Perceptive Travel - A Spiced-up Caribbean in Grenada

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A Spiced-up Caribbean in Grenada
By Bruce Northam



A far cry from the identical cruise ship ports and sealed-off resorts so prevalent in the Caribbean, Grenada is a spice island in flavor and in life.


Grenada beach

A mopey, well-fed stray hound strolls by and faintly sniffs me. I'm leaning against an impromptu beer truck on the fringe of a resort area on the West Indian Caribbean island of Grenada while distant Calypso music fills the barbequed night air. I'm fishing for local gossip from the middle-aged guy whom I just gifted another icy brew. He smiles and announces the same thing four times. His songlike accent is lost on me until a fourth translation: "Who have cocoa in sun, look out for rain." This Grenadian proverb suggests minding your own business—as in, it takes six consecutive days to sun-dry cocoa beans, so pay attention to the weather instead of minor trivia. The mellow dog takes the cue and moseys elsewhere, but I stick around.

This lively traffic circle near famed Grand Anse beach borders a makeshift outdoor marketplace sarcastically named "Wall Street" because the strip-mall parking area is bookended by banks. Along with being a mini-bus hub, the area attracts locals who gather to buy open-air cooked barbeque and drink beverages sold from ice chests in pickup beds. At night, cars blare music, creating instant parties. Unlike other heinously priced Caribbean islands that are programmed so tourists rarely meet non-resort personnel, here I'm dancing in a parking lot with grandmothers, sipping two-dollar beers.

Strolling away from Wall Street with a Carib beer in hand, I follow the Calypso beat into a palm-tree surrounded convention center to behold a showcase of senior Calypso musicians. It sounds happy, so I wonder why 500 fans are seated and calmly listening. I find out that Calypso, a West Indies invention, is "listening music" that doubles as delivery for satire and political commentary. Now I understand why the concert-goers are chuckling more than foot-tapping. At this point, I still have no idea how passionate these folks are about their history and politics. A pretty woman looks away from the stage and smiles at me. I'm going to like it here.

Grenada bay

Watching Your Mouth
Grenada's natives, the Caribs, weren't fond of the uninvited early seventeenth-century English tobacco planters, nor the French salesmen 40 years later who stole the island for a few hatchets and bottles of brandy. A battle with French troops chased the determined Carib men, women, and children to a dead-end on a cliff's edge. Rather than surrendering, they jumped to their deaths. Is this island really worth dying for?

Despite multiple invasions, Grenada is still the authentic Caribbean and seemingly immune to outside bleaching. A large percentage of the islanders have roots in Ghana. They call Grenada the "Canada of the Caribbean" because locals remain neutral in regional politics. No doubt you'll also encounter some of the 5,000-plus international students enrolled in the medical school. It's easier for Brits to fly here than Americans. This also helps to keep the place true to form—no Hooters here.

This friendly West Indian Island speaks English. For the sake of visitors, residents swiftly switch between two languages, both English. Some call their local harmonious vernacular broken English; though not understood by outsiders, it's not broken at all for them.

All races blend here in Grenada—Spice Island is an apt metaphor. Children don't speak about black or white skin, rather brown or peach skin. I stumble upon a new definition for relativity after meeting several men in my age bracket whose fathers had 10 or more offspring, sometimes with different women. With so many folks related on this small island, everyone seems to know each other, making it safer for everyone. Also keeping the peace is the attachment to British Colonial flair. One must bow to a picture of the Queen when entering a court. And if you swear, it's not hard to land there. Locals call this a "church state" because cursing within earshot of a cop can warrant an arrest.

Grenada walk

Grenada only spans 21 by 12 miles if measured in straight lines, but there are weeks of exploring along its shoreline and lush mountain interior. The island's dramatic inland can be explored on steep, curvy mountain roads roaming past waterfalls and plantations via guided tours (cool dude with a taxi) or by public buses.

Diversion Time
I split my time between two very different resorts located across the street from each other. Enjoying all-inclusive elegance at Spice Island Beach Resort, I'm sitting at its Sea and Surf Terrace as the sun dips into the water. The wave-crashing soundtrack is competing with singing frogs—a tiny newt-like chorus that sounds like an army of loud piccolos. The bartender leans forward to tell me something arriving via "tele-Grenadian" (meaning, gossip spreads fast here). "Grenadians believe that a bad attitude is a disability," he adds. There's just something about getting good advice in a five-star environment while wearing sandals. Bring on the shrimp mousse and freshly caught tuna.

I step out onto the barefoot-heaven beach and wander down to Umbrella's, a classic beach bar. Nuggets of Grenadian travel tips and folklore fly at me from every direction—it's easy to make friends here. The next morning, I discover what tops my list of notes: Roman Catholics enjoy fish for breakfast. Here, this ends up being true.




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