Many folks understand the benefits of traveling off season. My trip is during a severe heat wave—up north. While Washington, D.C. broke a June record at 104F degrees, Grenada topped out that day, and that week, at a breezy 83.
Across the road from Spice Island Beach Resort and upon a hillside, Blue Horizons Garden Resort is an affordable, manicured vacation campus. Its 32 apartment-like rooms include studios and one-bedrooms, all with kitchens. As opposed to the plush digs across the way, this mode allows you to feel like you live here. "Wall Street," shops, restaurants, and a big, clean supermarket are just down the street. Onsite, La Belle Creole Restaurant is a lofty, airy, at-ease appetizing jewel. Elevated, literally and gastronomically, it overlooks the seaside bluffs near the main town, St. George's, and screams banana daiquiri at you. Opening with conch scram and segueing into seafood ravioli, I try to pretend that I've never relied on a can opener to make dinner.
While residing here, I hail a cab to deliver me to a popular seaside joint. My plans rapidly change when Keith pulls over. A taxi driver/entertainment advisor, Keith gives the bar I'm heading to a thumbs-down and redirects us to a local joint where the upbeat Soca music takes center stage. Soca gets Grenadians up and bouncing. They call it whining, pronounced why-ning, a carnal dance demonstration I first witnessed in Jamaica. Think unrelenting doggie-style dancing couples swiveling for hours, rarely making eye contact with one other.
Five hours later: "Hey Keith," I inquire, "What time is it?"
"GMT," he replies (Grenada Maybe Time).
Taxi talent Keith and I share a few meals in local joints. The national dish is called oil down, namesaked by the coconut-milk oil residue that infuses the one-pot stew of breadfruit, callaloo, okra, cabbage, assorted fish, meats, flour dumplings, turmeric, and whatever else is on hand. While graduating from a heaping plate of oil down to brew, two schoolgirls in uniform sit across from us. Keith nods as he reminds them, "Boys and books don't agree."
Grenada is heralded for the curative spices used in cooking. It's telling when a country has nutmeg on its flag. Used in many local dishes, it's also used as a preservative—and preserved fits here in the real Caribbean where Americans and Europeans never got the chance to permanently tourist-bulldoze the culture. This aptly named Spice Island is a lesson in the health benefits of a seasoned diet. A visit to St. George's numerous spice markets underlines their importance.
Although I can't unearth any hard facts about these curative spice health claims—cloves relieve toothaches, lantana eases fever, nutmeg cures colds, turmeric reduces swelling—dozens testified about the wisdom handed down from generations past who acted as guinea pigs in organic/unofficial clinical trials. Does it count to note that most everyone here looks healthy?
Cinnamon, reputed to relieve nausea, grows everywhere, and until beholding it in growth mode, I'd never imagined that it was the ground-up bark of a towering tree, the spice presented here in its pencil-sized, paper-thin brown rollups. Cinnamon is also used in age-reversing exfoliant peels. (Yeah, when Keith isn't looking I sneak in a spa treatment.)
The American Intervention
For many people, Grenada conjures up the memory of one event. In 1983, Reagan-directed U.S. Marines stormed the island to intercept a bloody coup pitting capitalism against communism, one invasion that is still viewed favorably by most Grenadians. On the coastal, British-owned Calabash Hotel property there's a monument to helicopter pilot Captain Keith J. Lucas, who lost his life when his Blackhawk crash landed on this hillside. The helicopter's rotor assembly stands on a platform with a plaque. Lucas's wife was pregnant at the time of his death. The Calabash Hotel's owner met his daughter when she visited the monument and reminisced, "This is the closest I've ever been to my dad."
A few days later, after sharing some nutmeg-flavored ice cream, cabbie/sage Keith drops me off at the airport. As I walk away from his SUV, he reminds me, "What you miss ain't pass you." His way of saying, don't worry about anything, it's coming either way. He then retells me that copasetic is a Grenadian word. Enough said—this place is worth dying for.
For more information, visit www.grenadagrenadines.com.
Bruce Northam is the author of Globetrotter Dogma. The Directions to Happiness, a 125-country quest for gritty wisdom, comes out soon. See more at American Detour.com
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