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Trip Report Two weeks in Bequia, St. Vincent, and Grenada

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There and Back Again

My DH gave me the wonderful Christmas gift last year of a certain travel budget, leaving the details of where, when, and for how long up to my decision alone. My original thought was to blow it all in one fabulous location for a week – something along the lines of PSV Resort in the Grenadines, whose romance has long captured my imagination. But the more I considered it (and consider I did, for months), the more enticing it seemed to spend two weeks in a less rarified atmosphere. I eventually chose Bequia and Grenada, and as it turned out, we had close to a full day in transit on St. Vincent, so I feel like I got three islands for the price of one. This will be a lengthy trip report, so I will put in headings in bold for folks to skip around to those parts that might interest them.

BEQUIA

Bequia was, in a word, delightful. We used Barbados as our gateway to the Grenadines, primarily because I was able to secure one of our tickets using frequent flyer miles. Our American Airlines flight was met by the SVGAir rep right inside the airport who took care of all of our immigration/customs/transit needs and sent us to wait in the departure lounge. Where we waited. And waited. While BA, Virgin, Air Canada, and sundry smaller aircraft came and went. And then our boarding time came and went. And then our departure time. Finally our flight was called. This was definitely a flight worth waiting for – the windows on this low-flying plane provided stunning views of the region I’d been longing to see for some time, the Grenadines. We landed first on Union Island (which my husband said reminded him of landing on St. Barths) and then went on to Bequia, where we experienced our shortest ever line going through immigration. We popped outside and hailed a taxi to take us to the Frangipani Hotel in Pt. Elizabeth.

FRANGIPANI HOTEL

I had been waffling back and forth between wanting to stay in town and wanting to stay at the beach at Lower Bay and opted for staying in town on our first visit, especially since we were only there for five nights. I booked a Deluxe Garden room at the Frangipani, which was located at the top of the property, the upside of which is that we had a splendid view, the downside of which is that we risked a heart attack every time we returned to the room. At only US $120/night it was certainly a good price (sidebar: it was the first time I ever paid the rack rate for a hotel) for what it delivered – a beautifully crafted room of wood and stone with pitched ceilings, large bathroom (shower only), nice dressing area with a mini fridge, and a spacious balcony with a table, two chairs, and two padded chaises longues. In addition to the king bed, the sleeping area also had a writing desk and a comfy padded chair with ottoman. The bedroom opened onto the balcony with double doors that folded back, proving a seamless transit between indoors and out. The balcony view was westerly over the harbour and we had great fun in the evenings watching the sailboats, ferries, and other vessels coming and going while sipping our cocktails and watching the sun in its downward progression.

The room had no air conditioning, but it was well designed to catch the breezes, aided by a ceiling fan and a standing fan. All of the windows were wooden louvers. The room would have been just about perfect except for one thing: lack of screens on the windows or doors. We were provided with a mosquito net over the bed, but even so my husband woke up the next morning with over 100 bites. Fortunately for me, I had covered myself in a 25% DEET bug spray for dinner the night before that clearly lasted through the night, for I woke up with just a few bites. Our remaining nights we both coated ourselves with the OFF! spray before going to bed, which certainly cut back on the mosquito bites, but also made us feel a bit icky & sticky in the bedsheets. I have to say that the mosquitoes put a serious damper on the trip. It seems to me that installing window screens would be a relatively inexpensive and easy addition to make to the rooms, one that would reap exponential benefits for guests. Other guests were also plagued by the mozzies, so we weren’t the only ones. It seems to be that the garden rooms are far too nice an accommodation not to take that extra step to make them that much nicer. To be fair, we made friends with folks staying next door at Gingerbread, and the mosquitoes were just as bothersome. And when we casually mentioned over breakfast one morning that our mosquito net seemed to have a few small holes in it, it was replaced by the time we returned to our room that afternoon. Were it not for the lack of screens, I would give the Frangipani an unreserved recommendation. As it is, I still recommend it, but with the condition of bringing plenty of good repellent.

DAYSAIL ON THE FRIENDSHIP ROSE

Our very first morning we embarked on a daysail to the Tobago Cays on the schooner called Friendship Rose. We had intended to go out with them on our second day in order to rest ourselves from the long day of travel, but they changed their schedule and that was our only available day if we wanted to see the Cays. The dinghy dock where we got picked up was a short walk away from the hotel, and by 7:30 we were on board and feasting on a lovely breakfast of croissants, pain au chocolat, fresh fruit, juice, and French press coffee. There were about 25 people on board—enough to make mingling fun but not so many that one couldn’t get away for a quiet moment if so desired. We were a truly international bunch. DH and I were two of only four Americans. The rest were British, Barbadian, Canadian, Belgian, French, and Portuguese. During the three hours we were under sail we had a fine time chatting with the crew & passengers and watching the crew put up the sails—an amazing display of choreography, really. Periodically a crewmember would circulate with an offering of biscuits, sodas, water, rum punch or fruit punch.

Upon arrival in the Cays we had the option of going ashore to one of the beaches that was deserted when we got there or to go snorkeling. Well, duh. I haven’t been dreaming about visiting the Cays with the idea of sitting on a beach, that’s for sure. We were preparing ourselves and our snorkel gear when oh, no! The strap on DH’s prescription snorkel mask snaps off, and the little pin with it. Alan, who I believe is one of the owners of the FR, heard our cries of dismay and then spent a full 20 minutes below deck improvising a way to reattach the strap. Success! Once we were out on the reef we were even more thankful that Alan had found a way for DH to see everything—it was really beautiful out there. No big fish, at least not where we were, but the coral looked healthier than anyplace I’ve snorkeled, and the fish were everywhere! At one point we were surrounded on three sides by a large school of blue tang, which was pretty magical.
It was over all too soon and we had to head back to the boat for lunch.

Lunch was simple but very tasty fare with tuna, rice, and provision, followed by a type of fudge that I didn’t much care for. After lunch the crew hung a few hammocks for folks who wanted to relax, but I opted to head back to the water to snorkel around the boat. The other American couple had reported lots of turtles there in the grass, so I went off in search of them. Well, I didn’t see “lots” but I did spy one large one that let me get very close. At first it surfaced right next to me but after it submerged again I followed it for some time. I also passed through a few dozen small squid, which was pretty fun. All in all, I would give an A to the snorkeling in the Cays. My only disappointment was that I couldn’t spend more time in the water, as we still had a three-hour sail back to Bequia. I think that next time I will take a page out of Owa’s book and schedule a few nights on Union Island to take more advantage of the snorkeling there.

All of the crewmembers we met were engaging and knowledgeable and we were sad to see the day come to an end. There was one handsome young man from the crew who would cross our path again, but his story will come later. Of the other travelers we met that day, we became particularly friendly with two couples, frequently running into them for drinks, meals, or activities around the island.

BEACHES

We spent two days exploring different beaches on Bequia. One morning we opted to hike over to Princess Margaret Beach. We started off walking along the Belmont Walkway (a waterside path that starts just north of the Frangipani and fronts various hotels, restaurants, and shops) and started climbing a staircase cut into the rock face. Very soon we realized we were in over our heads. The hill itself wasn’t too bad, but all too soon the stairs gave way to a footpath, one which required the use of both hands to scramble up in parts. It probably wouldn’t give any trouble to avid hikers, but we are not avid hikers, nor were we shod as such. What’s more, it was raining when we started out and the footing was quite slippery. What’s even more, my poor DH was suffering an attack of gout, which made every step increasingly painful. I am pleased to say that Princess Margaret aka Tony Gibbs Beach, was worth the trouble. It was a fairly long stretch of sand and we were the first to step foot there that morning, or so it seemed. We walked to the far end, spread out our towels and damp clothing on some tree stumps to dry, and proceeded to explore the cave and grottoes that the large boulders formed. It was great fun! We whiled away a few happy hours there, mixing our reading with swimming and snorkeling (which was just okay, but it still made me happy) and chatting with the various locals who always stopped to greet us on their way to Lower Bay. One I talked to at length and he told us about his daughter who works at Keegan’s and about the Rotarian fishing competition that was taking place that day. He told us about a big street party and fish fry that would begin after the competition, but more on that later…

When we ran out of water it was the perfect time to walk to Lower Bay, the path there being much easier than our earlier walk, we were assured many times. We stopped first at De Reef for a cold drink and thought about having lunch there, but only the bar was open. We ended up at Dawn’s Creole for lunch. Since it was slow, she kindly let us use her chairs and umbrella for the rest of the afternoon. Lower Bay was also beautiful and is very likely where I would want to stay for future visits. I did quite a bit of swimming here and walked to both ends for snorkeling. This beach was a bit busier than Princess Margaret, maybe a couple dozen folks all told. There was some natural shade provided by sea grapes near De Reef, which always improves my impression of a beach. All in all, it was lovely.

On our last full day we spent several hours at the beautiful Industry Bay. This is probably close to my ideal beach. A sweeping cove, lined with coconut palms on one end, and completely deserted, with a swath of sand leading to the small inn, which was closed but whose kitchen was open for lunch. The water was beautiful, the setting was serene, there was plenty of shade available, good food and drink from Crescent Beach Hotel, a good book to read, and good company in my DH. I only saw three rooms right on the beach there, but it would certainly be a place I would consider staying on a return trip, especially if I were looking to get away from it all. There was a good bit of surf on this beach, which I loved listening to while I read, but it did make swimming in a straight line a bit of a challenge. In the end I just gave up and did some body surfing. After all, I knew I’d work off plenty of calories just walking up to our room that night.

We didn’t get to Friendship Bay at all, which is a disappointment, and we only saw Spring Bay from our taxi, but it looked very similar to Industry. In fact, despite the island’s small size, we found that we didn’t do nearly all of things that I had hoped to. Part of this was that many things were closed (Spring Pottery being one), part of it was that DH didn’t really feel up to much activity because of the gout, but a good but was because every place we went to exerted such a pull on us that it was hard to leave to see anything else.

I’ll continue this trip report in installments on this thread…

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    Great start ej. Do you know the name of the island where you snorkeled in the cays? I was like you in choosing to forget the beach and snorkel every minute possible. Wasn't it gorgeous? I just thought how lucky we were to be surrounded by so much beauty.

    We stayed at the Gingerbread House when we went to Bequia. We didn't have any problems with bugs, but the barking dogs, crowing roosters, and loud music were a bit much.

    Sorry your husband had health problems. Certainly does alter one's ability to get around.

    Thanks for your time ej. Owa

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    Owa, you are so right about being fortunate to see such beauty. All of us here are fortunate to be able to travel to places we love.

    Here's Part II:

    FOOD

    Our food experiences on the island were a mixed bag.
    Frangipani -- We had several breakfasts here, which were reasonably priced and quite solid. Easily the best food we ate at the hotel. They had a nice continental breakfast that included coffee, juice, toast, and a fruit plate for EC$10, with eggs, pancakes and other items ranging up to EC$20, I think. We ate dinner there our first night, callaloo soup for me and curried conch for DH. These were pretty good. The Thursday night Jump-Up, however, which we had been looking forward to, was pretty ghastly, however. The steel pan and drum band was fun, but the food was fairly inedible. It’s a large buffet, with choice of fish or steak for entrée. The steak was one large piece of gristle and the fish was so hard to eat that they must have frozen it and then thawed it out by microwave several times in succession before serving it. The buffet dishes were okay to good and there was a nice variety of options, both local foods like plantains, rice & peas, etc. and more Americanized fare like potato salad and green salad. The dessert table, which looked so tempting, turned out to be only mediocre, with coconut cake (stale), key lime pie (served hot, and a wretched color green to boot!), flan (decent), something chocolaty (which I didn’t try), fruit cocktail (perfectly fine), and a selection of biscuits/cookies. I think the cost was EC $65/person.

    Green Boley – local joint right on the Belmont Walkway, just past Whalebone and Gingerbread, both of which were closed. They serve sandwiches, roti, and I think maybe some fresh catch of the day. This was the least expensive meal our entire trip, with roti priced at EC $6-12, which is what we had. They were pretty good, but the Hairoun beer was cold and the company was good. We spent the evening talking with a local fellow who was seriously in his cups and a family from the Netherlands.

    Dawn’s Creole – We had lunch here the day we went to Lower Bay. We shared a hamburger and fries that were excellent (but admittedly we were also *really* hungry by that time), two half-liters of Coca-Cola, and a rum punch, all for EC $25. Plus with the price of lunch we had access to the beach chairs and umbrella for the rest of the afternoon. Definite thumbs up for Dawn’s.

    Crescent Beach Hotel – we had lunch here the day we spent at Industry Bay. We had the place to ourselves for the first few hours and could use the chaises longues, which made the afternoon even more pleasant and comfortable. Add in the very sweet pack of dogs and we were ready to call the place home. I ordered tuna salad sandwich for EC $18 and DH had the tuna salad for EC $30, which was essentially the same thing I had, as his was served with two slices of bread and nothing else. The tuna salad was good, and I can’t for the life of me understand why his was nearly twice the cost for the same thing, but hey, that’s okay. :D

    Rotarian fishing tournament/street party – This turned our to be a lot of fun, but sadly we misunderstood when it started and got there after almost all of the food had been sold. We bought fish & bake with coo coo, but the bakes were very stale by that time and the coo coo was just okay, but oh, the fish! It was great, seriously finger-lickin’ good. But the best part of the evening happened while we were bumbling about, watching the youth dance to music on the loudspeakers and feeling our insides quake with the bass, and we ran into a young man who was part of the Friendship Rose crew. He spotted us first, which was pretty easy considering we were just about the only white folks in the crowd, and pulled us over to a low wall so we could sit and eat together. The young man was both deaf and mute, but we somehow managed to make ourselves understood for the most part. I don’t know sign language except for the ALS alphabet, but he and I both tried spelling out a few things to each other. The rest of the time we relied on smiles and gestures that seemed to get the essentials across.

    Mac’s Pizzeria – Also located on the Belmont Walkway, we went there every night for ice cream (the ice cream shop next door was closed in the evenings), which was wonderful. I tried nearly all of the flavors, but nutmeg and coconut were easily my favorites. My husband liked the banana and the cinnamon. We saved this place for our last dinner and we weren’t disappointed. The ambience was nicer here than any of the other places in town, and the pizza was really quite good, with prices ranging EC $34-50 for a large pizza. The callaloo soup was good here, too.

    WEATHER

    We had perfect weather while were there, with big storms every night and occasional brief rain showers during the day. Despite being so close to the equator, I don’t remember a single time when we were out during the day or sleeping at night when it was hot to the point of discomfort. In fact, we were more comfortable on this trip in July than just about any other Caribbean island we’ve visited during the summer.


    MISCELLANEOUS

    One morning we hired Ramzay (I might be misspelling his name) to take us up to Old Hegg Turtle Sanctuary, which turned out to be a real highlight of the trip. Brother King runs the place with a dedication and a softspoken passion that belies his steely determination to operate his sanctuary in the face of a government who is not only not interested in conservation of these creatures, but in some cases acting against them. He is self-taught in the ways of the hawksbill and green turtles and tells fascinating stories of things he has learned on the fly in addition to sharing a few hair-raising tales of his skin diving days and coming face to face with tiger sharks. We met Miss Busybody, a large hawksbill who sometimes goes swimming in the open sea with Brother King. We met the newest Old Hegg, a turtle whose flippers are deformed and cannot propel itself forward the same way other turtles can. We came away from our time there extremely impressed with Brother King and his operation, and in my opinion this is a not to be missed experience on Bequia.

    Despite its small size, we really just touched the surface of Bequia in our 5 nights there. My DH experienced most of the island in a fog of pain and thus feels that he needs to visit the island again to make any kind of meaningful assessment, which I agree with wholeheartedly! For my part, I loved it for its charm, its people, its beaches, its scenery, its laid-back vibe, and for retaining the flavor of what was best about the old Caribbean. I am extremely eager to return.

    ST. VINCENT

    We took the ferry from Bequia to St. Vincent, which had a good deal more rocking motion than I would have expected for the 9-mile crossing. Several unfortunate folks got sick over the edge and I was thankful I had taken a half-dose of Dramamine. Our taxi driver in Bequia arranged for us to be met by his cousin Natey at the dock, which made our disembarkation quite pleasant. He took us first to Fort Charlotte, which we toured with a young guide, and then we went on to a place I had read about and planned as surprise for my DH – the Dr. Cecil Cyrus museum. Dr. Cyrus grew up on St. Vincent and after attending medical school abroad returned to the island. Instead of operating like most clinics, which turned people away if they couldn’t pay, he treated every patient who sought his help. Instead of despairing over lack of modern facilities and medical implements, he applied his intellect to create tools that would do the job and to improvise treatment. The museum is a monument to his humanism as well as his medical skill. The displays include thousands of photographs, many grotesque, many showing the patient before and after treatment. Some are accompanied by heartbreaking stories and humorous anecdotes. There is also one room filled with specimen jars of all sorts housing things ranging from tumors to miscarried fetuses. It is, on the whole, very moving and disturbing by turns. I would recommend it to those of you who are strong of stomach and interested in medicine. Dr. Cyrus has since retired from practicing medicine full time, but he is still called in for consults and he has garnered all kinds of accolades from both the international medical community as well as the Queen of England.

    From there we moved on to the botanical gardens, which were beautiful and fascinating and just a short walk away from the museum. There was a huge downpour while we were there, but thankfully I had packed two umbrellas and our guide had one very large one, so no problems mon! This tour was fascinating and fragrant—the scent of spices like cinnamon and nutmeg filled the air, along with all of the flowering plants like frangipani, orchids and bougainvillea. We also saw the famous breadfruit tree and the endangered St. Vincentian parrots. The tour lasted about an hour, and if we had had more time, we could have spent quite a bit more time just wandering around on our own.

    We had a luncheon date at Young Island at 2:00, so Natey dropped us off at the YI dock and we putt-putted over. It was a lovely place, very lush and well-tended without being fussily manicured. We were led to a small dining pavilion for lunch, where we ordered two fish specials and one shared appetizer of vegetable spring rolls and tucked right in. The food was delicious, the presentation was very nice, and the service was very attentive without being hovering. We each had a gin & tonic and iced tea (which was served with a simple syrup for sweetening) and then shared some ice cream for dessert. The total came to US $46, inclusive of tax and service, which I thought was very reasonable given the quality and the setting. While we were at lunch I saw a couple I recognized from our honeymoon in 2003, and they recognized us, too, because they came over for a quick chat after their meal. They were just finishing up a week at Young Island and were continuing on to PSV for another week. But the best part of the day was running into Pam and David, a couple from New Hampshire whom we had met several times in Bequia. They joined us after the table was cleared and we passed a few very pleasant hours chatting. Pam took me up to their room so that I could see it—it was nice and airy, near the top of the ridge, and their large balcony afforded a good view. They had only been on Young Island 3 days when we arrived and they admitted that they missed Bequia. The resort was just a bit too quiet for them, I think, and they were planning to spend much more time over on the mainland exploring St. Vincent.

    We enjoyed our brief time on St. Vincent and Young Island and would like to see more of it in the future via daytrips from Bequia.

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    Sandy, the sail was 3 hours in each direction. I'm not especially strong of stomach when it comes to motion, so to be on the safe side I took one dramamine before going to bed the night before and another the morning of the sail and wasn't troubled a bit. One little girl got sick both coming and going, but other folks seemed fine. I thought the rocking motion on the ferry was more pronounced.

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    GRENADA

    Ahhh, Grenada. What can I say, other than I’ve simply fallen in love?

    VILLA LIFE

    I thought long and hard about various accommodations, hotel versus inn versus villa. La Sagesse and Twelve Degrees North offered very attractive rates with the intimacy and local flavour we like so much. And discount websites were offering beachfront rooms on Grand Anse for under $100/night. But then I stumbled across the website www.SpiceIsleVillas.com and that pretty much settled my decision. This site is run by the indefatigable Nick Hughes, and let me tell you, folks, this guy is a gem! His rental services just earned a special nod from Conde Nast as being one of about 35 villa rental companies worldwide who are most likely to match their clients with the perfect rental, among other things. I chose Turtleback Pavilion, a new one bedroom studio villa as our home for our first week in Grenada, based mostly on the fabulous photographs of it online and the incredible introductory rental rate of US $885/week. Nick was the soul of patience and promptness when it came to answering my questions, ranging from How far is it to the closest beach (short walk to a very small one, les than 5 minute drive to Lance Aux Epines) to What appliances are in the kitchen (blender, toaster, electric kettle, microwave, coffee maker). He even did some local research and put me in touch with a woman who lends a hand to various schools and possibly a children’s home so that I could sent boxes of children’s clothing and books ahead of our visit. He also picked us up at the airport and drove us to the villa, and called us partway through the week to see how things were going. No email of mine went unanswered longer than a day. I’m telling you, Nick Hughes is the man to see about a villa on Grenada.

    We arrived very late at night and our first sight of Turtleback was pure magic—we were led down a garden staircase that was sensuously lighted to our home for the week. The indoor living space is fairly small—just an open plan studio with a full kitchen, bathroom, living area, and king size bed, with central A/C. But the outdoor living spaces, which outnumber the indoor space three to one, where truly magnificent. We had a large swimming pool, probably about 15’ x 30’, a deck surrounding the pool scattered with lots of comfy chairs, a covered breezeway with a dining table and more chairs, and then a covered rooftop terrace that was larger than the studio that was compete with a dining table, wet bar, and a sun deck.

    The villa is owned by Sharon and Anthon Antoine, a couple so good-looking they’d make your teeth hurt. He’s Grenadian and she’s from California, and they live in a separate apartment on the grounds with their two sweet dogs, Oso and Tiger. The rental included a home cooked meal for our first night, and it was excellent—Sharon prepared the best callaloo soup I had during my entire trip, and she also provided a green salad, a baked chicken with Moroccan spices, and a yellow cake with lime glaze—all of which were delicious. They also do an initial provisioning at cost upon request. They also do all of their own maintenance and housekeeping for their two rental properties.

    Nick took care of our rental car, and so Y&R rental delivered a small Suzuki-type 4WD vehicle with left-side steering. We were so smitten with the villa that we were reluctant to leave that morning, so we just ventured out to buy some groceries at the nicely appointed Food Fair and to a pharmacy to buy some sodium naproxen and an ice pack to help assuage the pain in my DH’s foot. My husband is a great navigator and I was keen to drive, so we made a good team. Then we headed back to the villa to take some sun, read, have some cocktails, and listen to some music on the villa’s CD player (it also has a TV and DVD player). In fact, each of our days was bookended in such a way—early morning coffee, a nice swim, more coffee, maybe some reading, a nice swim…and then cocktails, watching the sunset (sort of, as we didn’t face west), a swim before getting ready for dinner. And then after dinner, a quick dip in the pool.

    The villa was nicely decorated and appointed, with the small exception of the lamps on either side of the bed—they were mood lamps, insufficient for reading in bed with only a 15 watt bulb, and the overhead light in the ceiling fan was positioned too far away to be much good, either. We would be hard-pressed to come up with more “flaws” in this lovely place. We were very sad to leave, as Turtleback definitely felt like home and we had become fond of the owners as well as the dogs. I would heartily recommend both Spice Isle Villas and the Turtleback Pavilion (or the larger Tradewinds Pavilion just above it, also owned by the Antoines) for anybody looking for good value, a certain amount of luxury, fabulous views, and dependability in terms of on-site housekeeping, maintenance, security, guest services, etc.

    BEACHES

    Grand Anse -- Oddly enough, we were not smitten with Grand Anse beach. It is undeniably lovely with its white sand stretching nearly 2 miles and with the calmest water we saw anywhere on this trip. And it’s great for people watching, jogging, bar hopping, etc. I guess I just prefer beaches with less development. And with the ongoing rumor that a Sandals is going to open a resort there, well, I dunno.

    Magazine Beach – To get here, you go through the airport and just beyond, which threw me off a bit, navigationally speaking. Every day except Mondays you can rent beach chairs here for EC$10, which we did. It was beautiful here and reminded me a bit of Princess Margaret Beach on Bequia, with the light sand and the grotto-like rock formations at the near end. The Rex is also on this beach, but a nice little walk away, so that it never felt crowded at all. We set up our chairs under the same shade tree as the vendors’ picnic table, so we got to chat with all of the ones who came through and buy a few trinkets from Thomas. My husband got deep into conversation with an artist named Nigel regarding media, methods, and being self-taught. He then did a portrait of my husband, which we were delighted to purchase. Later in the day some local kids came by and started jumping and somersaulting off the rocks into the water, which was such fun to watch. We had lunch here at Aquarium and I did a bit of snorkeling. The water was fairly clear but the surface was choppy. There wasn’t a lot to see, but admittedly I wasn’t venturing very far from shore as nobody else was in the water—I need a snorkeling partner before I get bold enough to go out a ways. Overall, we liked this beach quite a bit and if we had had more time we would have spent another day there.

    L’Anse Aux Epines – Pronounced LANZ uh peen (I had naively been giving it the full French pronunciation in my head), this beach was a short drive away and we went here a couple of different afternoons. It was not a long beach, with the Calabash Hotel and a few private villas on one end and a small grove of trees on the other. Not a lot of shade, either. We snagged one of the few non-manchioneel trees and I did my usual routine of swimming, reading, snorkeling. There was a lot of grass in the area, so I thought if I stuck it out I might see a turtle. Well, after more than an hour I did see one, but there was nothing more there to see except trash on the seafloor and a few small conchs. But the fun part about this beach was the local kids who came down at the end of the day. One couple brought around seven kids, all of whom looked under the age of 10! But my husband calls me a kid magnet when we travel, because they all swarm around me. I showed them how to snorkel (my mask was too big for most of them, but that didn’t daunt them), and every time they found a shell or piece of coral, I had to give an
    inspection and rate it against the other pieces they found. We played a version of “Zombie” that I’ve seen kids on Antigua play, where one person covers him/herself in sand and then chases the rest of the people into the water, walking somewhat stiff-legged with arms straight out chanting “Zombie, Zombie.”. And they showed me how to crack open the almonds and eat them. When they saw me reapplying my sunscreen, they all wanted some, too, so I helped them lather up. One little girl named Samurai was the sweetest thing, wanting to walk up and down the beach holding hands. So, while not the greatest beach per se, we have some very warm memories of our visits here. The only facilities were at the Calabash, as far as I could see. I saw a beach bar there, but it didn’t seem very inviting, as there were scattered signs on the property saying For Hotel Guests Only.

    La Sagesse – This was our favorite beach on the island and we ended up coming here two different days. It was about a 25 minute drive from the villa, less if you drive like a Grenadian. ☺ We could rent beach chairs there for EC $10/day, so we settled in right away and made friends with the resident dogs. I’ve read mixed stories about these dogs on TripAdvisor. Being an animal person, I loved having the dogs around, but they do bark at every stranger they see and it’s easy to see how somebody who doesn’t like or is afraid of dogs might be uncomfortable around them. For our part, they followed us around and were very good companions, walking with us on the beach, sitting by our feet in the restaurant, or burrowing in the sand to find a cool spot next to our chairs. But the beach itself is, like Industry Bay on Bequia, very close to my ideal. Somewhat wild
    looking, with groves of palm trees for shade. A wide swath of golden brown sand. Beautiful water with waves suitable for body surfing. Home to local livestock. Mostly deserted, but with one congenial restaurant and bar at one end. We got lots of swimming and walking in at La Sagesse. The water was too churned up for snorkeling, and the visibility was only about a foot in front of my face. We had a nice chat with the owner, Nancy, about Polish literature (her homeland), while she showed us a couple of rooms. These rooms have got to be about the best value on the island, especially in high season. They’re moderate in size, but comfortably furnished (including a small fridge) and many of them have a small patio or balcony. There was great ventilation and the rooms felt comfortable even by day (there’s no a/c), and you could fall asleep at night listening to the surf, not more than 100 feet away.

    Morne Rouge – This was a very pretty beach just south of Grand Anse, where the Gem is located (but it looked quite closed when we were there). We didn’t spend much time here, but the water here was gorgeous and almost as calm as LAE, and we had a nice time walking the length of it.

    The beach at LaLuna – This shows up on some maps as also being Morne Rouge, but since it’s separated from the above Morne Rouge by a rocky cliff and headland, it may have a separate name. This beach was also quite lovely, but lacking in shade. It’s a fairly small beach, but as only the small LaLuna hotel and some private villas share it, it was never crowded. The water here was somewhat rough, which interfered a bit with my snorkeling by stirring up particles in the water. One day while we were walking the length of it, some guys led a horse down to the far end and coaxed it into the water. By the time we were abreast with them, they were scrubbing down the horse in the sea and having fun doing it. I was sorry not to have my camera with me. Other than a lack of shade, the only drawback to LaLuna’s beach was how windy it was. When we were walking it didn’t bother us at all, but sitting under the palapas at the hotel, the wind whipped up the sand and we had to close our eyes& mouth and shield our drinks against it. It wasn’t constant, but it was annoying when it happened. It certainly explains why on our first day at LaLuna that nobody was sitting out on the beach!

    To be continued…

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    Loved reading your Bequia report. My husband and I have visited Bequia for the last two years in February, once for 4 nights and last year for 5 nights. First stay was, for same reasons as yours, in town at Frangipani and I had same issues with the mosquitos and noise. Thus last year we choose to stay at Windsong Villa which is on the hill above Spring Bay and just a marvelous villa. Up on the hill there is a lot more breeze so the mosquitoes aren't a bother. What a relief! Both times we also did trips on Friendship Rose. This past February the trip to the Cays was VERY rough and so the snorkeling wasn't very good either because the bottom was so stirred up. We've also gone to Mustique with them and that was lots of fun. In fact, last year we combined the return trip to Bequia with 4 nights on Mustique at the Firefly Inn and the whole trip was incredible.

    I'd love to go back to Bequia after we visit a couple of other places on our list, but I'd definitely stay away from the places in town because of the noise and mosquitos.

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    Sandy, did you take any motion sickness meds in the BVI, and if so, did they work? Of course conditions change from day to day and even hour to hour, but when we sailed in the BVI from Tortola to VG, it was on a catamaran and the water felt a bit calmer than our sail with the Friendship Rose. I don't think it was so rough that if you took preventative measures that it would disturb you too much, though.

    ctkathy, I checked out the villa when I saw you recommend it on another site. It looks amazing, and especially for that price. What part of the island is Windsong on?

    As for the noise, we didn't have a single issue with noise like you and Owa had. We always travel with earplugs anyway because our collective snores are far louder than any rooster, cow, etc could be. :D

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    FOOD

    Okay, this is my favorite part. I don’t exactly live to eat, but I don’t really eat to live, either. Which probably explains my expanding waistline. ☺

    Red Crab – We didn’t want to venture out too far on our first night, as I wasn’t crazy about driving much in the dark until had a bit more practice under my belt. If it weren’t for the whopping big hill where the villa was located and the fact that we would have to walk UP to get home, we could have walked here from Turtleback. I would say this place was in the moderate to expensive range. For the first hour we were there, we were the only customers, so Maureen (presumably the owner, but I could be wrong) came out to welcome and chat with us. We had the snails that were very tender and excellent, curried lambi (ditto), callaloo soup (good but not out of this world), and a selection of ice creams (coconut, nutmeg, and cinnamon). With a few cocktails, a club soda, an after dinner liqueur, tax, and tip it came to about EC $180.

    La Sagesse – I would call this place moderate to expensive as well. We had two lunches here, the first one being a little better than the second one. When there is fish on the menu here, it is fresh caught that day. Nancy, the owner, told me how surprised she was that so few hoteliers/restaurateurs buy fresh fish every day. Maybe she was tooting her own horn, but based on our limited dining out and trusting to our palates, she was telling the truth. Most dishes on the lunch menu were EC $30-40, which included a very small green salad and French fries. Between our two lunches there, we had two fresh catches of the day (tuna), fish burger, and hamburger, It was all excellent, and the view looking out over the beach was lovely. Nice tablecloths, even for lunch, and friendly service completed the atmosphere. I also had the best pina colada of the trip here – I requested that the bartender add the juice of one lime to it to cut the sweetness and it was just perfect! One day we had the banana cake with nutmeg ice cream, and it was fine but nothing special.

    True Blue – Despite the lovely atmosphere (request a waterside table), this was overall a very disappointing meal. We had two servers that evening, one of whom was a tall, sullen, fast-talker whom we had to get to repeat everything because we couldn’t hear him at that altitude. The other person was as sweet as she could be. We thought maybe they had a tag team going of “good server/bad server.” I ordered the Cajun shrimp skewer as my appetizer and it was quite good. DH had lambi Provencal, which was simply awful, almost to the point of being inedible. We also had two salads that were unremarkable. The dessert menu looked promising, however, so I was hopeful. There were a few selections I was having trouble deciding among. The first two I asked for they had run out of (Kahlua cake and some kind of flambé dessert), and I couldn’t choose between the others, so naturally I ordered one for the table (coconut mousse) and one to go (nutmeg cheesecake, thinking I could run home and put it in the fridge for later). Well, the coconut mousse was disgusting. It was one of those foods where you take a second bite and then a third, just to make sure it was as awful as your first impression made it out to be. It was just a pile of nearly tasteless gelatinous goo. The cheesecake, however, turned out to be quite passable when I ate it later that night in bed watching the delightful Sense & Sensibility.

    Coconut Beach – This place is located right on Grand Anse, and in fact you can have a barefoot meal or cocktails under a thatched umbrella right on the sand. We had dinner here on a Saturday night and we were one of only three couples in the restaurant, which is when it really came home to me how slow the island must be—one of the most popular and touristy restaurants on the island on a Saturday, and there were only six diners! We had curried lambi and a dish called Lambi Calypso. Both were extremely tender, but the Calypso entrée was more interesting. We shared a banana flambé and some ice cream for dessert. I think somebody who works there must be psychic because I was just about to make a comment to my DH about how funny I find it that the more touristy restaurants seem to play nothing but Jimmy Buffett or Bob Marley or a version of Yellow Bird, and don’t you think that the staff must get tired unto death of hearing them…when all of a sudden, the music faded out and then back in again with the Curtis Mayfield Superfly album!

    Nutmeg – This place is on the Carenage in St. George’s and is known for its nutmeg rum punches, good roti, and views across the water. Now I know why it is not know for breakfast! We wanted to explore town on a Saturday when there would be less traffic in town and the market would be in full swing, so we decided to try it for breakfast instead of eating in the villa. We had the place to ourselves and so chose the table directly in front of a large picture window for great breezes and for doing a bit of people watching. We each had a cheese omelet that was so greasy we could only eat a few bites. The toast was fine, the juice was fine, but the coffee tasted like instant coffee. Next time we go, it’ll be for lunch or dinner! I believe the bill came to about EC $45.

    Aquarium – This was really a beautiful setting overlooking the beach and sea. I imagine it looks even more romantic at night with all of the strategic lighting I’ve read about. We shared a green salad, a hamburger, fries, a large bottled water, and had one drink apiece. With tax, tip, and the two rented beach chairs, it came to about US $40. The food was good enough to make us want to return for dinner some night, but after looking at the dinner menu, our interest waned a bit. Except for the dessert menu, which looked fabulous, but we ended up not going back there at all. Perhaps another time.

    Spice Island – This place on Grand Anse was so outstanding that I insisted that we return for a second lunch. I never saw this place before its mega-million dollar renovations, but whew! It sure is gorgeous now. The public spaces were beautiful and airy and tasteful. We arrived early one day before they started serving lunch, so they graciously escorted us to the bar area to have a drink while we waited. It was sublime. I sipped my Ting and read my book and did a wee bit o’ people watching and all too soon we were escorted to a table with a beautiful view. The staff has clearly been trained to seat women facing the view and the men facing in, and I just as clearly threw them off when I insisted that DH take the seat with the view. The service here was very polished and discreet, and everybody from the maitre’d down to the young man who filled our water pitcher made us feel that our enjoyment of Spice Island was the most important thing in the world to them. I observed the staff with some of the hotel guests—they would greet children by name, ask if they wanted their usual blended fruit punch, or inquire after pictures they were drawing. Maybe these were repeat guests for the resort, but there was a palpable air of familiarity and rapport between many guests and the staff. But anyway, back to the food. I somehow neglected to make note of what we had on our first day, so I only recall the fruit plate (served with crème fraiche, yum!) and the mango cheesecake (yummy yum!) but I do remember that the rest was delicious. On our return visit, we had a jerk pork sandwich (served on foccacia, thus a fancy sammich), a lambi dish served with parmesan and a cream sauce, a passionfruit flan, and a coconut & guava cheesecake. Each bite seemed more delicious than the last. Both lunches came to around US $40, including bar tab, tax, and service. Spice Island definitely gets our award for the full package of service, serenity, presentation, food quality, ambience, and anything else I could list. And taking into consideration that Spice Island is the most expensive resort on the island, I was surprised at the value of the meal.

    LaLuna – We moved here for our last three nights on the island and ended up eating here for breakfast each morning as well as for two evening meals. Breakfasts were quite reasonable considering the setting, as the range was $8-12 for a variety of breakfasts such as eggs, pancakes, French toast, and a daily special. Coffee was a strong Italian roast that was delicious! But they only offered one kind of juice each morning, as it was freshly-squeezed. They only offered carambola while we were there, which I tried once but wasn’t crazy about. DH liked it quite a bit, though. Breakfasts were all very good, but I thought the banana pancakes were especially good.

    We had only planned to eat one evening meal there, but the first one was so good, and it was so convenient just to stay there, that we ended up eating there twice for dinner. Plus it was nice to be able to order from the bar without worrying about driving anyplace later. Our first night we shared a Caesar salad, I ordered the Thai chicken pasta, and DH had the Sicilian shrimp. All of them were fantastic, but I wish that they would offer an appetizer size portion of their pastas, as I was only able to eat about half of mine. For dessert I had a sponge cake soaked in Grand Marnier and layered with ice cream, which was mildly disappointing, and DH had an Italian dessert wine with some biscotti that was much lighter and much less interesting sounding, but a better choice after a heavy meal. Our second night we shared another Caesar salad and wised up by sharing the Farfalle LaLuna, and then we finished off with some ice cream and after dinner drinks. I didn’t make note of what we paid, but I did pay attention to the menu prices in general: appetizers were US $8-15, entrees were $24-40, and desserts were $6-9. Again, not as expensive as I would have expected for such a setting, as I have paid more for food that wasn’t nearly the calibre of the food at LaLuna.

    Boots Cuisine – Ah, the piece de resistance! I had read about this place on a Grenada forum and never would have discovered it otherwise. A lovely man named Boots and his delightful wife, Ruby, have opened a restaurant in their home. They offer traditional Grenadian cuisine at the bargain price of EC $60 per person for 3 courses. What a find! I really cannot say enough good things about Boots. This was easily our favorite thing about Grenada. Our first dinner there I had fish fritters (can’t remember what kind of fish, but they’re tiny and fried up whole, I believe) and coconut & saffron chicken while DH had a salad and castle stew pork. Both entrees came with loads of veggies, rice, peas, etc. We both had sorrel pudding with ice cream for dessert. This food was so good it would make your tongue lay over in your mouth. After dinner Boots and Ruby came out to chat with us and we had a fine time talking with them. Our second dinner there, Ruby greeted us like old friends. I had callaloo soup and fish stew and DH had salad and chicken stew. But because Boots knew we had a hard time making up our minds about the entrée, he also brought us a sample of the third offering, lambi. Dessert that night was banana cake with cinnamon ice cream. Everything was simply exquisite, fall of the bone tender. It was maybe the best fish I’ve had in my life. Boot and Ruby came out to chat again and we debated long after dinner about the best preparations for fried chicken and stewed okra and everything else that my Southern cook of a husband could think to ask about. As a parting gift, Boots gave my husband a bottle of his homemade hot sauce that he had enthusiastically used with our food. I really do believe that our time talking food with these folks was the best time of the trip—it will certainly live in our memory long after the various beaches fade into a single stretch of sand.

    To be continued…

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    ctkathy,
    Tell us more about Windsong. We checked the outside out one time when we were in Bequia on a Windjammer. It looked great but we weren't sure about transporation. Did you rent a car or arrange a taxi each day? How were the beaches on that side of the island? We're thinking of two weeks there sometime.

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    ejcrowe: I'm enjoying your trip report.
    Well now Frangipani is off our list. I get eaten alive by mosquitoes and would not want to experience what your husband did. So sorry he was in pain for that part of your trip.
    The Tobago Cays day sail sounds fantastic.
    I took a look at Nick Hughes' site and your villa looks great.
    Ahhh Grenada..on our short list. :-)

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    Heh! i forgot to finish my own trip report. Here's the penultimate installment:

    LA LUNA

    We spent the last three nights of our vacation at LaLuna, a small boutique hotel on the beach. This place was a bit of a splurge for us, but since we were coming from a beautiful villa, I felt that most hotels on the island would feel like a letdown in comparison. I booked LaLuna directly, requesting the rate shown on www.hotels.com that was a nice discount off the rack rates, which they granted. They even upgraded us to a cottage rather than a cottage suite for our stay, which was a nice touch.

    We missed our space at Turtleback, but the cottage #3 at LaLuna was nearly as large as our studio villa interior, with a king bed in a good-sized air conditioned bedroom, with a built in bench along one wall, and furnished with a CD/tape player, TV, and VCR (office has tapes available for guests). Off the bedroom is the large closet with a small safe and then the open-air bathroom. The bathroom was accessible from either the bedroom or from outside on the deck and had a shower stall with two windows facing the sea, a large vanity with one sink, and a separate room for the loo. The bathroom was fairly standard in size, but it did come with two bathrobes, nice shampoo, shower gel, body lotion, and the softest, plushest towels I’ve ever had the pleasure of using. The deck outside was a good size and held a large daybed with lots of cushions, a single deck chair, a foam-triangle contraption that unfolded into a comfy mat with a back rest that was perfect for reading, and a small plunge pool about the size of a Jacuzzi with a built-in ledge that was well-suited for sipping cocktails and watching the sunset whilst partially submerged. The part of the deck with the daybed was covered overhead and had large curtains one could draw around for absolute privacy, and the hotel provides a large calabash for a Do Not Disturb sign to leave outdoors to ensure the privacy. It was overall a well-designed vacation space with a nice attention to detail that affords as much privacy as one can reasonably expect on hotel grounds.

    The beach bar is adjacent to the pool and the open-air lounge and was tended by the wonderful Sheldon, Fiona, and Sindy while we were there. All of them were delightful and we enjoyed chatting with them while sampling the various drinks on offer. In the lounge area there were several padded chaises longues out in the sun, where most of the guests tended to stay. When we first hit the beach bar, we were puzzled why folks wouldn’t want to be using the thatched umbrellas out on the beach, so we had our pick of 5 different umbrellas, also with padded chaises longues. Thirty minutes after getting settled there and battling to keep the sand out of our mouths from the gusts of wind, we understood why. The wind wasn’t constant, but it was strong enough and frequent enough that we had to cover our drinks with one hand, mark the page in our books with the other, and keep our mouths and eyes closed when it blew through. I am told that this is unusual at LaLuna. After trying out a couple of different locations on the beach, we did give up and head back to the pool and lounge area.

    The beach there was quite pretty, and though not long, good for walks up & down. Surf was up and it was very pleasant to walk along while listening to the waves crash right on the shore at our feet. There are no other hotels on the beach, but it is shared with a few private villas, and while we were there several youngsters were playing cricket. I’m not sure if these were local kids or if they were staying in the villas. There was not much shade along the beach other than the thatched umbrellas that LaLuna provides.

    One of the things I liked best about the hotel was the open-air lounge, which is covered overhead but open on all four sides. Filled with comfy chairs, day beds, and sofas and furnished with lots of books, this place was perfect for taking a break from the sun or even for settling in all day. Most of the other guests only used it during the brief rain showers or after cocktail hour, but we spent several happy hours there kicking back with our books or just contemplating the horizon.

    The other guests were an international mix, and we only ended up mingling with two other American couples who were there. I don’t think any other guests spoke English as a first language—there were folks speaking Spanish, French, and Italian. As a side note, my husband and I were definitely the least stylish among them. They were all young, good looking, and with the physique of models. This probably would have bothered me once upon a time, but now I’m much more comfortable with my physical imperfections (and they are legion, especially compared with these other guests!) to be very fussed about it. I suspect most guests come here seeking solitude and romance, so the exchanging of smiles and friendly buon giornos that we experienced is probably more par for the course than the vivacious bonhomie found in so many other places.


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