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Trip Report Grenada Trip Report October/November 2010

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We have fallen in love with the Caribbean and it has been an annual retreat for us. This time my husband and I wanted to travel to a new island. We debated whether to go to St Lucia or Grenada but in the end, Grenada won. Grenada is a beautiful lush island that is in stark contrast to the dry arid setting of Aruba where we went for our last two island vacations.

Getting there

It was difficult to find convenient flights from our local airport since Grenada is a more obscure choice for US travelers. If we wanted to fly from the airport close to our home, it would have taken us twelve hours and three flights to get there. Instead we took the direct flight offered by Air Jamaica out of JFK which lasted approximately five and a half hours. We decided many years ago to never drive ourselves to a far airport after a bad experience coming home from Jamaica. In 1998 my husband had to drive a few hours home at an ungodly hour in the morning after a long flight delay from Jamaica. After that I vowed, never again to put us in that situation. For the Grenada trip we had our travel agent arrange for a car service to transport us to and from JFK. I was surprised that the majority of travelers on our flight were Grenadians returning back to the island.

We were jinxed last year when travelling to our destinations on both vacations. We had a horrific Amtrak train delay on our way to a cruise in New York this summer. This time we had a major snafu before we even left home. An hour before we were scheduled to get picked up, our travel agent called us to say that Air Jamaica was bought out by Caribbean Air and to give us our new flight numbers for the way home. When I told her that we were excited to leave, had everything packed and were ready to go, she abruptly told me that she needed to check something and would call us back. It ended up that due to the flight leaving a little after midnight she mixed up the date for departure for the car service. We were scheduled for the following day for our transportation. Luckily she was able to find another car service to come at a moment’s notice and we were saved. Our TA actually said that she was about to clear out her own car to drive us to JFK if she couldn’t find someone. That’s dedication but I don’t think she knows how much I pack for vacation. She would have needed to have had an SUV! I’m glad that we didn’t drive to JFK ourselves because it’s such a large airport that it would have been difficult for us to maneuver since we’ve never been there before and it would have been expensive to store our car for two weeks. It was convenient to get dropped off right outside of the Air Jamaica area.

Car rental

We rented a car from Archie Car Rentals for the two weeks we were in Grenada. Archie conveniently has an office on the airport grounds. We were very satisfied with the two-door SUV that we got. We did however find driving in Grenada to be frustrating due to lack of signs. The name of the car rental business reminded me of the song from the Merryman and he was familiar with it. The song was going through my head for the next few days. I kept singing “Archie, coming down the street” when we were in the car.

The Hotels

Small beachfront boutique style resorts are our preferred type of accommodations. I couldn’t make up my mind between staying at Coyaba or Calabash. Coyaba is very similar to most of the other resorts that we’ve stayed at in the Caribbean. Calabash seemed to be a little more upscale which I thought would be nice to try. Since we were going to be there for two weeks, we ended up staying a week at each resort

Coyaba

Our first week was at Coyaba which is located right on Grand Anse beach. They have one of the most beautiful grounds of any of the resorts that we have stayed at. Their landscaping staff does a great job keeping the resort nicely manicured. The landscaping staff wore pants that they tucked in to their boots. I joked that one of them looked like the older gentleman from the movie, Jumanji. We ended up being in the second room closest to the beach on the second floor in room # 242. We were very happy with the room. We had a great view of the beach and the grounds.

Grand Anse is a nice long stretch of beach. I found that I am beginning to be jaded when it comes to beaches. I found myself comparing the beach to Orient, Manchebo and Grace Bay beaches. I wasn’t as impressed by Grand Anse as I think I should have been. The ocean itself was comfortable to walk in and the view of the Carenage area was very pretty. I didn’t like the amount of vendors that hung out on the beach and asked us every day if wanted to buy their wares. You can only buy so much! We bought spices that were packaged in decorative small weaved baskets from a vendor, Angela on the beach. We bought a spice necklace for our kitchen. I was happy to have one of the vendors restring my beaded bracelet that I originally bought in Jamaica. It has some unique beads on it but some of them get tarnished and need to be replaced periodically. The vendors on other islands would walk up and down the beach and you would only see them once a day. At Coyaba the vendors just stood there and hung out in front of the resort every day.

The chaise loungers at Coyaba were padded and very comfortable but they kept them inside the hotel’s fenced in area which was inconvenient. We had to find staff each day to help bring them over the fence and onto the beach. It was a pretty beach but it had some cons to it that I didn’t notice on other islands.

We took a walk down each side of Grand Anse beach to check out the sights. It looked like the Grenada Grand was closed for part of the week we were there. We shopped at the Grand Anse Craft and Spice Market to buy souvenirs which surprisingly had more empty stalls than vendors. They said that the high season was about to start with more cruise ships coming in. One of the vendors sold small steel pan drums that looked fun but we passed on them. I bought a cute pink beach cover up/dress there and the requisite T shirts.

I found most of the residents of Grenada to be friendly and charming but a bit reserved. Most of the tourists that we met were from Great Britain. This reminded us of our trip to Barbados when we were the novelty at the hotel since we were from the US. We had a few Pina Coladas next door to Coyaba at Garfield’s Beach Bar. It was more of a bar setting than somewhere to have an actual dinner.

Most of the other people at Coyaba were on the all inclusive plan. We enjoy having dinner out each night so we chose to only have breakfast included for our stay. They had a nice selection of both hot and cold breakfast food but the aggressive birds in the morning made it very unpleasant to eat. The birds tried to get at any small amount of untouched food. You had to place your napkin on your plate if you left your seat for even a few seconds or the birds would attack your plate. They even dipped their beaks into the containers of milk – gross. It would make sense for Coyaba to install screening even in a limited area to keep the birds out. When we stayed at Tamarind Cove in Barbados, they had screens and it helped. Coyaba also should have milk and sugar containers that have tops that flip shut.

We ate at both restaurants in Coyaba. Arawakabana was billed as a fancier restaurant which required men to wear long pants at dinner. The Carbet is their informal restaurant under the palapa next to the pool. We enjoyed The Carbet more because they had a wider selection on their menu. When we were stuck at the resort the evening of the Tropical Storm and we had to eat at one of their restaurants a second time, we chose The Carbet.

Coyaba has regularly scheduled nighttime entertainment including bands and an activity called crab racing. Participants placed a small wager on a numbered crab and cheered for them to be the first to crawl out of a circle. Coyaba has bar area with sofas and comfortable chairs adjacent to their main restaurant. It felt like an open air living room and was nice place to sit and relax. They have a pavillon next to it where the bands play. Their manager’s cocktail party had free drinks for an hour on Tuesday night. One evening they had a band which played Jamaican reggae style music. Live music is always something that I look forward to so I was disappointed when they had to cancel the steel band on Saturday night due to tropical storm Tomas.

We camped out at the poolside bar on the stools in the pool when it rained because the area has an overhang above it. We made it our mission to try all of their specialty drinks during the week we were there. When we were in Barbados I had a drink called a nutty coconut that was delicious and was made with nutmeg. When I asked the bartenders for a local nutmeg drink, they didn’t have anything specific, but they did shave some nutmeg as a topping to a pina colada type drink. I was surprised that Grenada didn’t have any drinks made with nutmeg since Grenada is the second largest producer of nutmeg in the world. Indonesia is the largest supplier. We learned this on our island tour.

Tropical Storm Tomas

Tropical Storm Tomas, which was originally thought to be a possible hurricane, was headed towards Grenada during our Coyaba stay. We tuned into One Caribbean Weather with Joey Stevens and Parrot Bob for information. They are very amusing and addictive to watch. I was very impressed with Coyaba’s response to the hurricane threat. They called in their whole staff on Saturday night, made preparations and even closed the bar early in case the island got hit by the hurricane. They gave letters to each room with updated information regarding the weather conditions. We wanted to eat out that evening but we were told that most of the restaurants on the island were closed so we just ate at the hotel. We cancelled our reservation to go on the Shadowfax catamaran because I was worried about getting seasick due to the high waves from the storm.

To be continued...

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    Thanks for the report. Grenada was harder to get to before the cubans built the new airport. The medical school seems to be doing well. I liked eating downtown on the harbor. Be nice to go back...

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    Thank you for your kind comments. I'm going to work on the rest of it this weekend. The holiday shopping season started too soon after we came home and now I'm working on getting our holiday decorations put away.

    Santamonica - We drove to the old airport runway on our island tour. I'm glad the new airport is there now. The end of the old runway is a little too close to the water for my comfort.

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    Activities

    Take an island tour in the beginning of your vacation when you go to a new island to help get oriented to the island and to get inside tips on what to see. We pre-arranged a tour with Chris Tours. We toured Belmont Estate and had lunch there. We visited rum, chocolate and nutmeg factories on the island. I thought it was interesting that they had so many uses for the different parts of nutmeg. They make fertilizer out of nutmeg shells which is similar to what they do in our area with cocoa bean shells. Chris is a very personable host who pointed out the flora and fauna on the island.

    My husband who is more of an outdoorsy person than I am, wanted to go on a hike this trip. I was reluctant but agreed to try. We booked a guided hike to Seven Sister’s Waterfall, again with Chris tours. The hike wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be and I was very proud of myself for finishing it. I found the trail to be very slippery walking down to to the Seven Sister’s waterfall and I was glad that we had a guide. Hiking down the slope was worse than the climb back up the hill. There was a beautiful pool and waterfall at the end of the hike but I opted not to go in because of not being able to swim.

    We had Vincent’s taxi drop us off downtown to see Fort George. I was still in school when it happened but I remember a little bit about the coup and invasion. It was sobering to see the fort.

    La Sagesse – not quite

    The day that we had La Sagesse on our itinerary, we got up early and headed out. My husband was the driver and I was supposed to be the navigator but I found it difficult to figure out the roads because of the lack of signs.

    We ended up at two different T shaped intersections without any signs and obviously we turned the wrong way at one or both of them. An hour and a half later we were just trying to find our way back to the resort to try to salvage the rest of the day. On our journey we drove past Boots Cuisine which made us realize that we better get a ride there at night since we got so lost during the day. Unfortunately we never made it to La Sagesse. As a result of getting so lost, we used a very nice cab driver, Vincent of Vincent’s Taxi for the rest of the stay whenever we went out at night.

    The mosquito Saga revisited

    A few years ago (actually it was in 2004 – time sure flies by) when we were in St Martin I was attacked by mosquitoes and the bug bites got infected. Since then, I have been vigilant about putting on sunscreen whenever I go outside on vacation. Unfortunately I forgot to put on sunscreen when we were rushing around on our last day at Coyaba trying to get some pictures of the resort. I ended up getting between 30-40 bug bites. They didn’t get infected like last time but I was very uncomfortable and itchy for the rest of the vacation.

    The flowers and trees on the island were incredibly beautiful but the mosquitoes were prolific. I should have known that this would be a side effect of picking an island with a rain forest on it. I actually wore jeans when we went hiking because I couldn’t take another bug bite on my legs. I knew there was reason we’ve kept going back to the dry arid desert like island of Aruba.

    Restaurants

    We tried Boots Cuisine at the recommendation of fellow Fodorites. We called ahead and made a reservation and were the only ones there. I love the attention that you get when you’re the only people or one of the only few in a restaurant. We had callaloo soup, lambie crumb in cansava, tossed salad, sugar loaf fried lambie steak, fried sweet potato balls, plantains and steamed vegetables all for 80 EC per person.

    My favorite dining experience for this trip was at Coconut Beach. Coconut beach is a small informal restaurant with picnic style tables right on the beach. It is the perfect place to have a few drinks, eat dinner and have a beautiful sunset experience. I tried callaloo soup for the first time there and it became my obsession for the trip. My husband had mahi mahi with garlic sauce but I was the winner with a spicy curried lambie dish that was out of this world.

    Bebe’s Crabback overlooks the water in the Carenage area. I had their curried goat dish and my husband had a crabback dish. You’ll notice the graffiti on the walls when you sit down. They gave me a marker to write on the wall but it didn’t have enough ink in it so you might want to bring your own marker. Just make sure you ask for permission first because there are certain areas that are off limits.

    De Big Fish is a fun outdoor restaurant with unpretentious food. Their callaloo soup and pork tenderloin dishes were very good. A local reggae band, that was very good, was playing the night we were there. The band must have a good following because it was pretty crowded.

    One night we wanted to try a restaurant called Le Bistro in hopes of finding escargot on the menu but we found out that they closed and went back to France. We ate at Le Belle Creole instead on the recommendation of a staff person at Coyaba. It was close enough for us to drive there. The atmosphere was very nice and we enjoyed our dinner. It also was sparsely populated due to low season.

    We ate at the Red Crab which is right next door to Calabash and has excellent cuisine. We found the elusive escargot at Red Crab. We had a casual meal at Victory Bar and Grill. I had a small trio of steak, lamb and curried pork. My husband had their fried weiner schnitzel dish. I had standout a nutmeg ice cream for dessert. I liked the nutmeg ice cream in Grenada so much that when we got home we found a recipe for homemade nutmeg on the internet and made some for our dinner guests on New Year's Day.

    On our last night we dined at Dodgy Dock which is a fun casual restaurant. I ordered spiny lobster which was a mistake. It was a struggle to get the lobster meat off the shell. My husband was laughing at me because I almost had a “slippery little suckers” incident a la Pretty Woman.

    We always try to schedule our dinners to coincide with live music nights. We were treated to a seeing a small band at Dodgy Dock. They had an area where people can dance in front of where the band played. There was a local gentleman dancing uninhibitedly all around the dance floor area. He even got close enough to the band that the staff had to remind him to back off.

    ... to be continued... next - Our week at Calabash

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    I just finished up the last of our home made nutmeg ice cream and it reminded me that I need to work on the end of my trip report. I hadn't even heard of nutmeg ice cream before our trip to Grenada and now it's one of my favorites.

    It's a unique flavor that I wouldn't have thought would taste as good as it does. My husband found a recipe online that we could use with our ice cream maker. We decided to include it for our New Year's Day dinner as a side for German Chocolate Cake. It was a hit with our family.

    Thank you editors for removing my above post. I hit "submit" before I edited my text. When I cut and paste my trip reports from Word to Fodor's, the paragraph breaks don't seem to follow. I have to re edit them to make easier to read.

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    Calabash

    I was looking forward to our stay at Calabash. I hoped it would be a posh pampered experience. I had looked at small expensive resorts before on other islands but we always tried to be responsible and choose more moderately priced accommodations. This time we decided to splurge and stay at Calabash for a week.

    We stayed in a first floor suite that had a separate living room, bedroom and a small private outdoor pool. Having breakfast delivered each morning to our private porch at Calabash was something I could get used to. We felt were in heaven compared to the struggle at Coyaba with the birds at the buffet. We didn’t mind having to choose our breakfast items and specify the time served the day before. Calabash delivered complementary hor d’oeuvres to the rooms each evening. It was a nice treat to have while we were getting ready for the evening.

    Calabash’s beach was small, quiet and private. There were several sailboats out in the water but they weren’t loud or distracting. The water was very calm and ideal for wading but the ocean floor was muddy and grassy. I prefer a smooth sandy ocean floor.

    Calabash has a small protected serene beach. One day I looked around the beach and almost everyone was reading. This was definitely not a party crowd. In the morning the beach waiter brought glasses of juice out to everyone on the beach. We like to talk with the bartenders and wait staff on vacation. One of the bartenders made me a specialty peanut and nutmeg colada drink that was fantastic. We tried to reproduce it at home without much success.

    One area of concern that I noticed was a door on our room’s back patio/pool area that was connected to a space where the maids kept their supplies and cooked breakfast for the guests. This door was routinely left wide open. There was another guest’s room that also connected to the maid’s space. I felt that this was a possible security breach.

    We ate in Calabash’s restaurant twice. They had a great lobster and shrimp macaroni and cheese appetizer. We had swordfish and tuna main dishes. The food was good but they seemed like they were trying to be more upscale than was necessary. They required that men wear long pants to dine in their restaurant. They had a steel drum and guitar band once that was very entertaining and played during dinner.

    It seemed like most of the hotel guests were on the all inclusive plan here just like Coyaba. Once again we chose to go a la carte. One night when we were on our way back into the hotel after eating dinner out, we saw that they had a smaller steel drum band on the side area near their restaurant bar. Their restaurant has a lounge area with sofas that is raised up next to the restaurant area that has their sit down tables.

    We wanted to sit and order drinks in the lounge area when we returned after dinner so we could listen to the steel band music. I purposely didn’t sit on the sofas right in front of the entertainers so we wouldn’t obstruct anyone’s view. I had on a skirt, blouse and heels and my husband had a nice polo shirt tucked into Docker’s type shorts with a nice belt and leather enclosed shoes. We’ve been to many resorts and have never had a problem with the way we dress. The maitre d came over to us and told my husband that he needed to change into long pants to be able sit there. This was the day after we ate in the Calabash restaurant next to a table that had two men in shorts. I asked the maitre d why those gentlemen were allowed to dine last night but we couldn’t stay for drinks. He made an excuse that their luggage was lost. This was a group of three couples and the three men had shorts on but the women were all dressed to impress. I find it hard to believe that all three men’s suitcases were lost but the three women’s weren’t.

    We went back to our room and needless to say we didn’t return. We would have spent considerably more money in their resort if they would have tolerated my husband wearing nice shorts to a bar in the evening. We enjoy when a hotel has a bar area where you can sit at night, order drinks and listen to music in a nice outfit that included shorts. Our tab was higher for the week at Coyaba than at Calabash even though Calabash’s prices were higher in general.

    The flight home

    Our return flight was the first flight out on the new Caribbean Air which was formerly Air Jamaica. Caribbean Air gave us free t-shirts and had a band to see the plane off. Because it was their first flight they even gave everyone a complementary meal. It was a festive way to end a vacation.

    Random Musings

    Grenada is a gorgeous island. The scenery was as similar to Hawaii as any other Caribbean island we’ve been to. The lushness of the island also makes it ideal for bugs which is a negative. It was somewhat difficult to access the island with limited direct flights but once we were there it was a relaxing vacation. We found Grenada to be much more of a quiet island that didn’t have a lot of night time activities. I wasn’t sure if two weeks would be too long or not but at the end of the vacation we didn’t want to leave. I could imagine us returning sometime in the future.

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