Splashing through Grenada

On Christmas Day, our plane lands bumpily at Maurice Bishop International Airport in Grenada. It’s my first time in the West Indies, preceded by a 12-hour flight during a bad winter storm.

As we taxi on the runway, a flight attendant says “You can take off your sweaters now!” I laugh loudly because I wear three sweaters and a jacket to keep out the cold from Miami Airport. The air conditioning blasted us while it was only 40 degrees outside. Miami doesn’t seem to have heat.

But the island of Grenada does. It’s in the eighties now. As we disembark, I peel off my layers. A well-dressed man asks if it’s our first time here. Yes, it is. I ask if it’s his first-time here and he answers, “oh, no, it’s my home. I come here every year.” He says “it’s a very peaceful place and people don’t like to fight.”

This is underscored at our resort, where each morning begins with smiles and greetings from the staff as we pass by. “Morning morning,” some say, or “Happy holidays.”

We don’t feel the heat, and it’s mainly sunny with the occasional short burst of rain. We walk on the cement path that meanders through the Royalton, surrounded by flat topped, spreading trees and the bougainvillea, the national plant of Grenada. We ate in the tropics. Birdsong welcomes us and we’re off to the breakfast buffet, a melange of steamed bananas, sliced grapefruits, oranges, and starfruit, as well as omelets and yesterday’s cut-up waffles and pancakes, available again. Large families, from toddlers to grandparents, crowd into the hall. Kids stay free.

I hurry to drink a cappuccino and force myself to eat an egg white omelet filled with vegies. I just want to finish so we can spread our towels on the chaises lounges, which we pull up almost to the waves. It’s hard to balance when you walk into the surf because the sand sucks you deeper and deeper into the sand, causing you to topple. Called Magazine Beach, it’s not expansive but postcard beautiful, a tropical paradise with turquoise water and white choppy waves.

Farther out on the horizon, the water is indigo. Two young boys chat happily as they try to find creatures of the deep. Their parents are nowhere in sight. How did I parent when my children were about ten? A gecko digs into the sand. Soon, a mother shows up to ask if the boys want tacos from the lunch bar.

After we sun ourselves under interlaced palm fronds, I walk over to the infinity pool behind my husband and me. He’s a bit allergic to chlorine and pools, so I go alone, stepping down the graduated steps to the cool water.

It’s not long before I hit the wall where water spills into a trough of sorts. An older woman walks by gingerly, with her arms spread out at her sides, careful not to lose her wide-brimmed straw hat. She manages not to spoil her makeup, either.

A young girl does handstands in the shallow part of the water, without much control of her body. She nearly misses me.

I return to our sandy shelter. Shortly, the tall, thin lifeguard warns us that it will rain. We feel a mizzle, but don’t have a sense of urgency until the sky releases a monsoon season like I’ve seen in movies. We gather our stuff and race to the lunch tables, which have an overhead.

The waitresses seem bored and resentful and why not? They wear white nets over their tiny braids, as well as nylons and shirts and vests.

I notice the couple at the adjacent table, particularly the woman, who is wearing a burgundy two-piece suit from the hotel gift shop. Yesterday I almost bought it, but it wasn’t my size.

Grenada is called the Spice Island, mainly because of its nutmeg and mace. Nutmeg grows on evergreen trees, and while I don’t see any, we spot a man selling nutmeg on the beach. The rain stops within half an hour.

We tear ourselves away from the perfect beach and join an island tour. The Grenadines include the smaller islands of Carriacou and Petite Martinique, as well as annactive submarine volcano called Kick-Em-Jenny.

Looking at a map, I see intriguing place names like “Les Sauteurs,” or jumpers in French. It marks the place where Black Caribs refused to be taken prisoner by the conquering French Army in 1719. Some thought it would be less painful to jump off a cliff than to withstand torture.

The British captured the island and its plantations 1763, bringing Black slaves with them. Slavery was sbolished in 1834.

On our bus tour, I recall the plane passenger’s observation about peaceful Grenada and decide it’s accurate. Our driver honks at every bus he passes, saying “we’re a friendly people.”

The signature Caribbean drink is rum, and we soon stop at River Antoine Estate rum distillery. In existence since the 18th century, the plant still uses the original machinery and processes. After touring the establishment, employees escort us to a small patio where we’re offered a taste of rum. Several strong men gulp down the drink and almost spit it back out.

After living near Napa Valley for years, I am amazed that we are not charged for tasting. Instead, a guide encourages us to take pictures of the premises and post them on our social media pages. Some people do buy bottles, which must be less than seventeen percent proof to pass American customs officers. On the trip back to the resort, someone breaks his bottle, leaving the bus with a distinct smell.

We meet a couple from North Carolina, Lucien and Isolda and sit next to them at the lunch at an old plantation. A former English professor at North Carolina State University, he says this is their fifth international trip in 2022. We sit next to George, from the United Kingdom, who says his wife couldn’t come but she’s Polish. Asked about King Charles, he says “he’s doing a good job although he has big shoes to fill.” His face turns red at the mention of Prince Harry and Meaghan Markle, who he says are “just out for publicity and money.” We change the subject, no pun intended.

After lunch, we pass orange, blue and even lavender pastel houses with elaborate windows next door to grey shacks. It’s an uneven blend of wealth, with clothing stores run out of people’s homes. We pass a bank called “Offshore Holdings” and I wonder about tax advantages.

Our next stop is a tour of s local chocolate factory. A tree out front grows full chocolate pods. They are often washed by stepping on them, like grapes for wine. We buy some 70 percent cacao bars and hot chocolate at a small fountain bar.

The tour nears the end at Annandale waterfalls in Grand Etang park. We walk down a steep, winding asphalt path, passing a treehouse bar called Wild Orchid. Its neon lighting flashes purple and pink. As the surrounding rainforest creates darkness all around. Friday nights local artists play their music, while the bar serves cocktails as well as meals like coconut shrimp and chickenburgers.

Since there are no walls, you have a good view of the thirty-foot waterfall. Its pool inspires several tour goers to swim in its chilly waters. I watch from the hill, thinking how three years ago I would have accompanied them. There’s a railing, but the steps seem too steep for me.

By the time we return to the Royalton, it’s 6:30 pm, three hours after the stated stop time. If there’s one thing I learn in Grenada, however, it’s that you can’t rush island time. The restaurants are still open for dinner.

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