From Tobago, we took a 25-minute flight to Trinidad. Alternatively, you can take an almost 3 hour ferry ride. It was a good thing we had bookings for the flight because during our visit all the ferries for several days were cancelled due to rough seas. For our short stay in Trinidad, we stayed at the Hyatt Regency Trinidad which is one of the nicer and newer hotels in town. After staying at the Tropikist in Tobago for 2 nights, any hotel was a welcoming relief. About 10 minutes away by car is Queen’s Park Savannah or “the Savannah” as locals would call it. This large open space used to be sugar land and then was used as cattle pasture until the mid-19th century when it became a park. On the southern side of the park is where stages are constructed during the annual Carnival. There are seven Victorian style buildings built between 1902 and 1910 called the Magnificent seven Houses on the western edge of the park along Maraval Road. They were originally built as private residences in an array of styles such as French Colonial, Indian Empire, Moorish Mediterranean all blended together into the so-called Caribbean architecture. The most important of the seven buildings is the Queen’s Royal College built as a secondary school with six classrooms and a lecture hall. This German Renaissance style building has a chiming clock and a lighted clock tower. Next to Queen’s Royal College is the French Colonial style Hayes Court originally built as a residence for the Anglican Bishop to Trinidad. Mille Fleur next door is probably one of the least obstentatious and was named by the wife of Dr Enrique Prada. They built and lived in the house from 1904-1923. The house then changed hands several times before coming under the care of the Ministry of Environment and protected under the National Trust Act. Ambard’s House is built in the French Second Empire style which is most popular in the latter half of the 19th century. It is a mix of Renaissance and Baroque styles with Scottish cast iron elements. The house is now the home of the granddaughter of the third owner, Timothy Roodal, Dr Yvonne Morgan and her family and is also called the Roomor House. The next house is the Archbishop’s Palace and is the official residence of the Archbishop of the Port of Spain. I find it slightly strange that the Archbishop’s residence was built in an Indian Empire style. The largest house on Maraval Road is White Hall which was originally called Rosenweg. The house is built in the Moorish Mediterranean style by Joseph Leon Agostini who is a cocoa planter. This house has seen various uses from public libraries to Government Broadcasting Unit to being used by the Pre-Federal Interim Government in 1957. Now it is used by visiting foreign dignitaries. The last of the Magnificent Seven is Stollmeyer’s Castle or Killarney built in the Scottish Baronial style. It is said that the design is based on a wing of Balmoral Castle.
Pitch Lake in southwest Trinidad, about hour and a half from Port of Spain, is the largest natural deposit of asphalt in the world. It covers an area of 400,000m² and was discovered in 1595 by Sir Walter Raleigh who was led there by the native Indians. It was from this source many of the first asphalt roads in New York and Washington D.C. were paved. It is speculated that this lake is at the intersection of two fault lines which forces up the oil deposits deep down. As the lighter elements evaporate under the beating sun, the heavier asphalt becomes left behind. When you walk on the lake, it feels squishy and there are hissing and burping sounds. Scientists discovered living microbes underneath the asphalt’s surface which is very useful in determining whether life exists on other planets. Locals believed that Pitch Lake was created by God to swallow an entire tribe as punishment because they ate humming birds which were believed to be the souls of their ancestors. Go with the official guide because there are areas which are deeper than you think and you can easily get stuck in that gooey black pitch. There are a bunch of unofficial guides outside the entrance to the parking lot of Pitch Lake and they actually charge more.
From T&T, we continue on to Grenada. Stay tuned!