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It's chic to be "nutty" in Grenada

© By Mike Keenan

  Why not invade! What's not to like about Grenada? There's the fragrant spice, not "Posh," more the addictive, aromatic kind that summons me to any warmed pumpkin pie to devour. In Grenada, you actually get three for one with two more islands, Carriacou and Petite Martinique located slightly north. The three-island nation is the most southerly of the Windward Islands, between St. Vincent and the Grenadines to the north with Trinidad and Tobago to the south. Tiny Carriacou is a 20-minute flight from Grenada or 90 minutes by power catamaran. Petite Martinique may be reached by boat from Carriacou, the crossing - 20 minutes. Point Salines International Airport on the southwestern tip of Grenada is five miles from the capital, St. George's, a short drive to the main hotel areas while Lauriston Airport in Carriacou accommodates only light aircraft.
     The small, mountainous isle, 34 km. (21 m.) long and 19 km. (12 m.) wide, is carpeted with sweet-smelling trees and exceptional tropical flowers: bougainvillea, the national flower, hibiscus, poinsettia, palms and lovely orchids. Fruit trees include mangos, guavas, papaya and soursop. A 3,800 acres rainforest reserve, the Grand Etang, dramatically occupies centre of the island.
     There are charming towns and an attractive harbour at St. George's, a popular stopover for boaters. Mount St. Catherine commands the highest elevation at 840 metres (2,756 feet) above sea level.
     Here, one might encounter iguana, manicou (possum), armadillo, non-poisonous snakes, lizards and frogs. In the sea, there are Humpbacks from January to March, Pilot and Sperm whales year-round.
     The eclectic variety of spices includes nutmeg, cloves, ginger, cinnamon, and cocoa. Local cuisine takes advantage of the nutmeg, bay leaf, allspice, capsicum, pepper, cinnamon, turmeric, clove and ginger offerings. Hot pepper sauce replaces pepper, and really, you should purchase some to take home. Barbequed chicken, fresh local fish, salted cod, crab and "callaloo," spinach-like vegetable, are favourite dishes as is "oil-down," stew with coconut, breadfruit, vegetables and pork or fish. Rice, peas, yams, tannias and sweet potatoes complement one's plate, and fresh fruit is plentiful.
     Thanks to the nearby Guyana current's nutrients, a rich marine ecosystem has established and diving suits all levels of experience with reef walls, coral gardens and wreck dives including the Bianca C, a 600-foot Italian cruise ship considered one of the best wreck dives in the world. Keen divers can easily make two dives a day for a week without exhausting multiple site options.
     St. George's reflects colonial days, (they still drive on the left) and its horseshoe-shaped harbour accommodates ferries, schooners and other watercraft. The main street provides fine seaside restaurants, bars and hotels. Many beautiful gardens and isolated beaches offer free access to the public or might involve a negligible cost. There are over 100,000 inhabitants here with African, East Indian and European backgrounds, but everyone speaks English although French-African patois is often heard.
     Tourists should visit Levera National Park and Bird Sanctuary at the northeastern ridge to view nesting seabirds and the Arawak ruins, and don't miss an opportunity to hike in the Grand Etang National Park and Forest Reserve, both accessible by car or tour from St. George's.
     The most popular sun-strewn beaches are found south of St. George's, especially Grand Anse where one might dream lustily of Ursula Andress emerging from the transparent aquamarine water in her delightful white bikini as she encounters James Bond lazing upon the sand. The beach vendors can be annoying. With some boats stopping for only a day, they hustle their wares. There are over 40 dazzling white-sand beaches and 9 black sand variety, national parks, spectacular waterfalls, museums, shopping, historical landmarks, open-air markets, and more. Accommodations cover the gamut from luxury resorts and villas to inexpensive guesthouses, cottages, and apartments.
     At the market, inhale the smell of warm, woody nutmeg which Grenada exports to kitchens around the world. From the apricot-coloured soft fruit to the red mace surrounding the shell, each layer is utilized, the fruit made into syrups, jams, jellies and spicy liqueur, and when dried, the red mace ground to flavour myriad sweet and pungent dishes. The shell provides either a surface for local paths or mulch. The seed boasts a remarkable history as both an aphrodisiac and snuff for men while women wore it in silver pendants to protect against disease.
     Not normally considered part of the hurricane route, Grenada has weathered both Ivan in 2004 and Janet in 1955. Fortunately, nutmeg surpluses allowed the verdant island to rebound as a top producer.
     Look for locally made handicrafts, spice baskets, straw work, wood carvings, batik and screen-painted items besides the myriad spices, herbal teas, and locally produced jams, jellies, syrups and ubiquitous nutmeg. At the duty free shop, search for crystal, jewelry, liquor and perfume bargains.
     Temperatures here range from 24-32 Celsius (75-90 Fahrenheit) moderated by cooling trade winds with January to May considered the dry season. Casual dress is acceptable, but conservative Grenada has not yet embraced nude or topless sunbathing.
     A valid passport is required; however, two proofs of citizenship, one with a photo, are acceptable for Canadian, U.S., and British citizens. Visas are not required from a number of countries including Canada, U.S., and the United Kingdom.
     Air Canada and Caribbean Airlines operate regular flights from Toronto and Montreal to Barbados or Trinidad with connections to Grenada. Air Jamaica operates regular direct flights year round out of JFK. Flying time from Toronto is 5.5 hours.
     Currency is in the form of the Eastern Caribbean Dollar with Canadian and U.S. dollars easily exchanged at banks which generally run from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., Monday through Thursday and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Fridays. They include: Scotia Bank, Barclays Bank, Grenada Co-Operative Bank, Grenada Bank of Commerce and the National Commercial Bank.
     Voltage is 220 volts, 50 cycles. Appliances rated at 110 volts (North American standard) normally work with a transformer. Most hotels provide dual shaver units. Bring an adaptor plug for small appliances. The biggest jolt, however, will be when you see the stunning beaches!

Mike Keenan writes for QMI Agency (Sun Media) Canada's largest newspaper publisher, printing 44 daily newspapers as well as a web portal, Canoe.ca. Besides regular columns for the St. Catharines Standard, Welland Tribune and Niagara Falls Review. Mike has been published in the Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, Buffalo Spree, Stitches, West of the City and Hamilton-Burlington's View Magazine. His work is found in QMI published dailies such as the Toronto Sun, Ottawa Sun, Vancouver Sun, London Free Press, Calgary Sun, Winnipeg Sun and Edmonton Sun.

Photo Credits
Courtesy: Grenada Tourism Board
East Coast Rd., Grand Etang lake, Silver Beach & Sandy Island, Carriacou, Hillsborough, Carriacou, Market, Grand Anse, Dougaldston Spice Estate, Nutmeg, Coconut Beach, Grand Anse, Sandy Island snorkeling, Carriacou sunsets, Concord Falls, St. George's Harbour view, Carriacou.

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