But not for breakfast! As was the case each of the 4 days I was there, breakfast Casa Ayala style was an experience in itself. One that amused me and to which I became accustomed; Staffed by lovely people including the owners wife, they had obviously never studied anything to do with time and motion – or knew about trays. A place had been laid for me at a table towards the front door end of the very long room.
The kitchen was at the other end across an open, internal courtyard. Once seated, I was aware of some activity there and soon a very nice, middle-aged lady who was not, shall we say, in any hurry, shuffled down the length of the room towards me. ‘Buenas Dias’ she said with a warm and friendly smile having finally reached her destination, to which I responded accordingly. ‘Café?’ she enquired. ‘Si Gracias’ I said; with a nod and smile of understanding, she turned and started her journey back to carry out her task. As she did so, another senora emerged and began her equally slow mission to my table. ‘Buenas Dias’ – ‘Buenas Dias’ I replied. ‘Frutta?’ ‘Si Gracias’ I said politely, and with that she also smiled, turned and began her trek back to her base, focusing on the job in hand. And this went on unbelievably for about 40 minutes with yet another lady joining the relay and between them establishing that yes I would like an ‘ommeletta’, and ‘Si Gracias’ I would appreciate some butter and jam – and so on! over the next 3 days it did actually become a joke between us as I couldn’t help mimicking in acknowledgement, their singing tone of voice when upon eventual arrival at the table they announced each requested item as they proudly placed it before me. ‘Fruttaaaa!!’ “Siiii, fruttaaaa, Graciaaaas” But the actual system never improved. The food was excellent though – but far too much of it as the standard portions were too big for one, even with my healthy appetite, and the dishes kept piling up.
The owner, Dr Rogello Ayala Izaguirre, a retired dentist, is a big bear of a man who is business-like but with a good heart and sense of humour. I’d asked him to arrange for a 50s US convertible to collect and take me to the beach which was about 16km away. I hadn’t yet had a ride in one of those and was really looking forward to it; just as I had finished my breakfast (well into the morning by now as you can imagine!), he yelled ‘MR FRASER!! – your taxi!!’ full of excited anticipation I gathered up my bag of beach stuff, camera etc and hurried to the door. With a big smile, Ayala, as he was called by all, gestured to the vehicle outside; ‘that’s not a US Convertible!! I said. ‘No available’ he said, not at all apologetically I thought. What I’d hoped for and expected was one of these………..
It’s what they call a Co-Co as it’s shaped a bit like a coffee bean I suppose. A 2 stroke moped-driven bucket. Disappointed but at the same time much amused I climbed in; the happy looking ‘driver’ started it up and with a pop pop popping, off we went, juddering over cobbled streets, swerving around potholes and onto the main road out of town at about 25mph which seemed more like 70. It was in fact great fun and we arrived at the beach about 20 minutes later and I arranged for him to pick me up again in 4 hours’ time.
Aaah – The Caribbean at last!
The water was in fact a bit cloudy with lots of seaweed being washed up as the previous days had been a bit stormy but it was warm to swim in and the beach just as you imagine a Caribbean Island beach to be – long stretches of fine, perfectly clean sand, palm trees and hardly any people. Nothing like yer Benidorm!
After a long walk along the beach I found a spot under a palm tree, put down my towel and alternated between soaking up the sun and plunging into the sea; a cold beer from the beach bar close by and I was in my little piece of heaven. 4 o’clock Mr Co Co Pop arrived and we literally popped back to the Casa.
Showered, changed and ready for the off again, I ventured forth into downtown Trinidad. Not difficult to find as the rhythms of the prerequisite West African and Spanish influenced intoxicating mixture of jazz, Salsa, Rumba and Flamenco dance music soon lead me to see another very talented band at the top of the steps overlooking the main square.
Just then a cavalcade of old US Sedans and convertibles drove by, hooting horns and drawing attention to a 15 year old girl who was in effect ‘coming out’ as debutantes do, but Cuban style. It is a tradition that she and her family save for years to buy the most stunning dress in which to party and celebrate her 15th birthday, and all the local folk clap and cheer (and us tourists) to wish her a happy life into what they consider is ‘adulthood’.
Swaying, in a sort of Englishman’s restrained way to the music, I sashayed my way over to what was the tallest bell tower in the region, or Cuba, not sure which, and went up to the man selling the tickets to go up.
‘Quanta costa?’ ‘Uno CUd6lC’ he said, adding in a bored tone as if he was so used to tourists behaving irresponsibly all the time: ‘Don ring the bell!’, which made me smile and reply – ‘OK then’ imagining that perhaps in the past someone had, and as a result been publicly flogged for summoning the entire townsfolk in a false alarm with them expecting to hear some sort of terrible news. I’m glad to say that despite it being very tempting to give the bell a slight push, I managed to descend, thankfully innocent of any wrong doing.
Outside there was a dear old ‘typical’ Cuban chap posing with his enormous cigar in return for a CUC or two so I bought the privilege of taking a shot of him, and yet another band down a side street added to the continuous party atmosphere.
Night descended to find me listening to more music although this time coming from a very cool quartet playing romantic, more western-style numbers in an open barbeque-type restaurant down a cobbled street; so bewitched was I with the voice of the girl singer who was also a superb violinist, I sat at a table and ordered what turned out to be a vast plates of spare ribs, steak, sausages and accompanying salads, washed down with a couple of cold beers and a Daiquiri for luck; replete, and admittedly becoming a little ‘tired and emotional’, I sat on a wall outside, smoked a cigar and listened for the rest of the time they played. To my delight, the girl then came over and sat next to me and we engaged in a long and protracted, entertaining conversation which combined on her part, ‘pigeon’ English and of course fluent Spanish, and on mine – well – English. Well I did manage to throw in a few Spanish and French words which showed willing and helped a bit.