I tried to call everyone last night but only got through with the guys. Basically two things:
1. A flight is on FLY.COM with American Airlines from Miami to Port of Spain (with connecting flight though, in Puerto Rico I think) for $346 from Thursday March 3 to Thursday March 10. I would say jump on that one, it's not getting cheaper than that!
2. I had to look around to find somewhere for us to stay that would not break our budgets since housing was not part of the plan. I found La Calypso, a small guesthouse in Woodbrook (same area we were going to stay in) on French Street 3 blocks from Ariapita Avenue where most of the action (except fetes) is happening, and 15 minutes walk from the Savannah (the main stage to cross for all competing carnival bands).
I spoke with the people at the place both yesterday and this morning to confirm or disprove some of what I saw in comments about the place online (such as that only some of the rooms have a/c, which apparently was true years ago but not now).
Two-story building, 3 beds per room (one bunk and one single). 3 men and 3 women in our group so clearly the 3 men going in one room and the 3 women going in the other. The place has:
- all tile floors,
- all rooms a/c,
- free wireless internet and a single computer in the back if you didn't bring a laptop,
- easy access to taxis right outside to and from the location, and the lady I have been speaking with confirms what I've been reading online: it is much cheaper to catch taxis around than to try and rent a car or hire a car with a driver.
Trust me, I spent a lot of time and money looking around and calling around to places in Trinidad [note: it was trying to Google the telephone number of Admiral's Inn, which on the map seemed located rather far from where we needed to be, that turned up a Yellow Pages listing of several guesthouses in trinidad, and that allowed me to change my mind on Admiral's Inn and narrow my search down to only places located in Woodbrook that were not charging an arm, a leg, and a firstborn child!]; even places that have advertised rates of $40-$50 a night triple and quadruple their rate for Carnival time without apology). This place is charging a little over $1,000 total for all 6 of us for 9 days. For comparison to what the NORMAL carnival rate is, check hotwire.com, kayak.com, or call down to the other guesthouses and you will find the total for 6 of us for 2 rooms including the charge for extra adults in each room (many hotels and some guesthouses do this!) is $4,000-$5,000 USD EASILY.
Plus, we are not there to live the high life in a hotel, we are there to be OUT, so for me personally as long as the area is safe, the beds are clean, and the bathroom is clean, I am good to go, and from what I am reading, that seems to be the case with this place. I don't have luxury money so I don't expect luxury accomodations. I am trying to save as much money as possible towards the fun part of carnival, not spend it all on this little housekeeping type stuff.
The place does not have it's own website and does not do online or card-by-phone reservations, so I will have to wire the deposit down as we did with the costume registrations, or possibly FedEx it. [Note to Trinidadian government or its carnival division: encourage your small businesses and especially businesses that rely on carnival traffic to get up to the times! Give them some grant money or something to develop some 21st century functionality, because this is ridiculous for those of us who can't or just don't want to throw away $4,000-$5,000 USD for places like Samise Guesthouse and Crowne Plaza Hotel!)]
Here are mentions of the place I found online so far...keep in mind just like the one about only "some" rooms having a/c, they might be outdated reports. Also, they have rooms that have the bathroom private to the rooms, but those rooms are already taken for carnival...which shows you why we have to sort this out from now, and quick too! At least this means it is a normal guesthouse, just smaller than some others, and established enough to show up on several sites listing guesthouses, not just some fly by night operation.
http://guardian.co.tt/news/crime/2009/10/28/residents-call-more-foot-patrols (please note that the article is reporting on the rise of robberies in the Woodbrook area...but it's in Port of Spain, all major cities tend to have either high crime or rising crime, yet tourists come and leave and have a great time...New York is the same way, Miami same way, Kingston and Montego Bay same way...so I hope no one panics off the report)... I would be alarmed if I heard reports of a rise in gangs and gun warfare in the area, and that article didn't even say those robbers were armed. Teef a regular ting, everywhere!
However, the general manager (at least at the time, I was told the manager now is a lady named Merle, not sure if they are both managers) of La Calypso was quoted in this article, and he does mention that La Calypso has guests who are regulars, which is always a good sign).
He also thinks it's just the robbers keeping them away...look at the work I have to go through to find information on them, when places down the street have their own websites? I think their regulars are discovering other options on the net as well and they need to get with the program and at the very least have a facebook or myspace or other type of free page if they can't maintain a whole website!
A review of another place in March 2009 had this to say about Woodbrook:
Firstly, it's location in Woodbrook is ideal - it's a five minute walk to the local restaurants, bars, and nightclubs and a fifteen minute walk to either St James or the city centre. Both Woodbrook and St James are entirely safe for tourists and sufficiently far away from the more troublesome eastern suburbs to allow you to walk around at night quite happily.
http://books.google.com/books?id=yupCCf3jQekC&pg=PA113&lpg=PA113&dq=la+calypso+woodbrook&source=bl&ots=SGZkRjpzai&sig=0qOeDkyqFZifFI5Urx8SLXZqWKs&hl=en&ei=7uN8TJW9EsSclgeh3-XrCw&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=5&ved=0CCEQ6AEwBDgU#v=onepage&q=la%20calypso%20woodbrook&f=false This link shows a review of La Calypso found in a book, that does say it's fairly clean... it also says breakfast available but that's no longer true.
http://s2.tntyp.com/Trinidad/La-Calypso-Tourist-Accomodation,HOTELS-TRINIDAD/profile the listing in TnT yellow pages
http://www.comercioexterior.ub.es/fpais/trinidad_y_tobago/10.html even a spanish site has La Calypso listed
[P.S. They agreed to email me pictures of the rooms and the place, so I wait to see those and/or the report from our contact who walks in down there when the time comes.]