Last week, Grenada stole my heart. There hasn’t been another island that has had this kind of impact on me aside from my beloved Jamaica. I was there as a speaker for the Caribbean Entrepreneurship Summit. It sought to strengthen collaboration in our region.
There’s a movement of young Caribbean business owners determined to see us more productive and prosperous, and I believe the summit made a big leap in that direction.
As excited as I am about the opportunities that were identified and acted upon and the fact that Sweetie products will be on Grenadian shelves come February, my contribution this week focuses more on my love affair with Grenada, the island. Here’s how it began.
After a brief meeting two days before the summit with a potential distributor for Sweetie, I got a ride back to town from a young man I had met in the office. My last question to him as we parted ways was, “What is the must-see attraction on the island?” To my surprise (and delight), he offered not to tell me where to go, but to take me there the next day.
I didn’t even know his name, but who was I to turn down Grenadian hospitality. We hatched a plan to meet up. At 11 a.m., he was at my hotel. After a delicious lunch of a jalapeo-stuffed burger and sweet potato fries on the crystal blue Grand Anse beach, we set off on our adventure. We drove three hours north across the island, stopping at every memory-making, breath-taking tableau.
Grenada reminds me a lot of Portland. It’s very green, hilly, beaches, rivers and waterfalls everywhere. No building is higher than four storeys (and even those are few and far between). I dipped my toes in remote beaches. I followed footpaths through nature reserves and hiked uphill to a stunning bird’s-eye view of the island from Welcome Stone.
On our way back, I heard the laughter of children just getting out of a school. The society, in general, was so unpretentiously happy. It felt like home. As night fell and we chatted, meandering through country roads, the lush in me asked for us to stop at a rum bar. Rum shops in Portland always give me a tale to tell, and I assumed that a Grenadian bartender would be equally as entertaining. He didn’t disappoint.
After choosing a spot, we sat down for a little cane juice. The fermented kind. My tour guide asked the bartender (half in jest) if he had any “Under The Counter”, and with a knowing laugh, the bartender presented a well-aged bottle of mystery concoction. Unlike the liquor displayed for sale on the shelf behind him, this bottle came from under the bar counter.
Here’s what I could make out in it: Rum – The smell hit me first. My bartender advised that it was a 67 per cent overproof white that formed the base of the portion. Lemongrass (faded to an almost cotton-candy pink – All colour and flavour absorbed into the aged spirit). What looked like mint. Cinnamon leaves and whole nutmeg. Almonds, peanuts and cashews.
The bottle may or not have contained a scorpion, I was told. I didn’t want confirmation. It turned out to be a delicious mix of sweet and warm and earthy spice over which the three of us chatted for a good half-hour about everything from fatherhood to fidelity to religion to the nuances of Caribbean life. It felt like home.
I spent five days total in Grenada and left vowing to return. Three things jumped out at me that magnified not only the familiarity, but also my fondness for the place. (1) It was clean.There wasn’t garbage anywhere in sight and I drove the island end to end. (2) Women embraced their natural hair. Not many with perms and relaxers and even fewer with weaves. Most women also wore no make-up. They were just comfortable in their own skin and it was wonderful to see. (3) Reggae and dancehall were the soundtrack to my visit. It played in buses, on radio stations, was sung by performers at tourist attractions, was played in food trucks. Everything from Alton Ellis to Alkaline.
So often our vacations are planned for faraway places to the north, overlooking the beauty in our backyards. There’s a reason foreigners are attracted to the warmth of Caribbean weather, water, and people. In the same way I advocate for staycationing in Jamaica, a visit to other islands in the region can lift your spirit – if only it weren’t so expensive to get there.