Twenty letters in to the A to Z of travel memories and memories in the planning and I am flagging somewhat. Especially knowing I have lots of tricky letters still to come. But T? T should be straightforward.
Trinidad, Cuba We arrived in Trinidad and drove to the address of a casa particulare (B&B) listed in our book, and as always, found it was full. But as always, the host had a cousin (I don’t think any of them were actually cousins) who had rooms available, so we stayed at the cousin’s house. I don’t remember much about the rooms but I remember two things about our stay in Trinidad.
There was a terrace above the rooms covered with some sort of flowering vine and Husband-then-boyfriend and our friend-and-travelling-companion spent a lot of time sitting up there in the heat of the afternoon, and even into the night when it got dark (I can’t remember if we opted to sit in the dark or if it was a blackout (something we’d learnt was typical and regular outside of Havana) – either way we were happy to sit in the dark and enjoy the gentle night breezes and listen to the lizards rustling through the undergrowth while we drank the beers from the “mini bar” fridges in our room. I don’t know how much mark-up our host made on the beers but there were not many beers left in the fridge after two nights so I think we must have given him a tidy profit.
- The second memory is to do with food, of course, as a lot of my travel memories seem to be. As we arrived so late in the day, our host was unable to provide us with food that night (but we did come to an agreement to eat with him the second night), so we set off to seek food at the state-run “tourist restaurant” in town. The food here was OK, if not a big strange (I’m not sure if I’m correctly remembering chicken cooked in tinned spaghetti), and the staff largely ignored us as they were busy serving the large table of Danish people who were the only other diners. Our little table of three were hardly worth dealing with in comparison and so we were badly neglected. There was a live band playing in the restaurant, and I feel bad in retrospect, but we tipped the band but not the waiter who had ignored us most of the evening and only showed up looking keen in expectation of a tip as we were leaving. Our meal at the B&B the next night was much better and more typical: fresh mango juice, black bean soup (ubiquitous in the casa particulares we stayed at in Cuba), salad, and lobster (technically illegal in private houses but we asked no questions) served with a big pile of rice and plantain chips (because carbs are important).
Food and accommodation aside, Trinidad was a pretty colonial town, almost comically photogenic with its pretty pastel houses and vintage cars.
Tenterfield, Australia A bit of a strange one this, as I have to go a long way back into childhood memory to pull up the details but it was a family trip for the summer holidays. We had crossed the border from Queensland into New South Wales and stayed overnight in the little country town of Tenterfield. After a long hot day of driving, it was exciting to discover on arrival the town had a pool. I was not a great swimmer, but I was a great nag, so my parents paid the admission and I went in for a swim, rejoicing in having the pool almost completely to myself. Ten minutes later I was told to get out of the pool at the pool was closing. We had forgotten that in crossing the border we had gone forward an hour in time and forgotten to change our watches.
As a country town, Tenterfield was full of flies. As city folk, we were not used to flies. So we walked around the town in the evening, waving our hands across our faces to dislodge the determined flies. Local people driving by would beep their horns or wave at us, assuming our hand gestures were friendliness, and not fly defence.
Somewhere on the travel wish list: Taiwan I didn’t know much about Taiwan until I was sat next to a secondee from Taiwan at a work Christmas party. To make conversation I asked him his impressions of London. He said he found London was a “quiet city” which surprised me. I’ve heard people say many things about London but quiet is not usually the word they use.
I asked him why he thought London was quiet. “The shops close so early here,” he said, “by 7pm or 8pm most shops are shut. In Taiwan the shops open from 6 am until 11 pm so people can shop before or after work.” This gave me a frightening peek into what working life in Taiwan must be like.
Taiwan sponsors a lot of study tours at work; people get to go to Taiwan and see how they do things like efficient public transport, waste recycling, green buildings, and it was reading these stories that gave me a different picture of Taiwan.
Then I saw the Netflix documentary about street food. One of the episodes featured street food from Taiwan and in case you haven’t noticed yet, the way to my travel heart these days is through my stomach. I had checked flight schedules and worked out that on a trip to Australia to see family, it would be easily possible to fly via Taiwan and take a few days to visit, and sightsee (and eat!). Then, the final sign was someone in the local book swap group had a Lonely Planet Taiwan which I put my hand up for. And even despite lockdown and no possibility of travel I read through it and spotted enough things to do (and – ahem – places to eat) to fill up at least a week. So I know I am meant to go to Taiwan one day.