Grenada, a tiny Caribbean island just north of Venezuela, is obsessed with politics. The radio of every car is tuned to the live broadcast from the Grenadian parliament. My drivers diligently followed the lengthy speeches with the intensity of a cricket fan. Thanks to this I now know exactly how much a kilowatt of electricity costs in Grenada and I now know that Grenada spends more on electricity than any other Caribbean island. They seem to be going through some kind of Thatcherite revolution, after privatising basic utilities, which were private monopolies, they are opening them up to competition. After listening to Mr Simon Steele declaiming in parliament for two days straight on the energy situation, I ran into him at the bar at Whisper Cove. I got a selfie with him, warning him that the last politician I did that with had to resign a month later (the Icelandic Prime Minister who I met at a launch for ‘skyr’ yoghurt). He laughed, kissed me on the head and said:
‘I have no dodgy dealings with Mossack Fonsecca, I can assure you.’
‘I know you. I know your voice!’
‘All of the islands in the Caribbean are linked, on the same tectonic plate. If there is an earthquake on one, we can feel it here in Grenada. With Haiti, there were no tremors in Grenada.’
Roger didn’t like me much or maybe he just didn’t like white people. He often turned up hours late without apology. A pity, because he was also interesting to talk to. He recalled as a boy the left-wing revolutionary coup that occurred in 1979 and lasted until 1983, when America invaded Grenada (the only time Thatcher and Reagan fell out).
Grenada is an uberously fertile country; the interior is rainforest, the beaches are white, the sea is turquoise. As soon as you arrive at the airport, you can smell spices on the breeze, warm wafts of nutmeg and cinnamon. Fruit grows abundantly; blazing mangoes litter the roads, papayas droop from trees, breadfruit hang improbably, given their size, from slim stems on branches. The colours of the countryside reflect the colours of the flag: green, orange and gold.
So, what is there to do in Grenada? Here is my listicle of recommendations…
1. Turtles on Levera beach
This shocking but extraordinary experience is the modern equivalent to meeting a dinosaur. Every two years the leatherback turtle returns to the beach where they were born. During the intervening time, they swim for hundreds of miles, travelling the world.
2. Spices and the Spice Market
Grenada is known as the Spice Island. Until hurricane Ivan devastated Grenada in 2004, 90% of the world’s nutmeg was grown here. The hurricane ripped out 80% of the nutmeg trees.
Grenada created one of the world’s first ‘underwater sculpture’ parks. I snorkelled over the slightly eery sculptures: a group of people standing in a circle, bodies laying on the sea bed, a man at a desk, a goddess holding her hands towards the sky. The sculptures, which are now covered in barnacles and sea creatures, a constantly evolving form of art, were created by two Grenadian artists, James deCaires Taylor and Troy Lewis. There is also great snorkelling at La Sagesse, a beautiful wild beach, with beach front huts and rooms. Off the main island, diving and snorkelling is possible on the two tiny sister islands to Grenada: Petite Martinique and Carriacou.
4. The food
Caribbean food is an interesting island melange, based on the foodways that slaves brought with them from Africa, shipboard cuisine, colonial food and local Carib ingredients.
- Gros Michel, similar to the sweet ripe Cavendish bananas we are used to.
- Lacatan (a red fig)
- Rock fig (the sweetest)
- Bluggoe plantain (for cooking)
- Silk fig (2 types)
- Throdon John (Cacabul), red and yellow
- Manicou fig (2 types),
- BBS crabback: for me the most characterically Grenadian of all the restaurants. Stunning cocktails and fruit juices (I had gospo juice). The signature dish is the creole crab back stuffed with crab meat and a cheese and wine sauce. They do goat curry, conch salad (a kind of shellfish) and on Friday’s, the national dish ‘Oildown’.
- Dodgy Dock restaurant. I had an unusual fusion dish: callaloo cannelloni which was excellent.They also have ‘street food Wednesdays’ where you can buy fried fish and aloo pie ( a spicy Indian potato samosa).
- La Sagesse restaurant: famous for their fresh caught fish, beautiful location on wild beach.
- Laluna hotel: high end Italian food and a great wine list (sometimes you need a break from rum and beer).
There are also a couple of Cuban style home restaurants, which unfortunately I didn’t get a chance to try as I only found out about them on my last day. Next time.
5. The beaches
6. The rainforest
‘All boat people from here have green eyes,’ he declared.
‘Do you have gills too?’ I joked.
Building sloops is a communal activity in Grenada, but the boat builders have a mix of Scottish, Creole and African blood.
- The local island fire water, Rivers, an overproofed rum (70%) which has a strong ethanol smell and is made from hand cut pure sugar cane syrup. Best used with a mixer!
- Clarkes Court (69%), a Grenadian British style rum made from molasses
- Trois Rivières, a ‘rhon agricole’ (55%) from Martinique, made from pure cane juice not molasses; sweeter and drier.
- Montebello (42%), from Guadeloupe, is aged amber nectar
- Plantation (41.2%), an aged white rum which doesn’t need mixers, can be sipped.
- 10XO by Westerhall in Grenada is a 10 year old rum, has coconut, caramel flavours and is peaty like whisky.
- Dom Q a 12 year old aged rum from Puerto Rico comes in a pretty decanter rather like a perfume bottle. This is a sipping rum.
- Chairman’s Reserve a spiced rum from St. Lucia, a neighbouring island. Spiced rum is popular with women. Notes of orange peel, nutmeg, cinnamon, vanilla. I loved this one.