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Trip Report Grenada and Carriacou - 10 days in February 2010

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We have returned to beautiful Grenada also in 2010. To add something new we have decided to spent first 5 days on Carriacou at Sunset Beach Hotel - http://www.sunset-beach-hotel.com/ - on picturesque Paradise Beach and then to move on main island where we have had a visit from our Canadian friends. The lodging was at Grenada Gold Apartments - http://www.grenadagold.com .

Our preferred airline has flown us from Venice via London and Antigua to Grenada. No delays not even during stopover on Antigua. We have arrived on time and the immigration process was fast. As we were headed to Carriacou by Osprey ferry next day we were looking for a hotel as close to Carenage as possible. We were lucky to have a chance to experience the kindness and comfort of Grand Anse Beach Palace - http://grenadabeachpalace.com - once again. Even more, we have been promoted to use the Royal Suite. Read the review in Trip Advisor review section. As we have stayed only for 1 night, and after reading some negative comments about the place, we were trying to reevaluate our impressions from last year with more critical approach. However, for us the location, the kindness of the owners and overall quality is above average. The barb wire on the fence does not intimidate us and although there is no beach in front of the property a short stroll away there are many vendors always happy to offer you a beach chair and an umbrella. The garden is small but well maintained. We have not inspected the ground floor apartments but I can relate to those who were not happy staying for longer period there as they have light coming in only from one side.

We have been taken to ferry by Lennie early enough to find the ATM machine at the far end of Carenage and supplied ourselves with local currency. The return tickets to Carriacou were 160 EC$ per person. A lovely day while we were enjoyed the great views of the Grenada west coast and we have taken a number of photos. The sea in the Kickin’ Jenny area was quite rough which makes us descend into the covered area. After 90 minutes we have arrived in Hillsborough, Carriacou largest village. A number of taxi drivers were offering us their services and 15 min drive to Paradise beach and Sunset Beach hotel (ex Paradise Inn) was 30 EC$. The location of this mini hotel (7 rooms) is excellent; main building is maybe 25 meters behind the beach and from the restaurant house there are first rate views over to the Sandy Island. Our room no. 1 was at the end of the house and had a partial view of the sea and steady breeze was enough to have no need for an A/C. We have not used fan at all during our stay either. The room is spacious with double bed and fridge and small kitchenette. The bathroom was also big with shower and naturally warmed water. Yes there is no hot water but in the tropics we need hot water only to prepare the morning coffee. And there is also no cold water beside in the bottle of mineral water in the fridge. The pipes run close to the ground and the result is that what exits the shower head is refreshing mildly warmer water – just great for a quick shower. As we were hungry I have decided to try the local bakery in the village of L’Esterre (Paradise beach in the L’Esterre Bay). I have bought some tasty sweets filled with coconuts. Then we hit the beach and made an introductory tour. The overall impression was most positive. The almost white sand was fine and the entire beach was clean and appealing. There are some big trees alongside for those of us that need to be in the shade as much as possible. There are also four beach bars / restaurants there. On the side close to the road (right hand looking toward sea) is the Hardwood Bar. There is also a parking and newly built house with public changing rooms, showers and toilets. The other three bars are clustered on the left hand side. Off The Hook is the biggest one with two “shade islands” - wooden chairs under the canopy. The Sunset Beach Bar is situated some 50 meters away built under a huge tree. Next to it a newly opened and very local is Banana Joe’s. You can have a dinner (just have to express the need at least till lunch time) or light lunch at all four places. First evening we have ordered a dinner at Sunset Beach. The omnipresent variation of one-plate dinner (fish or chicken with rice and vegetables) was tasty and the cost was 35 EC$ per person. As said before the constant breeze from the sea cools down the air after the sunset and we slept well.

Next day was dedicated for exploration. But the beauty of the Paradise Beach just doesn’t let us go away too far. So we walked over to Tyrell Bay, a protected place with many sailboats being anchored there. As it was Sunday it seems that all were all on the boats or in the churches as there were only a few persons outside. The place itself is offers us nothing to spend our time so we headed back. The sun was already high and we feel like the way back was twice as long as coming here. Then I was happy to refresh myself in the crystal water and my wife took a book. After few cold drinks it was time for our second dinner. We went to Off The Hook were we had another fish – rice – vegetable – etc. meal. As tasty as the previous night and slightly cheaper at 30 EC$ per person.

On Monday we took a bus to Hillsborough (3,50 EC$). It is a small village, 15 min end-to-end walking with few eateries (Callalou By The Sea was closed), a cute small museum and … nothing else. So we walked up and down and up the main road and returned to the Paradise Beach in time to have a quick lunch of chicken and chips (15 EC$) at the Hardwood Bar where we have also returned for dinner – yes, you guess, fish and rice etc at 30 EC$. In between we have placed ourselves under a huge tree close to Banana Joe’s Bar and do what every tourist should do on Carriacou – enjoying the sun and sea and sand and view. While liming there a guy from Banana Joe approached us and offered a dinner of fresh fish and/or lobster. After some thinking we have accepted his invitation but for next day, our “we’ll be back” dinner.

But before that we have had to survive another sunny day, more Caribs and a 7 minutes rain shower – yeah, Carriacou is only for those seeking a serious relax. So nice hanging around the beach, wandering from one side (bar) to another side (bar), doing nothing but reading and occasionally taking a dip in calm and clear water that we were not even tempted to take a short trip to nearby Sandy Island (next year, I promised myself and my better half). Our dinner was scheduled at 6 p.m. but that was local time so we have been served our delicious smelling and tasting meal after the sun already went behind the horizon. A simple table (ones that has been used by fierce and loud domino players) was placed on the beach and chef Immanuel have proudly presented his masterpieces: freshly caught Red Snapper from grill, grilled vegetables and baked potatoes with garlic. He was all smiles while we were licking our fingers clean (quite literally as it was too dark to be able or be forced to use usual eating accessories). It was so special eating out on the beach with hum of the sea from one side and constant rumor of locals talking from the other side that I didn’t mind paying a slightly higher price of 25 US$ (65 EC$) per person. I just take it as a contribution to the local economy – I hope that they will use part of it to further improve the place and its surroundings.

For those who are interested in more chic dinner there are two other options on Carriacou. One is the Green Roof Restaurant and the other is the highly acclaimed Bogles House Restaurant. But you have to find about them from other sources.

Also Carriacou is a gateway to visit the Grenadines, especially magical Tobago Cays. You could go by speedboat to Union Island for about 150 US$ one way or wait for a “mail boat” that takes it’s twice-a-week- journey linking Carriacou with Grenadines island and St.Vincent. For details about this you’ll have to wait till our Grenada 2011 Trip Report.

The transport back to Grenada was less rough then arrival and we have spent all 90 minutes on top deck trying to catch a flying fish (by camera of course). In the port we have been greeted by our host Mr. Anthony. He and his wife Lucille (together with daughter Lilli and son Colby) have shared a part of their house named Nutmeg Suite with us for next 7 days. The house is located in Westerhall Heights facing the East on the hill well above the sea. Views are great and constant breeze (sometimes almost a wind) helps cooling the interior. The rooms are really spacious, clean and well maintained. Luckily we have opted for a rental car as walking down to the road for a bus would be quite strenuous (not to mention walking back up). There is a wrap porch (balcony) where one could have a nice breakfast while watching a sunrise, and a dip pool to refresh after the long day of touring the many interesting spots on Grenada. There are also loungers for those who would like to spend a day by the pool.

Thursday was dedicated to Great Grenada Loop. We have circled the island in a counter clockwise direction. Our first stop was La Sagesse Bay. This is a highly appreciated beach by many yet it eludes to impress us also this year. Maybe it is a lack of Caribbean colors or something else but we are happier with other beaches like Bathway Beach or Grand Anse Beach. Well, better for others as there will be more place and tranquility for them. Passing Grenville I have decided to withdraw more local currency. I have stopped at the ATM in the Republican Bank and there it happens – I was robbed! And worse, by the ATM machine itself. And it was my entire fault. As my wife decided later I must have been daydreaming again; and when I have extended my hand to grab the cash that the machine was offering to me, I was too slow – whoosh and the ATM decided that it is time to take the money back. When I was turning around to face the nearby standing security guard I must have had a pretty stupid face as he was having a hard time to look serious. He just pointing me inside (surely was not the first one “robbed” by the ATM) and some 20 minutes later and after meeting with several nicely smiling (and good looking) ladies I have my money back this time firmly in my hand. What in many countries (mine included) would result in a painstaking and time-consuming proofing what had really happened here the process was fast and polite. For me another proof that all the nature and tourist infrastructure cannot beat a simple positive human approach. Bravo Grenadinians! Back in the car I was greeted with a “look” from my wife (and “the look” is maybe best described by my favorite trip report writer Maitai Tom – do check him and his excellent writings at http://web.me.com/tomfielding1/Tom_%26_Tracy_Home/Welcome.html . He also publishes his reports on Fodor’s Forum). Passing the Old Airport and after some more turns we have arrived at the Bathway Beach. The naturally protected part of the beach is popular with Grenadinians, mainly with families with small kids. They have finished the beach facility house with showers, changing rooms and toilets, and on our way I have spotted a new bar and make a mental note to check it next time. We drove towards Sauteurs and visited the Helvellyn House where we have stopped for a drink and enjoyed great vistas towards Carriacou. In Sauteurs we stopped at the bakery for some sweets and bread and then it was a non-stop via Victoria and Gouyave to St.George’s. The landfill is still burning but the amount of smoke (and smell) was tolerable. Worse was the part of the road that is under reconstruction after the landslide last year destroyed a sizeable part. Entering St.George’s we were not able to use the usual approach over the hill as there was a funeral in progress and the road was closed so we entered the city. There were many cars and minibuses yet the traffic was quite smooth, helped by an increased amount of police officer seen on all crossroads.

Friday has been highly anticipated as our Canadian friends have confirmed their short “introductory tour” coming from longer holidays on Tobago. And my wife has decided that February 5th should become her annual “shopping day”. So after a late breakfast and some basking by the pool we headed towards St.George’s. In our shopping tour we have visited the Freddy Paul’s Art Gallery where we have bought two aquarelles last year. This time our family art consultant (not me) has spotted a nice piece. Sadly it was only a print copy. Luckily Freddy agrees to put his work aside and promised us that fresh oil on canvas will be ready before our departure home. After spending some more time at air conditioned shops in Cruise Ship Terminal (the Colombian Emeralds always has something of my wife interest) it was time for lunch. Ladies at nearby shop have just theirs and it smells great so we were directed to Creole Shack, a self-service restaurant above the nearby supermarket. Food was tasty (usual pick of fish/pork/chicken + vegetables + rice) and quite inexpensive at 35,00 EC$ for both including 2 juices.
At 6 p.m. we have went to the airport and LIAT from Tobago via Barbados and Canouan was on time. Driving back we were looking for an easy place for quick dinner. Little Dipper was closed so we opted to try one of the roadside barbecues. Our original plan was to visit the Fish Friday but I have had some objections against driving back late at night (and what fun would it be for me having only juices ?!). So, luckily Friday is the day when everybody goes out and has a barbecue. Our portion of 2 chicken wings and 2 pork chops was generously soaked in tasty marinade. This was a long night as there were two years of information to be exchanged.

Saturday we repeated the round the Island-Of-Spice-Anti-Clockwise-Tour. Of course I was banned from approaching any ATM on our way so we have safely arrived at Bathway Beach to inspect the Eggie’s Bar, newest addition to this so naturally beautiful place. This small place painted in bright yellow colors was spotless and have a hint of old Vienna tradition (since the owner himself is from Vienna). Coffee (espresso, BTW) was excellent and his wife, being from Grenada, had only smiles for us while we have exchanged info and small talks. The rest of our tour has the usual stops alongside north and west shore. We haven’s stopped for lunch as Kelly’s Hot Spot in Gouyave was closed, and we have reservations for our now regular celebration dinner at Boots Cuisine. On our way to Boots we have stopped on Mourne Rouge Beach (aka BBC beach) to check a cool place recommended to us by our hosts and for which I have not yet hear or read about. Its name is Rockies after his owner. It is a newly constructed, half circular wooden bar (and restaurant, if Rockies is in mood) in the middle of the bay. There are tables and few loungers scattered around the premises, all of them in the shade, and the beach is just on the other side of the low fence. The approach by car is from the road above the bay by a steep and narrow path with “Private property” sign. Mr.Rockies was home and in mood so we have made our reservations for Sunday Night Dinner (or should I say Super Bowl Dinner) and have best Pina colada served. The man is really cool guy, happy to enter into a long and interesting conversation with his guests. Check the place but be advised that it is opened only on Saturdays and Sundays. Call Rockies at xxx-xxx. So when we have finally departed we were already late so much that we have no time to drive home to change our attires. At Boots Cuisine we have to ask chef and also other guests (a nice young couple, probably students at SGU) if they accept us dressed in shorts and T-shirts. They have no objection to our fashion tastes and thus we were ready for another tasty three-course meal at 75,00 EC$ per person. After a healthy meal and another photo session with owners we have ended that long day with a cold Carib standing on the balcony and listening to the sounds of night.

The most important event of Sunday was the Independence Day Parade. Our itinerary should took us to Annandale Waterfall, Grand Etang Lake and then over the mountains from Grenville to Gouyave. However as soon as we have parked our car at the main entrance to Grand Anse Beach I knew our plan has to be changed. The beach itself was almost crowded with both locals and tourists. The former ones have arrived to support their friends that have participated to the final of Work Boat Race 2010, and the later have arrived in greatest numbers then usual as there were 5 cruise ships in the port. After a hefty number of photos were taken and souvenirs and gifts were bought we continued our tour towards Annandale Waterfall. The number of minibuses/taxis on the road suggested that it is better not to go there, so I thought that at Grand Etang would be less crowded. What a mistake. Never seen so many minibuses on one place (bus station excluded) and a police officer was there to facilitate the traffic. So we continued in our search of the road that traverses the mountain range from Grenville side to Gouyave side. After a detour or two and thanks to friendly advice from a group of locals we have found the right road. After 2 minutes we were alone in between the many shades of color green, almost deserted feel was around us. And it was marvelous, cruising slowly up the hill as the forest around turns greener and air fresher. Not another car on the road and we were able to take a stop for photo snaps whenever needed or asked for. Many stops and photos later we have reached the west coast road in Gouyave and were headed to the stadium for a glimpse of the parade. Unfortunately we were late as spectators were already starting to leave the show. We’ll be back ! We were early for dinner at Rockies’ but he has room to change into a swimming suit so we went to enjoy the calm water of Mourne Rouge. Dinner was served almost as the Game starts and for me, a European fan of American football, it was a night to remember. The thrill of Super Bowl and the smells of Caribbean cooking – what could beat that (maybe watching the soccer World Cup finale on Kauai). Rockies prepared an excellent grilled mahi-mahi with vegetables and rice, a generous portion for 30,00 EC$ per person. We have finished the night (and game) at home celebrating with the rest of the Saints fans.

Short visit of our friends ended on Monday. As their plane departure was scheduled for early afternoon we have stayed at the apartment relaxing by the pool and discussing the impressions that Grenada has given to them, all of them very positive. I am sure that they will return soon to this gem of the Caribbean islands. The farewell was bitter sweet as for us it also means that next day we have to return to cold and winter of Europe.

Tuesday was our last day (for this year, hopefully) and there was a picture waiting for us at Paul’s Art Gallery. We choose another one, a subtle aquarelle of two heliconias, as a wedding present for my parents (they have celebrated the 60th anniversary of their marriage). Had a quick lunch at KFC, said hello to our hosts, paid departure tax and boarded the plane – THE END.

Now is time for credits and thanks:
To TA member Gybsea who gave us first hand (and correct) info about Sunset Beach Hotel (please do not believe the rubbish that is posted on-line about this fine place and honest people making their best efforts always with BIG smile);
To Anthony and Lucille and Lilly and Colby for making us feel at home;
To Rockies for sharing with us the most important lesson of this trip: One need to have only so much:
To our best Canadian friends Joan and T.O. for flying over from Tobago and gave us the opportunity to show them this splendid peace of heaven;
And mostly to all the Grenadinians who were always friendly and happy to take their time to talk to us and make us feel safe and welcomed in their country.

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