Saturday, August 8, 2009

The first thing you need to know - slow down!

The Grenada National Flag.

This is the opening for Spice Island, and you're probably wondering why a guy from the mainland, and waaaay up north yet, is writing it. You see, though it's been awhile, I do like to travel. But when I travel I like to know something about where I'm going. It's always better to know what you're getting into - too often travelers think they're going to go to some generic hotel chain in some location with a view, and life is the same as the one they left. Not so.

Sunset over Morne Rouge.

The Caribbean itself is different from island to island. I've looked around - there's a lot written about Jamaica, Barbados, and Trinidad/Tobago, but in comparison, there's very little about Grenada. For someone looking for an island paradise that isn't really commercialized, this is the place to go. If you enjoy food with the freshest spices in the world, this is definitely the place to go. And while all of the islands produce their own rum brands, of all I've tried, (and I've tried something from almost every island,) Grenada produces the finest rums. Barbados is a close second, but they don't have that extra something. Maybe it has to do with the spice embedded soil that the sugarcane grows in, maybe it's the difference in how they make the rum.

A water wheel driven sugar cane crusher at Rivers Rum Plantation.
courtesy of Grenada

That's not the only thing that tastes different - take something as simple as a banana. Here, we're used to the supermarket bananas, and as soon as they show signs of browning, into the trash they go. Don't do that in Grenada. I learned two things: 1.) that bananas tend to absorb the spices in the soil (specifically nutmeg) and 2.) the more brown the skin, the richer the flavor. It's an unbelievable experience. Another favorite - very small bananas, what is commonly called finger bananas here, are called figs there. You can get them (and most fruit) almost anywhere, and they are absolutely delicious.

Grenada is called the Spice Island for a reason. You can find the freshest spices just about anywhere you go. Their primary spice is nutmeg, though others such as mace (derived from nutmeg) cinnamon, cocoa, bay leaf, and saffron abound.

closeup of nutmeg in its natural form. It is such a principle spice that it is emblazoned everywhere, including the National Flag.

A nutmeg drying station.

You can find anything you want, and it's always fresh. For travelers from North America and Europe, it's also extremely reasonable. One thing to remember - if you like coffee, it's sometimes easier to pack a can of pre-ground. Most places prefer to deal with instant, and it's one of the few things not readily available. Not to say you can't get it, but it is an imported product. Probably cheaper to bring your own.

One thing you have to understand anywhere in the Caribbean, and Grenada is no exception - time seems to stand still. What I mean by that is that is though it's progressive, Grenada manages to keep that feel that time doesn't exist in the way that you may know. Forget tight scheduling. Just go with the flow, and things will happen. If you follow that one simple rule, you will always enjoy every moment on this little slice of paradise.

Till next time....