Monday, March 27, 2017

GRENADA: THE SPICE OF THE CARIBBEAN

BY: JANET STEINBERG

Sugar and spice and everything nice, that’s what the idyllic island of Grenada is made of.  From sugar cane waving into the fields…to cocoa beans drying in the sun…to nutmeg and cinnamon assuaging our olfactory senses…little wonder that Grenada is know as the Caribbean’s  ‘Isle of Spice’.  The most southern of the Windward Islands, Grenada is located some 100 miles from Venezuela. This lush verdant island lies nestled between the Caribbean and the Atlantic Ocean.

SPICE ISLAND WELCOME

A 4-piece steel band welcomed us as we disembarked from our cruise ship in St. Georges, the picturesque capital of Grenada established in the 18th century by the French.  Departing the pier, we passed by the early 18th century Sendall Tunnel that was built by the French under the rocky promontory topped by Fort George.  Fort George, known as Fort Royal in the days of French rule, still stands guard above the harbor.  It ancient cannons still manage to fire salutes on special occasions.  


THE STENDALL TUNNEL

Driving through the red-roofed city into the countryside, we were treated to incredible sights and scenery courtesy of both man and Mother Nature.  Man gave us a glimpse into the spice industry at the Dougaldston Estate, the spice plantation and nutmeg processing station that gives Grenada its well-deserved appellation `Isle of Spice'.  Here visitors are given an introduction to view the processing of spices and to purchase sample packages right at the source.  At Dougaldston, little has change in the production of spices since the 1800s.

SPICE PROCESSING PLANT AT DOUGALDSTON ESTATE

At the River Antoine Estate, home of the famous Rivers Royale Grenadian Rum, we witnessed the natural production of the famous Rivers Rum from pure cane juice just as it has been produced since 1785.  This distillery is the oldest functioning water-propelled distillery in the Caribbean.  We also got to sample the rum that has such a high alcohol content that it cannot be exported from Grenada.  If you plan to taste the Rivers Rum, take along a fire extinguisher for your mouth and stomach.


PRODUCTION OF RIVERS RUM

The Belmont Estate offers tours to its heritage museum, cocoa fermentary, historic sugarcane garden, and old cemetery. Our lunch at the Estate’s Plas Manj√© Restaurant consisted of a delightfully simple, aromatic buffet of true Grenadian plantation cuisine, skillfully blended with a healthy dash of local spices and herbs.  It was a taste of traditional Grenadian rural life at its best.

Mother Nature began her show for us in the tropical rain forest of Grand Etang National Park, eight miles from the center of St. George’s.  It is here, 2000 feet above sea level, that we viewed Grand Etang Lake shimmering in a crater that dates back to the island’s volcanic past.  The park’s interpretive center, called the Park Centre, features displays of the island's wildlife, forestry, and natural history, including more than 20 different wood samples.


GRAND ETANG LAKE

 At Grand Anse Bay, aquamarine waters lap against the three mile stretch of the white sand Grand Anse Beach, one of the most beautiful beaches in the Caribbean.  The stunning soft white sands of Grand Anse, just south of the capital city of St. George’s and just 12 degrees north of the equator, has attracted the majority of the hotels and resorts on the island.  In order to make sure that the hotels are unobtrusive, law dictates that no hotel can be more than 3 stories tall or exceed the height of the palm trees.

GRAND ANSE BEACH

Gouyave, on the west coast of the island in St. John’s Parish, is known as the town that never sleeps.  The Fisherman’s Birthday Celebration, held annually on June 29, is the highlight of the year in this colorful parish. The islanders bless the fishing boats and nets.   Festivities include singing and dancing, and steelbands can be heard into the wee hours of the night.  But you don’t have to wait until June to celebrate in this small fishing town.   Every Friday night there is a lively Fish Friday Festival in the town center. Hospitable locals welcome tourists to this fishy extravaganza where you can eat every kind of tasty fish imaginable.  

GOUYAVE CELEBRATES “FISH FRIDAY” EVERY WEEK

Grenada is treasure trove of bays and beaches, tropical rain forests and volcanic crater lakes; it is spice factories and rum distilleries, simplicity and luxury. To play on the words of the popular TV show…The Spice Is Right.

JANET STEINBERG is the winner of 43 national Travel Writer Awards and is a Travel Consultant with THE TRAVEL AUTHORITY in Cincinnati, Ohio






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