Finding a Man...grove - with Kathryn and Thais

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESSAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESSAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESSAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESSAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESSAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESSAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESSAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESSAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESSAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESSAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESLiving on a small island, it's so rare that you make a true discovery. Everyone, everywhere has always been there done that, knows more about it than you and yawns when you get excited about it. So it's truly exciting to go somewhere that people literally haven't put their hands all over and is truly new. 

That's how Thais and I felt the day we came across the mangrove forest at Point Petit Trou in Tobago one Saturday. Now obviously, we weren't the first people ever to see this place, (not trying to be a Columbus here) but it was a first for both of us.

Thais and I had been exploring a vacant villa complex in the Tobago Plantations (extremely creepy by the way. I kept waiting for the zombies to emerge if we made too much noise) when we noticed a very Blair Witchish entrance (or what I would assume a Blair Witchish entrance would look like, as I hate suspense and horror and have watched few horror movies in my life) to a series of interconnected bridges through the mangrove. The bridges originated from multiple different points and converged into one path that led to a small hut, and a wide jetty with a bench overlooking a lagoon.

Some of the best adventures are the ones where you're experiencing just a dash of trepidation, and yall know me, Nervous Nancy, can always serve up the trepidation. "How perfect this would be for murderers to leave bodies", I thought. "How perfect this bench would be for ritual sacrifice", I thought. But I continued on through. Even more of a surprise was that my companion, who can skew a little ... rigid...(love you UTT!) was completely up for the adventure and took on the impromptu but welcome role of photographer! In fact, the only truly scary moment of the adventure was when she spotted a snake in the box that housed the electricals for the lighting. I never get my ass out of some mangrove so fast...

We tried to surmise all the reasons that someone had created this hidden treasure. It seems made for wedding photos, and little limes. But if you guys have any insight definitely let me know.

One of my goals for this blog, is to focus on situating Trinidad as a destination in itself, even for the people who live here. If you're not careful, you can really start to focus on  leaving Trinidad & Tobago in order to get the true excitement of discovery and otherness that you get from foreign travel. I hope that Cities and Islands does some work in making people realize there is a lot to discover right here, if you just make the effort (and lets be real, we can be a bit lazy). Because not everyone can travel every weekend, every month, or even every year. Thankfully, I have been blessed to come from a family where traveling was almost a family value like generosity and forgiveness. But it inspires in me a wanderlust that is satiated when I'm home as well as when I get on a plane. I'm glad I get to share that with you through Cities and Islands.

 

Photography: Thais McGowan

Dress, La Maison de FiFi; Sandals, Zara; Sunglases, Michael Kors.

Thais is wearing her favourite silk caftan. Lol.

Instagramming...Easter

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The OTHER #islandlife

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Trinidadians are really some of the luckiest people in the world. To all my foreign friends, one of the beautiful things about being from Trinidad & Tobago is Tobago itself.

A 15 minute flight to Tobago is always $300 TTD (around $48 USD, no blackout dates here) or $50TTD for a 2 hour ferry trip, and as soon as you land, you feel your heartrate slow, you forget to look at your watch. You take your time. It's the kind of place that as soon as you get there you think, "Why don't I come here more often?"

Kyle, my photographer, is actually from Tobago, and is there many weekends shooting footage for his upcoming documentary, so I decided to steal him away while I was there for work.

We had grand plans of going all over the place to shoot cool, undiscovered Tobago locations, but as I explained, Tobago is not about grand plans.

We ended up shooting at my hotel (because I was too lazy tranquil to leave), Kariwak Village, which takes a holistic approach to hospitality and does a really great breakfast (included in the rate every day). And the grotto!! As relaxing as Tobago is in general, Kariwak is the place to come for daily yoga and massage therapy, food seasoned with herbs grown on site in their greenhouse, meditation, and nature (a variety of tropical birds are your breakfast buddies. Don't let them steal your watermelon!)

Tobago has recently seen a decrease in international tourism, however our domestic tourism has seen a surge. Every long weekend (of which we have many) tickets, hotels and rental cars are extremely hard to come by. I already have plans of coming back twice (maybe three times) in the next few months, so hopefully Kyle and I can get to some of those grand plans. Or whatever. Lol.

UPDATE: Special thanks to my Tobago girl trip buddies Thais and Rianna without whom this post would not be possible and whom I originally egregiously neglected to mention.

 

 Photography: Kyle Walcott

Cover up: The Trunk Show, Ellerslie Plaza; Bikini Top: American Apparel; Bikini Bottom: Liilah Resort Wear; Shoes: Sandalias.

Hashtag Farm Life???

20130929-202401.jpg The week I came back to New York I went to the most beautiful wedding on a farm in upstate New York. We stayed in a barn with a lake in the backyard, and despite the freezing temps (which I was sooooo not prepared for yet) it was a wonderful experience.

And of course I 'grammed the shit out of it.

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Im wearing a Top Shop crop top and skirt. I'm obsessed with matchy matchy these days. I will mention this many more times in future posts.

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Congratulations Shannon & D!

Six Hours of Summer

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So it's definitely Fall in NYC (where I am now, if anyone is keeping track). And I feel that I didn't really have a summer at all this year. Due to wearing heavy coats in Paris until the middle of July in what everyone described as the coldest spring and 'summer' in years; to coming to New York in July to be greeted by a monstrous heat wave which wouldn't even let me leave the air conditioned luxury of the apartment, far less engage in summery activities; to 6 weeks in Trinidad where, when I once tried to go to the Hyatt for some relaxation, was greeted by hordes of people, fully clothed, paddling in the pool (no seriously. One dude had on a striped polo jersey and CARGO pants in the pool. I. Just. Can't).

Long story short...I felt like the Summer of 2013 just passed me by.

So at the end of Summer 2013 I hadn't gone to the beach. Hadn't gone to any barbecues. Hadn't gone to any rooftop pool parties. No yacht trips DDI. And was constantly bombarded with images of people on Instagram and Tumblr doing the very same.

Until one lovely weekend in the beginning of September when I managed to extend what was supposed to be a one day trip to Tobago so I could go to the beach for a few hours the next morning. All the gods conspired to make it the most perfect beach day ever, complete with fish and crab sightings, and lots of beautiful photo opps!

Swimsuit by Liilah Resortwear.

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Giverny

20130725-165903.jpg One of the last things I did right before I left Paris was to go to Claude Monet's gardens at Giverny, where the Impressionist artist painted his famous water lily and bridge paintings. I went once 9 years ago and honestly it was one of the most beautiful places I can remember so I was extremely glad I got to go back.

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Les Soldes - Thoughts on Fashion Value

So it's the most wonderful time of the year in Paris. 20130630-021119.jpg

Les Soldes!! Or... The sales!

Twice a year the French government mandates that all retail stores hold sales. This years Spring/ Summer collection sales started Wednesday, June 26th and go straight till the end of July!

On Wednesday you could genuinely feel the winds changing. There was a buzz in the air, people eveywhere, and traffic like Port of Spain in the rain, especially in places where there are a lot of shops like the Opera area. Even in the Metro the ticket seller asked me, "Do you know what today isssss?" in a kinda tease-y tone. Needless to say, this is a high point for Parisian shoppers.

I went into Zara just to see what the scenario was (as one usually needs money to buy things I cannot even participate in these sales which can go up to 40 or 50% off. And though I know right now there's the best selections the markdowns will be even more marked down later in the sales season. Right now Zara is discounting meager 25 percents. Somebody call me when that shit gets to like 3€ - 8€ for items). Anyway, while I don't think there was utter pandemonium, there was definite frenzy.

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Even if I had money I don't think I'd be participating in the sales. First of all I don't really love anything that I've seen in stores this season. Second of all I CANNOT shop like this, grabbing garments from the clutches of other women, elbowing bitches in the ribs. I saw one woman standing in a corner guarding what I can only describe as a hoard of shoes.

And speaking of shoes:

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This is not even appealing. It's not even organized by size. Like I would appreciate this more if it was at least the size 41 pile as opposed to the Lucky Dip pile.

I also stopped in at Merci, a concept store on the Boulevard Beaumarchais, to see what a bit of a higher end sale looked like. I have to admit it was unnerving for me to see brands like Isabel Marant and Carven crammed together on what looks a rack from a Marshall's in Middle America, complete with colour coded circle discount stickers. It goes to show that trendy clothes are a horrible investment, if they lose their value and their appeal a mere 4 months after they were once coveted pieces, and then exponentially after that.

I'm finally beginning to realize, though I love colour, why fashion people always dress in black. You could have a garment in the most avant garde cut and style, but if it's in black you can wear it forever. Not so much for that lime green version. Black depreciates faster.

However...you could always just spend the money on shoes instead;)

The Paris Metro

20130618-115454.jpg There are many great things about the Paris metro. It serves the city extremely well and wherever you are you're pretty close to at least 3 metro stations to select from. And the time that you have to spend on the metro is quite short as the distances from one station to another can be like a minute of traveling time, unlike some subway systems I can name ( London I'm lookin at you!)

But those short minutes you spend on the metro can be the most unpleasant minutes of your day.

Firstly, an open message to large groups of tourists, if one person in your party is purchasing tickets for all of you, all of you do NOT need to stand up in the line. Furthermore, when your dude buys the tickets can you move out of the line to do your distribution process?? There are other people behind you and you're being dicks.

Secondly, the Paris Metro has HIGH levels of crazy. Super high. From the man the other day who was clearly suffering from French Tourette's, to the pregnant and clearly strung out on drugs lady begging on the train to yesterday's grizzly gentleman in what looked like and orange prison shirt completely unbuttoned with his entire Santa Clause (without the jolliness) size hairy belly on display, breezing out in the seats across from me. He was scary. And starey. He stared at everyone.

Oh and to the mister who was diggin his nose super hard in the metro for ten minutes jus now and LOOKING AT IT...yuh nasty.

The Paris metro also has high gross factor. I would love to tell you that the stereotype about the French and their aversion to showering isn't true but my mother didn't raise a liar. Added to that, not all trains are air conditioned, so as summer creeps up on us every step into a metro car or elevator is like a game of Smell Roulette. Smell Roulette is a losing game.

Final Thoughts on Italy

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So after a picture perfect Spring Break road trip, I am in Paris now, and have closed the Italy chapter of this adventure (time is flying crazy fast isn't it!) When I look back at the type of posts I did in Florence I recognize that they were very different from the type of posts I did in China, less funny anecdotes about life in another country, more fashion and beauty items. But that's because (understandably) Italy was much more of a familiar environment, less discovery, and so less stories of the "mouse in the grocery store kitchen" ilk that I had in Shanghai.

However, that's not to say I didn't notice some things I found funny while I was in Italy, that I decided to share. In no specific order:

1. When you're in a fast fashion store in Florence, and your transaction is declined, the salesperson will tactfully yell, "NO MONEY!! NO MONEY!!" at the top of his voice to alert you...and everyone else in the store at the same time. I wish I could say this was a story that happened to someone else.

2. In preparation for the club, Italian men will watch several installments of the Step Up film series in order to prepare for their awkward break dancing and pop-locking, dance-off routines later that night. Or so it seems. I first observed this at an R&B and Hip-Hop night (entitled "Smooove") and was concerned that this is how Italians thought black people really behaved in the club. But then I went back to the same club on a non-themed night and breathed a sigh of relief cause that's just what they do.

3. Speaking of Italian men in clubs....the ratio of men to women at bars and clubs in Italy is like 70/30. Seriously. What's "stones party" in Italian?? I can kind of understand now why club promoters the world over let a dude in only if he's accompanied by 7 women, because that ratio feels weird unless its a gay club. And don't get excited about the prospect of being surrounded by large amounts of Italian men, ladies. I have seen more hot men in my week in Paris so far than I saw in all of Italy for three months, soooo, yeah. Don't believe everything you read. However, if your type is the pop-lockin', breakin' and battlin' kind....welcome to Nirvana.

4. It takes a week and a half to do your hair. Starting from the DIY relaxer at home; to the trip to Rome to get it cut by a snip-happy, Edward Scissorshands, self-styled hair "genius"; to the rewash, rewrap, restyle; to the mark at the African barber (Eddie thought that leaving my edges unfinished looked more "feminine")....it takes a week and a half to get done what I could get done in mere hours (okay, 8 to 10 hours if I'm begin honest) in Trinidad.

Anyway, my time in Paris already promises to be kixier as my area is a bit more ... colourful (on the day I arrived, a person was breaking up with his/her partner by pelting all his/her belongings out the window of his/her second floor apartment. Not just clothes. I heard shit crashing and breaking). Also, I have to take the Metro.

In the meantime, enjoy some pics from my last days in Florence, and look forward to the stories!

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In the Piazza San Spirito

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The Travelling Gal's Minimalist Makeup Bag

I will be embarking on my big world travel adventure in 4 days. My career as a beauty chemist has caused me to be an incredible hoarder when it comes to products because I want to try everything and when I like them I don't want to use them. However, in today's travel environment you can't really just take a whole metal train case behind you on a cramped 14 hour flight. SO in preparation I started downsizing the items I need for my daily makeup look from long before I left Trinidad so I didn't feel a dependency on having a lot of makeup products. I haven't worn eyeshadow in months and stick to one product instead of my whorish multiple product former ways (I've been known to have 8 mascaras at once, all in use). The following products are the main tools in my arsenal.

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1. MAC Cosmetics Eye Kohl in Smolder. I hate eyeliners that are draggy (like to the point of painfulness) or don't give enough payout. This eyeliner always goes on smoothly to give sexy vivid results every time.

2. MAC Cosmetics Mineralize Blush in Lovejoy. This is really a bronzer masquerading as a blush, which I love because it helps add definition to my bronzey island glow (lol). It's a great plum-my colour with lots of never-overpowering gold pigments in it to catch any light and illuminate my whole face.

3. L'Oreal Paris Double Extend Mascara in Black. This product is no longer sold in Trinidad and so I buy it in bulk whenever I am out of the country. It's amazing because it has this great extending formula, but it washes off really easily with warm water and if you happen to fall asleep with your makeup on (which I NEVER do...much) it doesn't rub off on your sheets. It still remains to be seen whether I can get it in China, but just in case I'm going to pick up 3 at Duane Reade tomorrow.

4. smashbox camera ready BB Cream SPF 35 in Dark. I love this product by default. smashbox is the only beauty brand (since last I checked) that has acknowledged that maybe black girls are also interested in amazing trendy life changing products (as BB creams are purported to be due to their multiple benefits). The BB cream trend has spread from Asia westward, but the variety of skintones that are available hasn't spread the same way. For example, "Dark", is smashbox's darkest shade and it's appropriate for my skintone so that tells me that there are a lot of deeper skintoned ladies getting left in the...dark (see what I did there?)

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5. MAC Cosmetics Studio Fix in NW43. A product by now that should need no introduction. I hate heavy foundation (I always need to look like myself, imperfections and all, not like a doll) and so this powder to foundation formula has always been perfect for me.

  6. MAC Cosmetics Lip Conditioner SPF 15. I don't drink enough water and my lips dry out a lot especially when I head into a new climate. This little lifesaver has rescued me from many a potentially embarrassing ashy lip situation in the past.

  7. MAC Cosmetics Extra Dimension Skinfinish in Glorify. Just listen to that name! As we would say in Trinidad, "Dat is bronzer fadda!" (or that bronzer is the best of the best). Unfortunately this was part of a limited edition collection and I don't know if the product is still available. It's almost a garish gold but when used sparingly can look heavenly to highlight cheekbones and tips of noses!

Clipped In

Most travelers prepare for their trips by planning itineraries, budgets, packing lists months in advance of their departure date. I pretty much figure that such things will work themselves out in time once I have a

ticket and a visa.

No for me, Vanity Smurf, the major concern that I need to address before I left was what on earth was I going to do with my HAIR while I spent a year in Shanghai, Florence and Paris. The question haunted me for months. Would I be able to maintain a weave in China? China is the hair capital of the world but do they know anything about installing all that hair they make and export? Would I even be able to get a relaxer? The pictures of the work of the one black hair salon I found online in China  didn't inspire me with confidence (hint: they used drugstore relaxer not professional brands).

Would I have to do my hair *gasp* myself??!!

I can confidently say that any DIY hair experiments I embark upon will be in equal parts hilarious and catastrophic. In my head I will be as adept at doing my own hair as my YouTube hair video idols. However, in reality, I will just be grateful to return with some hair still attached to my scalp.

I spent the better part of the last 2 years being a bit of a hair chameleon changing my hair every 6-8 weeks. In the hands of my genius hairdresser, Melissa, I've had funky short cuts, long mohawks and cascading weaves in shades from blonde to black. How would I deal with 3 months looking...the same?? So how would I satisfy my love for versatility and still have something that I could easily maintain considering I may not have a hair styling genius at my disposal?

Enter the clip ins. I ended up spending the majority of my last two days in Trinidad in my hairdresser's chair while she cut my hair into a highlighted bob and created for me a full head of made to order clip-in hair extensions that I could use for fancy occasions, or bad hair days. As she clipped in each track I began to wonder why anyone did sew-in weaves at all.

Clip-ins look way more natural because they attached as close to the scalp as possible, and blend with your hair. They don't cause that week-long tightness you get from your weave cane/cornrows. I used less hair which was easier on the pocket, and added to the natural-ness of the look, and talk about versatility! I could do a centre or side part, or use the clip ins on half my head and braid the front for a trendy boho style (see above. Do you see my knowing, "Girl you better get u some clipins" facial expression??). And the best part was I  can take them all out and start all over the next day in a completely different way! They can be washed off the head and therefore they last much longer than sewed in hair.

I am sold. Not saying that I won't still have my share of hilarious DIY hair nightmares (which I will of course post up here), but I feel a lot more confident knowing that my clip-ins are a safe backup plan.