Warm welcomes, simple charms in Grenada

Grand Anse Beach, a two-mile stretch of sand, is one of 45 beaches on Grenada.
Grand Anse Beach, a two-mile stretch of sand, is one of 45 beaches on Grenada. Photo Credit: Gay Nagle Myers
It had been a few years since I was last in Grenada, but I recognized the lady selling nutmeg in Market Square from my last visit.

There were a lot of ladies plying their wares there, but she was a standout in a brilliant tropical dress and head wrap.

As before, she did not want her photo taken, so I bought a miniature grater and some of her nutmeg jam and got a shy smile of thanks in return.

Grenada is full of polite, welcoming folks, always ready with a "good morning" or "good day."

On Grand Anse Beach, a vendor approached me, but without the hard-sell pitch I've experienced on other islands.

After I declined his offer of a shell necklace, he thanked me and walked off.

At a craft festival in a local park one evening, I met Reece Sam, who described herself as a "fish-scale jeweler."

"A what?" I asked.

She explained that her brother catches the fish, her mother removes the scales from the fish, her dad cleans the fish and they all eat the fish.

"My mom puts the scales in the sun to dry out and then I paint them and make them into jewelry," Reece said, pointing to her tabletop display of brightly colored bracelets and necklaces.

But it was the earrings, the large turquoise and lemon-yellow fish-scale earrings, that caught my eye.

No sales pitch was necessary. We sealed the deal quickly.

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I met Brian Alexander, owner/proprietor and genial host of BB's Crabback restaurant on the Carenage inlet, the scenic promenade that winds around the harbor of the capital of St. George's.

There's nothing pretentious about this place that's open for lunch and dinner every day but Sunday. Here, tables overlook the water, customers are encouraged to write on the walls and local dishes like deviled saltfish balls, curry goat and stuffed crab back are the specialties.

"Come in, come in, try my rum punch. You're in Pure Grenada, the Isle of Spice," Alexander said.

I asked him if he worked for the tourist board on the side, since that is the tagline of the island's destination promotion and marketing.

"No, no, I just love this island. I wake up every morning happy to be here," he said.

I told him that he was a great endorsement, and his rum punch indeed packed a punch.

Grenada has three rum companies, and I toured the Grenada Distillers on the south coast, which produces the Clarke's Court Rum favored by locals and the Black Gold Rum favored by tourists.

It's no surprise that a place called the Isle of Spice would produce some of the world's best cocoa beans and some of its best chocolate.

The Diamond Estate and Chocolate Factory on Grenada's northwest coast is housed in a converted rum distillery built by French monks in 1774.

Behind the factory building there is a 3-acre organic cocoa and spice farm, laid out with pathways and signage. If the farmers are around, they'll stop to answer questions.

At the cafe, I had a cup of cocoa tea, sampled bites of delicious chocolate and asked the waitress if anyone ever ordered the locally brewed chocolate beer.

"Sometimes the husbands on the tours do, but not their wives. The wives buy lots of chocolate bars," she said.

My final stop on my rum, chocolate and spice tour was in Gouyave, the island's main fishing town. It's famous for Fish Friday, a weekly outdoor culinary event featuring all kinds of seafood available from vendors cooking over open fires.

Sorting nutmeg inside the Gouyave Nutmeg Station in Grenada.
Sorting nutmeg inside the Gouyave Nutmeg Station in Grenada.

It wasn't a Friday when I was in Gouyave, and I wasn't in search of yellowfin tuna or marlin, but what's known as Grenada's black gold: nutmeg.

Nutmeg production is such a mainstay of Grenada's economy that the national flag depicts a nutmeg clove.

In 2004, nutmeg took a beating from Hurricane Ivan, which stalled over the island for 15 hours and upended many of the shallow-rooted nutmeg trees.

"It takes 10 years for one nutmeg plant to produce a crop. Many of the trees we lost then had been cared for by generations of Grenadian farmers," my guide said.

It's been 13 years since Ivan, and the nutmeg crop again is robust.

Inside the Gouyave Nutmeg Station, the smell was intoxicating. Women sorted through wooden trays of nutmegs, carefully culling the damaged ones from the good and placing each in a burlap sack that, when filled, weighed 137 pounds and was ready for export.

I had not even scratched the surface of Grenada's attractions in my short tour, but it was long enough for me to know I would return to the Isle of Spice.

For more information, see www.puregrenada.com.

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