4th Stop: Grenada

G’Bye Grenada, Isle of Passion

Posted on: Friday, February 20th, 2009
Posted in: Travelog, 4th Stop: Grenada, Latest Trip | 3 comments
Why Grenada? Nobody we know has gone there. Research sources barely mention it. And except for that invasion in 1983, most Americans hardly know of it. Yet it rose through the sea of possibilities and became this Sabbatical’s primary destination. Destiny proved right. I love Grenada, isle of spice. Let me count five ways…

  • Grenada is an isle of spice. Nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, of course. But “spice” also implies the zest, zeal, and color that Grenadians sprinkle into everything they do.


  • Grenada is an isle of independence. With a population of only 100,000, they are one of the smallest nations in the western hemisphere. They take their autonomy seriously—supplying their own food, nurturing their culture, and taking care of their treasures.

  • Grenada is an isle of beauty. Some of us just love sea, sand, and surf. But Grenada also offers mountains, rivers, waterfalls, cliffs, forests, plantations, farms, wildlife, grasslands, a volcano, and a rainforest. And that’s just the natural stuff!

  • Grenada is an isle of compassion. In much of this world, entitlement and indifference fester. Here, not so much. People remain gentle, generous, and polite. Nothing is rushed, while moments are savored. It’s no wonder they’ve thrived through natural and political hurricanes. Grenadians openly talk about—and show—“love in their hearts.”

  • Grenada is an isle of passion. How do you describe passion? Maybe you don’t, since it’s more of a visceral phenomenon—what you see, hear, taste, smell, and feel. I’ll really miss Grenada. But the extraordinary, exhilarating sense of life with passion: That’s what I’ll miss the most.

G’Bye, sweet Grenada. God willing, we’ll meet again.
Print Friendly, PDF & Email

For A Good Vibe, Ride The “Reggae Bus”

Posted on: Wednesday, February 18th, 2009
Posted in: Travelog, 4th Stop: Grenada, Latest Trip | 3 comments
On the last island (Bequia), it was called the “Dollar Bus.”  Here, it costs about the same, and is sometimes called the “Reggae Bus.”  They are privately owned vans that run established routes, all across the island. They tend to be crowded but exceptionally polite.  And the drivers, just like in Bequia, are crazy.  But it’s a great ride, and great vibe.  Grenada is way laidback but with good energy.  Just check out some of these heartening bus names and messages…
  • Shining Light
  • No Hard Feelings
  • Yes Jah
  • Live On
  • Always Decent
  • Live Simply
  • Vision
  • No Stress
  • Faithfull
  • Vibes
  • Stamina
  • Sweet Heart
  • 100% Grenadian
  • Life Nice
  • Unity
  • Conscious
  • Good People
  • Just Simple
  • Blessings
  • Love is the Answer
  • New Beginning
  • Higher Level
  • Next Level
  • Jus Level
  • Chilaxin
  • Bless Up
And on the back window, many owners create customized communiqués for all to see…
  • The sky is wide enough for a million stars.
  • Who feels it knows it. 
  • Rise to action.
  • Positive feeling.
  • Follow righteousness.
  • God is Love.
  • All Friends, No Enemies.
  • All Right!
  • You will never fail until you stop trying.
  • Jah have a blessing for you.
Print Friendly, PDF & Email

The Great Caribbean Beer-Off!

Posted on: Tuesday, February 17th, 2009
Posted in: Travelog, 4th Stop: Grenada, Latest Trip | 6 comments
Beer tastes better down here (if that’s possible). It goes well with seafood, sailing, sunning, and as a palate (and/or body) cleanser for the salt after swimming. While all beer is good food, a few barely pass the smell test. So please open your palate, mouth, and mind. It’s time for the Great Caribbean Beer-off!
HERE ARE THE FINAL RESULTS… based on ratings in 10 categories worth 10 points each—possible 100 points.
1st Place:  Stag, 85 points
2nd Place:  Heineken, 70 points
3rd Place:  Hairoun, 69 points
4th Place:  Carib, 55 points
  • 1st Place:  STAG  (pronounced:  STOG!)
Name:  8.  A bit tacky, but easy to say after you’ve had a few.  Unique.  Macho. 
Story:  7.  Supposedly from Trinidad, a place that makes most people agog and afraid. 
Marketing:  10.  Virtually none—a dark horse.  How cool is that?  Like a private club. 
Smell Test:  8.  Smells pretty okay, for a beer. 
Taste:  10.  Once drinkers discover it, they stick with it. 
Availability:  7.  Pretty common in the southern islands, but nowhere north.  Exclusivity brings bonding? 
Tepidity:  9.  Stands up to the sun, if necessary.  Your best bet when cold can’t be found. 
Size Matters:  7.  Usually in large bottles.  But occasionally a bar fools you with smalls. 
Price:  9.  More than Carib, but much less than Heinie.   
Bonus:  10.  What’s not to love? 

  • 2nd Place: HEINEKEN  (pronounced:  I-nuh-KEN!)
Name:  8.  Comfortable, familiar, ever-cool.  It’s the International Budweiser.  
Story:  8.  Comes from Holland, or whatever they’re called now.  They need attention. 
Marketing:  9.  Always classy and calming  Love that little red star. 
Smell Test:  4.  Smells skunky, if in a good way.  An acquired scent. 
Taste:  9.  Bottled all over, yet eternally consistent.  Effervescent, welcome mouthfeel. 
Availability:  10.  If any Caribbean joint has only 2 beers, one will be Heinie. 
Tepidity:  6.  Not good warm, but it disappears fast, so… 
Size Matters:  6.  Bad:  usually comes in mini-bottles (250 ml).  Good:  cute little cans. 
Price:  5.  Costs more for less liquid.  Ish! 
Bonus:  8.  Like and old friend.  Plus you look Euro and suave, if you wish. 
Our Island, Our Beer
  • 3rd Place:  HAIROUN (pronounced:  I-ROON!)
Name:  7.  Fun to say.  You sound local once you get it right.  Odd spelling, though. 
Story:  10. What St. Vincent used to be called, so big ups for nostalgia and stubbornness.
Marketing:  9.  Vincies love their homegrown.  “Our Island, Our Beer.”  Whoa! 
Smell Test:  5.  Could be worse. 
Taste:  7.  Goes down easy.  No problem, mon. 
Availability:  3.  Unheard of after you leave the SV Grenadines.  Withdrawal risk. 
Tepidity:  5.  No loitering.  Great ice-cold, but the warmer it gets, the more it sucks. 
Size Matters:  9.  Only seen it in 12 ounce bottles.  But never on tap loses a point. 
Price:  7.  Cheaper than Heineken, but not cheap enough.  
Bonus:  7.  Didn’t get tired of it for several weeks.  Great memories. 

Carib:  Worst Caribbean Beer?
  • 4th Place:  CARIB  (pronounced:  CA-RIB)
Name:  9.  Almost Caribbean.  Named after fearless, feral Indian settlers. 
Story:  5.  Not much “there” there.  Brewed in many ports, with many ? waters. 
Marketing:  5.  Little to see beyond omnipresent personal endorsements. 
Smell Test:  3.  Smells so bad it’s often served with a lime. 
Taste:  3.  Kinda Corona-like, maybe worse.  Watery, wimpy colon-cleanser.   
Availability:  6.  Mostly avails S of the N/S Grenadian meridian; occasionally N. 
Tepidity:  1.  Not good cold, worse warm.  Must be ice-cold and pounded carelessly.   
Size Matters:  6.  Good: only comes in large units.  Bad:  only comes in large units. 
Price:  10.  Cheapcheap.  + sold where people party by renegades at miniscule markups.   
Bonus:  7.  Good: often served w/ lime; can be on tap.  Bad:  On tap can be flat & insipid. 
Print Friendly, PDF & Email

NYT Talks Grenada & I Talk Back

Posted on: Monday, February 9th, 2009
Posted in: Travelog, 4th Stop: Grenada, Latest Trip | 3 comments
On Saturday, February 7, the New York Times published a lengthy and insightful travel article, “In Grenada, Leaving the Past Behind,” by Ned Martel.  After digging into Grenada for the past 2+ weeks (and exploring the West Indies for nearly two months) I must say he’s mostly spot-on.  Yet a “conversation” with this big-time write-up is too tempting to pass up.  First, his quotes; then my replies…

Leaving the past behind…”  
Yes, they’re working on building a brighter future.  But the past is omnipresent too, in ongoing hurricane repairs, print, street paintings, and conversations. In a bar where I killed an hour today, four locals debated 1974 and 1979 events the entire time.  Who in America can discuss politics circa the 70s? And would 95% of Americans wear the national colors the whole weekend during Independence celebrations?  No way.      
What I get is the feeling that folks are happy to see me, even if they see me on occasion as a human dollar sign.”  
True dat!  But folks here may have mastered the art of be happy, don’t worry.  And a dollar can buy a lot of happy down here.  An EC buck costs about US$.40, and seems more appreciated than in typical tourist economies—maybe because tourists are still rare on most of the island.  Mercifully, guests are rarely “horossed.”  What I’ve more noted is the generosity:  I couldn’t quantify the poundage of perfect produce that’s been cheerfully given to us.  And in Grenville, a kind vegetable vendor gifted my children two bags of cheesy chips after I’d refused to buy them.  She wins, my kids win, I smile and wag my finger at her coy smirk.  
The intervention.”  
Guidebooks may have clued me in.  But I’ve heard it called everything from “the invasion” to “the intervention” to “the liberation.”  Of course, politics run thicker than callaloo stew down here; I’ve seen people this weekend (their Independence Day) wearing Bishop t-shirts.  He was the one assassinated in ’83, shortly before “the intervention.” 
Islanders have savored relaxation so heartily…”  
No exaggeration:  I hear that word used many times a day by locals.  Like a mantra.  Not only are they selling it, they’re practicing the discipline themselves.  Loitering. Chilling. Hanging out. Grenadians have made it an art form.  They also say “rest” a lot.  If you ask if that’s the restaurant owner sitting at a corner table alone, they’ll just say, “Ya mon, he restin’.”  Nobody would question it if he sat there all night.  
An air of gratitude that suggests they couldn’t have enjoyed the freedoms of today without the despairs of yesterday.”  
Indeed, freedom rules.  Yet the customs and manners here are eerily old school, the people reverent and demure.  Not only do they say thank you, they always say you’re welcome.  As for the mentioned despairs, my guess is a gutsy, national pride has grown from all they’ve been through:  slavery, revolution, US invasion, huge hurricanes.  They work hard and take little for granted, including the fruits of their labor and the ease of feeling free.        
We stop half a dozen times.  
Yep.  At least.  Mr. Welcome Cummings is obviously a classy, high-end driver.  We’ve used recommended renegade drivers, who charge less but don’t have a taxi license, AC, or seatbelts, and who will stop dozens of times.  In the middle of the road.  The authenticity is priceless, and we meet local folks and gain instant insight into real-life Grenada.  Cell phones may be common, but Grenadians still communicate in person and on the move. 
More hypocrisy in the churches than in the rum shops.”  
Ha!  Perhaps, but there’s more macho, booming BS in the rum shops than all the churches combined.  Grenada is uncannily spiritual.  “All family belongs to a church,” I was told yesterday.  “Even the Roman Catholic dance in the aisles,” I was told today.  People paint inspirational messages—not graffiti—all over.  The public-transportation “reggae buses” have names like “Bless Up,” “Always Decent,” and “Yes Jah.”  The back windshield will boast verses as simple as, “God is Love” to “The sky is wide enough for a million stars.”  Like billboards in an American city, you can’t escape these messages—of positivity and faith.    
From the hilltop jail, convicts enjoy the best view of the island.”  
For real.  Methinks they could convert that hoosegow with a view into a chic S&M resort called “Incarceration,” except this conservative island has a dress code and doesn’t even allow cleavage (never mind that men carry knives and machetes).  The harborside hospital also has a stunning location, and has the rep of being full of new equipment—that no one knows how to use.  That, too, could make a nice fantasy resort…for wealthy hypochondriacs?
I could spend all night at Patrick’s, and with Patrick himself.”   

Put simply:  We had the exact opposite experience.  The worst night, worst food, worst encounter with a Grenadian.  Maybe it’s because I don’t write for The Times?  Or perhaps it was just fate. It matters not.  Travel teaches us that bliss comes in 555 forms.  And letdowns happen.  Even his waitress couldn’t handle Patrick that night, and our cabbie (nobody special) was embarrassed upon hearing our story.  We were the only table in the joint that evening.  But were also told that the previous night had been packed with naughty yachties.  Hmmm.  I’m glad the NYT writer had a good experience; that gives me simultaneous skepticism, hope, and—maybe—a reason to try again.

…endure a lot of stares and the occasional shout of ‘White man!’ even as I sit safely in One Dog’s passenger seat.”  
Yep.  My posse is a white man, woman, boy, and girl—all Scandinavian blonde and blue.  Been there, heard that–though we may have looked less “outsider” when traveling in the rusty jalopies of locals.  I prefer to think that we were novelties, not targets.  You know, like a donkey in the Mall of America, where everyone would no doubt yell, “Donkey!”  
We reach a spooky town…  
For sure, if you tour the many neighbohorhoods, villages and towns of Grenada, at least one will strike you as spooky.  Or your driver will tell you it is.  Or a “local lunatic” or “half-brained crackhead” will come at your car.  Spooky, or just predictable island drama?  Still, the worst vibe I felt and mischief I saw was PG compared to a drive through many ‘hoods in Minneapolis.  For fear management, I’ll take Grenada.  (Yet that cemetery at Carib Leap in Sauteurs was sorta creepy…) 
For now, Americans are cool.  The Caribbean glows with the pride that the USA chose a Black man to be president.  His face appears on bumper stickers, gallery artworks, and roadside paintings—where he sitteth alongside the likes of Bob Marley, Nelson Mandela, MLK, and Fidel Castro.  
  • In conclusion:  Great story, Ned.  Come back before February ends, and we’ll compare notes and local rums–on me.  And just for some extra theater, let’s have our last supper at Patrick’s. 
Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Cool Breezes Bless Annual Sailing Festival

Posted on: Sunday, February 1st, 2009
Posted in: Travelog, 4th Stop: Grenada, Latest Trip | 3 comments

What a glorious Sunday!  Days like this—exactly like this—float like fantasies in the mind when one is plotting a BreakAway.  So when they finally happen, the pleasure feels both familiar and profound.


Grenada’s sailing festival is a big event, running over several days, with yachties from all over the world filling the harbors, hotels, and bars. That’s fun.  And in our resort, it was easy to make new friends.  Heck, a team from the Shetland Isles of Scotland invited me to join their team for two races.  Unfortunately, the timing didn’t work out. Dang!

The Finish Line

But the real action—at least for the locals—is the “work boat” races on Grand Anse beach.  These are traditional, home-made boats, with plywood for the body, bamboo for the mast, and sponsor-donated sailcloth for the one mainsail.

The towns and outer islands (Petit Martinique and Carriacou) race each other, and yes, there is rivalry!  The race begins on shore with a LeMans-style start, heads out to sea for three turns around buoys, and then returns to shore again.  When the boat hits sand, and a sailor scrambles out and crosses the finish line–and runs to the stand for a shot of rum–we have a winner.

Run for the Rum!

The festival features all the sights, sounds, and smells that make events like these so sweet…

  • An MC sets the stage and keeps things moving and dancing; his subwoofer is the size of an SUV and keeps all three miles of the beach bobbing in riddim.
  • There are junior races (sorry, no rum for you), so the families can get giddy and noisy.

Future Sailor

  • There are rivalries, sure, but also times when a whole team goes missing and the race gets delayed.

Strategy Session

  • The occasional “man overboard” makes for lots of excitement, as the waterlogged sailor swims as quickly as he can to catch up with his craft.
  • Kids play in the sand and swim right around the start and finish lines and couldn’t care less about no races.

Time for a Swim

  • Vendors line the beach selling bbq, oildown (the national dish), souvenirs, hand-made crafts, cold bevies, and lots and lots of beer.
  • Young men gather in groups under seagrape trees to catch a buzz and be cool.

Run from the Big Boys

  • Pale tourists chase around with bazooka-sized cameras choking their necks.

Grande Anse Beach Scene

When it’s time for this fam to sail away, this guy doesn’t want to.  But our bags are again packed, and it’s time to move to our next home in Gouyave, a little fishing village half-way up the island.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Greetings from Grenada

Posted on: Saturday, January 31st, 2009
Posted in: Travelog, 4th Stop: Grenada, Latest Trip | Leave a comment
Getting to Grenada is not easy. Maybe that’s why tourists are relatively rare, and an “undiscovered” label still sticks in most guidebooks. That’s all good by me. We came here, 12 degrees north of the equator and not far from Venzuela and Trinidad, to find out if some authentic, old-world Caribbean still thrives. 

Good news:  It’s alive.  The BreakAway timetable bestows us with about 27 days here, so much exploration lies ahead.  But the early impressions are pleasing and promising… 

  • It’s about the people.  Every reference source raves about the friendly, happy people.  Maybe all 110,000 of them aren’t, but most I’ve met so far sure are. 

Study in Orange, Part 2

  • They’re landholders.  Grenadians love their land, and most of them own some.  That does a lot to keep pride up, crime down, standards high, and poverty low. 
  • Size matters.  At 118 square miles of volcanic steepness, this place is expansive by island standards.  That gives it some added depth; the locals call inland “the country.” 

Grenada Town

  • History.  Talk about color!  This gem has had tribes fighting over it since the Arawaks and Carabs, then the French and Brits, and not long ago, a group of Cubans and Soviets. 
  • The revolution.  Now, and for all of 35 years, this nation is independent!  There WAS that nine-year period of fledgling socialism, that led to a short but bloody revolution, that led to a short but successful 1983 intervention by US and others.  But since then, government has been quite stable, peaceful, and democratic here.  Folks love to talk (and chuckle) about it, and may mention acquaintances who were part of the drama. 
  • Hurricane wreckage.  This island is allegedly off the main path and had seen no major storm since 1955.  Oblivious to that, Ivan tore through here only five years ago, crushing most of the island into a dreadful disaster.  Though some destruction is still evident, the rebuild has been impressive and inspiring. 

Hurricane Ivan Evidence

  • Education.  Most Americans wouldn’t want to send their kids to school in the Caribbean–with one exception:  St. George’s University has an oceanfront campus, a respectable medical school, a high-school program for residents, and 5,000 lucky students from all corners of the world. 
  • Natural beauty.  Find it anywhere and everywhere here.  Diversity too, from inland lakes, rivers, and waterfalls, to craggy cliffs, rural fields, and 3-mile long beaches.
  • Quaintness.  They take their old-world Caribbean vernacular seriously.  Fat new-money homes are rare, as are sprawling resorts.  Instead, owner-occupied, charming little venues dot the waterside.  And houses come in rainbows of colors—though the red-roof tradition carries on. 

St. George's, Granada

  • Art.  Batik is big.  Face carvings and masks tell stories.  And bright paintings hang all over.  There’s even a thriving arts and crafts market.  It’s as if Grenadians are trying to outdo each other sometimes. 


  • Safety.  Practice good travel hygiene, of course.  But after that, this place has a rep that gives little to worry about.  I saw two uniformed police dancing at a packed event.  And one white local told of being the lone whitey entering a big cricket match.  When some teens with ‘tude started harassing him, a crowd of older natives (all strangers) surrounded the bad boys and scolded them long and hard. 
  • Food.  Necessity is the mother of all big gardens.  But they eat well and cheap here, thanks to plentiful fisheries, rich volcanic soil with organic gardens, and generous, tasty traditions.  Known as the “spice island,” Grenada grows one-third of the world’s nutmeg, and much of its clove, cinnamon, and more. 

Spice Plantation


  • Tourism.  The revolution didn’t help.  The hurricane hurt.  Two charter airlines just went bankrupt.  And remoteness rarely draws.  There’s just enough tourism here to boost the economy, but not so much that it’s choking the locals. 

Somewhere Over the Cruiseship

  • Culture.  It’s different—more diverse—down here.  English influences outweigh America’s. There are hints of South American, India, and Asia.  It’s a melting pot, a spicy stew.  But for sure the main influence around here remains authentic Caribbean, no:  uniquely Grenadian.  
  • Partiology.  They call it “limin,” and make a science of it.  Students, locals, tourists:  It don’t matter.  Bars, beaches, and resorts can become one rollicking party, any time of the day or night.  Bar closing time:  Until…


  • God Bless Our Nation.  So hangs a sign, in the flag colors, thoughout the island.  Manners matter.  Island and tourist dress code is not only in effect, but debated in the papers.  It can feel conservative to Americans, but these little courtesies stand for respect, pride, tradition, and preservation of something sacred.  God Bless Grenada! 
Flag of Grenada
Print Friendly, PDF & Email