Exploring the Real Caribbean – Introduction to Grenada

Today’s guest post is by an old friend and travel and food expert, Tris Bisgrove. Tris left his Fortune 500 career a few years ago to follow his passion of teaching and has never looked back. Tris was good enough to pen a fantastic primer for anyone visiting the island and looking for things to do in Grenada.

Nestled on the bottom arm of Caribbean Islands lies the spice island of Grenada. Grenada, originally a British colony, was purchased by the French, flourished until the mid 1700s, when the British returned and captured the island. It stayed in British hands until 1974 when it was granted independence.

As a former colony, Grenada served as an island of plantations and small farms.  Primarily they grew bananas and cocoa, but several ingenious people were able to smuggle nutmeg out of the Dutch Indies and transplanted them here. It was in this climate, with similar temperatures and weather that the nutmeg flourished. To this day, nutmeg is one of its primary exports despite many countries clamoring for the rich cocoa produced here.

Today, post Hurricane Ivan in 2004, Grenada is slowly starting to get back on its feet.  Yet, despite the efforts of its people, many of the nutmeg trees have yet to grow back (they accounted for nearly 30% of the GDP) and many people remain unemployed.  Tourism has remained a big source of income for the country, but with high unemployment and many people relying on incomes of relatives off island, it remains to be seen if the island will recover financially.\

Despite this gloom and doom I mention, the island is beautiful.  From the airport on the southernmost tip of the island (where the US led their invasion of Grenada back in the 1980s), to Grand Anse beach with its idyllic white sands and lazy surf curving north and west to the capital, St. George’s, the charm of the island is apparent. With less than 3,000 rooms to rent, travelers can expect to not have to deal with over-run beaches nor crazy tourists except when one of the cruise ships is in harbor. Even then it’s only for a few hours, giving the long-term tourist time to explore the rest of the island.

The island can be seen in one day, literally, but should be enjoyed for several. On the northern most tip of the island, the day can be taken in relaxing on the beach of Sauteurs Bay with a little bbq shack to supplement the food and drinks you bring. After lunch, take a quick drive east to the oldest continually operating rum distillery in all of the Caribbean, River Antoine Rum. For both places, I’d recommend transportation of your own, as taxis would take far too long to reach and getting back to St. George’s may prove troublesome.

The taxi service, if it can be called that, is composed of about one hundred extended vans with so many seats crammed into it that you better not be claustrophobic. Split into 6 zones, the taxis travel whenever they fill (usually more than 10 people unless headed to the main taxi terminal near the docks). They are very easy to reach and find, and if you like roller coasters, you are in luck. My wife and I took one up into the Grand Etang Forest for some hiking and to swim in some of the waterfalls. The 15 minute trip included some sharps turns, sometimes breaking above 40mph on roads barely able to accommodate 2 car widths. Don’t even bother asking about seat belts, and if you have children, this may not be a trip for those of you who helicopter them. That said, the drivers seemed confident and competent enough to handle it. It is a small wonder why none of them have gone on to race rally cars.

The food here is just as excellent as the sights. Syrup produced from nutmeg seemed to flow from everywhere and somehow nearly a gallon of the stuff made it home with us.  Lambe, or conch, spiced and worked over (to reduce the rubber texture) is a local delicacy and must be tried. Ironically, having grown up near the ocean, I am not a seafood person, but I thoroughly enjoyed the seafood here. For you lobster lovers, my wife recommends the stuff here as well, but admittedly it isn’t as good as the cold water variety.  Don’t expect fast food here… they luckily do not have it.  I’ll be writing a later piece on a delicious cooking lesson we took at one of the island’s resorts in the coming month.

There are also several events worth mentioning should you be in Grenada to catch them.  Fish Fridays is located about 40 minutes north of St. George’s in Gouyave on every Friday. Every delectable seafood dish the island produces is on offer, from 6pm until 1am-ish, at this locals event. This is your chance to see the residents of the island let it all loose. There is also a pancake breakfast in one of the Indian/Scottish communities halfway between St. George’s and Gouyave at the end of each month. “Drinkers with a running problem,” describes the Hash House Harriers. Originally thought up by bored British soldiers in the East Indies, the idea was for people to run/walk from one point to another, then drink, heavily. Distances varied but runs occur every Saturday and are worth checking in on if you are up for an off road run of sorts. I unfortunately missed a Gold Cup soccer tune-up at the new Grenadian cricket and football stadium, Queen’s Park, just north of St. George’s. The place sits about 20,000 and can be reached relatively easily by walking from downtown.  Want to get some hiking in?  Check up on Telfor Bedeau. The guy is in his 70s and has been hiking and swimming the island for over 50 years.  He’s a great resource on what to do on the island and the places you won’t see otherwise.

The island is definitely a wealth of experience, and despite being a little difficult to get to with flights going from San Juan and Miami but worth your time.  This is not a place you just want to bring the little ones and offload them, leave that for the all inclusive.  If you want a lazy/exploring type of vacation and you have a bit of a gastronomical penchant, then get to Grenada.

By: Tristram Bisgrove

4 thoughts on “Exploring the Real Caribbean – Introduction to Grenada”

  1. Joanna Bisgrove

    As an addendum to Tris’s article, driving in Grenada is not for the faint of heart. A beautiful and easy way to see the island is by tour, and many guides offer private tours. We were referred to Mandoo Seals, owner of Mandoo Tours, for a day trip. He took us everywhere over the island and taught us most of what Tris mentioned in his article. He and Telfour are easily two of the best people on the island to look up while staying there.

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