Nancy Lu is still enjoying “Camp Grenada”, still anchored in Mt. Hartman Bay with easy access to all the goings-on! We took part in a tour led by taxi driver, Cutty, on Wednesday, February 1, and it deserves an entire blog post to share it!
Thanks to the daily morning “net” via VHF radio last week, we heard that Linda on s/v Troubadour was working with Cutty on putting together a tour for Wednesday the 1st and asking for any “Camp Grenadians” who wanted to join. We contacted Linda on the VHF radio, and it was set! We had heard that a tour with Cutty was a “must-do”—we were not disappointed!
I’d like to take you along to enjoy the sights (maybe some smells, tastes and sounds) from my point of view, through my little Olympus Tough camera and a few words. I really enjoyed learning a little about the history of the country, a lot about the local flora, and even more about a couple of Grenada’s industries that capitalize on two of their natural resources: the cocoa bean and sugar cane! I hope that what I found to be interesting (or beautiful) will interest you, too!
Let’s get started!
All those going with Cutty from Mt. Hartman Bay, met at the road running behind Secret Harbour Marina and waited for Cutty’s nice, air-conditioned taxi to arrive promptly at 9:30 am carrying other tourists from Prickly Bay. Cutty had a little talk with the 12(or so)of us to tell us what he had planned for the day and to see if there were any special requests. Well, I wanted to see The Grenada Chocolate Factory instead of the one he had planned for us to see. My reason: the wrapper on their chocolate bars have awesome artwork—that can tell you something, in my opinion! Also, I knew that the Grenada Chocolate Factory works closely with Belmont Estates, and I wanted to see that. Nobody objected, and he was happy to accommodate!
Our first stop was a breathtaking view from high above St. George’s Bay in the capitol city, St. George, which is in the Parish, St. George, one of six parishes in the country of Grenada. The little lagoon area (a volcanic crater) is Port Louis Marina, Nancy Lu’s home during hurricane season. I can see Nancy Lu’s empty slip. This day was the first day of the Grenada Sailing Week Regatta. You can see lots of sailboats out in the bay.
Besides pointing out plants and trees as we drove, Cutty made numerous stops throughout the whole tour to get a closer look at different plants. Sometimes he would just reach out his window to pick and pass back samples for us to see, smell or taste.
My favorite smell of the day were leaves of the lime tree, ahhhh. I rubbed them on my arms and kept them in my hand for as long as I could—aromatherapy!
Sometimes, he got out and brought the sample back to us,
and sometimes, we all got out of the van. There are edible plants everywhere—no hiking through jungles to find them. some are used for medicinal purposes, some are used for spices. After all, Grenada’s nickname is “The Spice Isle”! Most of the spices also have medicinal uses. But MANY of the plants are food! No one in the beautiful country of Grenada need go to bed hungry any time of year—a real blessing!
I’m holding noni. It is STANK NASTY!! SERIOUSLY! I actually gagged, but it has many health promoting properties, we were told. I think it looks like a sea creature. It was slick and squishy like one.
Cutty cut some cinnamon bark for us to smell—mmmmm.
Cashew: Cutty picked this from the Cashew tree. I learned that the part at the top as he’s holding it (he’s holding it upside down from how it grows on the tree) is what we call the nut. The juicy red part (what is really the top part as it hangs from the stem on the tree) is called the “false fruit” and is sweet and edible right off the tree. It grows first from the flower. Then the the cashew grows from that and contains the seed. That’s the fruit that we enjoy like a nut! You can’t eat it off the tree because it is toxic. It has the same oil as Poison Ivy. Roasting takes out the toxin and leaves you with yumminess! Who knew! not me!
Wax Apple—We each ate one of these sweet, tasty fruits. It has a melony taste, but crisp texture.
Almonds growing by La Sagesse Beach
Does this look like a loofah that you may have sitting by your bathtub? Well it is! It grows from a tree, and is in the cucumber family. You can eat it, but you must pick it very young because this is what it is like when you peel off the green skin of a mature one—super fibrous!
My favorite side-of-the-road-taste of the day came from this gourd-looking fruit—cocoa!! The man is pulling out one of the many seeds that is covered in a white, slimy, gelatinous substance. You can suck on that, and it tastes fruity and delicious—Who knew? Not me!
This is Turmeric.
Some of the things Cutty showed us were for eyes only. This is a Frangipani caterpillar, which wreaks havoc on the Frangipani tree. Cutty put it back on the tree, and it went right back to eating—a “very hungry caterpillar”!
Not all of our stops involved nature. I was trying to decide on a shirt to buy to wear for the Independence Day Hash (more about that in another blog post). Cutty came up behind me and told me that I could get by with any color background on my shirt since I am a foreigner, but each of the color backgrounds represent a political party. I went ahead, like the non-rebel that I am, and chose the color of the party in power, now (NNP). Let’s just say that’s not the one Cutty would have chosen. The shop put a Grenada flag iron-on on the back for me for free! I’m all set to walk in the Grenada Hash House Harriers event on Saturday the 5th!
I’ve had a pressing question that I’ve been asking people on busses ever since I’ve gotten here—“What is that beautiful vine that has the pink flowers that remind me of sweet pea?” I first saw them in St. John blooming and covering a ruin that we explored with my parents. Since then, I’ve seen it through out the Eastern Caribbean. Lately, I‘ve been having the sneaking suspicion that it is comparable to the vine, Kudzu, that’s “taking over the world” in the southern USA. Turns out, Cutty could answer my question! It’s called Love Plant, and it is a parasite like Kudzu that you don’t want. It’s so pretty, though. One man’s weed is another man’s flower!
BTW, they also have Kudzu.
Annandale Falls, in the interior of Grenada
Begonia growing by the falls—The local children call it bread and cheese flower. You can eat it! Yes, I asked if it tastes like bread and cheese. No, it doesn’t.
This lady was selling spice necklaces that she made herself—many of the women do.
This is where the one that I bought lives on Nancy Lu! Pretty! I think that I can name all the spices on it, thanks to Cutty’s tutelage.
Impressive rainbow eucalyptus tree!
This is Callaloo. It’s in the same family as the elephant ear. You can tell the difference by the purple heart. A common dish in the Eastern Caribbean is Callaloo soup. I’ve had it. It tastes similar to spinach, but you must boil it before eating or it is toxic and doesn’t feel good to your mouth!!
This is not Callaloo.
This old house is home to Denis Noel. It is part of the 300+ acres estate passed down to him from his father. Balthazar Estate provides flowers for Grenada’s gold medal winning entries in Great Britain’s famed, Royal Horticultural Society’s, Chelsea Flower Show. He opened up his home to us. I LOVE OLD HOMES!
I was looking forward to a look around. Right away a noxious smell assaulted my nose! I KNEW that smell!
I looked up in the tall tree in the yard—sure enough—NONI, the sea-creature-looking fruit!!! It turns out that Denis Noel manufactures, packages, and distributes health products made from plants on his estate.
That includes juice of the stinky Noni! You will NEVER catch me trying this stuff. I don’t care if it says it will give me super powers! Still, it’s pretty cool. This is a roll of labels for the bottles that the juice is in.
Mr. Noel had photos of his family and him displayed all over his lovely, yet somewhat deteriorated, home and office building along with many awards for his extraordinary achievements.
You might recognize a couple of the people in these photos besides Denis Noel. You’re right if you guessed Princess Anne and her mother, Queen Elizabeth! I was impressed.
Next on the tour was my request,
Grenada Chocolate Factory. It is such a cool company! Until the other chocolate factory in Grenada recently began operation, it was the only chocolate factory in the world manufacturing in the same country as the beans were grown. This allowed for fair trade practices with the farmers. The chocolate is dark, organic and manufactured with refurbished or duplicated old-style machines in a little, brightly painted house-turned-factory in the village of Hermitage in St. Patrick Parish. Their slogan is “Tree to Bar”.
This is who gave us the tour of the factory. He took us through the whole process step by step, but I’ll just show you pictures of things that I remember that he told us about or will leave you with an impression of what kind of place The Grenada Chocolate Factory is. If you want to know more (and there’s so much more to know, especially about Mott Green, the founder), click here.
Bean sorting room—The bucket has the good beans; the bag has the rejects.
Cocoa beans waiting to be sorted
The ladies behind that door are wrapping the finished chocolate bars and writing, by hand on the wrapper, the “best if eaten by” date. I forgot to ask and scoured the internet to find out who designed the wrapper that I like so much and painted the building and the little vehicle outside the factory. I couldn’t find anything. From my internet scouring, I think it might be the artist, Fly.
The last part of the tour was tasting time. Our favorites were Salty-licious—sea salt in 71% chocolate and Nib-a-licious—cocoa nibs in 60% chocolate.
These are nibs, which are roasted, shelled, and crushed bits of cocoa beans.
Seeing cute kids is always a sweet treat for me, but our next stop was Belmont Estate where the cocoa beans used in the Grenada Chocolate Company chocolate is grown. There’s a little boutique there where you can purchase a different kind of sweet treat—the Grenada Chocolate Company bars and also fancy bon bons made from GCC chocolate.
This is the tasting station at the Belmont Estates boutique. We had already tasted at the factory so I knew what I wanted to purchase.
We had a quick look around the working estate, which dates back to the late 1600s, but they offer full tours. They grow other things besides cocoa. I’ve read up on the history of the plantation and their current practices, and I would like to take a tour. Just one interesting fact: This estate was purchased in 1944 by a Grenadian of East Indian descent. This was the first plantation to ever be owned by anyone other than someone of European descent. It is still in that same family. www.belmontestate.net . It’s a beautiful place…
There was a talkative parrot on the premises. This guy could really get him to talk.
Taking care of the grounds
Employees taking a break
Processing the cocoa beans
Back in the boutique—a batik pillow depicting the cocoa plant and an artist’s depiction of Belmont Estates
TIME FOR LUNCH!
Lunch was at the River Antoine Rum Distillery restaurant. We could see the sugar cane fields from our table and the Atlantic Ocean beyond (we were on the east side of Grenada)—beautiful view. Neither Mark or I drink, but the tour was fascinating. The distillery has operated since 1785, and most of the equipment is that old. They use the same methods they used in the beginning. It is like a working museum. Rivers Rum is not exported—too high alcohol content, yikes! I did taste the chocolate rum (lower alcohol content), and it’s good—would be great drizzled on vanilla ice cream or coffee cake! Like Grenada Chocolate Company, the sugar cane used to make the rum is grown right here in Grenada! And, like Belmont Estates, it was an extravaganza for my camera! So on to the photos…
If you’re interested in the actual making of the rum at Antoine River Rum Distillery, you can click here . It really is interesting!
On the way back down south, we visited peaceful, La Sagesse Beach, the most important beach in Grenada, according to Cutty. It’s importance comes from the People’s Trial and conviction of Lord Brownlow, the expatriate Englishman, who had prohibited public access to the beach of La Sagesse estate. The trial was held under an almond tree at La Sagesse Estate in 1973 with Maurice Bishop representing the people. This moment consolidated popular support of The New Jewel Movement. The rest is history—no commentary on that! To this day all beaches are accessible to the public.
This is at the end of the old airport runway (now, used for drag racing), which has been replaced by Maurice Bishop International Airport (a major part of the American intervention in Grenada’s history in 1984). One of these two derelict airplanes was former Prime Minister, Maurice Bishop’s. I guess they keep them for posterity. There’s a paid guard on duty. To know more about Grenada’s history and politics you can google History of Grenada-Wikipedia
We passed through the 2nd largest city in Grenada, Grenville on the way back home.
Throughout the tour, we passed through many villages, and got a flavor of the homes in each.
Cutty explained the practice of squatting and pointed out how you could tell a squatter’s house (the houses on the ridge are an example of squatter’s homes). For the most part, I couldn’t get good pictures of homes that we zoomed by. Most homes were very simple, but my impression is that there are plenty of local’s “nicer” homes to “mansions” sprinkled in with the rest.
A fixer-upper for sale!
Nice homes—Most had laundry out drying.
I asked Cutty why many of the houses were built on “stilts”. I thought it was possibly because of protection against flooding, even though many of the houses were high above sea level. I thought maybe another reason could be due to the hilly terrain—NOPE to both my speculations! He said that it was an economical practice involving building from the top, down, adding additional square footage as needed and funds became available.
Cutty delivered us back at our anchorage that evening tired, but satisfied with his wonderful tour. Every tour is a little different, and I’ve heard of cruisers that have gone on several! I would be happy to go on another. If you come visit us here, we’ll go on one with YOU!
FUN FACT: The photos in this blog were chosen from almost 500 that I took that day!!!!! It was hard to choose!