Rediscovering Grenada, The Island that Smells of Spices
By Jean Miller Spoljaric
Twenty-nine years ago, back when I was a young twenty-something, I was full of life and looking for an adventure.
The adventure of a lifetime lasted only about two weeks, we sailed from Saint Vincent’s Island, through the Windwards then down to the spice island known as Grenada. It was this trip that changed my sense of adventure.
It was the trip that opened my eyes to another world. I not only fell in love with Grenada but also discovered my love of sailing.
There’s something about being on the water, the crystal blues of the Caribbean, the wind in your face, the gentle motion of a sailboat, the occasional squall to heighten the level of excitement, flapping sails, the warm sunshine beating down on you, all of that and being surrounded by the paradise known as the West Indies, life was very good.
I wasn’t hesitant in the least to visit Grenada back in 1985, I hadn’t given it a second thought, perhaps it was my youth or the feeling of invincibility, I had no fear. A short time prior to my first visit to Grenada, President Ronald Reagan, launched an invasion, known as “Operation Urgent Fury” onto the Spice Island.
One would never have known that less than two years earlier Grenada was in the middle of a serious uprising. The friendly smiles of the people were most welcoming back then and I felt very safe to be an American woman in Grenada.
Those friendly faces and warm smiles emerged once again on my most recent visit to Grenada.
Fast Forward: The Re-Visit
Fast forward: Almost three decades later in 2014, I found myself coming full circle, except this visit to Grenada was different, I spent most of my time on land. I was submerged in the midst of the turquoise waters once again, I felt my heart beating a little faster, I was back in the West Indies, back to Grenada.
How lucky was I? I got to revisit this beautiful sleepy island in the Caribbean that smells of cinnamon and nutmeg. This time around I wouldn’t be forced to eat Spam, this time around I was lucky enough to call the beautiful and luxurious resort, Sandals LaSource Grenada my home away from home.
It was there that I was pampered, top-shelf fancy drinks and fabulous ala cart food choices, not to mention the Red Lane Spa with its eucalyptus steam and strong masseuses. Oh, and did I mention butler service? That too!
Through Grenada’s Open Valleys
This time around Grenada I traveled through the open valleys and climbed my way up into the spice hills and explored Fort Frederick, the backward-facing fort. I traveled through the lush rainforest to Annandale Falls, the most beautiful waterfalls in all Grenada.
Oh how I wished I had worn my swimsuit so I could have swum under the falls, it was still beautiful even though I didn’t get to take a dip. I was on the lookout for the Mona Monkeys of Grenada but much to my disappointment the only one that I did happen upon was tethered to a local man who was asking for a dollar to take a picture with the monkey.
Needless to say, I don’t have a picture. I walked the colorful streets of Saint George and visited the busy market place on a sunny, hot Saturday afternoon. The streets were bustling with friendly people, the market vendors were busy, toddlers napped under makeshift tents made of old tattered and worn tarps.
Grilled Street Corn
A local woman was set up on a corner and selling grilled street corn, it was cooked in a shopping cart with a little fire that burned in the seat area that one would place their toddler. There was fresh coconut milk and ripe mangoes, star fruit to die for and spices galore.
So many spices, the aroma of the area wafted in the way of the wind. The scent of cinnamon and nutmeg filled the streets. But mostly, this trip to Grenada was spent under the surface of the water, learning how to scuba dive. And a most excellent adventure that turned out to be!
A Little History
Timing was the reason President Ronald Reagan launched the invasion of Grenada in 1983. Americans were still demoralized from their defeat in Vietnam and the humiliating hostage crisis in Iran.
A senior British officer who watched the Grenada invasion from nearby Barbados, Maj. Mark Adkin, wrote afterward that he believed the war was launched because of “the intense desire of the president and his advisers to raise U.S. prestige, particularly at home and in the armed forces, where morale and self-respect had fallen substantially since Vietnam.”
In 1979, a handful of leftists calling themselves the New Jewel Movement seized power in Grenada. Their charismatic leader, the British-educated Maurice Bishop, turned out to be an admirer of Fidel Castro. Some of his comrades, however, considered him insufficiently radical.
In October of 1983, they executed him. That gave Reagan his chance. Reagan had come into office pledging to restore American glory and was looking for a place to flex the country’s military muscle. He had sent Marines to intervene in Lebanon’s civil war, but that had not provided the quick victory he had wanted.
Operation Urgent Fury was also an extreme example of asymmetric warfare. It was meant above all as a show of force, and it stunned the Central American and Caribbean left.
Inside the Reagan administration, it was seen as a triumph. One final legacy of this invasion is what did not happen afterward.
It would have been cheap and simple for the United States to turn Grenada into a model of Caribbean prosperity and thereby to suggest that being conquered by Americans is a good thing.
Instead, the U.S. quickly moved on. In 2007 Grenada co-hosted the Cricket World Cup in a brand-new $40 million stadium. It was paid for by the People’s Republic of China. Enough said about that.
Discover and Explore
As great as staying at an all-inclusive resort can be, I sometimes find myself feeling trapped. I highly recommend getting out and exploring the surrounding areas. Yes, gated communities are gated for a reason, however, Grenada is very safe and I totally recommend touring the island.
You could grab a taxi and do your own thing or you could sign up for a land tour with Island Routes. Island Routes is a local tour company that will show you the time of your life and also enlightens you about all things Grenada.
Feeling Safe on Grenada
I’m a women who travels alone much of the time and I felt extremely safe on this island. In fact, I felt extremely safe thirty years ago on this island. I believe everyone should get out and meet the local people, go to the markets, drink a local beer, dine at a local restaurant.
You should learn the culture and see the land. If you don’t, your vacation destination becomes a bubble of fantasy, all your amenities are trapped under one umbrella. I suppose the beauty of all-inclusiveness and of less adventurous people would be that you don’t have to go anywhere if you don’t want to.
Perhaps you just want to float around in the pool with a frozen umbrella drink, that’s perfectly expectable too, and Sandals LaSource in Grenada makes the perfect setting to do just that, it’s location in the middle of paradise will awe you and they make a great Pina Colada too.
An Island Nation
Grenada is more than just an island, it’s an island nation. It consists of Grenada and six smaller islands at the southern end of the Grenadines in the southeastern Caribbean Sea. Grenada is located northwest of Trinidad and Tobago, northeast of Venezuela, and southwest of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.
Be sure to keep a lookout for the Grenada national bird, the Grenada Dove, as it’s critically endangered and I was told that there is only about one hundred left. The currency in Grenada is the EC, (East Caribbean dollar) although credit cards and the US dollar are also welcomed.
Be sure to visit the almost two-mile-long Grand Anse Beach while you’re there. Also be sure to buy some Grenada Chocolate bars cultivated straight from the organic cacao that grows on the island.
An important aspect of Grenadian culture is the tradition of story-telling, with folk tales both with African and French influences. The character Anancy, a spider who is a trickster, originated in West Africa but is prevalent on Grenada as well.
The Art of Holding Your Breath Underwater
Breathing underwater doesn’t come naturally to people, it’s not normal. So it’s understandable that I was a little nervous as I listened to the tutorial about how to teach myself to do just that.
The top-notch team of very friendly and extremely knowledgeable Dive Masters at Sandals LaSource Grenada made that fear disappear. I started out in the morning at the hotel pool learning the basics and soon after that, I found myself at the bottom of the Ocean reminding my self to breathe as I explored Grenada’s Underwater Sculpture Park.
I dove one time about a year ago in Madagascar in the Indian Ocean. I was excited to jump into the ocean for my first time. I never wanted to be the person in the hotel pool, and as exciting as that was, I didn’t really learn the art of Scuba.
It was more about put this in your mouth and don’t lose it! I recall my jaw aching for hours after that experience as I clenched the mouthpiece so hard I felt that I had developed lockjaw. This time around was nothing of the sort.
I was taught to actually lose my mouthpiece and I learned to recover it. The best part of diving in Grenada is that when you choose to stay at the Sandals LaSource Resort the dive trips are all included. You can’t beat that!
It’s totally free for certified divers, as many dives as you can do. There is a small fee for uncertified divers such as myself, but the experience to follow was well worth it. Plus, you make that up at the hotel as you never have a restaurant or bar bill.
Be sure to check out the Molinere Underwater Sculpture Park if you go. It’s a collection of ecological underwater contemporary art. It was created by British Sculpture Jason deCaires Taylor, in May of 2006 and is the world’s first underwater sculpture park.
He installed cement figures onto the ocean floor, mostly consisting of human forms, with the largest sculpture being a group of children holding hands in a circle. As you can imagine being underwater for nine years, the sculptures have all taken on a life of their own.
Afro-Grenadians and Indo-Grenadians
The majority of Grenadine citizens are descendants of the African Slaves brought there by the English and the French, (about 80%) a few are indigenous Carib and Arawak Indians who survived the French purge at Sauteurs. Today, Grenadians of Indian descent comprise the second largest ethnic group.
Grenada, like many of the Caribbean islands is subject to a fair amount of poverty and a large amount of migration, with a large number of young people wanting to leave the island in seek of a better life, while others flocking to Grenada in seek of a better life.
With the population being about 110,000 people living in Grenada and the official spoken language being English with a flair of Grenadian and French Creole mixed in, it makes for an adventurous fabulous vacation destination.
What more could you ask for? Friendly people, azure blue water, lush green mountains, the aroma of spices filling the air and lots to do all nestled in and around the most beautiful place in the world, the Caribbean Sea.
All in all a visit to this paradise should be on everyone’s bucket list. The lush mountainous views, perfect blue harbors, white crystal-like, sandy beaches and friendly people, combined with some of the best diving in the world makes Grenada an ideal vacation destination, it’s an uber inviting place to visit, to enjoy and to explore.
More Helpful Information:
My base of operations at the Sandals La Source Grenada was a home away from home. The Sandals Resorts recently assumed operations at the all-inclusive resort located on a sprawling 17-acre lot and refurbished the entire resort in only nine short months.
Many of the hotel’s guests are repeat Sandals customers, and why not? It’s the best bargain in the Windwards and it’s close proximity to the airport makes it easy to get to. Even with 225 luxury rooms, with 69 of them offering Butler service the friendly staff still manages to lend a warm intimacy.
Sandals allows you to be as busy or as lax with activities as you choose, world-class diving, sailing, snorkeling, kayaking, playing games, or just rejuvenating our souls. Add 10 top restaurants to choose from with all the food and drink you can handle!
From the Five Star Butch’s Chophouse to the freshest sushi throughout the Caribbean and rich Italian pastas to savory Caribbean barbecue, even a gourmet hot dog cart is available, your hunger will have met its match. A terrific home base, and beautiful beaches. Sandals La Source Grenada truly has something for everyone.
For more info on Sandals La Source Grenada
Check out their fabulous dining options at Sandals La Source Grenada
Red Lane Spa: A Must!
For more info on Scuba Diving in Grenada
To and From: I flew American Airlines from JFK stopping in Miami and onto the beautiful Island of Grenada, it was a short 6 hour flight and viola, rum punch in hand, I was in paradise! To book your flight to Grenada contact American Airlines today.
Other Cool Stuff
I visited the beautiful and picturesque Annandale Waterfalls during my visit to Grenada, here’s a link to all the Water Falls on Grenada.