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ISLAND PROFILE 38 lime October - December 2008 l Weather Trinidad's weather is remarkably predictable. From January- to- June ( Dry Season) local weathermen can display a chart saying ' 31- 33 Celsius, no chance of rain' and, from July- to- December ( Wet Season), flip this with ' 31- 33 Celsius, humid, heavy showers likely'. Remarkably though, the nightly news programmes still take ' two looks' at the weather, presumably to avoid being blindsided by that once- a- century weather system occurring during show- time. l Time A Trini is never on time. The sooner you accept this immutable law, the better for your mental health. The evening before my first fishing trip, a 5am pick- up had been arranged. A bit excitable, I woke early and was sitting on the end of my bed at 4.45am, slurping tea, tapping feet, and receiving periodic abuse from a wife for whom ' 5am' and ' Saturday morning' didn't belong in the same sentence. Over an hour later my lift arrived, all beaming smiles. " Yuh does know dat when ah Trini say he gonna be dere for 5am, he will reach for 6am?" There was no hint of apology; it was a statement of fact and one which surely everyone knew already. I did now. l Food and Shoping Trinidadians are religious people, but the real Sunday devotional is a trip to the Doubles Stand. It's not for the faint- hearted though, with biblical scenes of crowds clamouring for sustenance. Doubles – curried chickpeas served between two pieces of soft, fried bara – is accompanied with ' slight, medium or plenty pepper' and assorted chutneys. Those serving, normally women, do so at an incredible pace, flicking Bara, slopping curry, dashing pepper and chutney and wrapping in one blurred motion of wrists and fingers. The queuing system is chaotic but not wholly without order, as I witnessed one Sunday. I was hovering three rows back, looking for a gap, when a Mitsubishi Lancer driver screeched to a halt, jumped out, ran up, leaned over and began barking his order. " Yeah, gimme four wid plenty pepper there nah!" His initial shouts were lost in the hubbub and he became rapidly impatient, raising the volume several notches and finally bellowing his demand. The Doubles vendor slowly looked up with doleful eyes and said, " De vagrant here first", gesturing to a grubbily- whiskered man in a tattered shirt now puffing up his chest. Boasting such a cosmopolitan culture means virtually every international cuisine is represented; from Chinese to Japanese, Indian to Thai, French to Italian. Most bars and nightspots double up with food but if you're looking for great places to dine why not try local chef extraordinaire Khalid Mohammed's Chaud ( Queen's Park Savannah); Jaffa at the Queens Park Oval; Battimamzelle ( Coblentz Avenue); Melange ( Ariapita Avenue); or, for Caribbean cuisine in a home- cooked style and in an intimate atmosphere, the Veranda ( Rust Street) is hard to beat. For breakfast, the Hyatt Regency Hotel is recommended, and, for afternoon tea, The Hilton. Lunch is significantly cheaper than dinner in almost any restaurant. Traditional shopping strips such as Port of Spain's Frederick Street, main street Chaguanas and San Fernando High Street, whilst still offering a wide range of shopping opportunities, are fast being usurped by the Shopping Mall culture which has spread across the country in recent years. Popular malls include West Mall and Long Circular Mall ( Port of Spain), Trincity ( in East Trinidad), Gulf City ( San Fernando) and Grand Bazaar ( Mt Hope). Additionally, there are now increasingly popular travelling Indian trade shows which offer cut price goods. l Beaches Trinidad's most popular beach, Maracas, is the cosmopolitan beach, displaying the nation's every race, colour and creed cheek- by- jowl; particularly on holiday weekends, when the acrid smell of burning brakes descending into this sandy haven hangs heavy on the air. On its golden stretches, lithe- limbed youths play football; middle- aged men heave coolers into position, and their guts into respectability as beach goddesses pass; Muslim women in top- to- toe Hijabs wear snorkelling masks as they dabble in the shallows; posers with their salon- hair- and- nails girlfriends strut by; and families beneath shady coconut trees tuck into huge cook- ups, dispensing plastic plates and cups like confetti; as music thumps in the background. Don't leave Maracas without trying That's a wrap! A sales woman shows a customer her range of sarongs Tropical tastes. From the sea or from the tree, there's always healthy sustenance to be found ll GETTY IMAGES

Trinidad and Tobago were under British control until independence was achieved in 1962. The country then became a republic in 1976. Sir Trevor McDonald, the well- known television news reader in the United Kingdom, was born in Trinidad in 1939. did you know? Nature calls. Of course, there's plenty of first-class outdoor attractions to explore GETTY IMAGES GETTY IMAGES October - December 2008 lime 39