Friday, February 20, 2015


Caribbean with a smile

Executive summary by darmansjah

It’s one of the last truly Caribbean islands, not yet overwhelmed by resorts and cruise ship crowds. The charm of this lush island lies beyond the white-sand beach of Grand Anse and its string of hotels.

Grenada’s capital, St. George’s, is one of the prettiest towns in the Caribbean, its jumble of orange roofs tumbling down to the harbor. There, the gray stones of Fort George evoke a history that runs from 1705 through the dark days of 1983, when a military coup by a Communist hard-liner prompted President Ronald Reagan’s invasion of the island.

That was an unhappy exception to a happy rule: Grenadian traditions are an amiable mix of African, Indian, and European—much of it coming together every April on the country’s little Carriacou island. The Maroon Festival features drums, string bands, dances, and the “Shakespeare Mas,” in which costumed contestants hurl island-accented recitations from Julius Caesar at each other. Really.

The weekly “Fish Friday” festival in Gouyave, Grenada’s seafood town, offers a marine taste of true Caribbean. Vendors fill the air with scents of fish cakes, shrimp, conch, and beer. Street music makes it a party, with visitors welcome. For most Grenadians, tourists are guests, not sales targets.

Nutmeg, cloves, ginger, cinnamon, and mace made Grenada the “Spice Island,” and culinary opportunity persists today. The Belmont Estate serves up such local fare as callaloo soup and bergamot ice cream. The dark slabs from the Grenada Chocolate Company are so determinedly organic that chocolate bars exported to Europe have been shipped by wind power on a square-rigged brigantine.

With mangrove-fringed coastlines and coral reefs just offshore, there’s plenty of nature. At Mount Hartman, with the right guide at the right time, you might see the national bird: the shy Grenada dove. Fewer than 150 remain on Earth. Indeed, Grenada is becoming a rare bird itself. —Jonathan B. Tourtellot

Travel Tips

When to Go: Dry season, January-May. (Hurricane/rainy season is June-December.)
Relevant Dates: The three-day Carriacou Maroon & String Band Music Festival is typically held in late April.

Where to Stay: All 12 rooms at La Sagesse Nature Centre, a 25-minute drive from St. George’s, are steps from the intimate resort’s palm-shaded beach. Stay in the former plantation’s original manor house or a duplex suite, cottage, or low-slung oceanfront guesthouse. The beachside restaurant (open to the public) serves breakfast, lunch, dinner, and its signature chocolate mousse (prepared with local organic chocolate) seven days a week.

How to Get Around: For island-wide touring, rent a car at the airport. Public minivan routes connect St. George’s to Grand Anse Beach and the island’s other major cities. Taxi service is readily available from the airport. Several local tour operators offer group and private transportation and sightseeing options.

Where to Eat or Drink: The open-air restaurant at Belmont Estate serves a three-course lunch buffet spotlighting homegrown spices, fruits, and vegetables. Lunch is served Sunday-Friday beginning at noon.
What to Buy: Locally grown and produced ground spices and essential oils from the Market Square in St. George’s; The Grenada Chocolate Company organic dark chocolate bars at Belmont Estate.

What to Listen to Before You Go: Grenada: Creole and Yaruba Voices, Caribbean Voyage: 1962 Field Recordings, produced by Alan Lomax. Legendary folk music hunter Lomax recorded the rich linguistic and stylistic variety of the English-, French-, and Spanish-speaking eastern Caribbean on a six-month, 1962 field trip to the Lesser Antilles.

Fun Fact: According to legend, Grenada owes its Isle of Spice status to an East Indies doctor who brought the first nutmeg trees to the island in the 1830s. The tree produces the island’s principal export crops—nutmeg and mace.

Helpful Links: Grenada Board of Tourism

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