Be careful if you visit Grenada — you may not want to leave. This traveller met several tourists-turned-residents on this island at the southern tip of the Windward Islands. Of course, some of them were Brits who feel particularly at home in Grenada, where you drive on the left and can enjoy a traditional afternoon tea. The island was a British colony for nearly 200 years before achieving independence in 1974. And one can understand abandoning England’s pitiful climate for Grenada’s tropical warmth, 12 degrees north of the equator. But Grenada has other virtues. With a population of just 109,000, it is small enough to retain a humble, friendly atmosphere yet special enough to attract celebrities. I have travelled extensively, but have never encountered the ease and warmth of the Grenadians. They exude positive energy, grace and beauty, from the small school children to the elderly. The island also has a topography of unusual beauty, from mountainous rainforest to dry lowlands, all thanks to its volcanic origins. Forty-five white sand beaches and nine black sand beaches ring the island’s 310 square kilometres. Grand Anse beach, the island’s signature beach,stretches over three kilometres and is home to several resorts and luxury hotels.
If you do visit the beautiful island of Grenada, make sure you go to the Seven Sisters Waterfall. Our group hired a private guide, 70-year-old Telfor Bedeau, a hiker for 46 years, to lead us through the rainforest to the Seven Sisters Waterfall. During the hike, Telfor pointed out nutmeg, cinnamon and guava trees. He didn’t break a sweat as he traversed the steep rocks and muddy paths with the agility of a mountain goat. It’s no wonder — he hikes about 20,800 kilometres throughout the island each year. If you are lucky, a cliff jumper known as Super Butterfly will be diving from the top cliff, as he does up to 10 times a day — with “no fear,” he says. Having skinned my knees on the many rocks in the lagoon, I asked how he avoids them. “I know the water like the back of my hand,” he says. I asked him if his mama knows what he does to help him pay for his University courses – “no way, and don’t tell her”. Super Butterfly’s real name is Clifford. It didn’t strike me till later how appropriate the name is.
Grenada is also known as “Spice island”, so it makes sense that spices play a key role in the bustling, noisy St. George’s market in Grenada’s capital. The bright, colourful stalls are crammed together, and particularly busy on Friday and Saturday mornings, the main market days. But the vendors are friendly and happy to show you their handmade crafts, produce and spices, and will even offer cooking suggestions if you ask. Apparently, Martha Stewart has been known to shop here.A place worth visiting for the history is Dougaldston Spice Estate: A historic cocoa-processing station makes this estate well worth a stop. The main wood building, known as the boucan, has displays of cocoa and spices. Beneath the boucan are large cocoa-drying trays that are pushed out manually along iron rails to allow the cocoa to dry naturally in the sun. At the end of the day, the trays are pushed back under the shelter of the building. Near the boucan, you can also see the wooden fermentation bins used for the first stage of the cocoa process, and inside there are displays of cocoa and other spices produced in Grenada. The estate, open daily, is free to visit. You can stock up on inexpensive, locally grown nutmeg, bay leaves, cinnamon and cocoa.
If you enjoy food as much as I do, check out the small fishing town of Gouyave when it hosts Fish Friday. It was established after Hurricane Ivan in 2004 as a community project to generate income, and it has continued . When you enter the festive atmosphere, the streets are crammed with stalls selling lobster, shrimp kebabs,fish pizza, grilled Marlin with a side of pumpkin and carrots. The Lambie (Conch meat), Tuna fish cakes, Jacks (which are similar to fresh sardines), fried plantain and delicious Coconut bake can all be washed down with a glass of Carib, the local beer, while enjoying the music of the steel pan drummers.
We stayed at the Spice Island Resort on Grand Anse Beach. The resort is definitely the most elegant and sumptious resort I have ever had the privilege of staying in. It is a leader in the Caribbean in green initiatives, even though this resort is luxury, with a capital L. It has also won the Virgin Gold Award for customer satisfaction for four years in a row at the World Tour Market awards in England. There is a choice of spacious beachfront rooms, garden rooms and rooms with their own pools. Besides the helpful staff who fill the most mundane requests (“Band-Aids for blisters, please!”), the rooms feature Frette linens, Philippe Starck-designed taps and faucets, and double Jacuzzi tubs. If it is out of your price range, you can just go for lunch, dinner, afternoon tea or a spa treatment. http://www.spiceislandbeachresort.com
If you are into celebrity spotting, according to Grenada’s board of tourism, Formula One racer, Lewis Hamilton often visits his family on the island. Morgan Freeman, who came to Grenada’s aid after hurricane Ivan, can be seen sailing in the region. And Tom Hanks, Heidi Klum, Mick Jagger and Oprah Winfrey have all been spotted on visits.
For general information about Grenada, check the board of tourism’s website: http://www.grenadagrenadines.com
Melody was a guest of the Grenada Board of Tourism.