Trinidad's Grand Carnival Celebration
When it comes to celebrating Mardi Gras, or "Fat Tuesday," New Orleans, Venice or Brazil might rapidly come to mind. However, Trinidad claims their Canival celebration to be the oldest and the greatest of them all. In Trinidad, Carnival is not celebrated for one day or even one week only; in Trinidad, Carnival is a whole season leading up to the Christian season of Lent!! Lent is a time of self-sacrifice, humility and penance ending with Easter day. Trinidad's Carnival is a season of joyous living expressed in music, dance, fetes, parades and food which begins just after New Year's Day and ends with Ash Wednesday, the day before the beginning of Lent.
By all accounts, Carnival in Trinidad is extraordinary!! Thousands of individuals and groups don exciting and colorful costumes, and begin dancing and parading to the pulsating rhythm of bands, especially steel drum bands. The steel drum bands invite the crowds to watch rehearsals in their "panyards" prior to Mardi Gras day. Calypso & Soca are other music variations (along with steel drums) which Trinidad claims to be the origin of.
"Calypso Tents" stage shows throughout the season. Tickets for live music nights or "Trini Parties" and panyard shows are easily available. It would be best to visit the local tourist office (or the airport tourist office) to get lists of performance venues for these nightly events which take place in various places around Port of Spain. However, many of the celebrations take place in the Aripa Savannah close to downtown. Information from Trinidad's tourist office indicates that beginning around 2 a.m. on the Monday prior to Ash Wednesday, the first revelers take to the streets!!
The Parade of Bands takes place the Monday & Tuesday before Ash Wednesday. Don't miss the Kings & Queens of the Carnival. Featured entertainers perform, bands compete, and even visitors can get in on the action and even play in some bands. The opportunity to experience the many faces of Carnival is readily available for all! The country extends an open invitation to all to come to the birthplace of Carnival--- the island of Trinidad!!
- Arts and Culture
Monastary the Site of Unusual Devotion
During our visit to the Mt. St. Benedict Monastary and the Pax Guest House for our afternoon tea, the monastary manager/guide, Mr. Gerard Ramsawak, discribed to us how the monastary is the site of an unusual religious rite of devotion.
During the last days of Lent, pilgrims and parishioners make the tortorous journey up the road leading to the monastary ON THEIR KNEES!! Stopping at each station of the "Sign of the Cross" and praying and making repentence for sins, the journey may take as long as 14 hours which leads up to the time of the Sunrise services on Easter morning.
I have heard of this extreme self-sacrifice and extreme devotion taking place in other countries as well. Sometimes a similar event involves acending steps on one's knees or carrying a life-size cross while wearing a crown of thorns like Jesus did; in any case, it gives you many things to ponder concerning yourself.
- Religious Travel
- Historical Travel
Mt. St. Benedict Monastary Cemetery
You will also be able to visit a cemetaey on the side of the hill which like the rest of the monastary is quite historical and most certainly unique. Can you guess why these graves are above ground?
We made a short visit to the cemetery where our tour guide pointed out interesting facts and history about some of those buried here and their connection to the church or are. I wish I could remember all that he said; however, the heat & humidity was having a great effect on me and virtually the only thing I could concentrate on was how much I wanted to be in an air-conditioned room regardless of how interesting the historical information was.
"The Monastary at Mt. St. Benedict"
From Port of Spain, take a drive across town and up into the high hills where you will find the Monastary at Mt. St. Benedict perched on the hillside of Mt. Tabor. From this point you will have a sweeping view of the Caroni Plains. The ARIPO Savannah lies to the south.
The monastary was founded in 1912 by Abbot Majuel when the Bernadine monks fled religious persecution in Brazil. In the past, the original monastary you see in the accompanying picture was home to as many as 90 monks and also served as a stopover for those traveling through this area. It was said the arched entry was built just large enough for a man riding a horse to pass under it as the rider ventured up into the mountains. The monastary is 800 ft. above sea level.
Today, the monastary is a "working" institution where the remaining monks tend to farming, beekeeping, baking bread, making jams, jellies & yogurt all of which are for sale to the public. There is a gift shop here which sells mostly religious articles in addition to the food products. The Pax Guest House accommodates travelers but also seems a likely place for a religious retreat since it is virtually next door to the very large church (Our Lady of Exiles) here. The Manager of the Guest House (maybe the several businesses of the monastary as well) was Mr. Gerard Ramsawak and he did an excellent job of imparting information and making us feel quite welcome as he gave us a tour of the church, the guest house where he hosted our afternoon tea.
- Historical Travel
- Religious Travel
- Arts and Culture
Temple by the Sea
The Temple by the Sea, sometimes referred to as Waterloo Temple is a nice place to visit, particularly during dusk as the sun is setting.
It is a relatively small temple, but the setting is wonderful. Entrance is free, but the gates may be locked after sunset.
Immediately adjacent to the temple parking lot is a popular cremation site. If you visit during the opportune time, you may witness ritualistic cremation and the funeral pyres.
Maracas Bay - View Point
There is a view point before you reach Maracas, if you travel from the West end of Trinidad. You can also reach this place from the east of Trinidad via ASA Wright nature center & Blantechure (not sure about the spelling) beach.
Maracas Beach for Tourist
Most of the tourist will end up in this beach, since its one of the beautiful beaches in Trinidad and very easily accessible. If you go on weekends & public holidays you will find n no. of Trinis there. If you have very short time in Trinidad, make sure to visit this beach instead of the other ones. Unless like other beaches, this beach has some shops especially the famous 'Bake & shark'. If you tell someone in Trinidad that you have visited Maracas, the next thing they will ask you that have you tasted 'Bake & Shark'.
ASA Wright Nature Center
This is a nice place which is well located inside the dense forest mountains, nice place for bird watching in Trinidad. You can take a hike with the guide arranged by them. They have nice little restaurant and lovely rooms for staying too. If you have enough time, check it out - worth traveling that far, if like birds & nature.
Caroni Bird Sanctuary
Go for this amazing trip into the Caroni Swamp Bird Sanctuary, there is a maze of waterways in the mangrove swamp. We experience with lot of birds, snakes and other species.
You can book a tour with Nanan's tour company.
View Point - POS - night
Same comments as above. But my suggestion is do not go out alone there during the night. Even if you go early in the evening do not stay there until it gets dark. Its not even safe with the local person accompaning you. Saftey first.
During April, May & June you can go to Mayura, Manzinilla beaches during the night, offcourse with the guide (Check during that time of the year in the news papers or check with the Forest Department, just opposite to Long Circular Mall). You can watch the Leather Back Turtles (which is one of the endangered species), each of approximately 5-6 feet long and 2-3 feet wide, laying eggs on these beaches. Sometimes you can see 2 to 5 at the same time. Its a lovely site to watch them laying...I cant explain those in words..you have to see it.
Then during June, July, August if you are really lucky then you can watch them hatching and getting into the sea. Thatz a marvelous site...Check out the pics, one of the just born turtle on my hand. I didnt take photos while laying eggs because the Warden told me that it might hurt their eyes, since they are used to only the sarts & the moon.
Pronounced Juvay (its French), and meaning Open Day, this is the last opportunity to join a band to make the parade of the bands on Tuesday, it's messy, very very messy, and nobody gives a flying f*&k about anything.
You can find CEO's, lawyers and high flyers, partying next to everyman, dancing in the street, covered in paint and just not caring, thats the beauty.
We started out J'ouvert after the Calypso Monarch final on Sunday night/ Monday morning, you just follow the crowd and end up in a street packed full of people (at about 0200) and you hang around, drinking, dancing to music pumped out into the street from bars lining the street, meeting people and dancing dancing dancing, and wandering around, then the 1st Band truck passes (around 0430 ish), it is quite literally an articulated lorry packed with speakers - and voila - J'ouvert has begun, follow the truck (or wait for your band to turn up and follow it) around the town all day, all night if you want, more drinking, more dancing, more paint, like I said, messy.
I wish I could put into words the atmosphere, its unreal, just dancing through the street, meeting tourists, locals, anyone, everyone is there for a good time, if ' try everything once' is something you agree with, then you MUST try this.
If you've joined a band before J'ouvert there is usually an all night party anyway in whichever part of town your band is located in, so you just go there and do the same as the street party, but set off from the beginning.
Crime isn't as bad as you may think during this, we ended up hanging out with a group of gangster types, who, at one point, did try and steal my camera, but it wasn't malicious and after I'd got it back off them, we carried on hanging out anyway, they looked after us pretty well and its generally accepted that the economy would suffer quite a bit if crime put tourists off.
- Arts and Culture
Parade of the Bands
According to some the best Carnival in the world, to others, 2nd after Rio.
Whatever, if you end up in Trinidad for Carnival you won't be disappointed.
In Trinidad there are generally 4 days of Carnival, the weekend including Dimanche Gras, then Monday and the Mardi Gras on Tuesday, usually followed by Ash Wednesday on the beach at Maracas bay, but the build up to Carnival can begin as early as October, with new Soca and Calypso music being released.
The Parade of the bands is really the visual piece de resistance of the Carnival, the costumes are in 4 categories, Kings, Queens and Junior Kings and Junior Queens, the costumes can be absolutely huge, contain fireworks, smoke, lights and all being carried across the stage by one person, the winning costume this year was so big that pieces of it had to be taken off so that it could fit down the streets during j' ouvert.....
The costumes usually take all year to design and build, and the physical training of the people carrying the costume takes about the same.
The parade takes place on Monday and Tuesday, with Monday being J'ouvert, the entrants usually only wear part of their costume, but on Tuesday all the bands come out in full force (there were 120 bands this year), which usually takes all day, the bands get marked as they go around the parade circuit with the winner being announced at the end of the day.
You can join these bands on J' ouvert and actually take part in the parade, you get issued a costume and if you get an all inclusive, your drinks too.
- Arts and Culture
The Famous(?) Pitch Lake
Most of you would heard this word Pitch Lake or Asphalt Lake is in Trinidad. I went on with high expectations to see this. It turns out to be an amazingly huge car park!!?? This pitch lake looks like a car park area of a huge mall with some bushes here & there in the middle. The Asphalt here comes out naturally from the oil-bearing rocks, when ever they take out a truck load of asphalt from it, it recovers it up within a short span of time.
There are lot of places in Trinidad to do bird watching. The emblem of Trinidad & Tobago itself has birds like Scarlet Ibis (Pink) on the left, the Cocrico (Brown) on the right and humming birs in the middle.
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