Monday, June 11, 2018

Next Stop: Tobago


This week, I'm returning to the lovely island of Tobago and it's a homecoming of sorts. I'm taking my daughter to see her grandmother, they haven't seen each other since she was three-years-old. As a revered teacher on the tiny island, Hermia Yeates holds quite an influence so besides reconnecting, we will be meeting calypsonians, dignitaries and possibly even the prime minister.  Gobbling up doubles, chicken pilau and shark and bake will be major highlights of our trip as well as taking in the natural landscape. The last time I was on Tobago, I was there to see Wendy Fitzwilliam be crowned  as Trinidad & Tobago's second Miss Universe. I remember being swept up in the pride and euphoria and I also recall a certain narcissistic "billionaire" who owned the pageant and went on to open hotels on the island. It will be interesting to see the changes on Tobago as well as experience the island through my daughter's eyes. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Organic and I-tal Living in St. Lucia


Connecting with the landscape and native plants of a destination is one of my favorite activities when I travel so I was excited to have a personalized farm-to table experience in St.Lucia. But I had no idea just how pivotal the visit would be.  The I-tal , organic farm-to-table experience  at The Body Holiday is an absolute must.


St. Lucia is an especially lush, verdant island so wandering through the restaurant's garden with Chef Damien would have been fun even if we weren't gathering food to eat. He pointed out essential plants like callaloo, breadfruit and papaya and explained local uses for herbs like peppermint, basil and rosemary.


I picked a big basket of callaloo, which is one of my beloved island veggies. The sun was so intense that the plants buoyant leaves started wilting as soon as I cut them. Our group picked baskets and baskets of produce for our vegan meal.


And that's not where the participation ended. We diced tomatoes, eggplants, carrots and onions. Since I'm super clumsy, I avoided using the big knives and snapped the green beans for what turned out to be a five course meal using only ingredients from the restaurant's garden. Enjoying the different flavors and learning about Damien and his wife Ratanya was a major highlight. The chefs even made a special tea for me to drink for my cold. The open walled restaurant sits atop a hill so that you can take in a full view of the island's beauty. Eating at I-Tal restaurant and connecting with St. Lucia's landscape and people is the ultimate  sustainable travel excursion.


Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Next Stop: St. Lucia


This week, I'm off to my beloved St. Lucia. It's been a few years but there's always something new  or requiring another turn on this gorgeous island. I'll be reviewing St. Lucia Jazz Fest,  which I haven't visited since Amy Winehouse performed her last show there in 2009.  That was a sad and unforgettable experience so I hope to create new, more positive memories at the rebooted fest, which actually focuses on jazz music this time. The line up  features  mostly Caribbean jazz artists so I'm excited to hear the shows. I'll also make a necessary stop to Soufriere volcano and sulphur springs as well as my first visit to the legendary St. Kitts Caribelle Batik at their St. Lucia location.  Videos, pix and reviews coming soon so please stay tuned!

Saturday, May 5, 2018

St. Thomas Carnival and African Heritage


Everybody loves Carnival. A lot of people think that it's just a big, colorful excuse to party but there is so much historical significance to the practice. Carnival literally translates to "farewell to meat" in Latin. It represents the Lenten tradition of the Catholic church to sacrifice during the month leading up to the resurrection of Jesus. A big party preceded the month of sacrifice. Spanish and Portuguese colonizers brought the tradition to North and South America. But as I watched St. Thomas Carnival, I was excited to see the Shaka Zulu troupe above, because so much of contemporary Carnival culture incorporates African culture. Enslaved Africans weren't allowed to join the Carnival celebrations so they created there own. All the feathers and masks used for costumes directly relate to African ceremonial style. The masks and feathers were used to invoke spirits.


And the Mocko Jumbies or Stilt walkers?  Most Virgin Islanders recognize them as a direct link to their West African heritage. These costumed figures are an important part of African religious ceremonies and rites of passages, adding spiritual protection to the events. Usually, they wear masks or a face covering but that St. Thomas sun was blazing so I don't blame this Mocko Jumbie for leaving off her mask!


The music, the dancing, the costumes of Carnival all display African traditions.  So the next time you jump up or watch a colorful carnival procession, please don't forget to thank Mama Africa!

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Next Stop: St. Thomas


It's been a long while since I visited the lively Rock City, also know as St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands. After 2017's Hurricanes Maria and Irma, I covered how the VI was affected and how to help. This week, I'll get the chance to observe the recovery firsthand and see how legendary vistas like Magens Bay, shown above, have fared.


I'm also excited to attend St. Thomas Carnival! I'll be watching the kids parade, sampling goodies at the Soca Village and maybe even participating in the adult's parade, so please keep a look out for posts and videos!

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

The Design Beauty of Guadeloupe's Mourne-a-l-Eau Cemetary


I'm not a fan of wandering through cemeteries and hanging out among the graves but Guadeloupe's Mourne-a-l-Eau cemetery is a beautiful exception. Set atop a hill, most of the crypts are covered in black and white tiles that resemble little checkerboard houses.



The first thing I learned is that you should never enter a Guadeloupe cemetery or church without knocking first. So I knocked on the gate and roamed though the rows of intricately decorated tombs. The black and white design is supposed to represent the black color for mourning in Europe and the white color for mourning in Africa.


Many of the crypts looked like miniature homes, complete with spaces for mourners to sit and commune with their ancestors. Some people even hire architects to create their tombs. I've never seen anything like Mourne-a-l-Eau, although I did spot smaller versions as I traveled through Grande Terre. To me, the beauty of these final resting places reflect Guadeloupe's respect for the cycle of life.  Do you like to visit cemeteries?


Friday, April 6, 2018

Discovering MLK on Guadeloupe


The islands of Guadeloupe presented me with quite a few surprises. I didn't realize that the main island is really made up of the twin islands of Grande Terre and Basse Terre.  And there are also three other islands that make up Guadeloupe to add to the confusion. That was just the first unexpected experience. Spotting a mural of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on a Grande Terre street was another.



I've always been a big fan of graffiti art. It gives a creative glimpse of the local communitiy's focus and concerns. Seeing MLK told me a lot about the locals pride and awareness. I actually watched the artists complete this mural, they had just started it the night before.


Street art is always interesting but witnessing an American icon be painted on a French Caribbean wall was certainly an image I'll always remember.