Glimpses of Grenada

Simon Lee visits the spice isle of the Caribbean

Aerial view of St George’s, capital Grenada. Photograph by Chris HuxleyAerial view of St George’s, capital Grenada. Photograph by Chris HuxleyEven yatchs cozy-up in Tyrell Bay, Carriacou. Photograph by Chris HuxleyFresh fish is almost always on sale in the market. Photograph by Chris HuxleyLower Marquis Falls. Photograph by Chris HuxleyMain building t the La Segesse Nature Centre. Photograph courtesy Grenada Board of TourismNutmegs. Photograph courtesy Grenada Tourist BoardPhotograph courtesy Grenada Tourist BoardPurple bougainvillea. Photograph by Jim RudinRugged coastline at Fort Jeudy. Photograph by Chris HuxleySpice stall alongside the docks. Photograph by Chris HuxleyStunning Grand Anse Beach, two miles long of glorious white sand. One of the most photographed beaches in the Caribbean and the world. Photograph by Chris HuxleyThe most beautiful harbour town in the Eastern Caribbean, St George’s. Photograph by Chris Huxley

Even with your eyes closed, you must know when you’re in Grenada. The aroma of fresh spices is everywhere: an intoxicating potpourri of nutmeg, mace, cinnamon, cloves and ginger. With eyes open, you’ll find the Spice Isle just as pretty as its unique fragrance.

The capital of St George’s combines the charms of a stunning natural location, on the lip of an extinct volcanic crater, with a distinctive architectural blend of French provincial and English Georgian styles. It fully deserves its reputation as the most beautiful harbour town in the Eastern Caribbean.

From the hills above St George’s you’ll glimpse the two-mile-long white-sand swathe of Grand Anse beach, one of the Caribbean’s (and the world’s) most photogenic beaches. To the south are sheltered bays, secluded beaches, and the marinas of the international yachting set — Grenada is the slipway to the tiny islands of the Grenadines and some of the best sailing in the Caribbean.

The lush mountainous interior, rising to the 2,757ft peak of Mt St Catherine, and the two submerged crater lakes of Grand Etang and Lake Antoine, are reminders of the island’s volcanic origins. Nature trails allow visitors to explore the rainforest of the Grand Etang national park and forest reserve, and there are spectacular waterfalls at Annandale, Concord, Seven Sisters and Mt Carmel.

Besides the natural beauty of Grenada and its sister islands of Carriacou and Petite Martinique, 23 miles to the north-east, there are many other attractions. Reefs and wrecks make for excellent dive sites; there are endless watersports and yachting facilities, international and local regattas and a billfishing tournament. In the developed south you’ll find luxury resorts, hotels, haute cuisine, nightlife and an air-conditioned shopping mall.

Carnival lovers are doubly blessed: they can jump up at Carriacou’s pre-Lenten celebration, then play again at Grenada’s August carnival. You can go whale watching, or take in an international cricket match at Queen’s Park, the Caribbean’s newest stadium, which boasts the biggest cricket pitch in the region. You can visit a nutmeg processing station, or the oldest functioning rum distillery in the Caribbean at River Antoine where, if the giant water wheel that drives the sugar cane crushers doesn’t knock you out, then the 150 proof rum certainly will.

Much of Grenada’s charm lies in the fact that it is still relatively undiscovered and unspoiled. So although you’ll find an internet café on the Carenage in St George’s, and you can sip cappuccino while you titillate your palate with French pâtisserie at La Boulangerie in Grand Anse, or go duty-free shopping at Spiceland Mall, away from the southern tourist strip, you’ll discover a different Grenada.

This is the slow-paced life of farming and fishing villages, small boys swimming in the river, a farmer, cutlass in hand, carrying his sack of nutmeg. In small restaurants you’ll be able to sample local dishes like pepperpot and stewed conch, pumpkin or callaloo soup, wild meat and goat, pig-foot souse and creole shrimp.

You can watch craft workers making straw baskets, bags, hats and mats from wild pine leaves in Marquis, or boat builders in Carriacou still following designs introduced by Scottish shipwrights in the early 19th century. In Carriacou you’ll also encounter some of the most authentic and longest-surviving African cultural traditions in the Eastern Caribbean, which are still very much alive in the unique Big Drum celebrations.

Arriving in Grenada on my most recent visit, and driving up to St George’s with a friend who lives on top of a hill overlooking the town, I found I’d forgotten just how beautiful the island is, and how steep the hills of St George’s are. By the time we reached the acute gradient of her drive, I was scrambling for a parachute.

But the view from her patio calmed my panic: below a profusion of purple bougainvillea stretched a panorama of red tiled roofs, the towers of the Anglican cathedral and the Scottish kirk, the solid Georgian facades of Market Square, and on the promontory guarding the entrance to the horseshoe Carenage, Fort George with its backdrop of endless sea.

My friend had lived in Trinidad, Tobago and St Lucia, and had looked through the Caribbean from Belize to Anguilla and the French Antilles. But she said she’d finally settled here in Grenada with her family because of “the landscape, pace of life and the sense of living on an island linked to other islands,” even though she’d looked through the Caribbean, from Belize to Anguilla, and the French Antilles.

Next morning I hit the road with the best possible travelling companion, Mandoo, an award-winning tour operator. His childhood nickname, bestowed by an adoring elder sister, translates as “Sweetman”, a moniker he still lives up to, judging from his spotless white ducks and the number of sweet women we stopped to talk to across the island. Mandoo combined the savvy learnt from 23 years in the British merchant marine with an encyclopaedic knowledge of his island home, and more than a nodding acquaintance with most of its inhabitants.

On the road to Grenville, Grenada’s second town, Mandoo gave me a history lesson I can only partially quote from, starting in the centuries BC with the Siboney, the earliest settlers who lived in caves on the west coast. It was the Arawaks, who arrived from South America around 500 AD, who gave the most southerly of the Windward Islands its first documented name, Camerhogne, the place of different people. By 1,000 AD, the Arawaks had been driven out by the warlike Caribs, who arrived in dugout canoes from the Orinoco delta.

When Columbus sighted the island on 15 August 1498, he named it Concepción before sailing on. The name didn’t stick; Mandoo authoritatively cites the Spanish cartographer Rodriguez, who had it down as Granada, after the Spanish city.

If the original name didn’t stick, neither did early European settlers. The Caribs repulsed an English party in 1609, and a French group in 1638. It was only a French military expedition from Martinique that finally crushed Carib resistance in 1650, with the last 40 Caribs leaping off the cliff at Sauteurs on the north coast, rather than surrender.

For the next 100 years La Grenade remained in French hands, although Mandoo says it was “seized briefly by 100 Dutch musketeers in 1675.” During this period, the fertile volcanic terrain was cultivated with African slave labour to produce tobacco, sugar, cotton, coffee and cocoa.

When the island was ceded to Britain in 1763 it became Grenada. Following a brief reoccupation by the French in 1779, it was returned to the British by the Treaty of Versailles in 1783, and remained in their hands until independence in 1974. The French influence survives, however, in place names (Mardigras, Perdmontemps, Pomme Rose), architecture, the forts on the hills of St George’s, carnival and the French patois that is still spoken, especially in rural areas.

Descendants of African slaves now account for 85% of the total population of nearly 100,000, and African cultural forms were strengthened by the arrival of liberated slaves in the 1840s, after Emancipation became a reality in the British Caribbean in 1838. After 1857, East Indian indentured labourers were brought in as plantation labour; their descendants now constitute about 5% of the population. On tiny Petite Martinique, which still maintains a smuggling culture, the 700 inhabitants are mixed descendants of African slaves, French fishermen, shipwrights from Glasgow and assorted pirates.

Like most of the islands, Grenada’s history has bloody episodes. After the Caribs were wiped out, the next major upheaval was the 1795 slave revolt led by the “free coloured” Julien Fedon, inspired by French revolutionary egalitarianism. From his mountain camp Fedon effectively controlled the island for 14 months, until the insurrection was brutally suppressed by the British.

Far more recent was the “revolution” of 1979, when the then Prime Minister Eric Gairy was ousted in a bloodless coup by the New Jewel Movement, led by young attorney Maurice Bishop. The socialist regime caused concern in America by aligning itself with Cuba’s Fidel Castro, and when Bishop was murdered by a hardline Marxist faction in 1983, the island was invaded by a joint American-Caribbean liberation force. Although painful memories remain, there were benefits from the period of rule by the New Jewel Movement, with many doctors and other professionals receiving Cuban training.

Mandoo is thorough, so after my history lesson we headed for the Annandale Falls, where I was given a personalised greeting, extempore style, by calypsonian Bamboo:

What makes you look so neat,

is the gap between yuh two front teet

he sang, with an artist’s eye for detail, before moving on to the beauty of his island home:

Yes it is a fact, 

Grenada more nice than New York.

The pool at the foot of the falls looked inviting, and the couple locked in each other’s arms at the water’s edge obviously found it romantic, but I was on a mission — next stop the Grand Etang National Park and Forest Reserve. This reserve, which covers 3,816 acres, has been protected since 1906. The crater lake that gives its name to the park is surrounded by the peaks of Mt Qua Qua, Mt Lebanon, Mt Sinai and Mt Maitland to the south.

Annual rainfall in the high forest can reach 160 inches a year, and from the Beausejour Lookout, which I reached easily on a well-kept trail, I was rewarded with a vista over the dense canopy, down into lush forested valleys dotted with occasional bursts of orange blossom. Besides the easy Beausejour and Morne Labaye trails and the muddy trail round the lake, for serious hikers there are the challenges of the three-hour round-trip to Mt Qua Qua, or the hikes onward to Concord Falls and Fedon’s camp.

The Visitor’s Centre above the lake has informative displays covering Grenadian flora and fauna and fascinating details about the uses of local timber (bois gri for docks and jetties, gommier for canoes, bois lait for coffins).

After the devastation wreaked by Hurricane Janet in 1955, fast-growing species like Caribbean pine and blue mahoe from Jamaica were introduced for reforestation and watershed protection, and to augment indigenous species like mahogany, galba, laurier, tapana and bullet.

Among the park’s birdlife are the Rufous-breasted and Emerald-throated Hummingbirds, the Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Red-necked Pigeon, Ruddy Quail Dove and Cocoa Thrush. To spot a Grenada Dove — the endangered national bird (there are thought to be less than 100) — you’ll have to search the western or southern woodlands, but in Grand Etang you might chance on other wildlife like the tatou (Antillean armadillo) or some of the endangered Mona monkeys, originally introduced from West Africa.

Eco-tourists will also want to check out the 450-acre Levera National Park in the north-east, with its bird sanctuary, mangrove swamp and white beaches where turtles nest. Levera is the only known habitat of the endangered Hook-billed Kite, which lives on tree snails. South of Levera is Lake Antoine, the other crater lake.

Other notable eco-sites include the La Sagesse protected seascape on the south coast, with its beaches, mangrove, estuary, salt pond and coral reefs; the Morne Gazo rainforest trails in St David, with spectacular views down to Point Salines; Laura’s Herb and Spice Garden in St David, and Bay Gardens in St Paul’s.

After Grand Etang, the transinsular road unwinds through the food basket of Grenada, the villages of Adelphi and Birch Grove: valleys densely cultivated with bananas, coconuts, cocoa, coffee, nutmeg, spices, avocado, breadfruit, mangoes, citrus, passion fruit, dasheen, plantain, pumpkin and yam.

I had never seen inside a nutmeg processing station on my previous trips to Grenada, despite spending an entire day in the spice market in St George’s. This time, after a simple lunch of stewed dorado, Mandoo deposited me at the Grenville curing station, where I disappeared into the dusty world of myristica fragrans.

Nutmeg is more than just a Grenadian national icon, featuring prominently on the flag; it’s the smell and taste of the island, and together with mace accounts for 14% of annual export revenues. Grenada supplies between a quarter and a third of world demand, giving this tiny island an international profile, out of proportion to its size. Indonesia, where the spice originates, supplies the rest.

Nutmeg and mace have long and illustrious histories. Nutmeg shell incense added imperial fragrance to the Rome coronation of Henry VI as Holy Roman Emperor in 1190. For Asians, the nutmeg seed was an aphrodisiac, and mace a narcotic with hallucinogenic properties, while denizens of the 18th-century European haute monde used nutmeg in their snuff.

There are different versions of the story of how nutmeg was transplanted from the Indonesian Banda Islands to Grenada. Some sources say it was introduced by British traders as early as the 1780s as an alternative to the sugar cane crop that had been wiped out by natural disasters. Another theory is that West Indian sugar planters, who went out to the East Indies in 1840 to advise on sugar extraction methods, brought it back. But I’m backing Mandoo, who states unequivocally it was the British seaman Frank Burney who arrived with it in his pocket in 1843.

When the Indonesian crop failed in 1850, this was the signal for commercial production to begin in Grenada, and by 1881 the first 100,000 pounds were exported. By the time Hurricane Janet destroyed 75% of the nutmeg trees in 1955 there was a surplus, and by 1995 production was over four-and-a-half million pounds.

Nothing gets wasted with nutmeg. The apricot-like fruit is used to make jams, jellies and syrup. It is only the seed, wrapped in its shiny red net of mace, that gets delivered to one of the 16 receiving stations or one of the three factories at Grenville, Gouyave and Victoria.

At Grenville, my soft-spoken guide was Michael Sylvester, who explained how the mace is stripped off and put to cure in wooden boxes for three months. After processing, the mace is used as a seasoning and preservative in sausages, salami, corned beef and soups. Mace oil is used in massages, as a pain reliever, and is an ingredient in perfumes.

Upstairs in the factory, amid the shell dust and the continuous banter of the women sorters, Michael opened one of the worn pitch-pine curing boxes. The pungent oriental aroma had me drifting off on a magic carpet.

Downstairs I saw the trays where the nutmeg “grains” are left to dry for two months before the shells are machine-crushed. Rows of women sorters sat at raised platforms below the crushing machine, each woman at a trap door sorting shells from good and damaged nutmeg seeds. The shells are used for paths and horticultural mulch, or are added to charcoal to flavour barbecues.

The undamaged kernels are washed for the final sorting — the heavier grade 1 kernels with a higher oil content sink to the bottom of the container, while the grade 2, with more air and less oil, float. Damaged and grade 2 kernels are sent to the Sauteurs factory where oil is extracted.

Besides being used to add flavour to drinks and pastries, the oil is used in aromatherapy for nausea, muscular pains, rheumatism and arthritis. Some Grenadians will suck a nutmeg in its shell to relieve stroke symptoms. A secondary oil or “butter” is used in soaps and moisturisers.

After the washing and drying comes the final stage of sorting: the kernels are graded into three sizes by sieving (small: 110 seeds to a pound; medium: 80 seeds to a pound; large: 60-65 to a pound).

The work looked hard, monotonous and dusty, and Michael told me the daily rate was around EC$25 (less than US$10), but the predominantly female work force was full of mischievous Caribbean humour as they went about their tasks, which yield 6 to 7 million pounds annually for export.

After nutmeg comes rum, I told myself. I’d promised myself a trip to the River Antoine rum distillery to see some more Caribbean history, and Mandoo was revving to go.

The distillery nestles among palm trees close to Lake Antoine in the north-east. Established in 1785, it probably hasn’t changed much in the subsequent two centuries: solid weathered stone walls, a mountain of bagasse (crushed sugar cane) transported in time-honoured fashion by basket on the head to feed the furnace, and the oldest functioning waterwheel in the region, which bears the stamp of the manufacturer: G Fletcher & Co., London and Derby.

The distillery is a gem of the early Industrial Revolution in a tropical setting, a classic Caribbean heritage site. The waterwheel, which must be at least 25 feet in diameter, is fed by an aqueduct, the water cascading off the edge or falling directly onto the cogs of the crusher into which the sugar cane is fed by hand. The extracted cane juice is run off to the boiling house and hand-ladled from cauldron to cauldron until it reaches the right concentration; then it is pumped into tanks where it ferments for eight days.

The entire process from cane to rum takes 12 days; there’s no ageing done at River Antoine, and if the process is basic, the 150 proof white rum is extremely effective. It’s surely a mark of the Grenadian constitution that all of the 16,000 gallons produced annually are consumed locally.

The era that gave birth to the distillery survives in St George’s which, despite the millennium, emphatically owes its elegant ambience to the 18th century. Even with the steep hills, the best way to explore the capital is on foot. For a panorama of the city, start off at Fort George.

The market square is a focal point, serving multiple functions: terminus for minibus public transport all over the island; spice and fresh produce market; meeting point for any public demonstration or celebration, notably carnival, when on J’Ouvert morning the square is filled with screeching devils, big men in negligées sporting pots on their heads, or wild creatures daubed in oil.

Until 1885 the square was also the site of public executions: Fedon’s rebels were hung here in 1796. This is also where Theophilus Marryshow, father of the ill-fated West Indian federation, rallied political meetings, and where the Corpus Christi procession paraded and evangelists unleashed fire-and-brimstone sermons.

The National Museum, with exhibits from West Africa and the colonial era, and the Public Library, surrounded by old Carenage warehouses, are both worth visiting before heading out of town, past the Botanical Gardens and on to Richmond Hill to see the forts (started by the French to face inland, completed by the British), Matthew and  Frederick.

To recover from your exertions on the St George’s hills, just go chill on the Carenage (originally used to haul ships out of the water and careen or clean their hulls). Here you can sip cocktails, sample great seafood, and watch the continuous activity on the water: cruise ships arriving, Carriacou ferries and schooners departing.

The Carenage, like the rest of St George’s, erupts every mid- August for carnival. I have fond memories of riding the length of the Carenage on top of a music truck during Monday night mas with a T-shirt band, before jumping down for some ground-level wining.

Coming from Trinidad where carnival is such a massive production that it’s physically impossible to take it all in, I found the Grenadian version just as creative, wild and joyous, and a lot more manageable. I was able to attend the calypso monarch show on the Sunday night at Queen’s Park, fall in with the contingents of heavy-booted Short Knees in their painted masks and iridescent headdresses as they stomped into town, jump up with the jab- jabs and assorted devils in the J’Ouvert pre-dawn, take a catnap, then follow all eight of the costumed bands back to Queen’s Park and spend the rest of the afternoon chipping behind a steelband around the Carenage.

Grenadian culture has also contributed significantly to Trinidad’s carnival. Migration south to the larger island began with Emancipation, and it was drummers from Carriacou who took the African stick-fighting tradition to Trinidad in the 1840s. Many Trinis forget that the Mighty Sparrow, Calypso King of the World, is a born Grenadian. In contemporary soca (the fast-paced offspring of calypso) Tallpree, from the small village of Vendome, is a refreshing presence with his songs based on traditional J’Ouvert chants, which have made him a star at carnivals from Trinidad to Brooklyn.

Outside of the two carnivals, there are many other local festivals which welcome visitors and provide the opportunity to experience “roots culture”. In June, Fisherman’s Birthday, celebrated in fishing villages islandwide but most enthusiastically in Gouyave, is a must-see, followed by August’s Carriacou Regatta and Grenville’s Rainbow Festival. A recent addition to the cultural calendar is the Spice Jazz Festival in early June, featuring international and Caribbean musicians performing in stunning natural locations.

As well as these festivals, visitors can find exhilarating action in a wide range of sports. Naturally, watersports come first, and below the waterline remains a largely undiscovered and unspoilt diver’s dream.

There are dives over coral gardens, as well as wreck dives, the most famous being the wreck of the Italian liner Bianca C, which went down in flames in 1961. Popular sites off Grenada include Boss Reef, The Valley of Whales, Forests of Dean, Grand Mal Point, Dragon Bay, Flamingo Bay, Molinere Reef and Whibble Reef.

Around Carriacou, the Twin Sisters offer spectacular wall dives to 180 feet for experienced divers, and there are other sites at Kick ’em Jenny, Isle de Rhonde, Sandy, Mabouya and Saline Islands. Most of the resorts offer diving facilities, and there are also independent dive operators.

Grenada has been a fixture on the international yachting circuit for some time: safe moorings on the south coast, St George’s and Halifax Bay, and the lure of the Grenadines are all cogent reasons. January’s La Source Sailing Festival has quickly won a reputation as one of the Caribbean’s premiere regattas, featuring world-class and local boat racing, with onshore cultural displays and parties.

Yachting novices, or those who want to charter boats or simply lie back and be skippered, are all catered for by numerous charter operators, and there are catamarans like Rhum Runner offering party-style cruises. Sport fishermen have the option of competing in January’s Spice Island Billfish competition and trying to break the record of a 556-pound blue marlin, or chartering a boat for year-round fishing expeditions.

Back on terra firma, you can tee off on the Grand Anse nine-hole golf course, grand slam on hotel tennis courts or public courts in Grand Anse and Tanteen, shoot some pool, or hit the bull’s-eye at the Casablanca cocktail lounge and sports bar in Grand Anse.

If your idea of sport is dancing and late-night partying, then throw on your best threads and dancing shoes and head for Fantazia 2001 on Morne Rouge Bay for live Caribbean bands, folk shows, reggae or “blasts from the past”. You’ll also find steelbands and live Caribbean music at the Coyaba Beach, Rex Grenadian, Spice Island and Grand Beach resorts, the Flamboyant Hotel and restaurants like the Boatyard, Brown Sugar, Cicely’s and Sur la Mer, which light up Saturday nights with fire-eating and limbo. Dynamite Disco on Grand Anse explodes at weekends, and to party local style, check out the Bullpen.

If all this isn’t exciting enough, lace up your hiking boots for some adventure tours, though you can cheat a bit and do it by safari jeep.

Whatever you do, do not miss the opportunity to visit Carriacou before you leave the Spice Isle. The largest island in the Grenadine chain is a unique outpost of Caribbean culture and heritage, and although you can take a 15-minute plane hop, the best way to go is by sea: fast on the Osprey Express, or leisurely on a schooner from the Carenage.

The 90-minute to four-hour trip takes you up Grenada’s west coast, past tiny fishing villages, and the small but lively town of Gouyave with its Italianate church tower, the centre of the island’s fishing industry.

I took my own advice on my latest trip, not least because I couldn’t miss a reunion with my old friend Canute Caliste, who’s a Caribbean institution by himself. At 87, Canute is still painting prolifically; his naif yet powerful records of island life and culture are internationally sought after: Big Drum celebrations, quadrille dances, weddings, boat launches and his perennial muse, the mermaid who appeared to him as a small boy and gave him his gift, not just for painting, but for music as well. “I meet the mermaid in Tyrell Bay, combing she hair,” he explains prosaically. “She’s God’s sister, she gave me my gift. Your soul has to be blessed to see her.”

I caught up with Canute in his battered wooden studio in the village of L’Esterre. We joked about my last visit when he’d been eager to add the Carib woman who’d accompanied me to his long line of girlfriends. “Yuh have tuh continue how yuh start,” he remarked: words of wisdom from this father of 23!

Canute is probably the only surviving violin player who knows how to play all the sets of the Carriacou version of the English-derived quadrille dance, with its accompanying African rhythms on drum, tambourine and triangle. Apparently, the mermaid was also inspirational in teaching him the guitar, banjo and cuatro so well that Canute has performed at Buckingham Palace and New York’s Lincoln Center.

To outsiders, Canute may seem extraordinary, but he’s representative of “Kayak” or Carriacouan culture, which has retained African and creole forms to a degree only found regionally in Haiti and Cuba. Unlike larger, more developed islands in the Eastern Caribbean, the belief systems of the African slaves are still largely intact here.

The ancestral worship of such tribes or “nations” as the Kromantins, Ibo, Mandingo, Hausa, Akan and Arada have all survived in Carriacou, one of the few places where people still know which nation they originated from. They communicate regularly with their descendants through dreams, and these dreams will often call for sacrifices or a “saraca” feast.

Central to “saracas” — and to weddings, wakes, tombstone feasts, boat launches and community gatherings called “maroon” — is the Big Drum dance. The Big Drum is played on a set of three goatskin drums, originally carved from wood, but now from rum or saltfish casks.

According to master drummer Winston Fleary, the three comprise the “mother” or cot lead drum, the “father” or the bass drum, and the “child”, the treble drum. Hoe heads and chac chacs are used to accompany songs sung in a unique mixture of French patois, English and African tribal language, and dances from the various nations. The Kromantin opens and closes the rituals with its invocation to the ancestors; the Ibo is danced to make restitution to the gods; the Mandingo is performed for healing and fertility, the Arada for sickness and exorcising evil, and the Congo is a thunder and rain dance.

Having danced my way across the Caribbean, I was eager to try the Big Drum, but Winston said I’d have to wait for the real thing. I left Carriacou unwillingly, bewitched again and promising to return for a Big Drum. When my newfound partner Mandoo dropped me off at Pt Salines airport the next afternoon, we both smiled at his superfluous “See you soon!”

Dining out

Traditional Grenadian cuisine combines African-inherited dishes with creative creole flair. The single-dish coalpot is still used to make such staples as oildown (breadfruit cooked in coconut milk with salted meat and vegetables) and pepperpot (a stock made from the cassava-derived preservative casareep, to which meat scraps are added).

Fish and seafood figure prominently in local cuisine (lambi or conch is a speciality). Other dishes visitors should sample for the true taste of Grenada include corn meal coo-coo, pig’s foot souse, callaloo soup (made from the spinach-like dasheen leaf) and pumpkin pie. Vegetables (roots and tubers like yam, cassava and sweet potatoes, as well as plantain, christophene, eggplant, peas, corn and pumpkin) are plentiful. From the cornucopia of fruit, the mangoes, soursop and golden apple deserve special mention.

Expect to find nutmeg and other spices in everything from cocoa tea, to desserts and rum punches. The local rums are strong, and the locally-brewed Carib lager beer has a gentler taste than its Trinidadian cousin.

When dining out, you can eat cheap yet excellent local food in simple restaurants or treat yourself to haute cuisine in romantic beachfront restaurants, historic locations or luxury resorts.

VISITORS’ GUIDE TO GRENADA

AIRLINES

• BWIA Express serves Grenada from Trinidad and Barbados, connecting with BWIA’s international services to and from New York, Washington, Miami, Toronto and London, and with BWIA Caribbean services (Jamaica, Antigua, St Lucia, St Maarten, Tobago, Guyana, Caracas)

AIRPORT

• Point Salines International, 7 miles/11.2 km from St George’s (Carriacou: Lauriston). Served by taxis, with fixed fares to most destinations

• Departure tax EC$50

• Passports and onward tickets required by all entrants (though citizens of UK, US and Canada may enter with identity document with photo instead of passport)

AREA

133 square miles (344 sq. km), about twice the size of the District of Columbia; 21 miles long, 12 wide. Rugged mountainous interior with narrow coastal plain

CLIMATE

Tropical, with average temperature of 27°C (81°F). Rainy season June to December; January to March are generally the coolest months

CURRENCY

East Caribbean dollar (approx. 2.67 to US$). Major credit cards are widely accepted

HIGHEST POINT

Mount St Catherine, 2,756ft (840 metres)

LANGUAGE

English, with traces of patois

PER CAPITA INCOME

US$2,980

POPULATION

98,000 (approx. 7, 000 in Carriacou and 900 in Petite Martinique); about 38% aged 15 or under

RELIGION

64% Roman Catholic, 22% Anglican; Methodist 3%; Seventh Day Adventist 3%

TAXES

8% government tax at hotels and restaurants; 10% service charge

TIME

Atlantic Standard Time (EST+1, GMT-4)

UTILITIES

• Electricity 220v/50 cycles

• Telecommunications include international direct dialling, USA Direct, Home Direct, credit card calling, phonecards, cell-phone and pagers; international access code 473

CONTACTS

Grenada Board of Tourism

• Burns Point, St George’s; tel. (473) 440-2001,

440-2279, fax 440-6637;

e-mail: gbt@caribsurf.com; URL: www.interknowledge.com/grenada

• 800 Second Avenue, Suite 400K, New York, NY10017, USA; tel. (212) 687-9554, fax (212) 573-9731

• CIB Communications,

1 Battersea Church Road, London SW11 3LY, England;

tel. (44) 020-7771-7016,

fax (44) 020-7771-7181;

e-mail: grenada@cibgroup.co.uk

BWIA West Indies Airways

• Point Salines International Airport; tel. (473) 444-1221/2 (reservations), 444-4134 (flight information)

Grenada Hotel Association

• Le Marquis Complex, Grande Anse, St George’s; tel. (473) 444-1353,

fax 444-4847;

e-mail: grenhota@caribsurf.com;

URL: grenadahotelsinfo.com

CALENDAR 

January

• Spice Island Billfish Tournament

• LaSource Grenada Sailing Festival

February

• Independence Day (7th)

• True Blue Bay Resort Pursuit Race

• Carriacou Carnival

March

• Grenada Yacht Club Race (11th)

• St Patrick’s Day Fiesta (17th)

April

• Good Friday (13th)

• Easter Yacht Races, Gouyave Easter Regatta, Petite Martinique Regatta

• Grenada Triathlon (21st–22nd)

May

• Labour Day (1st)

• One day International Cricket Match: West Indies vs South Africa (5th)

• Grenada Yacht Club Race (6th)

• Grenada Spice Jazz Festival (26th–June 4th)

June

• Whitsuntide Games (3rd)

• Corpus Christi (14th)

• Fisherman’s Birthday Celebrations (29th)

July

• LaSource Yacht Race (5th–8th)

August 

• Carriacou Regatta (3rd–6th)

• Children’s Carnival Frolic (4th)

• Rainbow City Festival (5th–6th)

• National Panorama Finals (11th)

• National Calypso Finals (12th)

• Grenada Carnival (13th–14th)

• Showcase 2001 (16th–19th)

September 

• Grenada Yacht Club Race (16th)

October 

• Grenada Yacht Club Race (14th)

• Thanksgiving Day (25th)

November

• Grenada Yacht Club Race (4th)

December

• End of Hurricane Season Yacht Race (2nd)

• Carriacou Parang Festival (14th–16th)

• Christmas Day (25th)
• Boxing Day (26th)

DIRECTORY

Beaches

There are about 45 great beaches; best in the south-west are Grand Anse, Morne Rouge, Lance aux Epines; in the north-east Levera, Bathway

Birds

Good birdwatching, with over 150 resident species and another 100 more migrants. The Grenada Dove is endemic; hummingbirds, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Red-necked Pigeon, Ruddy Quail-Dove, wading and shore birds; Hook-billed Kite found only at Levera

Calendar

Holidays: January 1, February 7 (Independence), Good Friday, Easter Monday, May 1 (Labour Day), Whit Monday, Corpus Christi, Emancipation Day (1st Monday in August), Carnival Monday and Tuesday, October 25 (Thanksgiving Day), Christmas Day, Boxing Day

Conferences

The Grenada Grand Beach Resort at Grand Anse has a conference centre overlooking its mini golf course. There are several other attractive meeting spaces, including those at the Rex Grenadian, the Flamboyant, and the Trade Centre at Grand Anse

Driving

Self-drive rentals in St George’s and at the airport. Drive on the left. A local driving permit is required (unless you hold a valid international driving permit), available from rental companies and police (EC$30)

Eco

• A National Parks system is being developed. Grand Etang National Park (8 miles from St George’s) has an Interpretation Centre (open 8.30–4.00, US$1), and hiking trails ranging from easy (15 minutes to Morne Labarge) to arduous (Concorde Falls 3hrs, Fedon’s Camp 3.5hrs). Crater lakes at Grand Etang and Lake Antoine. Levera-Bathway National Park, 200 acres, covers mangrove swamp, beaches, forts, wildlife

• High forest receives 150ins of rain annually. Turtles nest on beaches near Levera

• La Sagesse, protected seascape area on the south coast, has beaches, mangrove, salt pond, reefs and historical sites

• Marquis Island and La Baye Rock (off south-east coast) are nesting grounds

• Wildlife includes frogs, lizards, iguana, armadillo, manicou, Mona monkeys, mongoose. Humpback whales migrate December/April (whale-watching tours)

• Other eco-sites include Bay Gardens (Morne Delice, flowers and trees), Mt St Catherine, and several attractive waterfalls — Marquis (Mt Carmel) Falls, Annandale Falls, Concorde Falls, Seven Sisters Falls, Victoria Waterfall

Food/drink

Local specialities include lambi (conch), callaloo, souse, pepperpot, pumpkin pie, oildown, seafood, goat, wild meat, nutmeg jelly/jam, ice-creams, rum punch, seamoss, beers (Carib, Guinness), rum (Clarke’s Court, River Antoine, Westerhall Plantation)

Marriages

Three working days’ residence is required before applying for a licence; allow two days for paperwork (unless there are special circumstances). Documents required: passports, birth certificates, proof of single status, parental consent if under 21 (all documents in English). Several hotels offer wedding and honeymoon packages

MEDIA

No daily papers. Weeklies include Grenada Today, Grenadian Voice, Grenada Informer. Radio includes GBN, Spice Capital, City Sounds FM. TV includes GBN-TV, Grenada Cablevision, Lighthouse TV (religious), MTV

NIGHTLIFE

Centred around larger hotels and a handful of discos and clubs (Dynamite Disco, Fantazia 2001, Le Sucrier, Island View, Casablanca)

REAL ESTATE

Real estate agents will help with purchase and rentals. Non-citizens are liable for 10% tax under the Aliens’ Landholding Act. Allow three months for paperwork. Required for licence: police clearance from home country, bank and character references. There are many foreign residents, especially from UK, US and Europe. Villa rentals and long-term home rentals available

SPORTS AND FITNESS

Grenada is well equipped with sports facilities and is now developing specialised sports tourism. The brand new EC$62m National Stadium at Queen’s Park will be hosting international cricket against South Africa during March and April. It will also accommodate international football and big cultural events. The island’s sporting action includes:

Cricket: the most popular land sport, January to June

Cruises: Carib Cats, Carriacou Islander, Catch the Spirit, Rhum Runner I and II, Starwind I and II, Suvetar

Diving: there are excellent dive sites around the island, including reefs, wrecks (the Bianca C is the largest wreck in the Caribbean), wall dives, drifts. Among the best sites are Boss Reef, Grandmal Point, Dragon Bay, Flamingo Bay, Happy Valley, Windmill Shallows, Channel Reef, Red Buoy, Whibble Reef, Spice Island Reef, Molinere Reef. Other wrecks include SS Orinoco off La Sagesse Point, and Veronica L. There are dive shops at several Grand Anse and Lance aux Epines hotels

Fishing: there’s great deep-sea fishing around Grenada. Several operators offer day charters and fishing trips with equipment provided: check Bezo Charters, Evans Fishing Charters, Reel Affair or Catch the Spirit. The Game Fishing Tournament is held in late January

Football (soccer): widely played, July to December

Golf: there’s a 9-hole course at Grenada Golf and Country Club, above Grand Anse

Health clubs: several are open to visitors

Hiking: excellent trails, especially in Grand Etang National Park; also Mt St Catherine, Mt Maitland (1,712ft), Mt Sinai (2,306ft), Mt Qua Qua

Riding: horseback riding available

Sailing: outstanding, both around Grenada and up the Grenadines; good harbours and marinas, plenty of charters. The biggest Grenada Regattas are in January and November (End of Hurricane Season); Carriacou Regatta (1st weekend in August)

Tennis: at larger hotels. Public courts at Grand Anse and Tanteen

Triathlon: held annually, this year in April (swim, cycle, run)

Volleyball: growing in popularity. Courts at Aquarium Beach Club

Watersports: windsurfing, water-skiing, parasailing, sailboats, sunfish, speedboat trips, snorkelling, sailing trips; mainly at Grand Anse and Lance aux Epines

TRANSPORT

Private taxis, buses, public taxis and minibuses. Water taxis from Carenage to Grand Anse. Schooners and ferry to Carriacou as well as air service

TOURING

St David: La Sagesse Nature Works and Vendors Market

St George’s: Carenage (with Christ of the Deep statue), National Museum (1704), National Library, Financial Complex, Fort George (1705-1710), Marryshow House, Fort Frederick (1791), St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church (or Scots’ Kirk) (1830), St George’s Anglican Church (1825), Roman Catholic Cathedral (1884, tower 1818), York House (Supreme Court and Parliament) (1780), Queen’s Park Stadium

St Paul’s: Bay Gardens, Morne Gazo (lookout and trails), Laura’s Spice and Herb Garden, De La Grenade Industries (rum, liqueurs, spice products), Camerhogne Art Gallery, Sunnyside/Joydon (outstanding private gardens, arrange through Sunsation Tours, 444-1594)

Grand Anse: beach, restaurants, shopping, golf course

Gouyave: Nutmeg Processing Station, Dougaldston Estate (spice plantation)

South coast: Lance aux Epines/Prickly Bay, True Blue, Grenada Sugar Factory (Woodlands), Clarke’s Court Distillery, Westerhall Point, Fort Jeudy, La Sagesse Nature Centre, La Sagesse Natural Works (old sugar/rum factory)

West: Concorde Falls

North: Sauteurs, Caribs’ Leap, Mount Rich Amerindian petroglyphs

Grand Etang: National Park, crater lake, Annandale Falls, Seven Sisters Falls

• Grenville: River Antoine Distillery, Sulphur Springs, Bathway Beach, Lake Antoine, Dunfermline Rum Distillery, Nutmeg Processing Station

WEBSITES 

www.grenada.org

www.exploregrenada.com

www.travelgrenada.com

www.grenadaholidaysinfo.com

CARRIACOU AND PETITE MARTINIQUE

Grenada is more than Grenada: it’s also Carriacou and Petite Martinique, two sister islands lying north of Grenada itself. They are the southernmost of the chain of Grenadine islands that stretches between Grenada and St Vincent. Both are easily accessible, and should be part of any Grenada exploration. Catch the Osprey Express from St George’s in the morning, or a short flight from Point Salines airport.

Carriacou (13 square miles, population 7,000) lies 23 miles north-east of Grenada, and is an island with its own very distinctive character and traditions. A strong African heritage shows up in its Big Drum dances and Tombstone Feasts, and there are French and Scottish influences as well.

There is a long tradition of boat-building, centred at Windward (and now at Tyrrell Bay), which gave rise to the Carriacou Regatta, now a large and very festive event in early August (rivalled only by the island’s own pre-Lenten Carnival). There is an attractive museum in the capital, Hillsborough (population 600), which tells the island’s story. Carriacou’s most famous artist is Canute Calliste, whose work is much sought after.

Carriacou is an island of green hills and fine sandy beaches: there’s excellent diving and walking, great sea views, and several attractive offshore islands like Sandy Island.

Two-and-a-half miles north-east of Carriacou is the even smaller island of Petite Martinique (not to be confused with the French island of Martinique, much further north). It is only 486 acres in area, with a dramatic central hill, and a population of about 800, mostly involved in boats and fishing.