A look at Trinidad’s capital city
So much history in such a small place. Beneath its ever-increasing skyscrapers – well, they are, in this part of the world – the story of Port of Spain is still writ large in its contrasting wealth and seediness, the throbbing pulse of downtown Charlotte and Nelson Streets quietening to a calm hum as you head north to the Queen’s Park Savannah, a huge 260-acre park that is the crown jewel of the capital. The site of the main stage for the annual Carnival celebrations, the Savannah holds a very special place in the Trini heart.
On the northern side of the world’s largest roundabout, as it’s known, you will find the Emperor Valley Zoo and the Botanical Gardens, which was established in 1820. Here you can relax among one of the oldest collections of exotic plants and trees in the Western Hemisphere. Children especially will enjoy seeing the zoo’s rare white Bengali tigers, lions and giraffes, and a chimpanzee who likes to watch TV.
Across from the Savannah on the southeastern side is the Memorial Park and the iconic National Academy of the Performing Arts. Next door is the National Museum and Art Gallery, home to a permanent collection of 10,000 items in galleries focusing on art, social history, natural history, economic history, petroleum and geology, 19th century painter Michel-Jean Cazabon, as well as a small gallery dedicated to carnival arts (photographs and videos are not allowed). Further along the southern end is the beautiful Knowsley House.
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Echoes of the colonial era can still be seen in many buildings, including schools such as Queen’s Royal College, St Mary’s College and St Joseph’s Convent, where the country’s top-ranking students are educated; the garrison-like Royal Jail and the Magnificent Seven mansions which line the western side of the Savannah. The south-eastern tip of the Savannah is a popular liming spot at night, when foodies converge on the informal food court that pops up, serving up local delights. The finishing touch is a cold coconut from one of the many vendors who ring the Savannah.
Old men can be found gambling and grumbling in bars and street corners downtown, and there is always a bargain to be had or haggled over on Charlotte Street, our own version of Chinatown. Frederick Street is chockful of jewellery stores and plazas, including the Drag Mall on Queen Street, where you can find Rastafarian clothing, accessories and craft.