Returning for a third time and Grenada’s still a charm

By Steven Cole
This article appears on page 20 of the November 2016 issue.
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Like most travelholics, my wife, Sharon, and I are always looking forward to visiting the next place we’ve never been. And, yet, for various reasons, some places have a special attraction, begging for a repeat visit. For us, one such special place is Grenada (pronounced “Gre-nay-da,” not “Gre-nah-da”), where we were married in March of 1999.

We returned for a second honeymoon in March 2004, and in March 2016 we returned once more. As we’d already seen most of the sights, we planned to do very little beyond relaxing, but the trip proved to be full of new experiences.

A few surprises

We rented a house through
Grenadinevillas.com, and its owner, an artist, picked us up at the airport.

We’d imagined a Grenadian artist struggling to sell a few paintings to tourists, so we were surprised to meet Maria McClafferty and learn that she was a famous British artist working in several media, including fused and stained glass.

Her works are installed in the Egyptian Hall at Harrods in London as well as in London’s Alexandra Palace entertainment venue, in China’s Changchun World Sculpture Park, in malls, banks and hotels and in the homes of celebrities and wealthy collectors worldwide. 

Despite her fame, Maria was down to earth. She personally staffs kiosks at Grenada’s cruise ship terminal and the international airport, where she sells her unusual fused-glass jewelry.

We prefer self-catered accommodations and lots of room, and Maria’s house proved to be just as unique as our lively outgoing hostess.

The house, which Maria named High Heaven, is at the end of a steep, bumpy road near the top of a mountain on the north side of Grenada’s capital of St. George’s. The view was stunning, and we arrived just in time to see the sunset from the west-facing deck.

The house and 4-acre grounds are full of Maria’s works: fused-glass “paintings” and bowls and other glass objects, metalwork, including floor lamps, and conventional paintings and outdoor sculptures. 

Maria’s studio and flat are on the ground floor of the house, and the floor above, where we stayed, consists of two bedrooms, two baths, a huge living room (open on the side facing the sea), a kitchen and a small office.

Our second surprise was that in the 12 years since our last visit, Grenada’s traffic had increased dramatically. We’d rented a car on our two previous visits and managed traffic well, so we reserved a car to be delivered to the house for this visit. 

However, the ride from the airport gave us second thoughts. Where had all the cars come from?

All of Grenada’s streets and roads are narrow by American standards, and many are unusually steep. St. George’s Market Hill Street and the aptly named Cemetery Hill Road are not for the faint of heart. 

What’s more, there are few lane markings and no yellow lines or posted speed limits. Also, Grenadian drivers routinely pass on hills and blind curves. 

But we needed and wanted a car, so we reluctantly signed for the reserved vehicle. The first few days of driving were terrifying, but after a while I managed to get the feel of the flow of traffic. We never saw a traffic accident in our 2-week stay.

Our next surprise came when we looked up a woman who, to us, personified the friendliness of almost all Grenadians we’d encountered.

Reconnecting

Grenada was far sleepier in 1999, when apparently not many outsiders sought to tie the knot there. When we arrived for our wedding, we were treated like VIPs and were assigned a young woman from the prime minister’s office to lead us around to the scattered government offices to fill out the necessary paperwork.

We liked the woman, and, on a whim, we tried looking her up before leaving for this latest visit. We found that Jessie Fullerton was now employed at St. George’s University, and we emailed her to ask if she remembered us after 17 years and, if so, whether we could drop in to say ‘Hello.’

To our surprise, Jessie, indeed, remembered us and had even saved a photograph of us! She was enthusiastic that we come by the university for a tour. 

St. George’s University, just south of the capital, is known for its schools of human and veterinary medicine. Many of its more than 6,000 students come from the United States or Canada. Jessie, who has a master’s in international business, works in student recruitment.

The campus had grown since our last visit and now consists of more than 50 glistening-white buildings with orange-tile roofs situated on a bluff overlooking a sandy beach. Those lucky students!

Jessie introduced us to her friend Esther O’Neale, a retired English professor who has written two books about Grenada: “De Red Petticoat: a Selection of Caribbean Folklore” and a collection of essays and poems entitled “Sunday Morning.” In the latter book, she includes a chapter on Hurricane Ivan, which struck Grenada in 2004, and tells of her frightening experience huddled in her house bleeding from injuries caused by a shattered window for 18 hours as the storm raged.

Art abounds

Thanks in part to Maria McClafferty, Grenada’s art scene had become a lively one. 

We especially liked the gallery Art Upstairs, located on the harbor in St. George’s. This space on the second floor of an old building was once a courtroom, and the judge’s bench was piled with unframed canvases painted by local artists.

We collect folk art and were delighted when we spied a canvas by Doliver Morain, an acrylic painting of a fisherman in a boat surrounded by leaping fish. We paid $74 for the 24"x24" piece, a bargain by any standard. 

But most go to the Caribbean to spend time at the beach, so, like any other visitor, we did too. 

Grenada’s main beach, Grand Anse, sits between the capital and the airport — a 2-mile stretch of the usual white sand and palms. There we found an arts-and-crafts market where we purchased an island specialty, a female doll whose skirt flops down to reveal a second doll when turned upside down — a present for my 5-year-old granddaughter, Elizabeth.

Grand Anse was busy, so we headed to another beach nearby, Morne Rouge, where we exchanged vows in 1999. Back then, the beach was totally deserted and had only one house on it. We were stunned to see so much development there, including a couple of hotels and beachside bars as well as a government-run water attraction for children, featuring inflatable rafts, a trampoline and other water toys anchored by the shore.

Our favorite Grenadian beach is the gorgeous Dr. Groom’s, running between Morne Rouge and the airport. It is little known and hasn’t changed in the 17 years of our visiting Grenada.

Out and about

If you’re looking for sights beyond beaches, Grenada offers some of the Caribbean’s most beautiful scenery, including several small waterfalls, many within the rainforest that is Grand Etang National Park. The park also includes a lake, but, as we Michiganders are used to thousands of deep, clear lakes, we found Grand Etang Lake to be just a swampy pond. 

All of Grenada’s inland attractions are an hour or so by car from St. George’s, and one day we decided to take in a few places we hadn’t seen before. Our friend Jessie drove us, but visitors have many options for getting around, including tour operators, private car hires and local buses.

Our first stop was the River Antoine Rum Distillery, which prides itself on having used the same equipment and techniques since beginning operations in 1785. 

Sugarcane is crushed outdoors by a giant waterwheel, then fermented a few days in huge indoor vats before being transferred to other vats for longer fermentation. Finally, the juice is distilled by being boiled in huge copper vessels over a wood fire. 

The resulting rum has such a high alcohol content that it must be watered down before it can be taken out of the country. You can sample the rum at the distillery, but watch out. At 69% alcohol, even a tiny sip packs a sizeable wallop!

From the rum distillery we went to the nearby Belmont Estate, which specializes in growing and processing cacao beans for chocolate.

Grenada has long been known as the “spice isle” and especially for being the world’s chief supplier of nutmeg, but on our most recent trip the emphasis seemed to be on chocolate, and fine-quality bars and individual candies were on sale everywhere.

The Belmont Estate dates to the late 17th century, and many of the buildings look as if they are that old! However, the place is interesting and worth a tour. 

Cacao beans are dried on large trays in the sun, and workers shuffle through them to turn the beans for even drying. Once dry, the nib inside each bean is extracted and processed with sugar into chocolate.

The estate includes a small museum, a few caged monkeys and macaws, a goat dairy, a gift shop, gardens and, of course, a chocolate shop. There’s also a well-appointed restaurant, with sides open to the breeze, where we had lunch.

We were served soup and rolls at our table, then we proceeded to a buffet table laden with excellent mixed salad and entrées of beef, chicken and fish plus rice, potatoes and various vegetables. A selection of desserts was served at our table. The meal was excellent and cost the equivalent of $22 per person, including tax and service.

From Belmont we went on to Grenada’s former airport, which closed in 1984. The author of the Bradt guide to Grenada calls it surreal, and, indeed, it was strange to see abandoned jet runways with cows grazing alongside a few rusting planes.

That evening we returned to High Heaven, satisfied with our day — especially the meal at Belmont Estate, which was a bargain. Everything in Grenada was expensive, especially the food, yet there were no upscale restaurants outside the resorts. 

One day we came across Umbrellas, an informal place on Grand Anse Beach that had generous portions and did have moderate prices. But, most nights, we cooked at High Heaven. (Self-catering was expensive, too, as groceries in Grenada are about twice the cost of food in the US, and the selection was limited.)

We were sorry to leave High Heaven. We paid $800 a week for the house — the best value anywhere in Grenada!

Please login or subscribe to ITN to read the entire post.

Like most travelholics, my wife, Sharon, and I are always looking forward to visiting the next place we’ve never been. And, yet, for various reasons, some places have a special attraction, begging for a repeat visit. For us, one such special place is Grenada (pronounced “Gre-nay-da,” not “Gre-nah-da”), where we were married in March of 1999.

We returned for a second honeymoon in March 2004, and in March 2016 we returned once more. As we’d already seen most of the sights, we planned to do very little beyond relaxing, but the trip proved to be full of new experiences.

A few surprises

We rented a house through
Grenadinevillas.com, and its owner, an artist, picked us up at the airport.

We’d imagined a Grenadian artist struggling to sell a few paintings to tourists, so we were surprised to meet Maria McClafferty and learn that she was a famous British artist working in several media, including fused and stained glass.

Her works are installed in the Egyptian Hall at Harrods in London as well as in London’s Alexandra Palace entertainment venue, in China’s Changchun World Sculpture Park, in malls, banks and hotels and in the homes of celebrities and wealthy collectors worldwide. 

Despite her fame, Maria was down to earth. She personally staffs kiosks at Grenada’s cruise ship terminal and the international airport, where she sells her unusual fused-glass jewelry.

We prefer self-catered accommodations and lots of room, and Maria’s house proved to be just as unique as our lively outgoing hostess.

The house, which Maria named High Heaven, is at the end of a steep, bumpy road near the top of a mountain on the north side of Grenada’s capital of St. George’s. The view was stunning, and we arrived just in time to see the sunset from the west-facing deck.

The house and 4-acre grounds are full of Maria’s works: fused-glass “paintings” and bowls and other glass objects, metalwork, including floor lamps, and conventional paintings and outdoor sculptures. 

Maria’s studio and flat are on the ground floor of the house, and the floor above, where we stayed, consists of two bedrooms, two baths, a huge living room (open on the side facing the sea), a kitchen and a small office.

Our second surprise was that in the 12 years since our last visit, Grenada’s traffic had increased dramatically. We’d rented a car on our two previous visits and managed traffic well, so we reserved a car to be delivered to the house for this visit. 

However, the ride from the airport gave us second thoughts. Where had all the cars come from?

All of Grenada’s streets and roads are narrow by American standards, and many are unusually steep. St. George’s Market Hill Street and the aptly named Cemetery Hill Road are not for the faint of heart. 

What’s more, there are few lane markings and no yellow lines or posted speed limits. Also, Grenadian drivers routinely pass on hills and blind curves. 

But we needed and wanted a car, so we reluctantly signed for the reserved vehicle. The first few days of driving were terrifying, but after a while I managed to get the feel of the flow of traffic. We never saw a traffic accident in our 2-week stay.

Our next surprise came when we looked up a woman who, to us, personified the friendliness of almost all Grenadians we’d encountered.

Reconnecting

Grenada was far sleepier in 1999, when apparently not many outsiders sought to tie the knot there. When we arrived for our wedding, we were treated like VIPs and were assigned a young woman from the prime minister’s office to lead us around to the scattered government offices to fill out the necessary paperwork.

We liked the woman, and, on a whim, we tried looking her up before leaving for this latest visit. We found that Jessie Fullerton was now employed at St. George’s University, and we emailed her to ask if she remembered us after 17 years and, if so, whether we could drop in to say ‘Hello.’

To our surprise, Jessie, indeed, remembered us and had even saved a photograph of us! She was enthusiastic that we come by the university for a tour. 

St. George’s University, just south of the capital, is known for its schools of human and veterinary medicine. Many of its more than 6,000 students come from the United States or Canada. Jessie, who has a master’s in international business, works in student recruitment.

The campus had grown since our last visit and now consists of more than 50 glistening-white buildings with orange-tile roofs situated on a bluff overlooking a sandy beach. Those lucky students!

Jessie introduced us to her friend Esther O’Neale, a retired English professor who has written two books about Grenada: “De Red Petticoat: a Selection of Caribbean Folklore” and a collection of essays and poems entitled “Sunday Morning.” In the latter book, she includes a chapter on Hurricane Ivan, which struck Grenada in 2004, and tells of her frightening experience huddled in her house bleeding from injuries caused by a shattered window for 18 hours as the storm raged.

Art abounds

Thanks in part to Maria McClafferty, Grenada’s art scene had become a lively one. 

We especially liked the gallery Art Upstairs, located on the harbor in St. George’s. This space on the second floor of an old building was once a courtroom, and the judge’s bench was piled with unframed canvases painted by local artists.

We collect folk art and were delighted when we spied a canvas by Doliver Morain, an acrylic painting of a fisherman in a boat surrounded by leaping fish. We paid $74 for the 24"x24" piece, a bargain by any standard. 

But most go to the Caribbean to spend time at the beach, so, like any other visitor, we did too. 

Grenada’s main beach, Grand Anse, sits between the capital and the airport — a 2-mile stretch of the usual white sand and palms. There we found an arts-and-crafts market where we purchased an island specialty, a female doll whose skirt flops down to reveal a second doll when turned upside down — a present for my 5-year-old granddaughter, Elizabeth.

Grand Anse was busy, so we headed to another beach nearby, Morne Rouge, where we exchanged vows in 1999. Back then, the beach was totally deserted and had only one house on it. We were stunned to see so much development there, including a couple of hotels and beachside bars as well as a government-run water attraction for children, featuring inflatable rafts, a trampoline and other water toys anchored by the shore.

Our favorite Grenadian beach is the gorgeous Dr. Groom’s, running between Morne Rouge and the airport. It is little known and hasn’t changed in the 17 years of our visiting Grenada.

Out and about

If you’re looking for sights beyond beaches, Grenada offers some of the Caribbean’s most beautiful scenery, including several small waterfalls, many within the rainforest that is Grand Etang National Park. The park also includes a lake, but, as we Michiganders are used to thousands of deep, clear lakes, we found Grand Etang Lake to be just a swampy pond. 

All of Grenada’s inland attractions are an hour or so by car from St. George’s, and one day we decided to take in a few places we hadn’t seen before. Our friend Jessie drove us, but visitors have many options for getting around, including tour operators, private car hires and local buses.

Our first stop was the River Antoine Rum Distillery, which prides itself on having used the same equipment and techniques since beginning operations in 1785. 

Sugarcane is crushed outdoors by a giant waterwheel, then fermented a few days in huge indoor vats before being transferred to other vats for longer fermentation. Finally, the juice is distilled by being boiled in huge copper vessels over a wood fire. 

The resulting rum has such a high alcohol content that it must be watered down before it can be taken out of the country. You can sample the rum at the distillery, but watch out. At 69% alcohol, even a tiny sip packs a sizeable wallop!

From the rum distillery we went to the nearby Belmont Estate, which specializes in growing and processing cacao beans for chocolate.

Grenada has long been known as the “spice isle” and especially for being the world’s chief supplier of nutmeg, but on our most recent trip the emphasis seemed to be on chocolate, and fine-quality bars and individual candies were on sale everywhere.

The Belmont Estate dates to the late 17th century, and many of the buildings look as if they are that old! However, the place is interesting and worth a tour. 

Cacao beans are dried on large trays in the sun, and workers shuffle through them to turn the beans for even drying. Once dry, the nib inside each bean is extracted and processed with sugar into chocolate.

The estate includes a small museum, a few caged monkeys and macaws, a goat dairy, a gift shop, gardens and, of course, a chocolate shop. There’s also a well-appointed restaurant, with sides open to the breeze, where we had lunch.

We were served soup and rolls at our table, then we proceeded to a buffet table laden with excellent mixed salad and entrées of beef, chicken and fish plus rice, potatoes and various vegetables. A selection of desserts was served at our table. The meal was excellent and cost the equivalent of $22 per person, including tax and service.

From Belmont we went on to Grenada’s former airport, which closed in 1984. The author of the Bradt guide to Grenada calls it surreal, and, indeed, it was strange to see abandoned jet runways with cows grazing alongside a few rusting planes.

That evening we returned to High Heaven, satisfied with our day — especially the meal at Belmont Estate, which was a bargain. Everything in Grenada was expensive, especially the food, yet there were no upscale restaurants outside the resorts. 

One day we came across Umbrellas, an informal place on Grand Anse Beach that had generous portions and did have moderate prices. But, most nights, we cooked at High Heaven. (Self-catering was expensive, too, as groceries in Grenada are about twice the cost of food in the US, and the selection was limited.)

We were sorry to leave High Heaven. We paid $800 a week for the house — the best value anywhere in Grenada!