Published: February 2010
As my biog on the right rather cheekily refers to, I go to lots of travel industry parties, all of course with you The Travel Channel viewer in mind, sourcing story ideas and the very latest travel information. These events are not without their perks and as one of my sisters so accurately put it, “if you do go to the opening of an envelope, then the envelope will eventually open” and open big time it did for me late last year with the winning of a raffle prize to the Spice Island of Grenada. Regular readers of my website features will be getting pretty familiar now with my rather large family and it was sister number 2, Tessa and her daughter, my 14 year old niece Isabella, who lucked out with the invite to join me in Grenada last Summer.
Tessa is pretty used to the finer things in life and has already stayed at many of the Caribbean’s finest hotels. Isabella has only once been outside of Europe and never anywhere tropical and I am easily bored - would the island be able to cater for all our tastes? Due to school holidays, we were only able to travel in July, so what would it be like travelling to the Caribbean during their rainy season? Regarding the latter, in all honesty nothing’s guaranteed with the weather these days. I’ve had a week of rain in Jamaica in January and Grenada has just experienced a bone dry August throughout what should be their rainy season. On the whole we were lucky with one whole day and the odd hour of liquid sunshine, a dreadful term and I wish the locals wouldn’t use it. For Europeans, rain is rain and they’re coming to the Caribbean mainly for sunshine of the dry and sunny kind. Holidaying in July also means the island was very quiet - we had the stunning beaches to ourselves and no worries about securing a sun-lounger by the pool. The quietness this year was also a lot to do with the current economic climate but generally the summer months and rainy season is not a bad time to visit with many of the hotels significantly reducing their rates.
We stayed at the Mount Cinnamon Club, a new and fun boutique resort by legendary hotelier Peter de Savory set on a hill in the far corner of Grand Anse Beach. A great location as it’s slightly removed from the other hotels dotted along Grenada’s largest and most popular beach. You get stunning views from your villa balcony and a section of the beach to yourself along with a popular beach club serving drinks and snacks. The resort is a combination of one bedroom suites and two and three bedroom villas decorated in a style that would be difficult to get away with anywhere but the Caribbean. Bright yellows and pinks and an even brighter green carpet and dramatic artworks but somehow it all works perfectly. Whoever designed the interiors of the rooms has a real eye and this along with the BOSE sound systems, Villeroy and Boch bathroom suites and crisp linens all add to the super luxury feel - Tessa thoroughly approved. However, what impressed us most about the hotel is the individual service by all the staff and particularly the hotel’s incredibly friendly general manager, Laurence Jeanvoine. Guests at the hotel also get to enjoy a pretty exclusive excursion, which the ever efficient Laurence can arrange – a boat trip followed by lunch at the hotel’s sister property Mount Edgecombe Plantation. What makes this trip so special is Mount Edgecombe itself, an historic plantation house built in the late 1700s by Lord Edgecombe with a magnificent elevated position high above the Caribbean Sea. I’ve seen some pretty special infinity pools in my time but few can compare with Mount Edgecombe’s, the deep blue of the pool contrasting with the lush green of the surrounding rainforest which the edge of the pool disappears seemingly into and in turn the rain forest dips down to the sea. Guests get to enjoy lunch, the unique surroundings and the pool. A good day to visit is a Friday to combine your visit with the Fish Friday at nearby fishing village Gouyave. Every Friday night the town’s St. Francis and St Dominic streets are transformed into a seafood extravaganza with freshly caught fish, shrimp, lobster and other seafood cooked on open fires.
Grenada and its sister islands of Carriacou and Petite St Vincent lies at the southernmost tip of the Windward Islands and is probably best known as the Spice Island of the Caribbean. So named because there are more spices per square mile here than anywhere else. Grenada produces a third of the world’s nutmeg supply and you can’t leave the island without trying local favourite nutmeg ice-cream, surprisingly delicious. Most island tours include a visit to a nutmeg processing factory. It’s difficult to imagine that much of Grenada including portions of the nutmeg plantations was destroyed by Hurricane Ivan that ripped through the island in 2004. Five years on and the island has bounced back remarkably, apart from a few church roofs missing and the odd derelict building, it’s as if the island was barely touched.
To encourage visitors post the hurricane, a rather unique tourist attraction opened up in 2007 – the world’s first underwater sculpture park. The sculptures by British/Caribbean Sculptor Jason Taylor including a man on a bicycle and most photographed a ring of people are located in clear, shallow waters near the capital St Georges. The park is popular with divers and snorkelers or an alternative way to look at them is by clear bottom kayak. However, be sure to wear your swimming costume and bring along a mask and snorkel to dive down for a better look.
A lot of my knowledge of Caribbean Islands comes from watching Miss World in the 1970s. There always seemed to be an exotic Miss Petite St Vincent or Miss Carriacou conjuring up images of faraway, magical islands as far removed from the UK’s Isle of Wight as you could get. Although there’s more than enough to do on Grenada itself, I was therefore determined to visit at least one of Grenada’s sister islands and headed of on a daytrip to Carriacou (17 miles north east of Grenada). The island didn’t disappoint, on first glance Robinson Crusoe, Swiss Family Robinson or one of those ubiquitous rum ads all instantly came to mind. The island even has a for once aptly named Paradise Beach. It’s very, very picturesque with no large resorts and well worth the hour and half boat trip it takes to get there.
Grenada’s national dish is ‘oildown,’ a not very appealing name for a stew of salted meat, dumplings, breadfruit and callaloo cooked slowly in coconut milk. I’m told it’s robust and pretty tasty but I’m afraid we opted for something more familiar and a Sunday brunch bbq at The Aquarium Restaurant, a perfect location for one of the national pastimes- limin’, basically just hanging out. For a more formal first class dining experience I’d recommend Rhodes at Calabash which specialises in classic British cuisine with a Grenadian twist. It’s the TV Chef and cookery book writer Gary Rhodes’ first restaurant outside the UK with all recipes specially designed using local produce.
I’ve now been to a fair few Caribbean Islands but what strikes you most about Grenada is how tourism doesn’t seem to have massively effected the island, it is smaller and quieter and relatively unspoilt, a reputation that I hope it keeps and for the three of us it was a winner all round.
Petra joined Travel Channel for its launch back in 1994. She looks after our research and works on all original productions. Petra’s one of the most recognisable faces in the travel industry and when she’s not on the canapé circuit promoting the channel, she spends every free moment travelling. She’s visited over 70 countries and prefers back packing to 5 * luxury, unless of course it’s in the name of research!