Jul 122012

Having arrived in St Vincent, it was already quite late.  However, it was quite easy to get a taxi to my hotel, the Paradise Beach Hotel and check-in was swift.  The AC was strong, and it was still an hour til closing time at the hotel bar on the beach…which was filled mainly with Trinidadian businessmen trying to impress anyone that would talk to them.  It made for a few interesting discussions!  Now, a few thoughts on the hotel:

The restaurant was odd.  Yes, they served food, but it doubled as the hotel bar and patio.  However, when asked, the bartender could produce a menu and breakfast, dinner, snacks…you name it.  More than adequate, and the two meals I ate there were very tasty.  Rooms were clean (but spartan) and the AC was strong enough to keep cool, so overall it was a bargain for the price paid.  I would definitely stay here again, although you really need a taxi to get anywhere.  That said, when asked, the hotel staff could easily arrange taxis to get you anywhere you needed.

I finished off the evening watching reruns of the Tour de France Prologue, and a couple local beers, while trying to explain cycling to the Trinidadians.  They found it “a challenging sport, but I could never wear all that elastic clothes.”  Hmmm!

Local brews consumed, I passed out for almost 10 straight hours due to sheer exhaustion.  It was time to rise, and start the day.  It took me a good hour to get moving, but when I did I found “breakfast” was just at the bar.  Sat outside watching the waves, and when the bartender brought the menu I just skipped it…and told him to bring me what he’d eat for breakfast.  Turned out to be a perfect choice!

Salt fish, hot peppers, and some local bakes (bread rolls) which I swear weighed at least a pound each they were so dense…but OMG it was delicious.  Coffee consumed, I was ready to try and arrange a day of touring!  Oh, but first I caught up on a bit of internet time, while enjoying the view from breakfast:

I must admit…it was 10am, and I was just not feeling it.  I don’t know if it was jet-lag, the 10 hours of sleep was too much, but I was absolutely exhausted and sluggish.  I’ll admit taking an hour nap post-breakfast, before stopping by the front desk and asking to arrange a tour.  She got to work on it, while I headed back to the bar for more wave-watching and a couple of delicious diet cokes.  Soon, a torrential downpour started, and I was informed that my tour could begin at 12:30 and the driver was mine for $50 to take me wherever I wanted for up to four hours.  Perfect!

Rain stopped, driver came with a wonderful air-conditioned van (note: Caribbean would be much cheaper with a group…many times I got a whole van for myself, and it would easily have held several more at what I imagine would have been a similar price) and we were off.  He was quite chatty, and clearly quite proud of his island.  I love getting guides who really love their country, and are proud to show it to you…and even more proud when you show interest and ask questions.

Our first stop was Fort Charlotte on Berkshire Hill.  It was built in the early 1800s, and is very unusual because instead of pointing to the sea to defend the island from invaders, the guns are all pointed in-land to defend the fort from the hostile locals!  The fort was named after George the Third’s wife Charlotte and used to house over 500 troops.  Initially, it was through the inscription on the gun referred to the date of manufacture (16-1-19 below) but that wouldn’t make much sense.  Later it was found to have something to do with the size of ammo that would fit inside. There wasn’t a ton to see at the Fort, but it offered some amazing views out over the island:

One final view from Fort Charlotte that was interesting.  This was the “Leper Washing” pool.  It was thought that by bringing lepers here and washing them, the disease could be removed.  I wonder how that worked out for them!  😉  Look very closely at the water/tree line and you can see the rather small bathing area.

After some time here, we got back in the van and drove to the Botanical Gardens, which were started in the late 1700s.  I’m not going to pretend I remember all the details, but it was quite an impressive place…despite me being the only person there!  It was quite cool having it to myself!  I did pay for a guide (which was maybe $4-5 U.S.) which was awesome for explaining the various trees, etc.  The British clearly brought trees and seeds here from every corner of the empire.  There were baobabs from southern africa, cypress trees from the mediteranian, eucalyptus trees, etc etc etc.  Again, I know little about this stuff…but due to the volcanic soil on St Vincent it appears almost anything can grow here.  It was really an amazing show of biodiversity.  Despite the absolutely horrid humidity and heat I wandered for nearly 90 minutes and really tried to soak in the place.  A few photos:

After the gardens I still had some time, so asked my driver/guide to “show me his island.”  He wanted to drive me up into the hills/mountains, show me the area he lives which he promised had some amazing views of the island.  He wasn’t kidding!  It was also really interesting to see the smaller communities away from tourist areas, and to get an appreciation for how the average local lived.  We did also stop at a “rum shack” for a (couple) drinks with some friends of his…good times….but I told him he could only have one if he had to drive  😉  Pretty sure he’s used to (and ok with) driving on several more.  A view from the hills:

After that it was mid-afternoon, and my driver dropped me back to the hotel with at least 3 hours to kill before heading to the airport.  Across from my hotel was “Young Island” – a private island with a small resort on it.  They operate a free ferry/boat for guests, and my driver had told me that anyone could go over if they promise to spend money.  I had my hotel call, promised I’d buy a drink, and I was off!  First, a view from my hotel:

After getting off the small boat (less than 5 minutes, and I was the only passenger) decided to take a shot of my hotel from the other side:

So, what’s there to do on Young Island?  As I expected, not much!  Sun and enjoy cocktails.  I opted to do both at the same time, by ordering a rum punch on the beach.  Have to say, it was tasty, but nowhere near as tasty as the one’s I’d had on the tour the previous day.

This is where the day got interesting.  I was the only person enjoying cocktails on the beach (no clue why…it was a great view) but there were maybe a dozen folks at the bar just indoors…but still al fresco.  So, I wandered over to have another rum punch.

This rum punch was MUCH tastier, and I chatted up the bartender a bit.  Turns out he’d used the local rum that my driver had told/warned me about.  165 proof (82.5% alcohol) and it was intense…and tasty!  …and caused me to get chatty with the local cougs who were anxious for conversation.  We chatted a bit, they espoused theories about my employment, and it just went downhill from there.  The bartender thought I should really learn to appreciate the local rum, so the next rum punch came with a rum shooter:

So, at this point…things are mildly blurry.  I remember having to politely fend off the coug…even when she mentioned that perhaps if I wasn’t interested in another drink I’d like to have one with her daughter.  YIKES!  I did accept the e-mail (which  has since been, um, misplaced) and politely took my leave.  Unfortunately, that evening was the wet party at Carnival, and it would have been fascinating to stick around and see.  Supposedly, the idea is to get really drunk, and really wet.  To the point the government trucks in huge tankers of water to spray all over everyone.  Ferry back to my hotel, and still had an hour to kill.  So…let’s see what the bar can make for dinner.  Again, I asked for something tasty that “you would order” from the bartender.

I got a Conch Roti, which is pretty much like a conch burrito.  It was absolutely delicious, stuffed with curried conch, and was tasty….and there may have been another Sunset Rum (brand name of the 165 proof one) and Diet Coke, but honestly…I’m not too sure.  Oh wait, there’s proof:

Quick taxi to the airport after, where check-in was very efficient, and honestly, not much to say.  Though, before the sun had set, a couple shots of the tiny terminal:

After clearing immigration, a shot of the departures area.  They claim more than one gate, but um, it was one room with maybe 50 seats and a small duty free shop.  There was, however, free WiFi offered by Lime:

Immediately before boarding, there was a torrential downpour, and LIAT did something U.S. Airlines would never do:  handed out pouches with free ponchos to wear as you walked to the plane.  I looked ridiculous and tried to get several folks to take my picture, but everyone was afraid of breaking the law by taking pictures on the tarmac.  Ug!  Oh well!  At least I knew the folks out at Carnival wouldn’t have to rely on artificial truck water this year – they were going to get soked by mother nature.  A picture of the plane in the downpour must suffice.

Quick dash to the plane, and I was aboard for more open seating:

LIAT flight 787
St Vincent (SVD) to Grenada (GND)
Depart 19:50, Arrive 20:25, Flight Time 35 minutes
Dash 8-300, Registration V2-LET, Manufactured 1995
Seat 2A

The flight was less than half full, so I opted to take window seat 2A with nobody next to me. Again, flight was totally uneventful. Arrived a few minutes early, no service on-board, and everything was just downright pleasant and uneventful. Two for Two with LIAT flights…I am beginning to wonder if all the nightmare stories I’ve heard are a fluke! Grenada arrivals was also a complete non-event, and soon it was time to head to my lodging for the night!

Just one small further amusement…the setback when we boarded!  You thought US airlines were bad with advertising?  It’s even worse when you don’t speak the local creole!


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