We got packed up for a day on the road by 8am, when our rental car guy, Lorry, showed up. But first – breakfast on our patio using ingredients provided by the hotel. Fresh squeezed, orange juice, soft boiled eggs, buttered toast. Heaven.
We thought the rental car would be dropped off at the hotel, but we were wrong. First we we were driven to the local police station to get me a local driver’s license. We have International Permits, but sometimes that’s not enough – which is the case in Grenada. We had decided Larry would drive. Normally Sheri drives and I navigate – she can drive a manual transmission better than me, and I’m a much better navigator. But this time, we got an automatic and I drove – on the left! Sheri drove on the left once, and thought it was scary. And we can’t imagine shifting with the left hand.
After we got the license, Lorry drove us to a local shopping center, where we filled out our rental contact. No need to pay, we can take care of it through the hotel. We’re pretty sure it’s just Lorry renting out his personal car. We found his sunglasses, old-school iPod, CD and giant knife in the glove compartment. At least we were well armed.
I took a couple of practice laps around the parking lot while Sheri got more cash out of the ATM, then we nervously headed out onto the open road to explore the island.
We had to navigate though the crowded city of St. Georges almost immediately. It’s a charming port city that has narrow, one-way streets and lots of pedestrians. And Grenadian drivers are scary, with a lot of roads only wide enough for one car width.. But I did a pretty good job, only touching the left curb a few times. We headed up the windy west coast of the island. The road before Gouyave was washed out, and only dirt for about a mile. Finally, delivered us to another crowded city, Gouyave, safe and sound.
Our target in Gouyave was the nutmeg plant. It’s a crumbling warehouse building smack In the middle of town, build in the late 1940’s. And probably not maintained very well. Whole nutmeg gets delivered from the fields here and it goes through a a process to remove the tough outer shell (mace) before being manually sorted by size. The largest is for culinary use, and the others are for toiletries, medicine and soap. We had a short tour by a man named Frank. They lost 90% of their nutmeg crop in 2004’s Hurricane Ivan. The whole place smelled incredible, like we were immersed in nutmeg we bought some nutmeg jelly and nutmeg (of course). We headed back to the car, and called our next stop Belmont Estate, a chocolate plantation, for lunch reservations.
We headed to the north point before going south to the estate. We got stopped in traffic in Sauteurs, and decided on a lark to visit Leaper’s Hill. I drove up a hill to a red brick church overlooking the coast. We were given a quick tour of the cemetery tour. The man who was first diagnosed with sickle-cell anemia, Walter Clement Noel, is buried there.
We then got back in the car and headed south. There were some discrepancies between Google Maps and reality, but we finally found our way to Belmont Estate. It was a working plantation. We took a quick look around and then headed to the second floor for lunch. It was a buffet. We had a pumpkin soup, and then were served a mixture of local food–rice, beef stew, callalou, salad, curry chicken. An average meal. For dessert, we had nutmeg ice cream which was good, and somewhat dry chocolate cake. The wind picked up during our meal, and we fought to keep our soup and salad on our silverware. We went down to chocolate store, and bought some of the locally made chocolates and bars. Sheri talked with one of the workers about a quick tour. And he showed us how the process cocoa; the building smelled just like a winery. We tried the moist cocoa seeds and then saw how the aged, and then dried the cocoa beans. The tour ended with sampling their cocoa tea, which was more like hot chocolate with island spices. We then sampled the chocolates they made– a much better dessert to our meal.
We got back in the car and headed east for the rum plantation. Sheri expertly navigated us to Rivers Rum Plantation. We parked the car, and joined a tour that had just started. The guide showed us how they process the sugarcane into rum. There were huge stacks of sugarcane next to the building. We saw the sugar water and yeast fermenting in large cement vats. It was then distiller in metal vats from Louisville, Kentucky. We ended the tour by seeing where the run was bottled, and got to sample some. We tried several small glasses, some of it was too flammable that they won’t allow you to take it on the plane.
We got back on the road and headed to Grand Etang Preserve. The roadsides were lush, as we entered the rain forest portion of the island. We found Grand Etang Lake, but couldn’t find the hiking trail that was supposed to be there. We went a little further and found a series of restaurants and parked. A monkey was on a structure as we got out of our car. A store owner gave a small fig banana to Sheri to give to the monkey. It’s always interesting to watch monkeys. We took a quick look around and found another monkey eating a banana. Before we left we asked the shop owner if we could buy some of her bananas, but she just gave Sheri handful. After then being accosted by two monkeys wanting our bananas, we got in our car and drove off. The bananas were REALLY GOOD, and we were glad we kept them from the monkeys.
We drove south along twisty, narrow roads. We finally made it back to the hotel without incident. With the weather still sunny, we went on walk along the beach before the sun set. We ended back in the Aquarium Restaurant. We had Planters Punch and a Rum Punch, and some delicious calamari. After the sun set, we headed deeper into the restaurant, and had some scallops three ways (blackened, tempera and grilled). We finally paid our bill and walked back up the hill for a rest after our busy day.