Grenada is probably most famous (at least in the eyes of Americans) for the US invasion of 1983. It made the headlines big time when the USA invaded there following a military coup that outsted the revolutionaries who had taken over in their own coup four years earlier. It resulted in the restoration of the pre-revolutionary government. In a not so famous tidbit of news, Grenada has a major medical school. I only know about it because my brother went there (though he was done before my Splendor cruise so our paths didn’t cross.)
Carnival Splendor docked in St. Georges Grenada on a warm sunny day. It’s not as frequently visited as some Caribbean ports so the town near the cruise docks still has local stores rather than the same chain stores present in all the major cruise ship ports. It’s nice to see an island relatively unchanged by cruise ship presence instead of the same sterile cruise port that looks pretty much the same everywhere.
After climbing to the top of the ship to check on wind vs big floppy sunhats, the sunhats won. Upon exiting the ship we found the wind next to the ship made it impossible to walk down the dock without holding the hats on. It seemed to be the ship itself creating the wind tunnel though because once past it the air calmed to a gentle breeze.
We found maps and tourist information in the building we had to pass through at the end of the dock. A booth near the entrance offered taxi tours. Locals further into the building had cheaper taxi tours. Water taxis to a couple of the island’s beaches were available and the information people said there was someone offering a snorkel tour, though we did not see them. We did see people selling tickets for the local train-tram that goes to a fort and a museum. There were also a number of souvenir shops, a few of which we visited after our tour.
We went with the local taxi tour for $20 each. As we left the cruise ship port our driver/guide pointed to a church on top a hill and said it closed after hurricane Ivan blew the roof off, adding that on Grenada they gave Ivan a last name and it was known locally as Ivan Roofoff. That church was one of many buildings that lost a roof to the hurricane.
Grenada is quite a steep island. Everything is up hills or down hills. It has an airport on pretty much the only level spot on the whole island. We saw it in the distance, but never went there.
The roads seemed barely wide enough for one lane, but the locals drive it like a regular two lane street in most places, though there were a few spots in the high mountain villages where cars had to stop in a wide spot to let traffic going the other way pass. When two cars going opposite directions met at one hairpin turn it caused a traffic jam with everyone having to maneuver this way and that to give them room enough for one to get around the other.
The majority of the houses sit on poles as there isn’t enough flat ground on the hillsides for a house to sit on.
Grenadians have free health care and each little village has a medical station, though some are open just once a week so the inhabitants may have to go elsewhere for emergencies. Children can go to public schools for free, or pay to go to one of the many religious schools. 55% of the population is catholic, with the rest split between protestant and other religions.
Grenada is often referred to as the spice island because they grow a lot of nutmeg and other spices there. Anywhere tourists go you find locals selling spice necklaces made from nutmeg and other local spices in their natural form. Ground spices in jars ready to use are available everywhere in the numerous tiny shops and roadside stands run by locals. Some people just stand by the road selling their wares without even a little makeshift stand to sell them in.
Our first stop was at a local spice shop clinging to the side of a narrow road on a steep hill. It seemed like a small store until we saw all the makeshift booths along the road and at tourist attractions later. Compared to them it was pretty big and a lot more permanent. The shopkeepers showed us spices in their natural form and explained how all parts of the nutmeg get used. They make the outer fruit part into things like syrup and jelly and use the red coating over the seed to make a spice called mace. The hulls get used for gardens and pathways and the seed itself ground up for the nutmeg spice. They use tumeric as a substitute for saffron and sometimes label it as saffron rather than tumeric in their shops. I bought a small bottle of nutmeg syrup to try on pancakes after I got home. It was delicious, maybe I should have gotten a bigger bottle.
Unemployment is 33% on the island. People don’t get government handouts. They make their living however they can. That’s why every stop had someone selling spice necklaces to freshen up kitchens and bathrooms, and usually “spice girls” in brightly colored outfits with baskets of fruit on their heads who would pose for a picture for $2. One of them saw someone in the van take a picture through the window and thought it was of her. She tried to chase the van down the road thinking she should get paid.
All sorts of fruits and vegetables thrive in Grenada. The plants and trees along the roadside all belong to someone. The guide said everyone knows where their property boundaries are. What looks like random roadside forest to passers by is really someone’s livelihood from whatever they have growing there. We saw all sorts of forest crops next to the road including cinnamon, coffee and chocolate as well as the ever present nutmeg.
Our next stop brought us to the driver’s hometown of Annandale where locals jump into a pool below a waterfall. Visitors also could swim in the pool as well, though the water was a bit “refreshing.” (That is what they always say when the water is kind of cold.) The driver said he had been a jumper in his younger years. Tough way to make a living, jumping off a cliff in hopes of tips. Little booths of spices and other things for sale lined the path from the parking area to the pool, typical of anywhere tourists in Grenada might go. One person even had a parrot people could pose with for photos – for a fee of course.
At the top of a hill we went to Grand Etang National Park where we had a view of the crater of a volcano, which was called Crater Lake since it was full of water. The park there had a restaurant, a bar, and some small shops. The pathway by the shops consisted of nutmeg hulls. On our way out one of the island’s cute little native mona monkeys zipped out of the trees and sat on the bridge rail. Somebody threw a couple bananas to it so it would stay and pose for a bit.
Later we stopped at a viewpoint where a prison on a hill took up prime real estate with the best views around, which seemed a bit of a sore spot with the locals. Even there where we just pulled over at a wide spot in the road a local laden with their wares tried to sell us spice necklaces.
Eventually the van came down from the hills and stopped at Grand Anse beach, though we could have chosen to visit a fort instead. The van tour just stayed a short time at the beach, then took us back to the ship. A couple people opted not to go back with the group, but rather to stay on the beach and catch a water taxi back later. The beach had shops and a restroom, but people had to pay the little old lady guarding the bathroom a dollar to go in.
Copyright My Cruise Stories 2015