We were nicely seated in our beachfront restaurant in Carriacou, Grenada, West Indies, soaking up the sun and tranquility when suddenly reality hit. Well, yes, the waitress had already mixed up our order, and instead of the lambie souse I had ordered, I got the best fish and chips dish I’d ever tasted. But then it dawned on us that we were going to be late for our one-thirty snorkeling trip to Sandy Island.
By the time we returned from changing into my swimming trunks, I was stunned to see that the water taxi we had ordered had actually beached directly in front of the restaurant. In the instant that it took to be whisked away, I thought, What a country!
The Carriacouans, or “Kayaks,” the natives of this tiny island that belongs to Grenada, know they have a good thing. Sure they will try halfheartedly to show you the highlights during a tour. The guide will show you a plaque to commemorate some curious (in both senses of the word) fishermen who decided to investigate an unexploded mine and were killed. This event happened in 1945 and the plaque has recently been erected, only to become, you guessed it, a tourist stop.
That’s the best thing about Grenada: Although nicely developed for tourism, it is by no means overdeveloped. And as our tour guide Kennedy Jawahir proudly told us, “Grenada is McDonald’s-free.”
Although he invaded the country in 1983, it is rumored that Ronald Reagan probably couldn't have found the Caribbean island of Grenada on a map of the world. The resulting invasion was, until September 2004, the most significant event to have taken place in recent Grenadian history, the 1945 land mine notwithstanding.
Grenada became a pawn in the Cold War and it was in 1983 that 1,900 U.S. troops dislodged the Soviet and Cuban interests that had gathered there to influence political developments. This was foreshadowed by early wrangling in the colonial period when the island was run by both the English and the French. The island is still sprinkled with French place names, although many natives have no idea what the names mean. The patois inherited from French colonial rule is fast disappearing, used and understood principally by the generation now in its sixties.
Sadly, Hurricane Ivan clearly located and even targeted the island in September 2004, creating devastation that temporarily sent the Island of Spice reeling. Over 90 percent of buildings were affected and a dozen Grenadians lost their lives.
Grenada has never had to develop a big-time tourist industry since its agriculture has always been its main industry. This means there are plenty of natural spots to explore should the spirit move you.
Following the Caribbean model, rum making has always been important in Grenada. At River Antoine in central Grenada you can visit the oldest functioning rum distillery in the West Indies—in the Western Hemisphere, if the guides are accurate. One thing is certain: nothing has been changed at the distillery since the 18th century. The original British water wheel stills powers the crushing of sugar cane and a tiny hand-pushed trolley is used to transport the baggas or sugar cane waste which is then used either as compost or to fire up the sugar cane juice. Exactly 12 days later, the finest, non-exported Jack Iron rum produced, 75 percent proof, ready for bottling or use as rocket fuel.
Nearby is another vestige of the past, the now forgotten Pearls Airport. Officially closed to air traffic, it was the international airport during the 1979-83 Grenadine experiment with socialism. Rusting, Russian-built Cuban airplanes now compete with grazing cows along the old airstrip which is still open, a home mainly for drag racing and a lovers’ lane. Police still man the place in case smugglers try to land here but squatters have taken over the land. On the tarmac, everyone is still talking about the revolution of the 1980s an
| Travel notes|
||Where to Stay
La Source: 1-888-527-0044, www.theamazingholiday.com
Laluna Morne Rouge: 473-439-0001, www.laluna.com
Bel Air Plantation, St. David Parish: 473-444-6305, www.belairplantation.com
How To Get There
American Airlines: 1-800-433-7300
Air Jamaica: 1-800-523-5585
British West Indies Airways: 1-800-538-2942
What and Where to Eat
The Water’s Edge, located at Bel Air Plantation, 473-444-6305, www.belairplantation.com
Patrick’s Local Homestyle Cooking, Lagoon Rd., St. George Parish
Rumors Vegetarian Restaurant, St. George Parish, 473-443-5650
Aquarium Restaurant, St. George Parish, 473-444-1410, www.aquarium-grenada.com
The Nutmeg Restaurant, located in the Downtown overlooking the Old Port, 473-440-253