Grenada, the Spice Isle

As the sun dips down in a tangerine sky, I drop my sandals under a sea grape tree and head to the shore for a sunset stroll, a tropical rum punch my only companion. Before me Grand Anse Beach, a brilliant white crescent on Grenada’s southwest coast, stretches for three miles, bordered on one side by the Caribbean Sea, on the other by small businesses, empty lots, and the occasional resort. Gorgeous any time of day, Grand Anse Beach at sunset is a painting in motion, a changing panorama of scenes, the colors swirling and subsiding like a forgotten dream.

To the north, surrounding the lush green peaks of the Grand Etang Forest Preserve, clouds float like ornaments. To the south, the sun slides down the sky amid a cascade of colors, a waterfall in slow motion. On the edge of the horizon a catamaran gently motors toward Grenada’s capital, St. George’s, whose horseshoe-shaped harbor twinkles with lights from merry restaurants that promise the conviviality sailors need after a long day on the water.

Around me the sea and sky shimmer in the waning sunlight. Silver waves break on the beach, providing a rhythmic beat, like the ticking of a cosmic clock winding down, counting the minutes of my last day in Grenada, reminding me that tomorrow I will board a plane and make the long journey home. I’m determined to milk this day, savor every sensory experience I can.

The silky waters of the Caribbean Sea wash over my feet as I walk along the shore. The clear water beckons, but I’m not suited for a swim. Instead, I watch others bathe in the calm seawater. Surprisingly the beach is full of people—a few tourists, like me, but mostly native Grenadians, boys and girls playing soccer in the sand, old women neck deep in the water, couples intertwined as the sun displays its last burst of fireworks. A slow breeze rises up and ripples the water, ruffling my hair. I smile at the sensual pleasure of the moment.

I turn around and walk toward the place in the sky where the sun used to be. It’s gone now, having surrendered to the dusk, leaving in its wake a peachy-green glow, a fading memory of the day. The swimmers are shadows now, dark profiles edged against the glimmering sea. Its surface reflecting the glow of the sky, the sea, like me, seems to want to hold on to the final moments of the day as long as it can, a last hurrah before it too will dim, and night will take over this small corner of the Caribbean.

The scene around me is clear and beautiful, and all at once I feel a kinship with this place. It’s as if I finally understand what the magic is here, what the islanders mean when they say they will never leave. Why would you when a world with this much splendor waits outside your front door? Maybe I’ll go native, I think as I take another swallow of my rum punch. I’ll sneak up into the hills during the night, get lost in the rainforest, sleep under the nutmeg trees, and dream about a life of enchantment here on the Spice Isle.

Dark descends quickly, and I remember I still have to pack. I feel drained, as if I’ve been under a spell. What’s in this drink? I wonder. It tastes of local rum, strong and flavorful, complemented by tangy fruit juices and topped off by tiny bits of ground nutmeg that echo in my mouth. But something else is at work here. It’s almost as if this drink has sharpened my senses somehow, given me clarity and wisdom—not the normal dulling effects you associate with a potent libation. It must be the nutmeg. All I know is every rum punch I drink for the rest of my life will contain this pungent spice—and remind me of my sunset stroll on Grenada’s Grand Anse Beach.

UNPRETENTIOUS LUXURY

Grenada, a lush Caribbean island just a hundred miles off the Venezuelan coast, is known worldwide for its spice production. In fact, Grenada is home to more spice trees per square mile than any other place in the world. From cinnamon to nutmeg, allspice to bay leaves, the local vegetation fairly exudes an exotic aroma. Some say the spice industry is the primary reason Grenada remains one of the most pristine Caribbean countries. Thanks to the income generated by its spice harvests, Grenada hasn’t sold its soul to the mega-resorts. Instead of wall-to-wall chain hotels towering above the sea, here you’ll find cozy small to mid-sized properties that emphasize a low-key, quality experience.

Located on Grand Anse Beach, Spice Island Beach Resort, where I’m staying, is an elite boutique property that’s arguably the nicest on the island. With 64 lavish suites, the resort defines unpretentious luxury in a warm, friendly environment. Add to that its Mediterranean ambience—gleaming white stucco structures surrounded by colorful landscaped gardens—and you have a setting that resembles paradise.

My suite features its own private plunge pool, patio, and garden—perfect for couples or people like me who relish privacy. Beachfront suites offer spacious patios and inviting hammocks and are just steps away from the shore. All the accommodations at Spice Island Beach Resort are custom furnished in classic Far East style—dark woods, sleek lines, and understated elegance. Flat screen TV’s, Italian porcelain tiles, and designer bathroom fixtures round out the stunning décor. I find it hard to choose between hanging out in my peaceful suite or lounging beside my plunge pool, so I take turns doing both. When I need a change of scenery, I head to the beach for a swim and to work on my tan.

Spice Island Beach Resort is an all-inclusive property and features two restaurants, both of which overlook the Caribbean Sea. Olivier’s is a fine dining venue, where breakfast and dinner are served, and the Sea and Surf Bar serves lunch and tea in the afternoon. Breakfast offerings include fresh fruit, pastries, breads, and cooked-to-order eggs, waffles, and pancakes (with nutmeg syrup, of course). For lunch, try a fresh salad or a hearty sandwich. Dinner, an elegant affair with fine linen and silver table settings, highlights creative island cuisine with an emphasis on fresh-caught bounty from the sea. One unique local product you should try is callaloo, a spinach-like vegetable rich in iron. It’s served in omelets, soups, and steamed as a side dish. Some say callaloo is the secret to a long life. All I know is I feel healthy every time I eat it!

The Grenadians without a doubt are some of the world’s warmest, friendliest people. Having once been a British colony, Grenada is an English-speaking country, and the islanders display the exquisitely polite manners that the British are known for. Other British influences are also evident: driving on the left side of the road, for example, and a school system that mirrors the U.K.’s, including uniforms for schoolchildren. Grenadians have a special affinity for Americans and remember with great appreciation the U.S. “intervention” in 1983, when American troops helped restore order after a coup attempt by a radical communist faction.

Two years ago Hurricane Ivan roared across Grenada, damaging or destroying ninety percent of the structures on the island. The tourism industry began to rebuild quickly, and many resort properties, including Spice Island Beach Resort, were restored with numerous improvements. In fact, the island’s mantra since Hurricane Ivan has been “Build Back Better.” Today the beaches are beautiful once again, and in the mountains nature is recovering nicely. The spice industry, particularly the nutmeg trees, took a serious hit from Ivan, but experts are confident the harvests will soon be back up to par. In the meantime, the island is expanding some of its other crops, such as bananas and cocoa beans.

SWIRLING CURRENTS AND STUNNING VIEWS

Grenada offers a variety of adventurous activities to keep visitors busy. From hiking to snorkeling to exploring the unique history and culture of the island, you won’t get bored during your visit. Tour operators will arrange excursions from one end of the island to the other and can customize a trip based on your interests.

Here’s list of some must-do activities to enjoy when you visit Grenada:

• Take a dip in a waterfall. Grenada’s most famous waterfalls are the Seven Sisters. We hiked to numbers five and six, and while the trail was steep and slippery in parts (remember, you’re in the rainforest), the stunning view at the end is worth the effort. While you’re there, be sure and take a cool dip in the mineral-rich waters and enjoy the sensual experience of being in what must surely be one of the sweetest places on earth. If you’re lucky, a fearless islander will display his bravado, scamper up the rocks, and dive from the top of the waterfall into the pool below.

• Snorkle among the coral reefs. Another world awaits under the sea, and the crystal clear waters of the Caribbean offer the perfect setting for viewing tropical fish, colorful coral, and unique sea life. Don’t forget your sunscreen!

• Visit a rum distillery. Grenada’s rum is renowned for its smooth taste and unique vanilla, honey, and spice flavors. One taste and you’ll understand!

• Tour a spice plantation. In Grenada spices are dried in the sun the old-fashioned way—on wooden platforms, where fresh air and the sun’s rays produce spices that some say are the world’s finest.

• Visit the Grenada Chocolate Factory – Nestled in a cozy neighborhood sits a cottage industry that produces a chocolate to rival the finest in Europe. I recommend the dark chocolate with 71% cocoa. Like a sipping rum, this chocolate is meant to be savored in small amounts.

• Ride an inner tube through the jungle. Grenada’s newest adventure activity promises an exhilarating ride under a tropical canopy amid the swirling currents of the river.

After your adventures end, head back to the beach, find a soft spot in the sand, and watch the sun slide down in a tangerine sky. Sip on a rum punch and savor the intoxicating tastes—the sweet juicy flavors of orange, pineapple, lime, and grenadine; smooth local rum with its unique earthy flavor; and finally the secret ingredient, freshly grated nutmeg. Floating on top, it’s the first taste to touch your tongue. Everything else filters through it.

A visit to Grenada reminds us to spice it up. Just as a vacation helps us reconnect with the loveliness of life, adding spice to our everyday existence gives us a reason to pause and savor the flavors. Cheers!

Grenadian Rum Punch (serves 1)

1 oz lime

1 oz orange juice

1 oz pineapple juice

1 oz grenadine

2 oz light rum

3 or 4 ice cubes

grated nutmeg

Combine the juices, grenadine, rum, and ice cubes in a cocktail shaker and shake vigorously. Strain into a small glass with ice. Sprinkle plenty of nutmeg to taste on top.

Recipe supplied by Grenada Board of Tourism

For more information about visiting Grenada, go to www.grenadagrenandines.com

 

Places to Stay

• Spice Island Beach Resort - www.spiceislandbeachresort.com

• Coyaba Beach Resort – www.coyaba.com

• Blue Horizons Garden Resort – www.grenadabluehorizons.com

• Morne Fendue Plantation - www.travelgrenada.com/fendue.htm

• Almost Paradise Cottages - www.almost-paradise-grenada.com

 

Places to Eat

• Olivier’s – www.spiceislandbeachresort.com

• Laluna – www.laluna.com

• The Nutmeg – Overlooking St. George’s harbor. Ph. 473-440-2539

 

What To Do

• Aquanauts Grenada – Located on Grand Anse Beach, this tour operator offers snorkel and dive trips. www.aquanautgrenada.com

• Henry’s Safari Tours – www.spiceisle.com/safari

• Grenada Chocolate Factory – www.grenadachocolate.com

• River Antoine Rum Distillery - www.grenadaexplorer.com/tip/rumfactory
Peggy Sijswerda

Tidewater Women Magazine, Editor & Co-Publisher.

Website: www.peggysijswerda.com
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