Caribbean: Seduced by the fragrance of Grenada

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

The pace is slow on this spice island, but you can still pack a lot into a day, says Cass Chapman

"If you're running late, you're moving too fast." So instructs my Grenadian tour guide, Mandoo Seales. An imposing ex-naval officer, he now executes daily tours of the "Island of Spice", as the Caribbean island of Grenada is known. His rapid-fire delivery is the antithesis of the laid-back lifestyle he preaches. Clearly in love with the place, he talks hurriedly of how important tourism has become since the island was devastated by Hurricane Ivan in 2004.

Most of Grenada's infrastructure has since been repaired; the waters are today calm and tranquil. Ivan left more than half of the islanders homeless, but they have bounced back with gusto. This is mostly due to the determination of the Grenadians, and partly due to the British entrepreneur turned Grenadian resident, Peter de Savary. He is considered a local, having bought properties across the island (as well as others the world over including the swanky Vanderbilt Hall on Rhode Island).

Back in Grenada, de Savary is putting the finishing touches to Port Louis, a maritime resort which he hopes will become a premier sailing hub in the West Indies. Post-Ivan, Grenadians have embraced tourism; de Savary is respected for encouraging it.

In a part of the world known – even celebrated – for taking its time, my perhaps unrealistic goal is to take in as much as possible of the island in a single day. It should be possible. After all, Grenada is just 21 miles long, about the size of the Isle of Wight, and with a population of 110,000. Mandoo's hyperactivity and enthusiasm for guidance will be vital in my quest.

After braving the winding, climbing coastal roads, the first stop on our drive is Gouyave, a small town on the west coast – and in particular the nutmeg factory here.

Before Hurricane Ivan, nutmeg was Grenada's key export (not counting tourism). The hurricane destroyed 80 per cent of the crop, though the exotic fragrance is still part of island life.

Once picked, the nuts are placed in water: if they sink, they are dried and used for spice; if they float, they are considered imperfect and used instead for soap and mosquito repellent. In Gouyave the spice is dried on rows of cedar wood racks.

The island is slowly replenishing its stock but the government estimates it will take 10 years to reach the pre-hurricane production levels. The lightly scented oil, also produced on site here, is the only thing that seems to prevent the mosquitoes from attacking me at night.

A short drive from Gouyave is colonial Mount Edgecombe, the stunning weekend home of Peter de Savary – also available for weddings and parties at $2,500 (£1,670) a day. It's a glorious stop for lunch, with sweeping porches enveloping a towering mansion perched high on a cliff edge. The infinity pool is a seductive afternoon suntrap; the air is soaked with the scent of bougainvillea, which drapes in every stairwell and on every windowsill.

Back in the car, Mandoo whisks me onwards to the Belmonte estate, a cocoa plantation that emerges from nowhere as we slowly navigate a dusty, rocky track. Today, this vast plantation produces luscious Grenadian chocolate and is also a tribute to the island's colonial history. There's a clapboard museum inside a small outhouse filled with 19th-century furniture, and a series of haunting narratives by African slaves brought by force to the island.

Any day of the week you can take a tour of the estate. Visitors are invited to participate in some of the chocolate production. I spread cocoa beans with my feet across giant outdoor drying racks, then sip a spicy glass of chocolate and chilli.

From this taste of colonial Grenada we head around the south-west corner of the island for a touch of the tropical. The Bay Botanical Garden is a stunning 20-acre forest of ferns (and nutmeg, of course). Set in St Paul's, a small suburb of the island's capital, St George's, it is a temple to Grenada's natural flora and fauna.

A gravel pathway leads visitors up a tiny road canopied with gigantic, fan-shaped palm trees. From a small wooden welcome hut at the path's end, a man called Albert St Bernard takes visitors through gardens which feel more like jungle. He has worked on the property for decades and tells me that his flowers won an award at the Chelsea Flower Show when he ventured to London some years back.

The space is breathtaking, a natural pause on our hectic route around the island. Everything is calm and serene; bird song and wind-blown palms are the only sounds to break the silence.

Then onwards, to the hubbub of St George's, 15 minutes' drive to the north. I'm staying at the Mount Cinnamon hotel, which is on the outskirts of town. It is also owned by Peter de Savary (the restaurant is called Savvy's).

Stark citrus interiors splash against the bright white villa exteriors, each zig-zagging along the side of a hill overlooking St George's and its bay below. Each villa is private, with a large living space that sits adjacent to a kitchen. The villas are large enough to feel like private apartments rather than boxy hotel rooms, and each has maid service. There is a beautiful pool and a small but delightful spa.

St George's is a tiny gem of a place. Despite its capital-city status, it seems more reminiscent of a Cornish fishing village than a metropolis. Craft shops pepper crescent-shaped streets that fringe the blue waters of the bay; fisherman crowd the waters with tiny boats. Locals rave about the cuisine at island favourites such as Aquarium (which offers fresh whole fish and steaks) and LaLuna (set on a stunning private beach serving up Italian food and imported chianti). But today is "Fish Friday", so I head back to Gouyave, in search of authentic Caribbean cuisine.

Held each week, Fish Friday draws locals from every corner of the island. The streets are packed with stalls and makeshift kitchen equipment, all of which is overseen by Grenadian women who sell ice-cold Carib beer, thick fried wedges of mahi mahi and freshly squeezed lime juice (with daunting amounts of added sugar). Music thumps from nearby shops, and tourists flock to vendors selling grilled whole lobsters from sidewalk stands. Fish Friday is a street-party all of its own; the food and music flow long into the night.

One dish in particular intrigues me: a fish broth called lambi waters. To make it, conch shells are emptied of meat and seawater; the latter is then poured into a pot and simmered into stock to which vegetables and herbs are added. Salty but extremely tasty, it's the perfect starter. Then I try "oil down", the island's national dish: chicken, salt beef, salt fish and pig's tail are cooked up with a callaloo and breadfruit, before being blended with coconut milk. It is served at almost every street stall, and tastes rich and flavoursome, particularly when followed by a steaming half lobster, served on the shell.

When the sun finally sets, leaving the sky ink-black, the beach bars of St George's work their magic. Tourists and residents file into the venue of the moment, Umbrella's – a buzzing wooden bar with a roof terrace covered, unsurprisingly, in umbrellas. I pop in for a nightcap but, filled with oil down and fresh lobster, my double-wide bed at Mount Cinnamon proves far more appealing than the likely hangover produced by one more Carib beer.

Back at my ocean-facing villa, the rain starts to come down hard and fast. "Liquid sunshine," they call it here. Tomorrow will undoubtedly see more of the real thing, and another day ripe for the exploration of this seductive spice island.

Travel essentials: Grenada

Getting there

* The only non-stop flights from the UK are on Monarch (08719 40 50 40; monarch.co.uk), on Wednesdays from Gatwick.

* British Airways (0844 493 0787; ba.com) and Virgin Atlantic (0844 874 7747; virgin-atlantic.com) fly the same route but each has a refuelling stop along the way. BA flies on Tuesdays and Saturdays, Virgin flies on Thursdays.

* Golden Caribbean Holidays (0845 085 8080; goldencaribbean.co.uk) offers a week in a Hacienda Suite at Mount Cinnamon for £999 per person, including flights on Monarch, transfers,and breakfast, between 11 May and 22 June (quote MC01).

Staying there

* Mount Cinnamon, Morne Rouge, Grand Anse Beach, St George's (001 473 439 4400; mountcinnamongrenadahotel.com). Suites start at $373 (£249), including breakfast. Villas sleeping two start at $427 (£284).

* Mount Edgecombe (001 473 405 5800; mountedgecombegrenada.com). From $15,000 (£10,000) per week, full board.

Visiting there

* Gouyave Nutmeg Processing Cooperative, Gouyave (001 473 444 8337). Open 10am-1pm and 2-4pm from Monday to Friday.

* Belmont Estate, St Patrick (001 473 442 9524; belmontestate.net). Open Sun to Fri, 8am-4pm.

* Bay Botanical Gardens, St Paul's (001 473 435 4544). Open 10am-9pm daily except Sunday.

Eating there

* Aquarium, Point Salines Beach, St George's (001 473 444 1410).

* LaLuna, Hotel Laluna, Morne Rouge (001 473 439 0001).

Further information

* Grenada Tourism: 001 473 440 2279; grenadagrenadines.com

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

Voices
voicesGood for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, writes Grace Dent
News
The University of California study monitored the reaction of 36 dogs
sciencePets' range of emotions revealed
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
Arts and Entertainment
The nomination of 'The Wake' by Paul Kingsnorth has caused a stir
books
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
The Tour de France peloton rides over a bridge on the Grinton Moor, Yorkshire, earlier this month
film
News
Snoop Dogg pictured at The Hollywood Reporter Nominees' Night in February, 2013
people... says Snoop Dogg
News
i100
Life and Style
food + drinkZebra meat is exotic and lean - but does it taste good?
Arts and Entertainment
Residents of Derby Road in Southampton oppose filming of Channel 4 documentary Immigration Street in their community
tv
Voices
voicesSiobhan Norton on why she eventually changed her mind
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
News
i100
Extras
indybest
Sport
Scottish singer Susan Boyle will perform at the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony in Glasgow
commonwealth games
Arts and Entertainment
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson stars in Hercules
filmReview: The Rock is a muscular Davy Crockett in this preposterous film, says Geoffrey Macnab
Life and Style
tech
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    C++ Software Engineer - Hounslow, West London - C++ - to £60K +

    £40000 - £60000 per annum + Pension, Healthcare : Deerfoot IT Resources Limite...

    VB.NET and C# developer (VB.NET,C#,ASP.NET)

    £30000 - £45000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: VB.NET a...

    Visitor Experience volunteer

    Unpaid voluntary role: Old Royal Naval College: To assist the Visitor Experien...

    Telesales Manager. Paddington, London

    £45-£55k OTE £75k : Charter Selection: Major London International Fashion and ...

    Day In a Page

    Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

    Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

    A land of the outright bizarre
    What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

    What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

    ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
    Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

    The worst kept secret in cinema

    A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
    Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

    The new hatched, matched and dispatched

    Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
    Why do we have blood types?

    Are you my type?

    All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
    Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

    Honesty box hotels

    Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

    Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

    The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
    Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

    The 'scroungers’ fight back

    The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
    Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

    Fireballs in space

    Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
    A Bible for billionaires

    A Bible for billionaires

    Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
    Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

    Paranoid parenting is on the rise

    And our children are suffering because of it
    For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

    Magna Carta Island goes on sale

    Yours for a cool £4m
    Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

    The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

    Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
    We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

    We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

    Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
    The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

    The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

    For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn