An implausible scent concocted from the grime on the streets of Market Square blending with that of nutmeg and cinnamon from the spice vendors is characteristic of the experience one can expect on this steamy tropical island—Grenada. It is part of the windward chain in the Eastern Caribbean that are generally the larger in size in the West Indies. It would behoove you at some point during your stay to drive on the left side of the road, or preferably ride with someone who can better navigate the extraordinarily hilly streets of the island to Gouvaye on the west coast. Here, you can take a tour of the fragrant nutmeg processing station which is right on the dusty main thoroughfare of the town. The pescetarians amongst you could stay back for the world famous fish fry, where the seafood is grilled, broiled, steamed, baked, sautéed and of course fried which you can partake while jamming to calypso, soca or reggae.
The term “liming” is literally derived from having nothing more demanding to do but squeeze limes under a lime tree.
The term “liming” is literally derived from having nothing more demanding to do but squeeze limes under a lime tree. Your typical day of liming in Grenada would start out with swimming in the amazingly calm waters off the Grand Anse Beach. Once you have rinsed off the sand from the crevices of your body either in the pool shower or the bathtub in your room, you can make your way to Wall Street whose only connection to its namesake in New York City is a shabby Western Union outlet in disrepair. What really brings you there is the promise of breakfast with grilled items laid out for your purchase behind the glass sneezeguards which could use a good scrubbing with Windex.
Fruit stalls beckon, and I walk over to one. For Cody (not his real name), the pleasure of engaging in a Sunday of liming is unfortunately unattainable. He has a fruit stall on Wall Street stacked with tropical fruits like bananas, pineapples, papayas, sugar apples and mangoes which you can either nosh on in their solid state or get them juiced in his handy-dandy blender. On weekdays Cody commutes in a packed minivan from his village; it does not run on Sundays; he walks almost four hours that day to his fruit stall and its effect is evident on his muscles despite his diminutive build. He does not wish to miss out on earning on Sundays, as he is focused on saving for a better future.
Cody speaks Creole English with his fellow Grenadians but switches to English when speaking with us. It is quite interesting when a Brit joins in on the conversation one day. With his British accent, Cody’s West Indian and my East Indian one, although we are all speaking English, to a casual observer it might as well have been three different languages. Cody expresses his concern about the degradation of moral values and seems remiss about whether he will find a “good” island woman who will do a day of honest work, who he could marry and raise a family with.
As Cody breaks up one more coconut and pours the heavenly liquid within its shell, a red minivan, not unlike the one that Cody takes in on weekdays, with Number 1 emblazoned on its windshield stops to let out a few passengers on Wall Street. When the three in our party go on board, the van looks as packed as if no one had disembarked. The driver’s assistant gives us an assuring look and confidently waves us in, packing us in like sardines as we head to the central terminal in St. George, which is one of the six parishes on the main island of Grenada. We are driving to a spot that hosts incoming cruise ships on a daily basis.
The cruise ships let off their passengers into the corridors of a decidedly expensive mall with stores that sell souvenirs, imitation jewelry and designer clothes with prices marked in US Dollars and Euros. When these passengers finally walk out into town, they are bound to encounter street vendors who sell similar souvenirs, jewelry and designer knock-offs at cheaper prices; further, these unsuspecting transients, the modern day sea voyagers do not realize that the prices quoted in dollars in town do not refer to the greenback but to Carribean dollars which are roughly 2 and ½ times less expensive! A fool and their money are soon parted goes the pithy maxim that describes this best.
For lunch, the touristy part of the Island of Grenada has no dearth of restaurants, if you do not mind your creole sauce made from ketchup! With some effort you should be able to locate a more authentic experience partaking the national dish of “oil down” made from local spices; it is made from a base of breadfruit and comes in both vegetarian and meat varieties—if you are up to it they could make it spicy with a dash of hot Congo Pepper.
All in all, “oil down” can be heavy on your stomach and you might want to spend the rest of the afternoon lounging on the beach, a choice activity that is part of the liming experience. You can simply nap or bury yourself in a good book, or do a bit of both. While liming in this fashion, be sure to purchase a trinket or two from beachside vendors without bargaining; they are selling their wares cheaper than the stores and depend on your generosity to improve their basic livelihood.
The area near the Central Terminal where the cruise ships dock in St. George is bustling during the day but it looks like something straight out of the Pirates of the Caribbean after dark. It is safe to say that it is not safe for you to be there at night, even though Grenada has one of the lowest crime rates in the Caribbean. Just stick to vendors near your hotel, including those on Wall Street that may serve up packets of freshly made popcorn or juiced sugarcane depending on the season. Wall Street is agog with parties with an abundance of food, drinks, and music until six in the morning on Fridays and Saturdays.
If you are tired of liming, (yes it can happen), then you can make a day out of visiting the Grand Etang rainforest in the central part of the island and you can also take in the attractions on the East Coast. The terrain flanking the Grand Etang Road is very different from the sandy beaches on the coast. The National Park bearing the same name boasts of quite a few hikes that chase waterfalls. If you head to Amandale Falls where you are certain to spot a lanky Caribbean dude doing daredevil dives off the cliff into the large pool formed by the waterfall; remember it’s not a paid attraction and he is risking his life for tips from the likes of you and me.
Along the East Coast, north of Greenville, you may like the tour of the River Antoine Rum Distillery, a self-sustaining marvel if there is one; it generates its energy from a waterwheel fed by the river which powers the machines that crush the sugarcane, whose husk is used to fire up an old fashioned furnace that heats up ancient concrete vats which distill the sugarcane juice converting it into rum with an alcohol content of 69%! If the alcohol content was 70% they would not be able to export it as at that level the distilled spirit would be combustible. Now you know!
Whatever you do, don’t confuse Granada in Spain with Grenada in the Caribbean, the former being a formidable tourist destination with its Nasrid Palaces in the UNESCO Heritage site at Alhambra. In fact, back in 2014, an American dentist lost a $34,000 lawsuit against British Airways when he was flown to Grenada instead of the medieval city of Granada.
Now of course, you know better than that!
Riz Mithani graduated from IIT Bombay in the previous century and currently ekes out a living in the Bay Area managing a team that peddles technology solutions to highly complex first world business problems. When he is not dancing, singing or traveling, he blogs occasionally at rizmit.wordpress.com