Grenada is one such place. Yet, I’ve never been, never quite seen until I stumbled upon the recent vacation pictures of my college friend and now full-fledged lawyer— Aarti Amrita Bridgelal, Esq. (Congratulations Lady!)
This was no commercial where the verdant green had to be dialed up or the turquoise water had to be turned on or adjusted. This was snapshots of perfection on earth through the lens of someone with a simple agenda, which included the enjoyment of family in the setting of the gorgeous island of Grenada.
Grenada is the land of spices, exotic flowers and rare fruits. It encompasses the three island nation of Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique and the gateway to the Grenadines. It also represented for this island woman, the familiar emotional pull and weight of home, heritage and it was an explosion of culture.
I needed to live a bit vicariously through Aarti’s memories of her Grenada Getaway, and when I asked her if I could interview her and share a portion of her bliss with the world, she very graciously told me yes.
The following is Aarti in all her loveliness giving me the best of the Spice Isle through her eyes.
So what prompted this trip? Why Grenada?
We went to Grenada, or the Island of Spice—world-renowned for its cultivation of nutmeg, cinnamon, and cocoa. My sister is finishing up medical school at St. George’s University in St. George, Grenada. It is a New York-affiliated school, unlike the other medical schools in the Caribbean. So my family and I decided to take a trip to see her as well as pack up all her things to bring back to New York, where she will be doing a residency program.
How long did you stay? Where did you stay?
We stayed for 12 days in Lance Aux Epines, at my sister’s house located on top of a small mountain not too far from the “downtown” area of the southern part of the island and close to St. George’s.
Describe your trip to Grenada in one word.
Let’s talk wardrobe. What were some of your vaca-style essentials?
Flowing dresses, shorts, tank tops and sandals certainly helped us tolerate the torrid days and nights. The beautiful beaches of white, soft sand and green-blue waters called for festive bathing suits, and I happily donned my colorful wear to play in the water, lay on the sand, lull away in the shallow end or attempt a true swim.
What was your favorite activity?
All of the adventures we embarked on were delightful and illuminating: rambling up a rocky arduous hike leading to the breathtaking Seven Sisters waterfalls; meandering through remote fishing villages; wining to the rhythms of steel pan bands; cheering on cricket games; introducing our palette to nutmeg ice cream, sapadilla shakes, dasheen, and passion fruit juice; walking on dry cocoa beans laid on in the sun for roasting at the Belmont Estates cocoa plantation; spotting sharks swimming underneath us as we dined at a waterfront restaurant; reclining in hammocks that nearly touched the water gliding past us on a sunset catamaran cruise; talking to cheerful rainbow-feathered parrots; clambering to the 1,910 feet lookout point; bathing in the tepid and salty aquamarine waters of the Caribbean Sea; picking breadfruit, Governor’s plum, Julie mangoes and moko off of trees on the side of the road; and puzzling over how Grand Etang Lake can be the only bottomless lake in the world. At the local market, we arrived at 6 am as the vendors were setting their fruits and vegetables out for display. Women in head wraps, oversized t-shirts, calf-length skirts and jeans with bronzed and wind-torn hands offered their choice selections. Men wielding cutlasses deftly cracked upon fresh coconuts. It was as if the sun bared the reality of their lives for us. With an inherited dignity, they let us partake in the proud harvests of their land.
My favorite fruit, since I was a child growing up in Trinidad, is pomerac. Since they are too perishable for import, I have not been able to bite into this juicy, sweet delicacy with its red skin and white soft pulp since my grandmother smuggled them into the U.S. 7 years ago. I picked up a whole bag of ripe pomerac from the market and devoured it!
Did you venture touring?
The most enchanting experience of my life was arriving at Levera, at the very top of the island which took us 2 hours to reach by bus from the bottom of the island in St. George’s. On a moonless night, we inched along rocky dirt paths to reach a clear pathway to the shore. As my face turned upward, all I can explain is that I felt I was transported to another universe. The tranquility of the gentle ocean waves, the light breeze rustling the palm leaves, cold white sand under our feet, and the thousands of incandescent and smudged stars bespeckling the inky sky combined to create a mesmerizing landscape that will forever last in my memories. However, the real treasure did not exist in the heavens, but rather right down the beach. Levera is one of the sites where female leatherback turtles habitually return to the shore where they were born, and in a timeless and inexplicable ritual every spring, feverishly burrow a hole 4 feet deep and begin to drop their eggs to safety. Some of them will have yolk, while others will not; this is an evolutionary scheme developed to increase the chances of survival from sand crabs and other predators. Only one of the dozens of baby turtles born from a single nest will make it to adulthood. Currently, leatherback turtles are labeled as an endangered species due to severe poaching. Some of the islanders still bring home turtle meat and boil the eggs for dinner. And a turtle only fetches about $100 USD. A few days before we arrived we heard stories of an old, heavy turtle dying from an arm being cut off and left to languish near her nest, with her eggs stolen. St. George’s University houses a conservation group (and all of the funds from the tours go towards education and care) to stem these cruel practices. Accordingly, leatherback turtles are fiercely protective. I was wearing a white shawl in the dark of night, and just as the lumbering turtle set out to disappear into the ocean after covering her eggs, she spotted my white profile. I can still feel her eyes radiating an alarm as she struggled to shoo me away from her precious progeny. I stood in guilty awe, and only hope to one day share in her maternal instinct.
I was surprised at the calmness of the nights. The only entities stirring seemed to be the vexing mosquitoes and the cacophonous green crickets. Despite a few bars and local hang out spots, this island seems to be cloaked in serenity, with little violence or corruption being reported. During Easter weekend, all groceries and restaurants were closed and families were seen walking in their best suits to Church. There is a feeling of brotherhood here, an invisible but unshakable pact among Grenadians, to honor and protect the natural beauty of the land and of its people.
What did you bring back?
I was never a fan of the trinkets that souvenir shops dangle at tourists, so we went into town to the craft shops to meet local artists. I found a beautiful pink hibiscus flower made from a recycled oil drum, a mother and child canvas artwork from an influential Grenadian painter, and a cracked but genuine conch shell sitting in the coral sands of BBC Beach. Now if only I could figure out a way to export pomerac out of Grenada!
Doesn’t all this talk, but particularly those pictures make you want to book immediate passage on the next flight to the Spice Isle or any of her neighbors?
Thank you so much Aarti! DASHEEN loves your travel style 🙂
Are you planning a trip? Where to?
ABOUT THE WRITER