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Trip Report Visit to the Spice Island (belated trip report to Grenada 07-2011)

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SUMMARY

Photos from the trip:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/32231540@N05/sets/72157627539809132/

Having endured a tough 2010, both wife and I had looked forward to some totally chill down time on the islands. Grenada was not the first choice but a combination of good accommodations and even better rates made it our destination of choice this time around.

What we got was what we planned for, just a week long of "not doing much," but with the added pleasure of experiencing both a villa (Turtleback) and a resort (LaLuna) all in one trip. With the constant companion of Morne Rouge, we forgave much activity, focusing on spending time together, taking in the beauty of the beach and the lush green landscape of the island - and plenty of rum.

Grenadans are indeed some of the nicest in the Caribbean. Local food was great, especially fruits, produce, and spice, many of which grown locally. I can't say enough how good their local chicken was. Being in the restaurant business - this is quite a compliment to the quality of their local products!

Overall it was a great time, and I would recommend this island anytime.

AIR AND GROUND TRAVEL

Air travel from NYC was a breeze, as it was a direct flight from JFK to Grenada. That said the timing of the flights were not as great, as Delta only operates one weekly flight to the island, so we left for Grenada on a 1am flight (arriving at 6am), and returning on an 8am flight one week later on the same day. No biggie, since we will then have a full first day on the island.

For this trip we redeemed some miles from Delta for one ticket, and then paid full price for the other. With oil prices remaining high when we booked, we thought this would help economize on this trip (more on economizing later). Still, it was over $500 for the full priced r/t ticket - not cheap.

The island's Point Salines International Airport was of decent size and overall quite organized. Consider both the outbound and return flights were full, immigration, customs, and baggage claim were relatively efficient by island standards.

Upon arrival, we were picked up by Jude and his cab, which was arranged by our villa (Turtleback). While waiting for Jude to pick up his car, I was quite happy to see that the bar was already open at 7am! Picked up a Piton lager, and let the liming begin! Jude gave us some good tips about the island on our way to the rental. $20 ride with tip.

We booked our rental car through Y&R, a referral by the villa, and when we arrived the car already was waiting for us. Since it was the low season, they gave us an extra 10% off for the basic SUV that we rented. Be aware that the wheel is on the right, and you drive on the left hand side, like BVI.

LOCAL TRAVEL AND DRIVING

During our stay, we had confined our travels pretty much to within the resort zone on the Southwestern part of the island, near the airport. Driving there was fine, but when we ventured out to St. George and La Sagesse beach, the local roads we found were quite meandering, and the driving habits of the locals aggressive. And since street lamps were more scattered, out of caution we limited our driving to the day time, especially we tend to drink quite a bit when we go out. With our main intent on maximizing beach and villa time together, we forfeited opportunities to visit the waterfalls and Belmont Plantation to the north of the island. Well there's always next trip!

If you do venture out, be reminded that road signs are lacking at times, and their terrain quite steep, and roads meandering. Driving in St. George the capital reminds me of San Francisco, and with a lot of one way streets and roads on a steep incline. So exercise plenty of caution. That said, the local road map that you could pick up at the airport or at the car rental was good, and was sufficient in negotiating the winding roads of the island.

ACCOMMODATIONS

With some help and advice from my friends from the forum (special shout out to ejcrowe) we were able to score a great rental in Turtleback Villa. Our hosts Anthon and Sharon were able to accommodate our early arrival, so we were able to go straight to the rental after we landed. As requested, a nicely chilled six-pack of Carib was in the fridge already -can't find a better breakfast than this!

The villa is spacious for two with a nice kitchen area, and a nice sized bed, and a great and very comfy day bed to complete the space. Outside there's a large private pool, and an upstairs observation deck (accessed via a spiral staircase) was simply great. The upstairs is really nice, with a big dining table and a wet bar (and the setting great for a photo shoot). We would have lunch upstairs, but usually
can't stay long because of the mosquitos. Yes, my friends, please bring an abundant supply of bug spray and coils! At Turtleback there are plenty of places to hang out, so wife and I were quite content with staying at the villa, so long as there's plenty of rum and cold beer. And the liming continues.

We cooked every night at the villa, because the surroundings was simply so enticing. There's plenty to cook with, and the IGA at the Spice Island mall in the resort district was well stocked. More on this later.

Both wife and I liked Turtleback a lot. Lots of nooks and crannies to sit in, and tons of privacy. That big day bed was comfortable, but like what ejcrowe had reported, we wished there was a dining table where we could sit upright indoors. This forced us to dine alfresco - the porch was fine, but only comfortable when Off! was frequently applied, and coils burning under the table. That said night time temperature was quite comfy and there's usually a breeze, which tamed the bugs a little. I had especially enjoyed my cigars on the porch.

The pool is gorgeous, and was thoroughly enjoyed, especially as our afternoon refuge, after we hit the beach. It also made a great setting for taking pictures, which we had done plenty. With rum punch in one hand, a good book in the other, and over good music from the speakers, that's as lime as a New Yorker would get!


LALUNA

For the second half of the trip we moved over to LaLuna, a full service spa/resort located beyond the far end, west of Morne Rouge. Although resorts are not typically our choice, through the advice of ej we were able to score a a three night stay at great savings (through Skyauction.com). So why not?

LaLuna is its own estate located just beyond our favorite beach, Morne Rouge, with sixteen private bungalows and its own (albiet a little small) private beach, pool, bar, and restaurant. With a lush backdrop, the setting at LaLuna cannot be any more romantic. The rooms are balinese in style, which is like a hut, and the bed was very comfortable. Decor is minimalist, and easy on the eye. Outside there's a two-person, private plunge pool at every unit. The shower was alfresco, but very comfortable as well. There's a nice deck attached with a plush day bed. To provide some additional privacy they have curtains that you could pull open.

With such beautiful surroundings, our daily routine while at LaLuna was quite simple: we would drive down to Morne Rouge in the morning, have lunch, and then go back to the "hut" and enjoy each other's company in the afternoon, altering between the day bed and the plunge pool, while listening to classic rock and a cold beer in hand. Again, total chill.

As evening approaches, we would walk down to the comfortable lounge area right by the beach, where we will sip rum drinks (special shout out to my bartender friend Urban) and watched the sun set. And since its low season, sometimes we felt like we had the entire place all to ourselves. Twice we ate at the restaurant at the resort (since its merely steps away), which served solid, Italian fare. The chef was especially nice.

The experience at LaLuna was awesome. Even without their spa treatments and yoga lessons, it was just a magical place. The staff was especially friendly, and the relaxed feeling at the resort is unmatched.

FOOD AND DRINK

Unlike our previous trip reports, which we tend to visit a number of local eateries, this one would be a little shorter as we chose to do a lot more cooking in this time. At Turtleback, we took advantage of the well supplied IGA at the Spice Island Mall, and got to grill some really delicious local chicken, which we jerked and grilled two nights in a row. Peg had especially enjoyed the mangoes she picked off a tree near Turtleback as well. Fresh cane juice also was in abundance. We picked up a bottle from a street vendor one day, and mixed it into our rum drinks...which was delicious. Its a lot milder than regular sugar and tastes great with rum and juice. If you haven't tried using fresh cane juice in your mixed drinks, you should.

Twice during lunch time we ventured down to the Spice Island Mall area, and right near the main round about, on the lawn there's always this vendor (under two tents) that sells homemade food during lunch time. The two ladies serve up some really delicious local eats, the fish stew, chicken, and beef were all delicious, and were dirt cheap.

Near Turtleback we did have lunch at the Red Crab one day. Really enjoyed the Carib on draft, and their mahi mahi special was well made.

We also ventured down to the Dodgy Dock (at the True Blue Bay resort) for conch fritters (good but not great) and beer and drinks one afternoon, another great place to lyme.

BB's Crabback at St. George was most memorable. BB's Signature Dish was a goat meat curry and was expertly cooked. I especially liked the spicy pepper sauce (which looks more like a chutney made with Scotch Bonnet peppers) that came with it - but beware it was extra spicy!!! Wife had their daily fish special, which also was nicely done. Be sure to autograph or white a note on their walls, which is a tradition of the establishment.

About their graffiti, my special apologies to the Kentucky Wildcat faithful here, as I had mistakenly "crossed out" your Big Blue reference, thinking it was my hated rival Michigan (I'm a proud Wisconsin Badger fan). That said as a proud fan of the Super Bowl Champs the Packers, guests visiting BB's would be reminded that the" Bears still suck!"

While at LaLuna we also walked over to their sister restaurant, the Beach House. Honestly, the mosquito attacks were so fierce that I forgot what we ate....

CONCLUSION

Grenada was fun. Though not our first choice, we ended up liking the island very much, as our plans and arrangements suited our "all lyme" mentality for this visit. Turtleback and LaLuna certainly ranked among the best accommodations that we had encountered in the Caribbean. We felt that there's much left to explore on the island and would definitely consider a repeat visit in the future.

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