Grenada – Escape to the Tropics

Elf Owl

An Elf Owl peeks out of a saguaro cactus.

Map of Caribbean

Map of the Eastern Caribbean.

St. Vincent & The Grenadines is highlighted.

South Florida is in the upper left, Venezuela is along the bottom.

Map of Grenadines

St. Vincent, The Grenadines and Grenada.

Arizona seen from the air

Leaving the arid hills of the

southwest behind.

St. George's Grenada

First glimpse of St. George's harbor on Grenada.

Goat

A goat was making all that noise...

Grand Anse Beach

Grand Anse Beach.

Mark with St. George's Grenada behind him.

Happy Beach Bum.

Coyaba Resort Grenada

Resort living.

Coyaba Resort Grenada

Manicured path through a posh

beachside resort.

Coyaba Resort Grenada Coyaba Resort Grenada

Lush flowers line the resort paths.

Hibiscus flower

Hibiscus flower.

Emily with Grand Anse Beach behind her

Gateway to the beach.

Mark at Grand Anse Beach

Tropical man.

Grand Anse Beach

Sunbathing in paradise.

Beach vendor, Grenada

Merry Christmas from Grenada.

Guy in truck

Young men love to stand in the

backs of pickups.

Traffic jam, Grenada

A cop squeezes through a traffic jam.

Ocean views Grenada property

Beautiful ocean views between the hillside homes.

Cruise ship Grenada

A cruise ship anchored off the town.

Macaws at the marina

Two blue and gold macaws say "hello."

Classic Caribbean building

Classic Caribbean.

St George's Carenage

View of St. George's from across the harbor.

Street vendor selling conch shells to cruise ships

A vendor hawks conch shells to

the cruise ship tourists

Christ of the Deep statue

Christ of the Deep Statue

Grenada library

Grenada library.

Sendall tunnel Grenada

Sendall Tunnel - shared by

pedestrians & cars, no sidewalk!

Government buildings Grenada

Government buildings with St. George's homes behind.

Grenada & the town of St. George's

Mid-December, 2009 - [From the Phoenix Parks] -- Living full-time in an

RV poses the considerable challenge of figuring out what to do in the

wintertime.  While most RV snowbirds come down from the northern states

and provinces to spend the winter in southern California, Arizona, Texas

and Florida, we find those places are all too cold.  And we aren't alone.

The smallest owl species, the Elf Owl, feels the same way.  Arizona is the

elf owl's summer home, and these adorable little guys show up around late

February each year, hanging out in the cool saguaro cactus interiors when

the summertime heat really starts to sizzle.  They leave in the fall for

warmer climes in Mexico where their favorite insects and scorpions are still

active and buzzing and available for dinner over Christmas and New

Years.

There is nowhere consistently warm in the US between December and

February, except possibly southern Florida, which is not big-rig friendly.  We have shivered our way through the past two winters.

and felt very cooped up in our rig.  We would happily take the buggy down the Baja peninsula or down to Puerto Vallarta (or

beyond) in Mexico each winter, but the Dodge truck has one of the new "Blue Tech" engines that requires the new non-polluting #2

Diesel fuel (all diesel trucks in the US with a model year of mid-2007 or later have these engines).  Although our truck was built in

Mexico, it is not sold in Mexico.  Mexican diesel trucks conform to less stringent pollution standards and #2 diesel is not readily

available in Mexico except in the border towns.

So this year we put a lot of thought into coming up with a different plan.  We entered a few contests to win a sailing charter in the

Caribbean, we agreed to help some friends sail their boat down the Mexican coast to Central America and through the Panama

Canal, we tried to get into the Baja Ha-Ha sailing rally from San Diego to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, aboard the mothership

catamaran Profligate, and we toyed with the idea of getting an RV site in a park somewhere relatively warm.

But none of these ideas worked out.  So we finally

cobbled together some frequent flier miles that were left

over from our corporate working days and got tickets to

Grenada in the southeastern Caribbean, with the idea

of visiting both Grenada and nearby St. Vincent and the

Grenadines.  We found two furnished apartments on

different islands that we could rent cheaply for a month

apiece, and we came up with a loose plan to spend two

months based in apartments and two weeks wandering

through the Grenadine Islands.  The buggy will stay at a

friend's RV storage facility until we return at the end of

February.

The Grenadine islands sit about 100 miles off the South

American (Venezuelan) coast, north of Trinidad, at the

bottom of the chain of eastern Caribbean islands.  The

island of St. Vincent caps the north end, and together

with most of the Grenadine islands makes up the

country of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.  The island

of Grenada lies to the south, and together with the

southernmost Grenadine islands makes up the country

of Grenada.

Under British rule until 1974, Grenada is an independent country that made US headline news in 1983 when the US military

invaded to overthrow a volatile regime that had seized power.  St. George's University's medical school trains many future US

physicians, and these medical school students had to be evacuated during the invasion.  Grenada hit the headlines once again in

2004 when Hurricane Ivan proved that Grenada doesn't really sit south of the hurricane belt as many had thought.  The

devastation was extreme: ninety percent of the island's homes were damaged by the storm.

Grenada has personal meaning to me because it was the final

destination of a sailing charter I did in 1992.  After sashaying through the

glittering islands that start with St. Lucia,100 miles further up the chain, I

fell in love with the people and sights of Grenada, also known as the

Spice Island.  This was one of those technicolor times in my life that

remains near and dear to my heart and stands out in my memory as ten

of the best days I've ever had.  I vividly remember sailing those

crystalline turquoise waters and seeing starfish on the sand 50 feet

below the boat.  Mark has similar memories of Barbados, which lies 50

miles east of St. Vincent.  He visited in the mid-1970's, dashing about

the island on a scooter with his girlfriend, watching horses pull open

wagonloads of hay from the inland farms and buying fresh fish from

fishermen on the beach.  Those brilliant memories bring warmth to his

soul.  He was lucky to get to Barbados when every building on the island

was just one story high.

Leaving Phoenix, we watched the

beautifully contoured mountains of

eastern Arizona and western New

Mexico slip away under the wing

of our plane, and said "goodbye"

to the arid, angular desert for a few months.  Twelve hours of flying and a layover in Miami

got us to Grenada by 9:00 that night, and we emerged from customs and immigration into

the sultry humid air of this lush land.  Christmas lights and beeping car horns greeted us, and

we jumped into a taxi -- on the wrong side at first, as we forgot they drive like the Brits -- and

straight into a gridlocked traffic jam.  "I've been driving taxis here since 1985, and it's always

like this," our driver said, laughing.  "We have a terrible infrastructure here."  The horns

continued, high-pitched but friendly, and the drivers hung out of their van windows, arms

waving madly, as they joked with each other and tried to wriggle their vans free of the mess.

Our apartment was clean but

spartan, a bit like Motel 6 prior

to renovations, with air

conditioning, wifi and cable TV.

Outside our windows a

cacophony of tree frogs chirped rhythmically in the dark, like a bunch

of squeaky swing sets at a playground.  Too excited to sleep, we

settled in to watch Oprah's White House Christmas special on the 9"

screen.  It wasn't until our second night that we found local Caribbean

stations sprinkled between the standard American cable fare.  German

and French stations rounded out the offerings.

We awoke

the next

morning to bright sunshine flooding

our room.  Through bleary, blinking

eyes we saw the town of St.

George's and its welcoming harbor

sparkling in the distance beyond

our veranda.

We had barely slept a wink in the

tiny bed, surrounded by strange

tropical noises, and we'd lost three

hours to time-zone changes, but in

a flash we grabbed our masks, snorkels and fins and dashed down to the

beach.  On the way, we stopped to check out the source of a pitiful wailing

we had been hearing all morning.  It turned out to be a mama goat across

the street, and she had an awful lot to say for herself.

Grand Anse beach is the most popular

beach in Grenada, situated just a little

southwest of the main town of St.

George's.  It was a quick walk for us,

and our grins preceded us all the way

down the hill.  The little cars -- all late

model and shiny -- zoomed past us, their

horns happily beeping.  Toyotas, Isuzus,

and other familiar car makes filled the

road, but the models were new to our

eyes.  Passersby greeted us, and we

waved when the cars honked, learning

too late that taxis stop when you wave.

Suddenly a van did a u-turn right next

to us, backing up into someone's front yard, while its driver

hung out the window, gesturing at us to get in.  Oops.  It

also took a few near nips for us to remember to look right

before crossing the street or risk getting run over.

Down by the beach the thick scents of exotic plants filled

the air.  Unfamiliar birds called out from deep in the bushes.

The sun warmed our bodies, then baked us, and we

hurriedly added more and more layers of sunscreen.

Several gorgeous resorts line the south end of Grand Anse

beach, and we wandered through their manicured grounds.

Flowers of all kinds and colors bloomed everywhere.

There is a building ordinance that prohibits buildings taller than

tree-level on the beach, and this keeps the beachfront intimate

and accessible.  We cut through a city park to the beach and

squished our toes in the sand.  It was impossible to believe

that just yesterday we'd been drinking hot tea to stay warm.

Being winter, the ocean water was just shy of bath water, but

once we got in we sure didn't want to come out.

A few family groups frolicked in the waves nearby, while a

young couple worked on their tans.  Here we were in

Paradise.  How amazing.

One of Santa's elves made a brief appearance.  He strolled

down the beach wishing everyone a merry Christmas.

The next day we walked to the town of St.

George's.  It's a crazy scene on the road,

with guys standing in the backs of pickup

trucks and bumper to bumper cars beeping

their way down the road.  When a police car

snaked its way through a traffic jam, lights

swirling, cars drove up on the sidewalks like it

was an oridinary thing.

Meanwhile the views opened up

alongside us, offering palm tree

silhouettes against turquoise

backdrops.  Grenada is a

popular cruise ship

destination, and there

is always one or more

docked in town or

anchored in the bay.

Lots of smaller

cruising sailboats

anchor in the bay as well.

We wandered through the

marina where I met some

avian friends and got a quick parrot

fix.  We stopped to talk to a French

couple who had sailed here from

home, across the Atlantic, two years

ago on their 42' German-built boat.

The world seemed to open its arms to

us.

The town of St. George's sprawls up a

hillside, making a beautiful view from

across the harbor as you approach.

We arrived just as two cruise ships

were unloading, and found ourselves caught up in the

frenzy of local vendors selling spices, crafts, fruit and

seashells to the tourists.

We made a quick stop in the library, housed in a

beautiful old stone building, and walked through the

Sendall Tunnel where pedestrians and cars share an

impossibly skinny road.  The government buildings

and foreign consulates line the pretty waterfront.

Crisply dressed professionals walk the sidewalks

alongside sunburned tourists, eager vendors and

casual locals "liming" (relaxing) in the shade of the

trees.

We wanted to catch a bus back to our apartment but

needed to learn something about the bus system first.

Buses here are essentially 10-passenger mini-vans,

and each one displays a number on the windshield

indicating its route.  There are no schedules, but they

are very frequent.  We walked over to the bus

terminal, the hub of the nine or so bus lines that

operate in Grenada, hoping to get a map of the bus

lines or at least a list of which buses

go where.  No such luck.  We spoke

with three different bus terminal

officials, each sporting a uniform and

clipboard, but none of them knew of

such a thing.  Instead, the way you

work the bus system here is simply to

go to the bus terminal and ask which

bus to take.  Perhaps by the end of

our stay we will know all the bus lines

and can make up our own master list!

Joining the slightly controlled chaos

at the bus terminal, we climbed into

one of the buses marked "1" after

two drivers of different #1 buses both

tried to persuade us onto their bus.  The first driver had only one seat available, which

seemed odd.  It was only after we'd sat in the second bus that we discovered they load

these buses to the gills, and the first driver had probably assumed I would sit in Mark's

lap.  Seventeen people were squeezed onto our bus, with a skinny mom and her skinnier

daughter sharing a jumper seat that was pulled out of nowhere.  With every stop the folks

near the door all had to pile out to let the other riders pff, and then they piled back on

again.  These cramped quarters could explain the nickname the "chicken bus," but by the

time we got off we decided the nickname was more likely because the drivers all play the

game of chicken with each other.  I have never careened around so many blind turns at

such a speed, and when our bus went over the double yellow line and risked a head-on

with another bus, our driver honked at the other guy!  All the while everyone was

laughing and jostling and in great spirits.  We have been on the Spice Isle for just a few

days, but what an experience so far.