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Caribbean Cruise Day 6: An Unexpected Tour in Grenada
Our Caribbean #cruise made a stop on the picturesque island of #Grenada. We were looking forward to a snorkel tour, but the island had other plans, including exploring a hilltop Fort, and a surprise #foodanddrink tour.
Our day in Grenada got off to a bumpy start, but it turned out to be one of the best days of our vacation. First, at 4:30am, there was an announcement from the ship’s bridge into our stateroom cabins that there was a medical emergency on board. The medical crew was searching for blood donors of a particular blood type. We later found out that the lady in need had a whole bunch of people arrive to donate blood and she was in stable condition when she was transported to the hospital once we reached Grenada. These scary situations do happen from time to time upon a cruise ship, but it is great to know how well the staff handles these types of situations!
These scary situations do happen from time to time
It was difficult getting back to sleep, but we had to wake up at 6:30am anyway. We had a snorkeling excursion planned at Grand Anse beach to see the underwater sculptures. These original plans didn’t quite go our way…
We lined up at 8:30am at the pier with a large group for our catamaran snorkel tour to Grand Anse beach. We watched as a catamaran slowly approached us; then, it turned around and started to head in the opposite direction. Everyone in our group was very confused. The tour operator let us know that the boat lost its oil filter and could hopefully be repaired quickly. As it turned out, this was a greater problem than they had anticipated so the entire tour was cancelled. We were really disappointed and didn’t know what to do at first. We went back to the ship to drop off our beach towels, grabbed the DSLR camera, and decided that we would walk around and shop for some spices.
After walking through the little mall of souvenirs at the cruise port, we saw a sign that said “Historical” and thought that sounded intriguing. Directly in front of us was a long tunnel, and to the right of the tunnel were steps going up to Fort George. We decided to walk up the steps to Fort George first, and walk through the tunnel to the historical part of the town afterwards. I’m really happy that we made that decision or else our day may not have unfolded the same way.
As we walked up the steps to the top of the hill where the Fort was located, we found out that people could go inside the fort by paying a $5 entrance fee. We thought that the grounds around the outside of Fort George would be fun to explore, and the view of the island from this spot was pretty spectacular. So, we didn’t go inside the fort but there was that option. There were many tropical plants and flowers growing all around, and the view of the town and ocean down below was very beautiful.
While we were walking, a taxi van slowly approached us. The taxi driver inside asked if we wanted to take a tour around the island, including the waterfall and the lake. Two ladies were already inside the van. I would be lying if I said that we both weren’t sure at first. I made the mistake of not entirely consulting with Justin first…the conversation basically went like this:
Lauren: Do you want to take this tour?
Justin: I don’t know, should we?
Lauren: What do you think?
Justin: I’m not sure…
Lauren: Yes, let’s go! *already halfway around the van and ready to jump in*
We are greeted by two lovely women from England – a mother and her daughter-in-law, as we discovered. Our driver’s name was Anthony. Justin seemed uneasy when we jumped into the back of the van, but I was really excited for an adventure. We really had no idea where he would be taking us other than “around the island” and maybe to a waterfall or a lake. But, I was incredibly excited to see where we would end up!
Driving Around Grenada
We discussed a price with Anthony for the island tour up front and came to an agreement on $20/pp. It is always a good idea to agree on a price ahead of time because otherwise, you never know what you might end up being charged!
Anthony was a fantastic tour guide. I felt as though we were offered not only an amazing tour of the natural beauty of the island, but a small glimpse into the life of a Grenadian. As we drove along and navigated through the steep hills and winding roads, Anthony told us about the region itself and what it was like to live in Grenada, too. He was willing to answer any questions that we had about anything that came up in conversation. As we approached each location, Anthony continually let us know that we should never feel pressured to buy anything unless we really wanted to, and this made us feel very comfortable.
It seemed like Anthony knew everyone on the island. I am sure that Grenada has a very close-knit community and it seems like the type of place where everyone knows everyone else. First, we stopped briefly at a fruit stand where a man approached the van with some small red fruits that looked like pears.
As it turned out, it was called a French Cashew Fruit. It seems that the cashew nut is actually a seed that grows from the base of the cashew fruit! We had both never seen a cashew fruit before.
We were each given our own cashew fruit to try. The texture was a bit like a pear, but the taste was completely different! It tasted almost dry, and very faintly nutty. Anthony said that most people make beverages or ice cream out of this fruit. I could tell that not many people would eat this fruit raw as it wasn’t bad tasting, but it wasn’t exactly refreshing as you would expect from a juicy piece of fruit. We were encouraged to throw the cashew fruit core (that had a large seed inside) into the trees as a new plant may eventually grow from it.
A Spice Demonstration
On our first stop (where we actually got out of the vehicle), we reached a small shop that specialized in selling spices from the island. Grenada is known as the “Spice Island” as so many fresh spices grow there in abundance. The main souvenirs you can bring back from the island are all of the wonderful spices – nutmeg, cocoa, cinnamon, turmeric, and even vanilla! A man who worked at the shop, John, gave us a short demonstration of the various spices that grow in Grenada and how the spices are used. We got to taste many of the products that were available that were fairly unique to the island!
The most popular spice grown in Grenada is nutmeg. We were shown the nutmeg fruit that grows on trees in Grenada. Inside the fruit, we have the mace (the red part around the nutmeg) that is considered to be the more expensive part, and the nutmeg seed that is ground up to make the nutmeg spice.
Spice Plantation Grenada Tour
Snorkeling Experience in Grenada
In Grenada, they use the fruit, mace, and seed in various ways. Most obviously, nutmeg is used in cooking and baking. They also sold nutmeg syrup (very sweet, like honey, could be used on pancakes!), nutmeg extract, dried mace for cooking, nutmeg jam (the fruit and seed used here), nutmeg moisturizing cream, nutmeg spray, and nutmeg oil (can help digestive and nervous system). With so much nutmeg growing everywhere on the island, Grenadians have been very inventive by using this fruit/spice in so many different ways!
Yes, that slimy stuff coming out of that fruit, believe it or not, is cocoa! It looked very different than chocolate or cocoa that we are used to seeing and eating. The cocoa fruit had this white, gooey pulp in the middle that are home to cocoa seeds. These seeds are dried and turn darker while they dry out on large surfaces in the natural sunlight. Only then do they appear like the cocoa that we are used to seeing!
We were also able to smell delicious extracts that are produced in Grenada. The vanilla one smelled amazing…very different from the vanilla that I am used to purchasing and cooking with. We ended up buying a whole bunch of spices for ourselves and as gifts, including spice necklaces. Spice necklaces are one of the most popular items that you can purchase in Grenada – dried spices along with some beads that are connected to form a necklace. The spice necklaces aren’t meant to be worn (unless you want to smell really delicious!), but they are meant to be hung up in your kitchen, or placed in a drawer like a natural air freshener. Every six months, you can dunk the spice necklace into a bowl of water and it rejuvenates and replenishes the yummy, spicy scent of the necklace!
We were able to smell delicious extracts that are produced in Grenada
We also purchased a five-pack of extracts in small bottles – vanilla, pear, banana, pineapple, and almond extract. We also bought some cocoa balls. They are very popular in Grenada as well, and can be used in cooking or to make hot chocolate.
I would say that Grenada is a paradise for anyone who loves to cook – you can purchase very fresh spices here of many varieties, including some things that would be difficult to find at home (or very expensive!). All of the spices are very reasonably priced. You should have no problem bringing home spices or spice necklaces in your checked luggage. Also please note: when you get back to your hotel room/cruise ship, take the spice necklaces out of the plastic bag. Hang them up somewhere where they are properly ventilated, otherwise they will go moldy in the plastic bag as the necklaces are made of fresh spices. Ideally, on your way home, store them in a paper bag in your luggage. They should be fine for a few hours.
Grenada is a paradise for anyone who loves to cook
If you get the opportunity, go for a spice tour or demonstration while you are in Grenada. This definitely enriched our experience and knowledge of some main products that are exported from the island. Also, if you can manage to buy your spices outside of the main tourist area, you will likely have a better variety and it will be cheaper for you to purchase them.
The small spice shop was up on a hill (my apologies, I do not know the name of the actual shop!) and it offered an amazing view from the back of the store. We were able to walk outside on the balcony and admire this beautiful place.
When we got back in the van and drove a little way down the street, Anthony stopped by a nutmeg tree growing at the side of the road. He got out to fetch us some nutmeg that had fallen to the ground.
In Grenada, no one is allowed to pick the nutmeg fruit from the trees that grow naturally on public property; however, people are allowed to pick the fruit or seeds off the ground once they have fallen down.