It was an offer we couldnt refuse. Some friends who live in Grenada wanted to visit their children in the UK for Christmas and offered us a house swap. Well, would you have turned it down?
Fast forward a moment. Wed been in Grenada for a week. Our daughter and her friend were meant to be flying in a few days later but got stuck at Gatwick in the snow for three days. Now we were picking them up from the airport and had some lovely things in store for them: the warm, beautiful weather, then, on the way home, the incredible Christmas lights at the roundabout near Grand Anse, and then a meal amid the beautiful twinkling fairy lights at Mangrove Hideaway. Theyd love it! Except that, as they exited the terminal, the rain was torrential, and as a result, all the lights had been switched off. For a moment, they must have thought theyd jumped from the frying pan into the fire.
But only for a moment, because our Christmas in Grenada was incredible. The internet was telling us how the UK was shivering in the cold snap, while we were fulfilling the ultimate holiday dream, spending Christmas Day on a virtually deserted Grand Anse Beach with champagne and crisps, before returning to the house for an open air turkey dinner cooked by the girls. The evening before had been a riot of fun, partying like crazy at Prickly Bay Marina, with what we agreed was the best pizza in the world and a fantastic band led by Barracuda Man, plus the best and cheapest rum punches we found anywhere.
Wed been to Grenada once before, but only for 24 hours on our way to Carriacou in 2003, so hadnt seen anything of the island. Thats where Vaughn came in. Wed been offered a tour by Henrys Safari Tours and jumped at the chance. Weve travelled widely in the world, but this was the best tour wed ever experienced anywhere. The girls jumped into the Concord Falls, while I was slightly more interested in the Rivers rum distillery, although the tiny sip I took of the strong stuff nearly blew my head off. Lunch was a delicious Grenadian feast at Helenas Ocean View Restaurant in Sauteurs, shortly after the fascinating nutmeg factory and shortly before the bizarre but charming Glebe Street Museum, full of things like a portrait of an owl, helpfully labelled Portrait Of An Owl. By the end of the day, we felt wed learnt a massive amount about Grenada from the incredibly articulate and knowledgeable Vaughn, who later revealed that his house had recently burnt down, not long after being reconstructed after Hurricane Ivan.
On that day, Vaughn was driving, but we had been lent a car and took a while to get used to driving on Grenadas roads. I soon descended into road rage at what appeared to be impatient drivers hooting at me so they could overtake, but soon it became clear that they were merely politely alerting us to their presence. Nevertheless, descending the hill from the Grand Etang forest towards St Georges in heavy rain but with the sun directly in my eyes, was the scariest driving experience of my life, as I could see literally nothing but was aware of a deep gutter on my left and a sheer drop on my right. It did make for a good rainbow though.
Culinarily speaking, our greatest triumph was the cooking of seven (yes, seven) lobsters, which we collected direct from the boat in Lower Woburn. As we feasted on the delicious meat, I reflected that the cheapest lobster Id seen on any menu was 75 EC dollars, while wed paid just 100 EC for all those lobsters. Bargain! We planned to eat out as much as possible but in the end (no way were we going to risk drinking and driving), we ended up walking over the hill to Le Phare Bleu on several occasions, as it was just a five minute walk from the house. We didnt risk the beautiful but pricey Västra Banken lightship itself but found the Poolbar restaurant a great place to chill with nice food, very cheap Happy Hour Carib Buckets and live music of varying quality. We disgraced ourselves by allowing our guard dog to follow us into the complex, whereupon she promptly stared a dogfight in the middle of the restaurant, scattering the diners in terror. This is by no means the real Grenada, by the way, more the sanctuary of well-heeled European yachtie types, but still a beautiful place to relax.
Talking of Carib, Im afraid Im addicted. We adventurously ventured to the brewery itself and bought two crates, which Im embarrassed to say I single-handedly emptied in a week. Its nectar.
We just had to try BBs Crabback in St Georges, as Giles Coren had pronounced it the best restaurant in the world. I dont think even BB himself would claim that, but the food was indeed delicious and he fitted us in without a booking, even though an entire touring UK cricket party was also there. We left before it got noisy. We sadly didnt make the highly recommended Fish Friday in Gouyave, but other random places we tried included an incongruous but rather sweet German restaurant on the harbour, the aforementioned Mangrove Hideaway (while the lights still worked) and the more upmarket Dirty Dock, great for plane spotting. But none of them could match the simple majesty of the rotis at the Hard Wood Snacket in Carriacou, where wed taken a day trip with the Osprey (shockingly referred to by the locals as the Vomit Comet). But thats another story.
One things for sure no future Christmas will ever measure up to this.