03 July 2010

How I Spent My Summer Vacation, part I

June 2010 Grenada & Anguilla

Travel Day 1:

Travel on American nonstop Hartford to San Juan—totally full flight, unfortunately with a high proportion of screaming and otherwise badly behaved children (at what point did it become acceptable to watch portable DVD players with no headphones?). With the ridiculous layover that comes with the Grenada transfers, for the last few trips we’ve opted to leave the airport for a leisurely lunch at Pamela’s Restaurant, part of Numero Uno Guesthouse. This year we opted to save a bit on taxi fare by staying a little closer to the airport and chose to give our custom to the Ocean Bar & Grill at the Ritz Carlton instead. I had called ahead a few days before our departure to see if it was possible as a non-guest to spend a few hours there enjoying a long luncheon and I was assured that we would be very welcomed, indeed. In fact, we were. Now, resorts are not our first choice for accommodations, and even if they were, the Ritz would in all likelihood be beyond our means for a two-week-long vacation (not to mention that it’s all a little too, well, corporate for our tastes). But if the San Juan location is representative of the chain, after our afternoon there, I can totally see why people are devoted to the brand. No staff member, from the concierge to the hostess to the busboys, could do enough for us. To a person, they were pleasant, congenial, and professional. Before being seated, we mentioned that we would be hanging out for about 3 hours and that we would be happy, therefore, not to take the first row of tables closest to the sand and the view. Nonsense, they said! We were the first to arrive for lunch and therefore must have our pick of tables. So we settled in with our books and backpacks to enjoy the view and the ambience.

Sonny was our server and she was delightful, checking in with us just often enough that we could add another beverage to our tab, but not so often that it felt pushy or that she was rushing us. Really, she had an uncanny sense of timing. We ordered an appetizer of chips & salsa to share, the kosher foot long hot dog (DH), the Puerto Rican Cobb salad (me), an ice cream, one iced tea, one Medalla (the local light beer), one Diet Coke, and two lattes. With the exception of the Medalla, which was a whopping $6 (really? for a local beer?!), everything else was priced slightly less than I would have expected for such an upmarket location. Our total before tip came to $72. (For comparison purposes, our meal at Pamela’s the year before for a comparable number of drinks and amount of food, came to $91. It just so happened that the mini notepad I was using for this trip had last year’s trip tallies still in it.)

Help me--I'm sideways!

We took a taxi back to the airport a little after 3:00 (fare is $10 each way, plus $1 per suitcase) and hunkered down in the terminal to bide our time for another few hours. Between reading and people-watching, the time actually went pretty quickly. We boarded the American Eagle flight (all but two seats were filled) around 6:00 for an on-time departure with our noses still buried in our books, so even the two hour flight went by quickly. DH was absorbed in the new behemoth Vietnam novel called Matterhorn by Karl Marlantes while I was involved with Julia Glass’s forthcoming novel called The Widower’s Tale. I had started Paul Harding’s Tinkers that morning, and while the beauty of the language really struck me, the story itself did not, so I put it down until I could devote more attention to it.

Once we landed, it took very little time to make it through immigration, grab our checked luggage, and then maneuver through customs. Outside Jude, a friend of our hosts, was waiting to drive us to our villa, the charming and ever-so-reasonably-priced Turtleback Pavilion. Low season rates here are always a good value, but because of the economy, the owners were offering 30% off the rack rates this summer. Spice Isle Villas or Reef View Grenada to see the websites. Our fourth visit to Grenada and our third stay at that villa (on one of our trips we traveled with friends and stayed at the larger, sister villa of Tradewinds, found at the same websites above), so clearly we’re devoted fans. Almost 16 hours exactly from the time we left for the airport that morning we tumbled into bed, filled with that odd combination of exhaustion and exhilaration that so often accompanies travel days.

Grenada Day 1

It might be a gigantic pain in the ass to have such a long travel day, and I ain’t sayin’ that I wouldn’t rather get to Grenada in a more timely manner, but boy howdy—there is a real and certain reward for landing on the island well past sunset, and that is waking up to its sunlit splendor first thing in the morning.

Our hosts, Anthon and Sharon Antoine, had done some light provisioning for us ahead of our arrival, so after the usual exclamations over the beauty of our surroundings and our great good fortune to be there, we immediately set about making coffee before heading out to the pool. One of the best things about Turtleback is the number of nooks tucked around the villa for reading & relaxing, so there’s always an option to be social or solitary, in the sun or in the shade. Between the main level and the rooftop lounge there are two pairs of padded Adirondack chairs, two padded sets of chaises longues, three sets of tables & chairs for dining, two rocking chairs, and a set of the most amazing padded swings whose backs can adjust up or down like a chaise longue. It’s truly a limer’s paradise!

A bit more about the villa: it’s an open plan studio with a king-size bed, a compact but complete kitchen, and a full-size day bed all sharing the living space with a compact bathroom off to the side. French doors on three sides can be thrown wide open, but the best part of the villa is the outdoor living space. There’s a swimming pool big enough to actually swim in, surrounded by mature foliage, plus the rooftop deck with wet bar, which has lovely views over the bay and out to the Atlantic. For a couple traveling without friends or children, I don’t believe there’s any better value for that level of comfort and style on the entire island.

Shawn, from Y&R car rentals, showed up shortly after 9:00 to drop off our two-door Toyota with four-wheel drive and get our paperwork taken care of. Since we were just sitting down for breakfast when he arrived, we invited him to join us. After the rental was squared away, we decided to put off our grocery shopping for a couple of hours and just relax around the villa instead. If we had known that our first day would be our only day of sunshine on Grenada, no doubt we would have enjoyed it even more.

At noon we cleaned ourselves up and headed to our favorite decadent place for lunch on Grenada—Spice Island Beach Resort. If we were resort people, this is exactly the kind of place we would be drawn to—gracious, open-aired, and unmistakably islandy. As always, the service was charming and the food was excellent, but this year we noticed two differences: the dearth of guests and the slightly increased menu prices. One local salad, one lamb roti appetizer, one smoked salmon sandwich, one order of ice cream, two Tings and one frozen fruit punch took our total to EC $166, including tax and service charge. Now I understand that that translates to less money than we’d spent on lunch at the Ritz the previous day, but it still felt higher than usual, particularly for the small portions served.

After lingering for a while over our books, we left Spice Island to head over for some grocery shopping at the IGA in Spiceland Mall. It’s a tad more expensive than the Food Fair closer to St. George’s, but we have always found the selection to be greater here. A brief pause to buy some mangos from a guy under a tree in the parking lot and then we headed back “home,” where we spent the day in a circuit of swimming, sunning, and relaxing on those marvelous swings.

Dinner found us at Charcoal’s, a new BBQ restaurant in Lanse Aux Epines, just down the road from our villa. It’s clean and casual and fun, not to mention reasonably priced. DH selected the grilled lambi platter while I opted for the babyback rib platter, each accompanied by our choice of 2 sides. One beer, one rum punch, and one order of ice cream brought our total to EC $101, or about $38 in US. They also offer take out, which seemed to be a popular choice the night we were there.

Charcoals in LAE

Another early night back to the villa for more reading and then bedtime—I finished Myla Goldberg’s forthcoming book, The False Friend.

Stay tuned for Part II


  1. Looks like a nice place. I like your sideways tree! (Oh I love Bill Bryson by the way. Especially that one about he and his friend's hike on the Appalachian Trail.)

  2. Oh, I couldn't agree with you more about Bill Bryson! In fact, I'm working my way through his next book, which should be out in October.

  3. I really need to be part of your family..Pamela's is too cool a place..sublime..next time try Metropole x from the Ritz. Their local stuff chicken with rice and beans is decadent. Ok, so back to travel..I ADORE u and DH...


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