27 June 2009

Photos: Deciding where to go for dinner, sunset on Grand Anse, view of sea from our villa

Grenada Day 2

This was a mostly lazy day for us. Breakfast by the pool, then dressed and into St. George’s. Parked by the Carenage so we wouldn’t have to negotiate one way streets downtown. Walked toward the market, stopped in Tikal to do a little shopping for Emmie. At the market it’s a maze of people and I want to buy a little bit from everybody. But I don’t want to buy spices or spice necklaces. We want lime, mangoes, cucumbers. We end up with two packages of nutmeg, too, because I cannot say no to Therese. So only four sellers are appeased—I feel tremendously guilty. There’s a cruise ship in town but I don’t see many people who look like cruisers in the marketplace.

On the walk back to the car a man falls in step with my husband. His name is Herman and he claims he’s the go-to guy of St. George’s. Maybe he is. He offers us a taxi. We say no, thanks, because we have our own car. He offers to drive with us up north to Sauteurs to show us around. We say no, thanks, we prefer to make our own way—it’s part of the fun to stop and talk to folks along the way and ask directions. As we pass the statue on the carenage commemorating the Bianca C, he then asks us if we know what it is. I say, yes, sir. It’s a statue of thanks to the people of Grenada for rescuing the people aboard a boat that eventually sank. Undaunted, he keeps pace with us as we continue to our car. As we reach it, he asks for a little money—enough to buy himself a cold drink. It’s a small enough request and we’re happy enough to acquiesce. But it’s the first time I’ve felt uncomfortable about a transaction in our travels to Grenada and I think the reasons are a little complicated. Do we look like an easy mark, that a guy can ask us for money just because he walked along with us and was friendly? Or are times really that hard, that a guy is desperate enough to just ask for money when all of his other offers to earn money from us are rebuffed? Am I reading the situation completely incorrectly? Are there rules of etiquette at play that I’m completely ignorant of? In joining Herman in conversation, did we unknowingly enter into some social contract? It seems to me that it would be unspeakably rude to rebuff his approach, but perhaps to Herman it was unspeakably rude of us not to tip him after our walk together. I really have no idea. With a distinct feeling of ambivalence we made our way to the grocery store and from there back to the villa for lunch.

Reading, swimming, and relaxing. It’s amazing how tired an afternoon of this can make me feel. We had cocktails and cheese & crackers around 5:00 and made plans to go to the Beach House for dinner at 7:00. After two previous meals out where we were one of only two tables filled it was a relief to arrive at the Beach House to see a few other parties already seated. By the time we left it looked like they had a pretty full house. The ambience was light & breezy with jalousied windows and white curtains billowing in the soft night air. Still no lambi on the menu, much to my husband’s disappointment. I tell him that we may have to wait until we’re at Boots’ place to get any.

Anyway, dinner was very pleasant. We began with a Caesar salad (DH) and mixed greens & herb salad (me). Barry had the escargots, prepared with garlic, Pernod, mushrooms, and spinach. I had the Thai Teepee – three skewers with beef in a slightly spicy peanut sauce. Both very good. We then shared the rum cake a la mode. A rum punch, two martinis, a cappuccino, and a shot of Old Grog brought the meal to EC $210, including tax and tip.

In other news, Anthon tried to figure out our problem connecting to the internet. The air port is giving off a strong signal and I’ve tried every configuration that I know (admittedly it’s not much) but nothing is working. Now the phone in our room has gone dead. Minor frustrations.

I did finish off the Coetzee book and start & finish two others: How Elizabeth Barrett Browning Saved My Life by Mameve Medwed and Jane Eyre’s Daughter by Elizabeth Newark.

26 June 2009

Did I really miss all of May and most of June?

June I've been away for most of the month, but May I have no excuse for...except for the part of having only 4 hours off that month (or so it seemed at the time). Here's what I did and what I read while I was doing it:

Travel Day 1 (June 6)

Spent night at the Doubletree Hotel in Windsor Locks, CT. Morning American flight on time but crowded since the Miami flight was cancelled. With an extremely long layover in SJU we opted to leave the aeropuerto and head to Pamela's Restaurant at the Guesthouse Numero Uno in Condado. Taxi ride was about 10 minutes, $17 + tip for the two of us and our bags.

Lunch was a pleasant and unhurried affair. The beach is wide and as it was a Saturday there was a pretty good crowd forming. Couples and families alike, with lots of dogs. Perfect for people watching. Lunch was delicious but expensive: two Medallas, one mojito, one fizzy water, two appetizers, one salad, and one cappuccino came to $90. A 15% gratuity was already included and marked plainly on both the menus and the bill. The organic salad was great—mixed greens, manchego, red bell pepper, red onion, slivers of mango, and a mango/balsamic vinaigrette, lightly dressed. Oysters on the halfshell, served with a wonderful frozen cherry-melon concoction for sweetness, plus the usual lemon, horseradish, and red sauce. Jerk chicken satay—big enough to be a meal in themselves. Unfortunately I forgot to specify no cilantro as a garnish, so there was a cilantro coulis on the plate. I could wipe most of it off, though.

So we ate, read, chatted, and enjoyed the view. There were half a dozen kiteboarders. Some close to shore, some perilously far at sea, or at least so it seemed to me. It was very windy—you could see a haze of sand hovering about the beach. Passing showers just shy of being intense enough to drive us inside.

We left Pamela’s around 3:00 to head back to the airport. Slight lines to get through security, then a wait at the gate. American Eagle flights now board at the other end of the terminal—Gate 16 instead of Gate 1. Barry bought a bottle of vodka so we’d have something to sip when we arrived. Flight to Grenada also on time. Landed a few minutes early. Breezed through immigration , got our bags, then breezed through customs. We didn’t get any forms back, which is a little unusual. Grabbed a taxi and made our way to Turtleback. We arrived around 8:45pm, early enough so that Sharon and Anthon didn’t have the gate unlocked yet, so I called softly out to them through the gate and Sharon came right away.

We settled in for the evening with our feet soaking in the pool, vodkas and Ting in hand. Finished book 1: Making Cakes in Kigali by Gaile Parkin.

Grenada Day 1

Woke to overcast skies and finally got out of bed around 9:00 am after dozing lazily on & off for about three hours. Sunrise comes with a vengeance, all at once, around 6:00. We padded about the apartment, made coffee, and went outside with our books. I took a swim and alternated between sun and shelter during the brief showers. Car from Y&R was delivered around 10:00, but instead of leaving to get groceries right away we settled back into our books. Made toast, drank more coffee, went swimming again. Finally got dressed to have lunch and started off toward La Belle Creole. Felt we were a little underdressed for Blue Horizons/La Belle Creole, so we doubled back and made our way toward the Lagoon to try Tropicana. On the way we saw dense black smoke on the horizon but I assumed it was bush burning. We found out later that the older stadium (not the new one for the Cricked World Cup) had caught fire. Lunch was very good and very leisurely. Felt very local. I had stewed pork, Bubba had oyster chicken for EC $30 each, accompanied by the usual provision plus a green salad. I had ting, he had iced tea with a small pitcher of sugar syrup to sweeten it. Lots of rain while we ate. Traffic noise sometimes impeded conversation, but we brought our books to read. Lunch came to EC $80, including tax & extra tip. 10% gratuity was included but I added more to it.

We drove around a bit to orient myself to driving on the left and to see if we could easily find BB’s Crab Shack where we’d like to go for dinner one night. I always prefer to find things by day first and then find our way back by night.

Finished my second book of the trip, Jonathan Tropper’s Here’s Where I Leave You. At first it felt a little light, a little wah-wah. One of those books about how hard it is to be an upper middle class white man, you know? . But it was casual, honest, funny, and with some actual insight into human nature. Like Jim Harrison, it’s his sense of humor that saves him from being ordinary and annoying. Sometimes it’s nice to read a book that confirms exactly how hard it is simply to get by. That acknowledges that we’re looking for more, that we’re all perhaps a little disappointed with ourselves and where we’ve ended up. But there’s a dignity to it, too.

Went back to the villa to try to connect to the internet, but still no luck. We’re reading a full signal from the air-port. We’ve tried turning the thing off & on, restarting the computer, but nothing is working. I even took the cable and tried it directly in my laptop, to no avail.

Now we’re kicking back with cocktails and trying to figure out where and when we’ll go for dinner tonight. We have a few things in the pantry & fridge now from grocery shopping. It’s Sunday night, so our options are limited. And without a phone book and without an internet connection it’s going to be hit-or-miss driving around to find someplace that’s open tonight. Today at lunch we were the only patrons for the first hour we were there. The island’s tourist economy is way down, even for the off season.

We decided on La Belle Creole, the restaurant at Blue Horizons, for dinner since we bypassed it for lunch earlier. We were one of only two tables tonight. Food was excellent and a pretty good value. Two soups, two appetizers, one dessert, one coffee, three cocktails came to EC $151. Barry had the cold christophene soup served in a vichyssoise style and I had the hot cream of tannia soup. Then we moved on to the sugar cane shrimp and the callaloo soufflé. For dessert we shared soursop ice cream. I had the coffee (decaf) and he had the Grand Marnier to end the meal. 10% gratuity was already included and we added some more for the very good service we received.

NB: We learned from our server tonight that it was not, in fact, the stadium that burned today but a private home behind the stadium. Burned entirely to the ground but at least nobody was injured.

Now I’m in bed, about halfway through J. M. Coetzee’s Slow Man, which I believed was published as Elizabeth Costello abroad. I’m not sure if I like it yet or night, but it does have my interest piqued.

Here are some photos of the gorgeous Turtleback Pavilion where we stayed. The rooftop pavilion and the swings were my favorite parts!