Thursday, January 23, 2014

Gearing Up for Trinidad Carnival 2014

Waking up to -15 weather is definitely not the best way to start one's morning! The Polar Vortex of 2013/2014 has made winter in Toronto this year quite dreadful! From an ice storm, lots of snow, to sub zero weather, I for one am looking forward to Jack Frost releasing his winter grip and the arrival of spring.

Nevertheless, something else that I have been looking forward to since February 2013, is heading off to Trinidad for Carnival 2014. Yes! One whole year in advance and pretty much ever since I got back from attending carnival last year, I have been looking forward to this trip. This year the trip to Trinidad is especially special, as one of my friends is also getting married in Tobago right after carnival! To say I am excited, is somewhat an understatement. 
 As with how I approach preparing for Toronto Carnival, I tend to be an early bird in that I have been doing a lot of planning and preparation for this trip early, in order to avoid the stress or disappointment.

Securing accommodations in Trinidad was my first task at hand. Although I have family and friends I could have stayed with, I really enjoyed my experience and exceptional service at the Hyatt last year. Knowing that Hyatt offers a carnival special, I kept a close eye on their online site. The trick to get the best price is to be prepared and be ready when the availability is open, otherwise you may end up spending a bit more. This was a lesson I learned the hard way and vowed to never let it happen again. I saw when Hyatt released their special at the end of March for $299/night, however I waited a week or so before booking and to my surprise within a week the price jumped to $309, after two $329, and so on. Definitely the early bird catches the worm, and saves a few dollars too! Needless to say I am all booked and ready (as well as my makeup appointment for Carnival Tuesday at the hotel's Spa Esencia. Doh Stick!)

After booking accommodations my next plan of action was to book my travel. I booked my flight with Caribbean Airlines from Toronto to Trinidad in April 2013. I later booked from Trinidad to Tobago in October. After doing a quick search online this morning of the current price rate of a flight during the same period I selected ( which turns out to be ranging in the $1,000 and nearly double what I paid) I am really happy that I booked early!

 After I secured my flights, my next item of the list was a costume! (Boy oh oy, with this trip you really have to plan in advance lol) Last year I played with Bliss and had an incredible time! The experience alone on Carnival Monday and Tuesday changed my perspective of what it is like to play mas and cross the stage. Although I had previously decided after ten + years, 2013 would be my last year playing mas in Toronto, my experience in Trinidad reinforced this decision (more to come on this decision in another blog post). In terms of deciding on a band to play with for 2014, there were definitely a lot of options. My friends (and bride to be) were set on playing in Tribe, I wanted to play in Bliss, Fantasy was looking stellar with beautiful costumes aligned to their undersea theme, and Yuma was looking hype with awesome costumes coinciding with Cirque du Soleil. Funny enough, although there is a huge group of us going to Trinidad, what ended up happening is we are playing in different bands. A few are in Tribe's War Chant, Fantasy's Pearls, and Bliss Take Me To.

Once costumes were secured, the next item that I have been looking to get all sorted out is fete tickets. Being overseas can be a bit of a challenge to secure tickets, luckily I am really thankful for the help of family, friends and contacts who have made this process easier. So far, these are the fetes I have lined up to attend:

 (Special thanks to T.C. for your help with this one :)

I may add in another fete, but I am trying to be financially responsible during carnival, especially considering the pre-wedding activities right after. So I am happy to report most of my carnival planning is covered.... Now for the fun part to figure out my outfits and accessories. I already got my Monday wear (a gold monokini) and boots and in the upcoming weeks I will jazz them up a bit. I will also be featuring some custom pieces by Simone, a talented young designer, who has made a few items for my trip as well.

Gearing up to the wedding and Trinidad carnival, stay tuned to the blog to read about the experience along the way.  First up will be Doh Cry Ah Leaving (DCAL) fete. This annual fete in Toronto, is a highly anticipated prelude to what is to come in Trinidad! (This is also where my friend will be doing part of  her Bachelorette party! woot woot) Let's Just Say I know it will be EPIC!

Happy Thursday Everyone!

Me during Toronto Carnival 2013
Photo Credit:

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Spirits & Spice 2014

Media Release
Spirits & Spice 2014

“Sample the spirits, Savor the Spice and Win a trip to Paradise!”
After a successful launch at the Scotiabank Tower in 2012, the Caribbean Scholarship Foundation unveils its first official fundraiser, Spirits & Spice on Monday, January 13th.

Spirits & Spice Food Festival is a partnership with world-renowned restaurant brand Marché, which is located inside the Brookfield Place in the heart of downtown Toronto. The event takes place from Monday, January 13th to Friday, January 17th from open to close of the restaurant business hours.

Marché’s marquee location will be transformed into a tropical paradise where diners can see, feel, taste, touch and smell the tropics. Throughout the week visitors to Marché will be treated to a menu of Caribbean delicacies, cocktails, treats and music. Exclusively for Spirits & Spice, Marché will be featuring authentic Caribbean fare including spices courtesy of Grace Foods, the worlds largest distributor of Caribbean food products, Carib Beer, the Caribbean's most popular beer and of course Caribbean RUM!

Visitors will also be given an opportunity to enter for a chance to win an all-inclusive trip for two to the Verandah Resort & Spa in Antigua courtesy of Transat Holidays and

Celebrity chefs will be on hand to provide cooking demonstrations and share recipes. Chefs Selwyn Richards representing Jamaica and Chris De La Rosa representing Trinidad will both be part of week’s attractions.

Of course no Caribbean celebration would be complete without steel pan music, masqueraders and palm trees. With Toronto currently suffering its coldest winter in years, Spirits & Spice will be a welcomed breath of warm island breeze for Torontonians looking to get their minds off of the cold and win an all-inclusive escape from the snow!
The Caribbean Scholarship Foundation (CSF) is a registered charitable organization based in Toronto, Canada. A board comprising of influential members of the diaspora and friends of the Caribbean manages it.
The Foundation provides scholarships, study grants, bursaries and other educational opportunities to nationals of Canadian and Caribbean countries in order to advance education and economic opportunities across key sectors. These individuals must demonstrate high levels of achievement and leadership potential with the intent of making a positive economic impact in their community.
This year the CSF will support a school in St Vincent and the Grenadines, which was hit by a hurricane like storm, last week, killing four and causing major flooding on the island.
The week kicks off on Monday, January 13th with a VIP reception, which will host government officials from Toronto and the various islands, Media, Celebrities and other special guests.
We look forward to seeing you at Spirits & Spice 2014.
Monday, January 13th to Friday, January 17th 2014

Marché Toronto (Brookfield Place)
181 Bay Street
Toronto, ON

Open to close (see website for hours)

Wednesday, January 1, 2014