Introduction to Grenada

by Nora Dunn on December 8, 2011

Welcome to Grenada

Now that my series about The Ultimate Train Challenge has come to an end, I will start to regale you with tales of my current adventure: house-sitting in Grenada. At the writing of this post, I have been here two months, and have already endured the likes of heartbreak and dengue fever, in addition to a number of other escapades and journeys from going head to head with a live lobster, to being ravaged by bugs, to driving the hazardous roads, getting my “mojo” back, and learning the art of “liming”.

 

All this (and more) will be revealed in upcoming posts and videos about my three (plus?) month experience of living on a Caribbean island.

 

Grenada - aah!

 

But first, a little introduction to Grenada is in order. This is not a comprehensive guide to Grenada; there are plenty of places you can go online for that. Rather, it’s a random accumulation of interesting things I learned here that paint a picture – a backdrop if you will – for my future posts.

 

 

Pronunciation

Colourful Grenada

There are two key garish blunders people make before they arrive to Grenada; mistakes that immediately delineate them as “newcomers” to the Caribbean as soon as they open their mouths.

 

Grenada

The Caribbean island of GrEnada is not to be confused with the southern Spanish town of GrAnada (not the least of which is the spelling of each). And as you might imagine, the pronunciation of the two is also most certainly not interchangeable.

 

Spain: Grah-NAH-da

 

Caribbean: Greh-NAY-da

 

In both cases, emphasis is put on the second syllable, but here in the tropics, think “Nay”, not “Nah”.

 

Caribbean

For the longest time I had trouble even spelling Caribbean right, much less pronouncing it. Many people off-shore (can you even officially say “off-shore” in reference to a conglomeration of islands? Ah well – you know what I mean) say Cah-RIB-bee-an, putting emphasis on the second syllable.

 

Although in some circles, somewhere in the world, that might be acceptable, every single local here in GreNAYda says Cah-rib-BE-an, making the “be” the focus of the word, the place, and the lifestyle.

 

Kind of poetic, huh?

 

Caribbean

 

 

Island of Spice

I read prior to arriving that Grenada is referred to as the “Island of Spice” due to being the world’s largest exporter of nutmeg and mace, and a huge producer of cinnamon, ginger, tumeric (which locals call saffron), cloves, organic cocoa, and a few others. And having heard that the “air smells of nutmeg and cinnamon”, skeptical though I was, I still came off the plane sniffing the air like a dog to see if I could catch a whiff of these glorious multi-purpose spices.

 

Nada.

But they are indeed readily and widely available, as are lovely by-products like nutmeg syrup (which is good on everything) and spice necklaces, which are delightfully fragrant “necklaces” (though I’d sooner hang it in my wardrobe than around my neck) made of things like orange, clove, cinnamon, and nutmeg.

 

spice island

 

 


 

Friendly People

friendly people in Grenada

Grenada is renowned for its friendly people. You can literally talk to anybody (English is the national language, though it’s often masked with accents of heavy creole or french patois dialects), and the conversation is cordial and fun, often followed shortly with an invitation of some sort – for a walk, fishing, snorkelling, over for dinner, or for a phone number.

 

The phone number requests admittedly come from the men, who are very interested in the company of white women; single white women need to be aware of this persistent level of interest, and are best advised to say they’re married! Although this isn’t a complete deterrent(!), it at least keeps some eager suitors at bay.

 

Most of the time it’s completely harmless though, and offers of friendship are largely genuine.

 

 

Oil Down – the National Dish

“Oil Down” refers not to auto mechanics or the application of sunscreen; it’s Grenada’s national dish! It’s a one-pot wonder that includes chicken, pork (snout and all), crab, green plantain, breadfruit, callalloo (taro leaves, similar to spinach), dense dumplings, saffron (which is really tumeric), and lots of coconut milk, all stewed until it has cooked down and there is a thick layer of coconut oil left on the bottom of the pot.

Oil Down

 

It tastes better than it looks (and sounds, when described), but vegetarians need not apply.

 

I would wager that “barbecue” is another national pride of Grenada; go for a drive in the late afternoon or evening, and you’ll see lots of large cylindrical barbecues with smoke pouring out along the roadside. Stop to see what’s on offer and you’ll find chicken, pork (again, snout included), fish, and sometimes roasted corn on the cob or breadfruit.

 

 

Waterfalls

Mt Carmel Falls

There are many waterfalls on Grenada, with it’s hilly landscape covered in rainforest. Drive to one, or hike to one (through ankle-deep mud!), and enjoy the scenery – which is often all yours to take in, with few if any other people around.

 

hiking at the falls

getting muddy enroute!

 

Hurricanes

When I told a friend in Prague about my intended house-sitting gig in Grenada, he squished up his face and said “when does hurricane season end there?” To which I replied “the end of November…yes, almost two months after I’d arrive”.

 

“Hmm…” was his upsettingly accurate response.

 

And although I visit the hurricane watch website daily (and have already seen two blow through this area of the world since I arrived – one just touching Mexico, the other off the coast of Florida), Grenada is actually nicely situated away from the brunt of most tropical storms.

 

Although hurricane Ivan wreaked havoc with Grenada (affecting 90% of homes) in 2004, followed by the weaker-but-venerable hurricane Emily in 2005, during the previous 50 years Grenada was hurricane-free.

 

It seems that Grenada’s location NE of Venezuela and just NW of Trinidad and Tobago puts it out of the line of tropical storms that blow through the Caribbean and southern US with some degree of regularity.

 

 

Beaches, but Not

Grand Anse beach

All beaches on Grenada are public. And although there are some beautiful beaches with the iconic Caribbean crystal clear water and soft white sand (and surprisingly few people), they’re not as common as I would have thought. Much of the coastline I’ve seen is rocky, reefy, and full of seaweed.

 

rocky coastline

And since I’m a bit of a fickle ocean-lover (loving the ocean from the shoreline much more than being on it or in it), less-than-ideal swimming conditions have meant I’ve only been in the water a handful of times. Some would say it’s Caribbean sacrilege; I say I’m still appreciating the ocean…just from a respectful distance. But my hut is a mere 20 metres from the shore, so I’m getting plenty of ocean fixes (of the dry persuasion).

 

Caribbean ocean

 

Island Fever, but Not

With Grenada being less than 350 square kilometres in size, you can drive around it in half a day (if you’re on a mission; a day if you make a few stops).

 

So although I feared that “island fever” would set in and I’d be eager to broaden my horizons beyond the shores of Grenada within mere weeks of arriving, I still haven’t even been all the way around the island. I have waterfalls to discover, mountains to hike, organic chocolate factories and rum distilleries and spice gardens to visit, and towns to explore.

 

(Recovering from the frenetic Ultimate Train Challenge, and spending a week flat on my back with Dengue Fever with an ensuing recovery period did nothing for getting me out and about right from the start.)

 

beautiful scenery - inside and out

So instead of taking Grenada by storm (in my usual fashion), I’ve been slowly branching out and exploring this beautiful tropical island in bite-sized pieces, choosing rather to discover and refine the art of “liming” (which you’ll learn more about in an upcoming post).

 

meditating on the beach

 

I’m living in the CaribBEan, after all. And if I want to do as the locals do, being in a rush is not the way to do it. So instead, I’ll sit back today, read a book, listen to the ocean, lime a bit, and seek out a new adventure tomorrow.

 

 

{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

Tomas December 8, 2011 at 9:19 am

Great summary of Grenada. Enjoyed reading that. Nice to learn about how you embrace the island and what it has to offer. And some great pics you go there! All the best

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Abhijit December 8, 2011 at 9:27 am

Nice post (with a lot of enticing for upcomong posts :D) .. I learnt quiet a bit about Granada, which I didn’t before. :)

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theprofessionalhobo December 8, 2011 at 6:18 pm

@Tomas – Yes, Grenada is a very special place. I’m happy to have stumbled upon it! :-)

@Abhijit – I’m happy when my random observations and impressions can be informative too! :-) And yes, I’m bubbling over to share all sorts of great stuff about Grenada with readers…I couldn’t help but put in some teasers!

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Dalene December 9, 2011 at 9:02 am

Looks so lovely! After spending 6 months in Roatan, I definitely had island fever and wanted to leave…but now that I’ve been chilly in Europe, I dream of the Caribbean! Haha, grass is ALWAYS greener…

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theprofessionalhobo December 9, 2011 at 9:25 am

@Dalene – True enough! Despite coming up on 3 months of being here, island fever hasn’t set in, and I’m still in the idyllic phase of honouring the fact that I’m sitting in a place that most people envision as “paradise”. What do you think of when you say the word “paradise”? Probably a tropical island with warm ocean breezes. Yup. Check!

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Baron's December 10, 2011 at 7:33 pm

A very interesting read and beautiful picture. A great insight into the Greneda scen…thank you for sharing this…I heard that Western women (Mostly European) are known to take sex trips to the place and hence perhps the harrassement that ensues…but I am not sure if this can be confirmed. You may be able to drop an investigative view point on this, keeping in mind that you would need to be very careful about your own safety.

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theprofessionalhobo December 12, 2011 at 1:22 pm

@Baron’s – I haven’t seen any evidence of sex tourism on Grenada, but then again I might not be tapped into the subtle undertones of such an industry.
I think it’s more of a cultural phenomenon than anything else, but I’ll keep my ear to the ground!

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Baron's December 12, 2011 at 1:26 pm

Thanks for your reply…whatever you do, be sure to stay safe and out of trouble….Cheers

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Miki December 14, 2011 at 1:50 pm

Uh oh, I think I was the one who told you the air smells of nutmeg…and I’m fairly crushed to find out that it’s not true! However, you have peaked my interest with this nutmeg syrup…I wonder if I can get that here is Florida….

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theprofessionalhobo December 14, 2011 at 4:16 pm

@Miki – I had read about and heard it from other source as well, so don’t worry – I didn’t blame you when the air actually didn’t smell like nutmeg right off the plane. Well, I didn’t blame you…completely that is. ;-)

As for nutmeg syrup, it’s delightful, but sadly not as good as maple syrup. Its flavour is quite mild, which makes it good on lots of things, but, well, it’s just not the same! Dammit.

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Mike C December 21, 2011 at 10:57 am

Great post, I haven’t really read much about Grenada before. The first thing that springs to mind when I do think about the country is the Clint Eastwood film – Heartbreak Ridge.

Quick question – how did you get the effects on your photos?

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theprofessionalhobo December 21, 2011 at 12:43 pm

@Mike – I hadn’t heard much about Grenada prior to my own arrival! It’s like the Caribbean’s little secret paradise!

Only 3 photos in this article have had any editing done; and I’ve used some (free) HDR software to combines shots with different exposures to give more colour and detail. Hope you like them!

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Neill S. March 29, 2012 at 10:11 am

Hey there – I am from Grenada and I just read your post. Great read! And you are definitely someone who travels with an open mind (something I find a lot of self-professed travelers don’t do). I appreciated the piece. Just wanted to add that you CAN find Oil-down vegetarian style. But you will have to have a Rastafarian cook it for you. It’s amazing. There are many more white sand beaches tucked away in local places you wouldn’t hope to find in a tourist map. About the sex tourism topic… it’s definitely there but we are a very traditional somewhat conservative culture. It’s unspoken. I can’t wait to read the rest of your blog. Enjoy!

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theprofessionalhobo March 29, 2012 at 10:28 am

@Neill – Thanks so much for stopping by! I’m glad you appreciated my introduction to Grenada. I do love this country – (especially now that I’ve been around a few Caribbean islands and have a frame of reference) – it’s a special place.

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laura February 1, 2013 at 9:54 pm

i love the island, the island vibe, the people. can’t wait to return, and am so pleased to have come across your blog! your writing captures my affair with this grand Grenada!

i , too am intrigued to learn more of interpersonal and sexual relationship nuances. thanks again for the great reading.

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theprofessionalhobo February 5, 2013 at 3:53 pm

Hi Laura – I wrote this a year ago on my first visit to Grenada. There’s lots of great info and thoughts on life in Grenada on the site now…and lots more to come…have a peek!
http://www.theprofessionalhobo.com/category/grenada/

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laura February 5, 2013 at 9:12 pm

thanks loads, Nora.

i eagerly anticipate the read.

warmest,
laura

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Stacey Wilson September 22, 2013 at 12:00 pm

I think you will find it is NOT a culteral phenomenon in our country. Grenadian men see white women as easy targets and an opportunity for a passport or as a way out of grenada to reach the uk,canada or america. So lets just make the facts quite clear!

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theprofessionalhobo September 22, 2013 at 2:48 pm

Hi Stacey – How is this not a cultural phenomenon? I agree with your point; white women are easy targets for a variety of understandable reasons….but the very fact that this happens all the time makes it very much a part of the culture – like it or not.

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