‘Holidays are surely the time to do what you like. As I did in Grenada’

I won’t lie. Travel is stressful at the moment. When I was offered the chance to take one of the first flights to the now green list Grenada, I jumped at it. Who wouldn’t want their first holiday abroad in two years?  “The Caribbean in July?” said a couple of people snottily. “It’s really not the time to go.” 

But with ever-changing advice and fully jabbed up, my view was this may be the only time to go. 

Sorting out the tests before the flight was a little anxious making. As was the thought of a long-haul flight. It’s been so long, and despite having passed an easyJet Fear of Flying course (which involved two strange days at Stansted Airport, and for which I have the certificate, thank you very much), I still felt a bit nervous. 

A bacon butty in the lounge and a glass of champagne on the plane sorted me out, and I was soon fizzing with the excitement of getting away. When the plane stopped in Barbados, though, it was raining and as dreich as Manchester, so it was with great relief that we stepped into gorgeous warmth at Grenada’s Maurice Bishop Airport. There was a lot of checking of paperwork and we were swabbed eye-wateringly high up our noses – but since there have only been 164 cases of Covid on this small island during the whole pandemic, why shouldn’t they be this careful?





For her first two days in Grenada, Suzanne was not allowed to leave her hotel, The Calabash


Credit: The Calabash

So off I went to quarantine in my hotel until the results came through. The Calabash. Well, my room was so lovely and had its own little pool, but best of all an outside bath. I’ve never had one of those before, and what more could you wish for than to lay in a deep bath under the stars on a Caribbean island with the rum punch they leave in the room as if it’s a soft drink, listening to a strange, rhythmic piping on the night air? (I would find out later these were tree frogs).

Secretly I hoped that my PCR tests may not be exactly negative, but somehow lost so that I would not have to leave this place for a week and do lots of dreaded “activities”. 

Who could blame me? The restaurant was set up by Gary Rhodes serving up mahi mahi ceviche. The hotel’s owner Leo and his daughters were easygoing charm personified. The beach was my favourite kind of beach. Many like large expanses of sand but I always prefer a working beach and watching the fishermen draw in the huge nets. They were hoping for snapper. As I swam in that azure sea, I no longer wondered whether all that testing and faff had been worth it. Of course it had. 

My results were negative, and so off I went exploring with Roger, a driver who said he had a PhD in Pothole Dodging but turned out to be underselling himself.  What he doesn’t know about Grenada is not worth knowing. We were to go hiking in the rainforest and climbed up winding roads. Grenada is so green and lush and covered in vegetation that “if you drop a pencil” an old lady I met told me, “it will grow”. There are Mona monkeys, armadillos and possums, too. We saw some monkeys but I was mostly impressed by every man carrying a machete. The dense forest floor was mud, so slippery, and one of them cut me down a big stick to help keep my footing.





Grand Etang National Park is one of the best places to go hiking in Grenada


Credit: Getty

The hike was deeply unpleasant – I don’t understand trekking – but at least short, and we came to the great lake, Grand Etang. The whole joy of it was for me meeting Telfor Bedeau, who though in his early 80s and walking on two sticks was more sure-footed than any of us. My trainers did not have enough grip for the terrain, but Telfor was wearing jellies that he seemed quite proud of. He is a local hero, a man who has mapped every part of the island, rowed around it more than once, climbed its highest peaks, charted its waterfalls. There is not a leaf he does not know. His mind is as sharp as his footwear. He is a big reader and remembered a friend of mine, the novelist Jane Harris, who had spent time with him researching her novel, Sugar Money, about the islands’ troubled colonial past. Telfor had left the island once to live in England in 1958. “Did you like it?” “It was cold and I wanted to be a sailor.” He also said enough to make me understand the racism he faced: “The Scots and Irish were good people. The English…” He paused. To drink rum and listen to this man all day was all I really wanted to do, a treasure indeed. 

Still, if you are an active sort in Grenada you can go river tubing and snorkelling and diving. Obviously I did not do these things as I am not on a gap year and fundamentally lazy. There are chocolate factories to be visited and rum distilleries to see. Or you could saunter around St George’s, a quietish town with a thriving spice market and odd little bars called things like the House of Lords. But holidays are surely the time to do what you like. And I did. 

Roger showed me all the spices by the side of the road, and I have never seen beautiful fresh nutmegs before – black with red lacing that becomes mace. There was also a jar of what he called “under the counter”, a concoction of spices that operates as Grenadian Viagra and works (he said) for 24 hours. “Is that really necessary, Roger?” I asked.





Fresh nutmegs are a common sight by the road in Grenada


Credit: Bob Krist/The Image Bank

He was very into his health and fitness though, as was the prime minister, Keith Mitchell, who I also had the pleasure of meeting. Trim and dapper in a suit, he may be 74 but is in the gym at 5am. He was open about the issues facing Grenadians: hugely high electricity prices, unemployment and a refusal to take up the vaccines. Only about 20 per cent of the population have, even though there are now outbreaks on St Kitts and Barbados. He was about to send his unused vaccines to Trinidad.  

Tourism counts for 40 per cent of their GDP so they need us there, hence the strict testing, but I fear for them. On a dance floor a group of young women told me they would not get vaccinated as they wanted children.

Many beliefs co-exist there, I realise. This is a strong churchgoing island. There are Rastas, and there are those who still believe in the old African spirits. The country looks forward but does not deny its failed 1980s Marxist Revolution. One day, we saw a man shiny and in chains. The prime minister had spoken of Jab Jab disturbance in Willis, and I became intrigued. This is a unique Grenadian tradition about freedom. Jab comes from the French word for devil, diable. In reference to slave auctions, people cover themselves in black engine oil as part of carnival. Its music, soca with goatskin drums, is intoxicating. I got really into Mr Killa, one of its biggest stars.  





Suzanne was attracted by the charisma of the Grenadians

In fact it turned out when I was chatting to Russ Fielden, owner of the Dodgy Dock (who also had an interesting past, having been on Greenpeace’s Rainbow Warrior) that Mr Killa had been living with him. Russ hoped that Mr Killa might influence young people to get jabbed, but he was anti-vax. The Dodgy Dock was great though. Live music and goat curry. What’s not to love?

At Silversands hotel – very luxe but strangely sterile – we had a spa day, which was superb and, for me, a necessity, as I had – sober, honest – walked into a glass door. Clearly I can’t cope with international modernist décor. It is set on the best beach and has the longest pool in the Caribbean. I saw no one in it. Perhaps like me they considered a lap to be walking to the end of it to order a strawberry daiquiri.   

We had a bizarre outing to Calvigny, a private island, which Melinda Gates and Justin Bieber and Ludacris have all hired. They are welcome to it. Money cannot buy taste, and apart from a couple of Miros on the wall, I found its Balinese/French colonial style quite ghastly. Just as well, as it costs a million dollars a week to stay there.





Sunset is the ideal time to take to the water in the Caribbean


Credit: Getty

No, give me a sloop from Carriacou any day. The gorgeous Danny took us on a sunset cruise just as the moon was coming up. He showed us ghost ships where people had been squatting since the pandemic.

Leo from the Calabash is of Irish stock, so – wanting the children of Grenada not to have to emigrate as he had done – took us to a library he had built. Belinda Bishop, who has cooked for Clinton and Oprah and Bowie, showed us her “farm to table” approach to food. These people just ooze charisma.

“God is a Grenadian” the prime minister had said. As I ate blackened fish, roti and breadfruit, watching the women laughing on the beach, I felt he may well be right.

How to do it

Suzanne was a guest of Grenada Tourism (puregrenada.com) and Virgin Atlantic (virginatlantic.com; 0344 874 7747), which flies direct between London Heathrow and Grenada from £505 return. Calabash Hotel offers rooms from USD$595 (£427) per room per night, including breakfast or half-board if staying four nights or more (calabashhotel.com). Silversands offers rooms from USD$880 (plus taxes; £632) per room per night, with breakfast (silversandsgrenada.com)

Covid rules

Only fully vaccinated travellers (receiving second dose at least two weeks prior to arrival) are currently permitted entry to Grenada (with some exemptions). You’ll need to quarantine for up to 48 hours on arrival, pending a negative result from a PCR test, administered on entry, and paid for in advance. 

Children 13 years and under, travelling with their vaccinated parents/guardians, can quarantine with them for up to 48 hours. Unvaccinated minors between 14 and 18 years old can travel to Grenada with their vaccinated guardians, but the entire travel party will be treated as unvaccinated and required to quarantine for up to seven days.