Grenada is a group of three larger islands (Grenada, Carriacou, and Petite Martinique) and several tiny islands (Area: 344 sq km) in the Caribbean, or West Indies. It lies just northeast of Trinidad and Tobago, and southwest of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. It is famous for spices and is known as the spice isle, being a major source of nutmeg, cloves, ginger, cinnamon, and cocoa.
One of the smallest independent countries in the western hemisphere, Grenada was seized by a Marxist military council on 19 October 1983. Six days later the island was invaded by US forces and those of six other Caribbean nations, which quickly captured the ringleaders and their hundreds of Cuban advisers. Free elections were reinstituted the following year.
Grenada has the following towns and cities:
Grenada was first "discovered" by Europeans when Columbus passed by on his third voyage in 1498. He named the island Concepcion. In 1609 the British tried to begin a colony, but the island was inhabited by indigenous people known as the Carib Indians who did not want them there. In 1650, the French managed to bribe them with exotic european goods, to establish a colony.
The Caribs were still not friendly towards the French, and were constantly in conflict with them soon after they arrived. In 1651, the conflict ended with an all-out effort by the French to eradicate the Caribs. After a heated battle, the remaining Caribs fled to the northern coast, where the town of Sauteurs is today. At a cliff know as Carib's Leap, or Leaper's Hill, legend has it that the Caribs, rather than submit to the questionable benefits of European colonization, threw themselves over the edge of the cliffs to the rocks below. Since history is always written by the victor, this is accepted as undisputed fact.
Over the next hundred years, Grenada was traded back and forth many times between Britain and France during the course of their wars. Finally in 1783, the Treaty of Versailles awarded Grenada to Britain, but the French heritage lives on in many of the geographical names and in the African-French patois still spoken by many.
In 1967, Grenada became an associated state within the British Commonwealth. With this, the island nation gained control of its internal affairs, while the government of Britain continued to control external matters. Complete independence was achieved in 1974 under the leadership of the late Sir Eric Gairy -- a charismatic and controversial figure who had been in the public eye since the early 1950s.
While Gairy was away from the island in 1979, his key political opponent, the late Maurice Bishop, seized control of the government. An avowed radical, Bishop set about establishing strong ties to the Soviet Union and Cuba. Then, in 1983, a faction within Bishop’s New Jewel Movement placed Bishop under house arrest and took control of Grenada. Bishop and several aides were eventually executed.
All this turmoil and the purported threat to U.S. medical students stranded on the island, served as the catalyst for the famed "rescue mission" by U.S. forces a short time later. The overwhelming support for the action by the Grenadian population was evident from the start and has barely subsided today.
In late 1984, the late Herbert Blaize was elected Prime Minister of Grenada in its first free elections since the incident. As a result of substantial U.S. aid, the government is well on its way to rebuilding the island’s reputation as an agricultural force, with light manufacturing and tourism to round out its economic base.
In September of 2004, hurricane Ivan devastated the island of Grenada and destroyed or damaged 90% of the buildings and most of the spice crops. It has only just begun the rebuilding effort as of 2004.
Point Salines International Airport is on the main island of Grenada, located on a peninsula in the extreme southwest corner. It is about 4 miles from the capital of St. George's. British Airways, BWIA, and American Eagle, Monarch, USAir, Air Canada, Virgin Atlantic, Caribbean Star, Liat, Air Jamaica, provide direct service to Grenada; connections can be made on other carriers via Trinidad and Barbados.
Ferry service is available to the islands of Carriacou and Petite Martinique via Osprey Lines Limited.
Charters of various sizes and crews can be found by inquiring at hotels or the carenage in St. Geroge's.
Most of the travel in and around St. George's is limited to taxis and buses. To hail a taxi, one must simply be standing on a street corner. The independently owned, but government licensed, cars and vans will stop and ask if one wants a ride. Some standard fares include EC$30.00 from the airport to St. George's and EC$25-35.00 for trips from most hotels to the various dining spots around the city.
Buses in Grenada are the standardized form of transportation. They are vans that hold between 15-19 people, and they have route numbers and signs on them. In town, there are designated bus stops, however, once you leave town, you can signal a stop by either knocking on the wall or pressing the stop button. Conductors and drivers are always very friendly, so do not hesitate to ask them where you should stop. Bus fares vary between EC$2.00-8.00 depending on the distance. They are lively trips, with great music and a nice breeze.
English is spoken throughout the country with a Grenadian accent that can sometimes be confused for a different language. However, it is in fact English! French Patois used to be the dialect language spoken within Grenada, but it only remains within the older generations. Most Grenadians only know a few words.
Nutmeg is Grenada's cash crop, so be sure to bring some home in some form - whole, jam, jelly, syrup, Nutmed (medicinal ointment). In addition, you can purchase nutmeg flavored ice cream, which has an unusual flavor that is difficult to find elsewhere. Due to Hurricane Ivan in September of 2004, over 90% of Grenada's nutmeg crop was destroyed, but thankfully, you will still see an abundance around the market, town, and tourist shops.
Real vanilla is a steal in the markets, sometimes it can be found for as little as $1US for a 1/2 litre bottle. The concentration of the fluid does vary, but in its pure form there is a noticeable (and very pleasant) difference from the vanilla extract that most North Americans are used to.
The Red Crab in Lance Aux Epines has a fabulous menu. You can't go wrong with their Calalou soup (a local taste treat!), Crepe Voltaire or Lambi (conch) Caliste. The location isn't the most picturesque, but the food more than makes up for it. They also have great service (a rarity on the island unfortunately).
The Grand Anse mall has a local fruit and soup joint that is equally tasty - fresh fruit smoothies and fresh soups daily. A great treat!
For truly local flavour, dinner at Mom's (yes, Mom's is the name of the restaurant) is an experience as well as a meal. Serving bowls are brought to the tables (think picnic-table style seating), armadillo is a house specialty.
Grenada Chocolate Facotory produces organic dark chocolate with vintage machinery run by solar power. You should be able to find the colorfully packaged bars in stores throughout the island. Tours of the factory itsself are also very interesting.
Grenada is known for many of its rum distilleries. All three offer educational tours that demonstrate the sugar production for rum. The three largest companies are Clarke's Court, Westerhall and River Antoine. They are all located on different parts of the island with only Clarke's Court and River Antoine being the true remaining distilleries. Although Westerhall is not completely produced here, their special rum (with the wax casing) is probably the best rum on the island. Clarke's Court makes both light and special dark rums which are also quite delicious. Be forewarned about Rivers. It has a 75% alcohol content which you are not allowed to export. (They make a version with 69% for exporting.) At all the distilleries you can buy small bottles and rum is sold in most grocery stores and rum shops.
There are several tour companies that can take you on 1/2 or full day island tours to show the highlights of the islands history and culture.
Private taxis with guide/driver are readily available. Most independent drivers work out of the major hotels, any concierge will readily assist with making the arrangements. Expect a tour tailored to your interests. If your travels take you away from the cities, you will usually be brought to a delightful local lunch stop where the driver is freindly with the proprietor(ess)--lunch will be explained(translated), there may be one or a few selections, and orders are taken verbally. Expect to pay $EC20-35 cash for a full lunch plate with drink. A full day will cost upwards of $100 $US.
Although Grenada is a West Indian island in the Caribbean, Grenadians do not spend the majority of their time "liming" on the beach. Grenadians are very serious about their jobs and many workplaces require specially-tailored suits. St. George's Town is a place of commerce with the many banks, businesses, and governmental offices. Do not confuse it for the beach. It is often seen as rude or disrespectful for people to walk around Grenada inappropriately dressed, especially if you are dressed for the beach and you are not on it. Do not confuse the laid-back attitude for lazy, as Grenadians have a very formal and conservative attitude about their lifestyle and workplace.