As it’s hurricane season, I’ve been thinking back to my time in hurricane countries. When I was in Port of Spain, I enjoyed mornings watching the ships. One day I watched this and I wondered, how do you parallel park a ship?
Well, you don’t. You push it in with the help of “tug” boats.
Probably the most famous outing from Port of Spain is the beach at Maracas Bay. It’s about 35 minutes outside of the city along a windy hilly road.
The view from the viewpoint is not the only reason to stop. There are chow stalls where you can try the famous “pineapple chow.” Chow is a dish of fruit in a brine with shadon beni (culantro) and chili peppers. They also make chow with green plums, mango, and cucumber. The pineapple is the best with its contrast of juicy sweetness, salty brine, and slight spice. All the basic electrolytes in one bite!
Maracas Bay is a popular beach for the locals and it’s a good place to hang out. There are lifeguards on duty, a good thing considering how fierce the waves the day we went.
For a foodie, the reason to go to Maracas Bay is to eat “bake and shark” or a fried fish sandwich. This sandwich was made more famous by Anthony Bourdain. The most famous place is Richard’s with the many condiments including pineapple chow. Uncle Sam’s is on the beach side and overlooks the beach. You buy the fish sandwich and then put on the condiments of your choice from garlic sauce, tamarind sauce, pepper sauce (pureed scotch bonnet peppers), slaw, pineapple chow, mayonnaise, etc. The sandwich reminds me a bit of po’ boy sandwiches.
This post is not about the best of Trini speak. I haven’t heard enough yet to know what the best phrases might be. What I do know is that I don’t understand the English here in Port of Spain. I’d say that my comprehension is on par with my Spanish comprehension… well, they might be neck in neck. (I almost felt relief when talking to a guy in Spanish! If three sentences counts as talking.)
The Trinis tell me that it’s because they speak fast. No, they don’t. They use different vocabulary, different grammar, different spelling, and they have a different cadence. In other words, a different language. They remove “then” and other prepositions (is that what they are called?). Or how about “the best food in tongue” which must mean “best tasting” or not?
Other than terminology like “lime” and “whine” there are many other words in daily life that are used which I can’t recall right now. I wish I could. One phrase that I wrote down was, “A good bit of us” for “there are a lot of us.” Sounds like British but without the accent.
The food vocabulary is easy to learn (bodi is long green beans) as that’s a matter of memorization, and many of the words have an origin that is typical of Trinidad’s cultural influences. Bodi probably originates from the Hindi word and was likely introduced by the South Asians.
And then there’s the spelling. See that “best” is now a woman’s name, “bess.” And “ah” for “of” as can be seen in the soup sign.
Linguists could have a field day.
Ya dam right gee. For de bess ah tongue.
Or something like that. I have no idea! Habla espanol?
I didn’t expect to find a good sushi restaurant in Santo Domingo (sorry, don’t be offended, DR!) but I did. Shibuya is located on the ground floor of the Blue Mall (one of the most expensive high end malls in the city) and it is part of the SBG restaurant chain. SBG has a cafe on the same floor. While Shibuya is Japanese, the dishes are a fusion of Japanese-Peruvian dishes.
First, yes, they have a Japanese chef… for those who use this as a marker for a good Japanese restaurant. I don’t think he works every day so I imagine that sometimes the Japanese food is made by non-Japanese hands…
The sushi place has excellent sashimi (raw fish like the salmon in the first photo — a double portion), tiridito dishes (Peruvian “carpaccio” of fish — thin slices with sauce. See the photo of the fish in the yellow sauce, above.), and ceviches (classic Peruvian style in photo above, with deep fried sweet potato deep and Peruvian corn). Many of the other dishes are good as well, as are their cocktails. I liked their “tuna tartare” which was like a large portion of Hawaiian “poke” (raw fish salad mixed with soy sauce, green onions, sesame seed oil, and chili or mayonnaise… you get the idea) with extra ingredients.
I ate that this restaurant more than ten times and had almost everything on the menu. Their fried rice is super crunchy. I think they toss quinoa in it to make it extra crunchy.
Another surprise at this place is their coconut cake dessert. Not at all Japanese, but is a nice nod to the Caribbean. Try it! I wasn’t convinced as I recall the straw texture of desiccated coconut… this cake tasted like warm apple pie.
As for this place being the best sushi place in the DR, I didn’t eat at too many sushi places but this place was so good that I looked forward to eating there. Who needs to go anywhere else? It’s not this local fish place…
The larger than life Jamaican woman is the event. Sure, go for the ribs and potatoes too. Plus the German beer. But, mainly, it’s a good place to drink and carouse. Carolina, the Jamaican German who owns this place makes this one of those places where you feel welcome. (If you like fancy places, look away now.) It’s a self service sort of place, or rather, self order. There are various men and boys, like the baker’s son, who will deliver your food to you, but you order stuff inside. This is a place where the water is the most expensive item on the menu. A lunch plate for two of ribs and potatoes (split open like hot cross buns and soaked in chives and butter), with meatball thrown in, cost around 545 pesos ($10). The potatoes are golden mega-nuggets of comfort. Carolina (great name for a lady who serves barbecue) serves grilled ribs, sausages, meatballs, and she sells them too. The addictive potatoes are the accompaniment, and when she remembers, there is sauerkraut. The only sauce is a sweet mustard, unless she remembers to make a chili sauce. When I asked for chili sauce, she brought me the tiniest chili peppers (they were under an inch in size) to chew on. I did. The location is on a street off the malecon (coast road): Calle Hermanas Mirabal, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. This place is easy to find on Google. Once you find the street, the restaurant is a few hundred yards up the street, next to another stall. The German place is quite large with a small beer garden feel. There are lots of fans and shade to keep you cool if the icy cold beer doesn’t. Inside, you order your food at the deli counter and the beers at the other corner. They will keep track on a chit and you pay when you leave. Not sure about credit cards as I paid cash. Inside, the German Baker had a table set up selling his breads. He sells pretzel bread and many other items.You can’t miss it as Carolina will be the LOUD large lady yelling and singing in Spanish, German, and English. She likes to talk dirty and flirt in a big way. If you get there before noon, she may be less racy. May. Be. She does thirsty work so we bought her many a beer and she sat with us, in between bursts of hugging, dancing, or yelling!Sometimes there is entertainment, other than Carolina, and that will bring about more carousing. Despite this place being “famous” — it doesn’t feel super touristy. Maybe because Anthony Bourdain hasn’t been here.If I lived here, I would probably be here every Saturday.
If you want to be enchanted for a an hour or so, visit Los Tres Ojos, early on a Sunday morning. Then only the touts and tour guides will harass you on the surface.
Once you get down into the caves, it will just be you, a turtle, bats, fish, and lots of humidity. Pay the ferryman for the barge ride and enjoy the hidden world on the other side. With the entrance fee (up top) and the ferryman, it’s a cheap hour’s distraction. I think it was 100 pesos and 25 for the ride (2 bucks and 50 cents). Los Tres Ojos is located right off a major highway in Santo Domingo, and ten minute drive from colonial part of town.
There are a lot of stairs…
Having “done” this by 11 a.m., I felt quite good about going out to lunch before taking an epic siesta.
Can a place be “cute?” Yes. If it’s Curacao. According to Wikipedia, one of the explanations for the name of Curacao, is that it was an “island of healing” and cute. Okay, it only says stuff about healing. The photo shows some cute cucumbers with a less cute sized cousin.
Curacao is part of the ABC islands (Aruba, Bonaire, and Curacao) right off the coast of Venezuela. Willemstad, the capital, is like a Caribbean Amsterdam (this was a Dutch colony and one of the official languages is Dutch), pretty buildings, and walking streets. The outer part, the Otrabanda, is a two minute walk across the pedestrian bridge from the downtown, Punda. But, just to show how small this place is, when I asked a shopkeeper in Punda (downtown) about something in the Otrabanda area, he looked at me wide-eyed and said that he didn’t know what it was like over there. Two minutes away…
When I tried to find a local snack place, I kept walking past the street I was looking for, because the blocks are so small. Of course, I did find the snack place. The photo is from my breakfast at the Royal Dutch Cheesery. Please note that the Dutch like to eat sprinkles (two boxes upper left in photo) for breakfast.
Curacao is less cute once you leave downtown, but that’s a different topic. It’s also kind of pricey, being an island and all… but as you can pay in dollars and credit card, you will probably be able to afford the cheese. Oh, and the blue liquor as you leave through your special cruise ship terminal at the airport… I didn’t, so I can’t tell you about that.
San Andres is nice and has all the usual activities of a sun and sand vacation. Plus, San Andres has some decent restaurants and lots of duty-free shopping.
The only thing that I didn’t notice were too many spas. There was a spa on the beach. But as they appeared to be the only game in town, they only had 30 minutes massages available. They only had one massage table and it was separated from the public by a bamboo bead curtain (which was never closed). The main “spa” activity in the hut seemed to be the fish foot spa. Even with a reservation, we did not manage to get a spa treatment on the beach. We did find a hair salon that also had massages and manicures and pedicures.
Apparently, the smaller (less crowded) Providencia is much nicer than San Andres. Perhaps another time.
It’s just possible that Cartagena de Indias, on the coast of Colombia, is indeed the most beautiful town in the world. The old city, the “ciudad antigua,” is well preserved and pleasant for tourists, with lane after lane of prettiness and plazas. Wander from gelateria to ice cream shop (two are right next to each other which makes an comparisons much easier), after a dinner al fresco. The humid weather makes the juice (50 cents a glass) from the street vendor taste extra refreshing. Maybe try one of the “plantain hotdogs” which is a deep fried plantain stuffed with shredded meat and topped like a hotdog.
While this town is expensive, I recommend staying inside the walled city anyway. The city is different at night, and it’s nice to call it home for a while. During the day, enjoy the ridiculously picturesque lanes. Sure, it’s touristy but the vendors are not unpleasantly aggressive.
If you want, take a day trip to one of the nature reserves located out in the Caribbean. The main attractions in Cartagena for tourists seem to be the warmth, the beaches, the castle of St. Philip (“castillo san felipe”) and the walled city itself. Just outside the walled old city is the Getsemani, a neighborhood getting more publicity these days for its culture rather than for being the red light district.
The modern hotel strip of Cartagena (pronounced “Car-ta-heh-nah”), called the big mouth, “boca grande,” is a bit outside the walled city.
Speaking of “Car-ta-HAY-nah” — If you go looking for scenes from the movie, Romancing the Stone, you will not find it since that was film was filmed in Mexico. But never mind, Cartagena de Indias will romance you (couldn’t resist!) even if you are made of stone. And yes, you can buy emeralds here (more on emeralds later).