Sep 032011

We ended up sleeping in a little bit, and sitting around the pool taking it easy before heading to the airport for our early afternoon flight to Port-of-Spain, Trinidad and Tobago.  Initially, when we were looking at this ticket on LIAT‘s website, it was around $100 one way plus another $150 or so in taxes and fees.  When I came back a week later to buy it, however, it only charged me the $100 with no taxes!  So, I was definitely expecting some drama at the airport.

Got to the airport plenty early, and being another prop plane they made us check our rolling bags.  No big deal, was nice not to have to roll them through security and around the airport anyways.  Through check-in, no issues at all, and was thinking maybe we’d get lucky!  However, right before security was the “airport improvement fee” desk.  They hit us for around $28 each in fees which was still much better than we were expecting to pay, so all in all a pretty big win!

We stopped for a bit in the Plesman Lounge (courtesy of Priority Pass) which wasn’t good for much more than spotty internet, a diet coke, and some potato chips.  Oh well, better than waiting it out at the gate!

There was some real concern about when this flight left.  Our booking said 13:00, boarding passes said 12:40, and the gate display said 13:15.  Nobody seemed to really know!  Regardless, we started boarding just before 12:30 and were off before 1.

LIAT Flight 772
Curacao to Port-of-Spain
Depart Approximately 13:00, Arrive 15:00.
Dehavilland Dash 8-300, Registration V2-LGG, Manufactured 1995
Seating was open seating, and we ended up in 1A and 1B in the bulkhead

The flight was two hours, and the most sup rising thing is there was no food or drink on board – even to buy! The plane was in pretty rough shape, and had clearly done some prior service in China since there were chinese markings all over the plane – exit signs, setbacks, etc. Arrived “on time” and were soon at immigration which was a breeze.

After immigration was customs, which was where things went a bit south. The rather surly agent working the customs line took one look at me and said “are you in the Army?” Now, Trinidad and Tobago declared a state of emergency about two weeks ago due to a rash of drug-related murders, and there was a 9pm-5am curfew on the island. She was relatively friendly, however, walking me over to the sign we’d walked by where in addition to the usual guns, nuclear materials, etc you can’t bring into the country, was taped a sign saying “no camouflage clothing.” Pink, blue, regular, it didn’t matter – camo was forbidden. Fortunately she forgave me, sent me back into the baggage area to change into another pair of shorts, and then let us go.

We were pretty hungry at this point, and the airport was full of fast food places. However, on FourSquare, there was a tip to skip them all and hit the “local food court.” Problem was, we couldn’t find it! We asked a porter who directed us outside, across a car park, and that’s where we found Sharkey’s Double Shack.

I’m still not sure what a double is, but they were delicious. The vendor seemed very suspicious that we really wanted to try this common local food, but they were awesome! They were essentially a roti bread wrapped around some curried lentils, chutney, garlic, and other things I couldn’t figure out. Delicious!

After this we grabbed a taxi to the hotel, where I screwed up. We were quoted a rate of 189 and when we got out of the cab, for some reason my brain remembered 289 so I gave him 300. Oh well, it’s only around $14 but I hate making mistakes like this!

The hotel seemed dead (probably due to the State of Emergency) and we ended up with a nice room. Off to the club lounge for a couple of Diet Cokes, and the very friendly agent advised us the area we were planning to hit for dinner (which basically was a square where they served all sorts of local street food) would be dead due to the approaching curfew, so she recommended hitting up this Trinidadian BBQ place in a mall not far away.

Ended up being an awesome choice! The restaurant was called the Woodford Grill, and it was full of locals. Always a good sign. We had a few 2-for-1 Carib beers (what’s the point of happy hour when you have to close at 7 so your staff can beat the curfew?) and then the fun began. Matt ordered the cajun shrimp which were really really hot, and I got the stewed pork platter which the waitress recommended. Then, we had to choose two sides…most of which we had never heard of. We both got stewed cassava in garlic sauce which was good, and Matt tried the Coo Coo and I got the Callaloo. The Coo Coo was okra and cornmeal, and was really pretty bland. My Callaloo, however, was pretty tasty. It was a local leafy green stewed in coconut milk, and was really sweet!

We decided to check-in on FourSquare at dinner, and turned out there was a FourSquare special of a free dessert called the Oreo Cookie Bash. Who could resist something called that! The staff had no idea what FourSquare was, but after discussing they decided to honour it, and we headed back to the Hilton for a couple beers in the lounge until 8pm when they closed so the lounge workers could get home.

Not too much to say on the Hilton. The rooms got ice cold, there was a good spread both for evening snacks and breakfast in the lounge, and the staff was friendly. Only downside was that they offered a tour to Maracas Bay when you booked, and when I asked about it they had no idea what I was talking about! The concierge managed to track down a great driver, and the next morning we were off. Personally, I think if you’re going to offer a tour package on your website, you should at least have a clue what it is!

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