Caribbean Week New York 2014

It’s been an incredibly busy and exciting travel year, folks. After two months in Belize, working on and completing my second guidebook for Moon, I traveled to Jamaica twice in one month —for print assignments and for my upcoming Jamaica mini-guide. A few days later, I headed to Travel Classics Writers’ Conference in New Zealand. Shortly after, Martinique was next for a visit with ATOUT France and Martinique Tourist Board.

And then, two days later, I hopped north to New York City for the annual Caribbean Week events (#CWNY14) organized by the Caribbean Tourism Organization.

I had such a wonderful time there, that I feel compelled to share a snapshot of my experience.

Caribbean Week kicks off the first week of June in the Big Apple, a month also recognized as Caribbean American Heritage Month in the US. Events ranged from keynote speeches to luncheons and dinners hosted by renowned, visiting Caribbean chefs, rooftop cocktail parties and a Media Marketplace­, including an Awards Luncheon for travel journalists specializing in the Caribbean (which I must remember to enter next year). And of course, there were fabulous impromptu invitations–it wouldn’t be New York without surprises.

While I made little use of my SLR over five exhilarating and busy days, I managed to capture a few images–via Instagram and SLR–highlighting my favorite moments from my first Caribbean Week.

Moments filled with the vibrancy and camaraderie of the Caribbean:

*An evening of Jamaican cooking with Michelle and Suzanne Rousseau, of 2 Sisters and a Meal: Quoted in my just-published feature article on the Jamaica patty in MorningCalm Magazine, I finally got to meet them after speaking on the phone while on assignment in Jamaica. I sampled recipes from their new Caribbean Potluck book alongside a passionate crowd at Williams & Sonoma. My favorites: the jerk spring rolls and pumpkin patties.

*Caribbean Media Marketplace Day (Instagram shots only), where I met long-time social media friends in person for the first time–like the lovely Sarah Greaves-Gabbadon–as well as representatives from Guadeloupe and Jamaica whom I’d communicated with numerous times.

The day continued with a cocktail reception hosted by Cayman Islands, with friends Uncommon Caribbean (too bad I did not win the two roundtrip tickets giveaway) and ended with a Bajan dinner at Norman’s Cay, avec rum of course.

 *2015 and Beyond private concert at the United Nations (not part of CTO’s Caribbean Week but still relevant!), featuring some of the world’s most inspiring artists, including my absolute favorite band of all time, the legendary band Kassav’–originally from Guadeloupe Islands and creators of zouk music–and Trinidad’s Machel Montano.

The highlight, aside from watching my favorite musicians live at the UN? Witnessing UN-Secretary General Ban Ki-moon getting down on stage to African music, alongside South Sudan activist and hip hop artist Emmanuel Jal. What a sport.

Big thanks to Martinique Tourist Board for inviting me to this and their UN cocktail reception that same evening, announcing Martinique’s contribution to the UN Permanent Memorial project to honor the victims of slavery and the transatlantic slave trade.

* A glorious Saturday lunch and afternoon with Guadeloupe Tourist Board’s New York staff, filled with Damoiseau rhum cocktails (hello, Ti’ Punch!), Creole dishes and great company at Kaz an Nou, the only Guadeloupean Restaurant in New York. The highlight: guest of honor Babette de Rozières, Guadeloupe Islands’ Culinary Ambassador, who shared with us some pearls of wisdom about becoming a successful, sought after and award-winning Chef in France, Restaurant Owner (in Versailles, Paris), Creole Culinary Expert, Author and TV host. I can’t remember spending such a blissful afternoon in the US anywhere–I felt like I was back in Guadeloupe all over again.

Food, rum and music delights aside, being surrounded by people who are as passionate about the Caribbean region as I am was a magical feeling, the kind I want to bottle up and carry with me every day.

See you next year, Caribbean Week New York.