud of it. Fair enough.
One of the main highways is called Salaman Ocho. The other highway is Uriah Butler – again all straight from Dale. As we listened to the radio station Caribbean Feel on 81.9 FM, Dale also told me we were on the Bitam Highway and that he himself comes from Chaguanas, the country’s largest city. The above photo I think has the ghetto or slums that we passed. If I had wanted I am sure Dale would have driven me up there. But here’s the nearest I got:
The slums had massive oil drums in behind! I think the area is known as Laventille.
Next up are these two striking yellow “twin towers”. Dale tells me these will be the first of 2 sets of twin towers I see today. The story he gives me is that these were built for the football team and their families after their success and the trip to the 2006 World Cup, but the footballers didn’t want them, so sold them to locals. At the same time he also tells me that Trinidad and Tobago recently hosted the Women’s World Cup! I also fire him in the fact that back in 2004 i had almost made the trip to T and T to watch Northern Ireland. I tell him we spanked them 3-0 and Northern Ireland player David Healy broke a record that day. My fact was true, we did win 3-0 and David Healy overtook Colin Clarke’s all time Northern Ireland scoring record.
Twenty minutes later and we were downtown POS, TNT. Nice acronyms or lazy writing. In seriousness, the vibe on the streets of Port of Spain will stick in my memory. I was the only white person in sight, yet not once did that even seem to matter or did I feel alone. The dudes I met would all come over and act friendly.I assumed that was because I was with Dale. He’s a well known lad in the city! And he introduces me to a few guys and girls – this is my mate Jonny from Northern Ireland! He was an informative personal tour guide who doubled up as a mate for the day.
Downtown POS – Central Bank.
We parked on Brian Lara Promenade. Official known as Independence “Square”, despite it’s shape being a long narrow street in fact. From here it was easy to walk and navigate round a few sights.
Something I forgot which Dale told me was the use of the high building in behind the bank – maybe the courts or a finance centre.
Brian Lara even has his own statue on Brian Lara Promenade! I couldn’t believe that this was it. It probably wasn’t…
The view looking down to the seafront – typical street life in downtown POS. This photo taken from Brian Lara Promenade.
OK so Dale was a great guide, but a SHIT photographer. In fact the only photos he took of me in POS are all shit. This one he was meant to get the statue in it, but I look like an eejit just standing next to a white pillar.
The sign that confused me! Brian Lara is still alive and well. This statue was surely of Cipriani. I’m not sure what Dale was on about but there must have been a Brian Lara statue that he didn’t take me to!
The local market. Queen Street I believe.
Brian Lara promenade. At 2:13 pm?? Possibly!
Lunch is a takeaway while we walk and is a local speciality.
This woman cooks it up! Hardly the most hygenic of kitchens of all time, but this is real life Caribbean experience. So I’m in. Local bite and a beer!
Some kind of local speciality called “Doubles”. Fried dough, beans, spicy peppers and sauce. Looks a lot worse than it tasted. It was nice! But later on in the day, just before I left I felt very, very ill (the worst travel sickness I’d ever had in fact) and my stomach was about to subside. It was either the “doubles” or the horrible pie I’d had in Caracas for breakfast. I’d be tempted to blame the former as it was uncooked and revolting. Plus Venezuela is a shit hole, but the “doubles” could also have been the catalyst. The difference being, that when I ate the “doubles” I loved them!
Dale having his own “doubles”. This was the only photo I got of him! What a gentleman and overall decent guy.
You see? English really is the main language here. Even the truck says “Premier Seafoods” on it, though what struck me was the random FHS United Supermarket. Sounded more like a football team!
Nature in the downtown – a goose in the local park!
The Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. Not the oldest church in town but probably the prettiest. The time clearly displayed now as 2.23 pm.
Dale sits down and talks away to the locals and his mates on a bench!
Front of the Cathedral.
Interior of the Cathedral.
View of the palm trees and of Brian Lara Promenade looking from the front of the church.
Just a random photo then I guess. It does however show the street sign of Independence Square North, informally and locally known as Brian Lara Promenade.
The local newspaper offices!
Proof that Dale is a SHIT photographer. I got the Northern Ireland flag out for a photo in front of this awesome Cathedral and he proceeded to photograph the ground. Nice pattern in the stones mate, but what happened to the beautiful Cathedral. Oh well, at least it’s funny!
The fact he missed the top of the Cathedral actually made me a bit angry, so I doctored a photo of it, badly. I can’t do things like that – I’m useless at it. It made me think I have to go back there with the flag again and get the photo done correctly.
It was time for the local pub and we went into Yee’s Dragon Boys bar! I was the only white guy in there and it was an odd type of bar, but I loved it. Oddly I didn’t get any photos inside, but a few guys shook my hand in there and welcomed me. Dale realised a lot of them were drunk though so recommended we get a carryout and drink in the street. So I got a bottle of Stag and we left.
Devouring my ice cold stag on Brian Lara Promenade! T and T have two main beers apparently – Stag and Carib – I managed to try both – had a Carib later on in the airport.
Flag flying high in the downtown.
Arrogance in downtown POS – “excellent city centre”. I’ve seen better mind you!
View up to the hills from the downtown – this wasn’t a poor district according to Dale. Quite the opposite and the house prices were quite high and come with a decent view of the city and out to the Caribbean Sea.
Towards the bottom of Brian Lara Promenade.
A deluxe coach.
The famous Twin Towers. The business hub of POS.
Outside the business district, down at the waterside part of Brian Lara Promenade.
Nice message on the T and T logo. Together we aspire, together we achieve.
The courts, I believe.
Again the building I don’t remember what it’s for.
Bottom of the twin towers at the junction by Wrightson Road.
Another SHIT photo by Dale – wanted to get the twin towers in it!! “This could be Port of Spain…or anywhere…”
Art exhibition on the footpath.
oops a building I forget. Yes this was a whirlwind tour – I really didn’t get to relax or see much! I even missed the Red House and the Football Stadium.
A novel way to get water in downtown POS.
Same photo from the top of the article – the Water Taxi Terminal where you can catch a boat to other islands – one of which is Tobago.
Main ferry terminal and the junction by South Quay and Beetham Highway.
The red hand. Something Northern Irish perhaps…
Best hotel in the city.
And we arrive at the port itself and I get to touch the Caribbean Sea for the first time in my life.
The amazingly calm, clear and glorious Caribbean Sea.
Along the Caribbean. I walked along the promenade. Had I had a day to play with, I would possibly have headed over to Tobago for a night. The joys of spontaneous travel had been overshadowed and over-ruled by the strictness of a set flight that night, so I’d be heading back to the airport for sunset…
The ferry terminal. Another time.
Awesome range of red and black Trinidad and Tobago souvenirs.
More souvenirs. I wasn’t buying – a postcard my solitary purchase of this kind in T and T.
Tayto? Are you serious? Yes, Tayto Crisps – and Cheese and Onion flavour too! My favourite crisps in the world are the Northern Irish Tayto Cheese and Onion. I couldn’t believe there was an equivalent here. Alas, I couldn’t actually afford them at the time so had to pass on trying them. A total Northern Irish moment though!
There was a reason for this photo and a description from Dale. Both of those things escapes me.
The best photo of me in T and T? Possibly but I took it myself.
Another posh hotel down by the seafront. The Crowne Plaza.
Relaxing by the Caribbean Sea. The only decent photo Dale Coa took of me in Port of Spain.
National colours black, red and white (kind of) all make it into the paving stones.
The first time I saw a KFC on my South American trip.
A dude comes over and offers to wash Dale’s car so he lets him!
A postcard for my brother.
And this was a whirlwind one day, one city, two flights, same airport thing. So Dale dropped me back to the airport just before sunset.
Checked into my flight for Paramaribo in Suriname and had virtually no money left so just relaxed in the airport. Random steelpan music display above.
The last of my Dollars – which I didn’t spend or break as I was sure I’d need them for Suriname.
But there had to be time for one last beer as I luckily had 15 TNT Dollars in change – I had tried Stag so it was time to try Carib – the other local brew. 15 TNT Dollars a glass in the airport bar was perfect – yes I missed the Tayto crisps for this. I knew there would be free food on the flight you see.
Angosturas Bitters. Something funny then happened! I was browsing in this airport shop when the guy working there asks me “are you buying anything?” I said “No sorry, I’ve no money left” and he replied “Great – can you buy these for me on your duty free allowance and walk through security for me with them?” What was in it for me was 5 Dollars – the change I could keep. So of course I did it! I was used to it as I used to do a similar thing by buying cigarettes when I worked on the cross channel boats.
It was dark when I went to relax by the window and the day had been eventful. It was hardly a decent tour of the country or even city, but it was an enjoyable snapshot of it! For a start it was already a bonus as I had intended to head straight for Suriname…
Where – Port of Spain, TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO
Population – POS – 57,000
TNT – 1.2 million
Nationalities Met – Trinidad and Tobagon, Dutch, Surinamese
Strange Currencies – Trinidad and Tobago Dollars and Cents
Language – Trini (English is actually the main language)
Famous People – Brian Lara, Dwight Yorke
Transport Used – Aeroplane, Dale’s Car
Beers Tried – Stag, Carib
Bars Visited – Piarco International Airport Bar, Yee’s Dragon Boys Bar