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Life gets spicy in Grenada

© By Mike Keenan
  In the TV ad, a ship-wrecked traveller arrives at an upscale hotel, searches through his tattered pants and happily discovers a credit card to addresses his earthly needs. Arriving in Grenada, my pants aren't tattered, but the airline has misplaced (aka lost) my luggage.

Day 1: A short drive from Point Salines International Airport, in the open-air lobby of the Spice Island Beach Resort, lined with vibrant flowers and cascading palms, not 50 metres away, I view Grand Anse Beach and the invitingly seductive Caribbean. The desk clerk, resplendent in a dark suit and blue tie, intuitively accesses my inner angst and greets me with a cool towel and a tall glass of delicious juice. I register - yes, with a credit card.
     The dress code "casually elegant," I sport New Balance sneakers, white gym socks, creased shorts and a day-old fragrant t-shirt. In a carry-on, there's another pair of socks and underwear. My fashion code is "conveniently crass," perhaps "surprisingly subtle," oxymoronic descriptors which indicate "downwardly mobile."
     It's 27 C. (80 F.) with a refreshing breeze. Temperatures range from 24-32 degrees C. (75-90 degrees F.) moderated by cooling trade winds. January-May constitutes the dry season, while the remaining months exhibit brief showers. Located at the bottom of a gentle geographical curve of islands with Puerto Rico and St. Croix at the top, descending from St. Kitts and Nevis, Guadalupe, Dominica, Martinique, St. Lucia and St. Vincent, Grenada resides just north of Trinidad and South America and is less likely to encounter hurricanes.
     During my stay, I make remarkable discoveries, starting with the price of duty-free liquor. Scotch is free and so is rum at $10-$12 for 40-ounce bottles. In the evening, strategically refurbished, I dine at Laluna, administered lovingly by Christine and Devin Nelles, two Canuks from Winnipeg. Besides the al fresco restaurant with renown Italian chef Benedetto La Furia melding the tropics with his native cuisine, I view brightly-coloured one and two-bedroom cottages that trickle down a hillside towards the beach. The singular disconcerting element is the road, similar to those encountered when wilderness canoe-tripping: dirt, rocks, holes and a lane not big enough for two cars.

         

     Drivers occupy the right side. Steep inclines, hair-pin turns and vehicles parked haphazardly or broken down lead to exhilarating rides and ingenuous deployment of the horn. Single beeps or a convoluted Morse code series suggest myriad meanings: "Hi, how are you?" "Get out of the way!" "Watch it! I'm going into a turn on the wrong side of the road." "Thanks a lot." "Where's the money you owe me?" "Well, hello darling!" "How about that cricket match!" and "What's for supper tonight?"
     Day 2: I float in a private, salt-water pool adjacent to my room amidst prickly palms and bright-hued flowers. I walk the sun-kissed beach, admiring swimmers and runners, some carrying hand weights, jogging before it gets too hot. For breakfast, I join two entranced honeymooners from Britain.
     That afternoon, I explore the 3,800-acre Grand Etang rainforest and carefully navigate to the base of the Seven Sisters Waterfalls, struggling with a mélange of rocks which otherwise offer spectacular views of abundant flora, including aromatic nutmeg and guava, coconut, stunning flowers such as white oleander, yellow buttercups and resourceful bougainvillea adorned in an endless variety of pink, magenta, purple, red, orange, white or yellow colours along with the flamboyant or flame tree, aptly named for its fiery red flowers and broad horizontal sweep.
     Daily, I encounter smiling school children, each remarkably immaculate in a school uniform - white shirt and tie with a forest green or maroon blazer, every hair in place. After an invigorating massage from a therapist named Tricia, (who passionately explains Grenadian politics including the U.S. invasion) before supper, I sip sauvignon cabernet with tasty hors d'oeuvres delivered by two lovely female attendants.

         

     Day 3: This verdant island has long been a major source of nutmeg, cloves, ginger, cinnamon, and cocoa. Today, on a gustatory adventure, I visit a chocolate factory and rum distillery and sample both, extremely rich in flavour, the rum quite strong and requiring a water chaser.
     Grenada, the "Isle of Spice," employs nutmeg, bay leaf, allspice, capsicum, pepper, cinnamon, turmeric, clove and ginger in its cuisine. Grenadians enjoy a hot pepper sauce on chicken dishes, especially barbequed, and fresh, local fish or salted cod. Callaloo, a spinach-like vegetable used in soup, is a delicious specialty that I relish as is oil-down, a stew with coconut, breadfruit, vegetables and often pork or fish. Rice, peas, yams, tannias or sweet potatoes are popular. Fresh fruit and local fruit juices are readily available.

   

     Day 4: Scuba divers here are offered extensive reef walls, coral gardens and wreck dives, something to suit all tastes and levels of ability with a variety of fish scattered about sheltered sites and drift diving further offshore. This morning, I accompany divers who inspect a number of wrecks including the Bianca C cruise ship, one of the best wreck dives in the world. Later in the day, I venture by ferry to nearby Carriacou, an island, which, along with Petite Martinique belong to Grenada. I snorkel at Sandy Beach, observing tiny fish darting about in their brilliant, electric colours and observe tracks carved by a huge turtle that has recently emerged, lumbered up a steep hill, dug a hole and laid eggs to be nurtured in the protective amniotic warmth of powdery sand. I arrive back in the capital, St. George, where little seems changed since colonial days. Its ample, attractive harbour welcomes ferries, schooners and other assorted watercraft.
     Day 5: Reluctantly, it's time to return home, having sampled my fill of barracuda, marlin, sailfish, mahi-mahi, snapper, grouper and shrimp. My luggage never arrives; the pants inside might not fit!

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
Mike Keenan

If you go
Grenada Spice Island Beach Resort
as seen on
YouTube
YouTube: (Carriacou): http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=Carriacou+Island&search_type=&aq=f
Spice Island Beach Resort: http://www.spicebeachresort.com/
Laluna: http://www.laluna.com/
Grenada Board of Tourism: http://www.grenadagrenadines.com/index2.html
Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grenada
Wikitravel: http://wikitravel.org/en/Grenada

What's happening, money, distance, time?
Media Guide: http://www.abyznewslinks.com/
Currency conversion: http://www.xe.com/ucc/
Distance calculator: http://www.indo.com/distance/
Time zone converter: http://www.timezoneconverter.com/

Transportation, visas, health, maps and temperature
Airlines (Wikipedia): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_airlines
Embassies/Consulates (Embassy World): http://www.embassyworld.com/
Health precautions (WHO): http://www.who.int/ith/en/
Google interactive map: http://maps.google.com/
Temperature (Temperature World): http://www.temperatureworld.com/


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