tobago*The island of Tobago: The very thought of the place engenders thoughts of plush forests, deep ravines and tropical beaches. In other words, paradise found.  The much smaller sister island to Trinidad, the lesser known island is indeed home to everything that I imagined and much more. At the invitation of the government’s Tourism Department, I joined a group of journalist as guests on the island to take in its world renowned jazz festival and also discover the rich beauty of its people and the island.

Getting There:
With multiple, daily, nonstop flights via a connection through Trinidad courtesy of American Airlines (from Miami), Tobago is easily accessible for U.S. travelers. Once you land at Tobago’s intimate, A.N.R. Robinson International Airport, you’ll be only seconds to the tropical paradise that awaits you. For outbound New York City travelers once a week, non-stop service is offered from JFK on Caribbean Airlines, Trust me, despite whatever transfers, you may have to make depending on your outbound locale, getting to Tobago is worth it.

Lodging: Magdalena Grand Resort
Nestled at the foot of the luxurious Tobago Plantation Community, the Magdalena Grand Resort is centrally located from the Tobago airport and lots of other local venues (such as Pigeon Point, where the Jazz festival concerts took place).  The property is grand in size and personality, with a pleasant staff and lots of activities. On the night my arrived, the Magdalena was host  to a  fashion show extravaganza featuring top designers from Tobago and Trinidad. The resort is also home to four distinct restaurants that each offers excellent service and opportunity to connect with other guests and locals.

The rooms while not luxurious, were well-appointed and each offers great views of the Atlantic Ocean. The property has a well- functioning Business Center  and Spa, for added valued during your stay.

Although the property lacks the overly “exotic” personality offered by some properties on the island, its central location and great customer service makes me highly recommend it for visitors to the Tobago.

Things to Do:
Besides marveling at the lush and rich, tropical environs, Tobago offers a plethora of social and sports activities for travelers. The island offers an abundant number of water sports and hiking/nature trails that boasts some great opportunities for bird watching and other naturalist pursuits.

For the socialite in you, Tobago offers a calendar of events that is filled with opportunities for you to mix and mingle with the locals and fully experience the culture of the island. During several of my excursions on the island for the annual Tobago Jazz Festival, I was able to make more than a few acquaints with whom I enjoyed instant camaraderie.

If you’re seeking romance, Tobago offers a numerous venues for couples. The island has a number of high-quality restaurants and secluded beach areas that provide the perfect opportunity to spend quality time with your amour. Make sure to check out the excellent Seahorse Inn that features a restaurant bearing the same name that offers consummate service and varied cuisine. The beaches on the Caribbean side of the island are like something you’d find on a post card and offer calm waters, plus accommodations for a romantic picnic.

Tobago Jazz Festival
The occasion for my trip to Tobago centered on the island’s annual Jazz Festival. Previously known as the Plymouth Jazz Festival, which earned a reputation for attracting super big names like Elton John, Diana Ross and Rod Stewart among others, the current incarnation still packs a wallop with big ticket names. Held at the open air facilities at the Pigeon Point Heritage Park, the three-night live music event this year featured promising British newcomer, Lianne La Havas; Canadian sensation, Melanie Fiona; multi U.S. Grammy winner India Arie and the legendary Dionne Warwick, who each brought the crowd to its feet. The concert series culminates a weeklong series of cultural events held throughout the island.

For information about next year’s line-up, follow the Tobago Jazz Festival on Twitter and Facebook.

For more information about Tobago, visit: http://www.tobagohoteltourism.com/

 

BEST BETS: FILM – “VENUS AND SERENA (Magnolia Films)
Disclaimer: I am an avid tennis player/fan and a HUGE fan of the sisters.  

The talk of the tennis world right now is a new documentary that provides a birds-eye view into the lives of tennis icons Venus and Serena Williams. Filmmakers Michelle Major and Maiken Baird were given unprecedented access by the sisters into their lives, offering a somewhat revealing portrait of the two women as they make their way through their tumultuous 2011 tennis season.

The film does a good job of framing the personalities of the two sisters, providing the viewers with insights to many of the dynamics and issues that have impacted their lives. It also offers well-balanced perspectives about the enormous influence of the sister’s careers from luminaries that include: President Bill Clinton; Vogue editor Anna Wintour and tennis great John McEnroe, among others. Overall I found it highly entertaining and solid tribute to these two women who have literally transformed a sport.

Grade: B+

 

AUTOMOTIVE SPIN – 2013 Volkswagen Beetle Fender
Talk about a cool ride. I had to look twice when I first saw Volkswagen’s Beetle Fender edition, because on first glance it looked like a sports car. The vehicle that I drove was metallic jet black and accentuated by supercool chrome side view mirrors. I smiled as I got behind the wheel and knew that I was in for real good ride.

Wow Factor:  Besides its trendy good looks and reputation for high quality performance, the new VW Beetle Fender hits the mark in terms of it economical fuel economy and very ample cargo space.

Ride:  Powered by a 2.0-liter turbocharged engine, that’s supported by a six-speed transmission; the Beetle was ably equipped to handle the many demands of big city driving. Additionally, its solid suspension system will assure drivers of an equally confident ride on a variety of highway types as well.

Comfort: The VW Beetle’s uber cool sunburst dashboard is well appointed with easy to use gauges and controls. However, the obvious standout with this ride is its excellent audio system that has been infused with the best sound technology available. Drivers and passengers will definitely enjoy. I found the seat to be firm and comfortable and the Beetle’s cargo space was extremely accommodating to a variety of loads.

Spin Control:  I expect the VW Beetle Fender edition to perform well against its competition. It’s fairly priced, offers a solid performance and is oh, so sexy. I expect that we’ll soon see a lot of these rides on the road.

Grade: A