Grenada: Sweet Spice, Flammable Rum & a Frisky Monkey
Up until a few months ago, I had never visited the Caribbean. In fact, I had never been anywhere with a tropical climate. This was largely by choice, as I am not a fan of the heat – and I don’t even want to talk about what the humidity does to my hair!
However, when the opportunity presented itself, I decided to visit Grenada. And I am so glad that I did.
Grenada strikes me as a place that understands what is special about it, and focuses on doing a few things really well. It has a laid-back confidence that is very appealing. I think this maturity is part of what makes it feel so safe for a solo traveler.
The Isle of Spice
Visiting Grenada offered me the opportunity to see a number of spices growing, that I had previously only seen processed or in a jar. Vanilla, cinnamon, bay leaves, mace… I had no idea what cocoa looked like in its natural form, or even that it grew to the size of a pineapple, or on a tree. But of course the most impressive of the spices grown in Grenada is nutmeg. Grenada is one of the largest producers of nutmeg in the world, second only to Indonesia. Touring the Gouyave Nutmeg Processing Station was a revelation. Everything is still done without machines. The quality of the spice is determined by whether it floats in water. It is laid out in racks to dry. Women sit at low tables, hand-sorting the nutmeg.
I love that this one spice is used in so many ways on the island. In addition to being used in cooking, it appears in soaps, oils, lotions and other cosmetics. It is boiled down into jams, jellies and syrups, and is made into La Grenade Liqueur. The cracked shells are used to line walkways, and in gardens to keep weeds at bay. Nothing is wasted.
Grenada is simply gorgeous to look at. And by simply, I mean that they haven’t complicated it with tourist traps and amusement parks. The waterfalls are beautiful, the rainforest unspoiled, the beaches stunning.
On the walk down to the Annandale Waterfalls, I passed a man with a monkey on his knee. As I passed by, I thought I felt someone swipe my behind. I quickly turned around, but all I saw was the man and the monkey, and neither were even looking my way. Could it have been the monkey, I wondered? I assumed I must have been mistaken, and carried on.
The waterfall was lovely, surrounded by lush vegetation. A few local guys hung about, waiting for the opportunity to be paid by tourists to jump off the top of the falls. On the way back up, the man asked me if I wanted the monkey to sit on my shoulder. I was pretty sure that I did not, as I was already a little suspicious of the critter. However, the next thing I knew, the monkey was on my shoulder. It was a strange sensation, but it didn’t last long, as moments later he had climbed up onto my head. He then proceeded to crack open a nut, which promptly fell into my cleavage. This, I thought, is about to get tricky! So I insisted that the man take his monkey back so we could all part friends.
By contrast, my visit to the Concord Waterfall was much less eventful, though equally beautiful. It is actually a series of three waterfalls. Where the water at Annandale was somewhat cloudy, here it is crystal clear, flowing over and around rocks – very inviting on a hot, sunny day! At Concord I met a local man named Elvis, who, it turned out, had only been to Canada once, and had visited family just a few miles from my home. It really is such a small world.
Sticking with What Works
Grenada is home to the oldest operating rum distillery in the western hemisphere. A visit to the River Antoine Estate is like a trip into the past, where again, so much is done by hand. Since 1785, they have been growing sugar cane, pressing out the juice, then boiling, fermenting and distilling it into Rivers Rum.
Powered by the only remaining operating water mill in this part of the world, it is a process that is in turns fascinating, disgusting, impressive and overwhelmingly, shall we say, fragrant. Virtually all of the rum that is produced here is consumed locally, and frequently straight up. And the wrung-out sugar cane? It is dried and used as fertilizer. As with the nutmeg production, nothing is wasted – although I suspect I would have been, had I had the nerve to drink this 152 proof concoction!
A Wide Range of Options
In terms of accommodation, Grenada has something for everyone. From the super luxurious Spice Island Beach Resort, to the decadently relaxing LaLuna Resort and Wellness Centre, to the active and proudly solo traveler-friendly LaSource, to the laid-back and budget-friendly cottages of Almost Paradise to the assortment of low-cost Inns and Guest Houses scattered around the island, every price range and preference is covered.
Interestingly, LaSource averages 18% solo travelers year-round and charges no single supplement. They also reserve a large table at lunch and dinner for solo travelers who want to meet and mingle with others who are traveling alone, and have it hosted by a staff member to facilitate interaction. They have solo guests who return year after year.
I too would return to Grenada, without hesitation. Though I might avoid monkeys. And rum shots.
I visited Grenada as a guest of the Grenada Board of Tourism.