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The Great Escape

Thursday, January 23, 2014
London Calling
Travellers to Trinidad who want to experience the city of Port-of-Spain like the locals do, can visit Charlotte Street to buy their fresh produce from vendors like Natoya, seen here with her son Cristof. PHOTO: KEARRA GOPEE

I love walking the streets of Port-of-Spain without seeing tourists. It’s like I’m the only tourist in town. I spent my first few months here marvelling at my surroundings, wandering home from work in the evening sunshine. 


Over time I’ve stopped taking pictures of every glorious colonial building I see and every vintage pristine-condition 1970s Nissan, Toyota or Ford Cortina. Now that this is my home, I can’t be all never-see-come-see. 


But I still can’t help looking at every person I pass and soaking up every aspect of Charlotte Street market on Saturday mornings—the buzz, bustle, sights, smells and sounds. For somebody like me, if I didn’t live here, Trinidad would be the perfect holiday destination. 


But I’m the kind of person who has holidayed in Syria, Egypt and West Africa, and I harbour a strong desire to visit Iran, Uzbekistan and Guyana. No Disneyland for me, I’m not your average tourist. 


Average tourists want simple things—a hotel, restaurant, beach, bar, shops and, fundamentally, safety and security. They want to see other tourists, preferably from their own country. That’s why Brits flock to Spain, Greece and Florida. Something about the familiarity of sunburnt skin, British bulldogs tattoos, Ben Sherman shirts and Essex accents puts them at ease even if it defeats the whole point of holidaying abroad.