My wife and myself have just been for a fortnight's stay in
Villa Carpe Diem , in the village of Castara on Tobago.
Quite simply, it was the best trip we've ever had to the
Caribbean (we've been to Barbados, Antigua and
Monserrat before) and we can't wait to get back to Villa
Carpe Diem and Castara again.
It pretty much defines for us what a Caribbean trip should
be all about : as relaxed as you want to be, a lovely,
unspoiled fishing village of really friendly and helpful locals plus plenty of day trip activity if you feel like it. Most of all - the beautiful, comfortable, clean and well-organised accomodation we had in Villa Carpe Diem : it's no good being somewhere terrific if you aren't happy with where you're staying locally. We generally prefer self-catering rather than hotels so that we can suit our own schedule and cook local when we want to, always an added extra when you're somewhere new.
Villa Carpe Diem fitted the bill for us perfectly. The house is newly-built on two levels, with two fully self-contained
apartments on the lower level, opening onto a smaller and more sheltered verandah than the one above. The upper one where we stayed has two double en-suite bedrooms and a large kitchen/lounge area in the middle, all fronted by a fantastic (and huge!) verandah complete with dining table
and chairs, loungers etc.. We spent practically ALL of the
time we were around the house on that verandah and even now, I smile to think of it. It has a truly panoramic view down
over the village and the wooded hills that run down to it,as
well as the entire bay and the sea beyond. It even faces
west for the full and glorious sunset experience (which very
quickly became a must-see most evenings with a "decent" gin and tonic to help it all along). It was equally good in the
morning while we got breakfast going (slowly) ; the bird-feeders hanging on the end of the verandah were rocking with a amazing variety of local birds, all busy and exotic colours. The big flowering plant at the other end of the verandah even had a visiting humming-bird and, in the trees below, bright green parrotlets flying while Magnificent
Frigate birds cruised above the bay. (I only know these bird
names because the house owners have provided a very well-chosen little library of books about Tobago and it's wild-life which got well-used while we were there. Thanks for that, you guys.)
A fantastic panorama, then, while we made up a pre-breakfast smoothie of ice-cream mangoes (which roll down to the kitchen door after dropping from the trees up the slope behind the house) and bananas from a nearby banana plant. I must say that the kitchen was really well fixed with all we needed - from the liquidiser we used for those smoothies to all the necessary pots/pans/bowls/utensils and a large fridge/freezer for the essential ice and "beastly cold beer" supplies, to quote a local phrase. We used some of the very interesting condiments already stored in the fridge and replaced them if we used up too much. The bedrooms were lovely too, very comfortable beds, good mosquito nets - though we were seldom bothered by mosquitoes, maybe the breeze on the hill kept them away for the most part - and excellent en-suites with good showers.
Villa Carpe Diem is part-way up the hill on which the village is built but it's a short few minutes down to the beach from the house, either to the main bay or Little Bay. The choice can be decided with the help of a cold beer in "Skipper" Codrington's rum-shop just opposite the path up to the house. Both beaches are sandy with warm shallow waters(lovely swimming and a bit of snorkelling near the headland if you fancy it) and are refreshingly free of hustlers (and
tourists!). We bought some great fish there for dinner during our stay and, believe me, it doesn't get any fresher
than that. Try for kingfish if you can. You can count on seeing stingrays come in close around 3 or 4 p.m., when the fishermen clean and sell their daily catch. The two older
ladies who make bread and cake in the kiln on the beach twice a week also sweep the main part of the beach every
morning which might explain why it's so clean around there.
Marvin's bar, just along from the fishermen's hangout, is an
excellent place to sit, relax, chat and meet anybody else who's about.
We ate in quite a bit because we like to cook, but made a
definite exception on a Friday night for the jump-up at
Shirma's rum-shop (a.k.a. Andrew's) which featured a fine
plate of barbeque meat or fish and a decent street PA for
dancing - yes, traffic occasionally had to wait up until the
end of a track to get past! Shirma also makes extremely good bread which we used to order on our way down to the
beach. Sadly, we never got to sample Miss Merline's home-made ice-cream from her grocery/rum-shop at the bottom of the village. Possibly because it was so difficult to avoid dropping in to Marvin's on the way for a social. Maybe next time...
We had great days at Englishman's Bay and Pirate's Bay(the latter has a sizeable remnant of Tobago's primeval forest running down to the beach, as well as some excellent snorkelling over coral just 20 yards off the beach),had some terrific fishing and a great rainforest hike.
I'm really looking forward to getting back there as soon as I can.