Dusk over Magazine Beach, Grenada, West Indies

It’s the end of another warm, beautiful day during the dry season in Grenada.  It began with feeding the fish in the pond in the featured photo.  The egrets and herons watch you very carefully and have learned that if tourists feed the fish they can get in the action and have a great big meal.  At dusk, the herons and egrets settle in for the evening on the island.

One tourist area that could grow in Grenada is birding.  There are 160 different species of birds.  Just staying in one location, over a couple of days, there have been that spectacular little blue heron from yesterday, a great egret, many little egrets, a Caribbean Elaenia, a blue-black grassquit, a pair of Eurasian collared doves, a Zenaida dove, a royal tern, a tricolour heron, a Caribbean Grackel,  and a vast assortment of smaller hummingbirds that have been simply too fast to photograph and identify.  There is a stand over the mangroves in Woburn and if it is high tide, it is apparently filled with lots of various species.  I also noted that there is a walking tour through the rainforest that includes bird watching.

The Royal Tern is about the size of a seagull.  It wasn’t much interested in us as it had its eyes fixed on a fish in the pond.  These are common coastal birds in the West Indies.

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This pair of Eurasian Collared Doves were just sweet.  This medium-sized grey dove with its distinctive collar around the hindneck was introduced into Cuba in the 1970s and has now spread to all of the Lesser Antilles including Grenada.  This dove is a ground feeder but today it took a keen interest in the food that we were feeding to the fish making me believe that all of the animals and birds will be happy when the rainy season begins in June.

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This Carib Grackle made himself a bit of a pest today!  And in doing so he entertained me completely by the way he broke the crackers down in order to eat them with his beak and claws.  He is also the pesky creature that likes to steal food off the plates in the dining room.  No kidding.

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I know that most of you didn’t come to this blog to read about my new passion birding.  So here are some continuing tips on getting around the island of Grenada and being a ‘wise’ tourist.

One of the best ways to get around the island is by mini-van.  The driver normally owns the van and has a license for a certain route.  The route numbers appear on the windscreen.  Each license gives the owner a limited number of trips (daily) on their route.  This is precisely why the young man who opens and closes the door keeps his eyes out for anyone who might want a ride and is nearing a bus stop.  Don’t take offence as he will not chat with you.  It is up to him to fill that bus – the more passengers that can be crammed in, the more money that is made!  You might actually think not one more person could fit in that van but the conductor (that young man sliding the door and taking the money) knows precisely how many people he can fit in the bus.  Sometimes he might even shift people around in the seating after a stop.  Don’t fret, just go with the flow and enjoy Grenada time which is much slower than anywhere else in the world.  Fares vary on the length of the route you are travelling.  Typically, a ride from the Starfish up by Maurice Bishop Airport to Grand Anse or St George’s will cost you 10 EC.  Tell the conductor where you want to get off.  You will hear him knock on the roof or the door to tell the driver to stop.  Don’t do this yourself unless you are not wearing any rings – scratching the paint will get several people mad at you.

One of the things that many tourists do is sign up for tours, sometimes very, very expensive tours.  But for those who are curious and a little more adventurous at heart and who want to save a heap of money, I suggest you pick up one of the free Grenada Road Map guides.  Almost every shop we have been in has at least one copy.  What is so interesting is that the map highlights many of the tourist attractions you might be interested in and the number of the local bus to take to get there.  So tomorrow, instead of spending more than $300 CDN to go on a tour to Belmont Estates, I am going to take the bus to Grenville, switch at their bus station and head straight to Belmont Estates. You can have an amazing lunch there, check out the making of the goat cheese, there is also a gift shop, petting zoo and a look at what life was really like on a 17th-century plantation.  Check back with me in a couple of days but by my figuring, I will save approximately $275 CDN!

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The mini-vans are also great entertainment.  There is always reggae music playing and you will be surprised at how courteous these young men are to their customers.  I have seen elderly ladies transporting propane tanks and chickens.  The driver will pull as close as he can to their house and the conductor will help them unload.  This morning he helped a  woman and her daughter with eight bags of groceries.  This is great service – and respect.  Sure isn’t that good in Canada most of the time.  So don’t get in a rush.  Take the local mini-van.  Get lost in Grenada somewhere.  Sit back and enjoy the ride.

Shopping.  I have already mentioned Art Fabrik as one of the true local shops that employ local sewers.  But today, let’s talk a little bit about breakfast options, book stores, and ready-made clothes.

There are two malls near Grand Anse Beach.  There is the Spiceland Mall opposite the Coyaba Hotel.  It has doubled in size over the last couple of years.  There is an IGA, various clothing stores, a duty-free shop, a local art gallery and shop, and quite surprising an excellent bookshop, Art and Soul.  They had a large area for children and young readers, Caribbean cookbooks and a really good selection of Vegan, along with the New York Times bestsellers and ‘beach reading’.  I was looking for a book on birds as well as one on the history of the Grenadian Revolution that wasn’t slanted towards the US view of the world.  I came away very happy.

If you are looking for beer, wine, or spirits, head to the IGA (or any other grocery store).  They have a large selection priced in EC, much cheaper than the Duty-Free (Unless you are looking for something exotic).  Personally, I think the grocery stores are the place to buy local chocolate and cocoa.  There are now five chocolate producers and all of their products are organic. The Grenada Chocolate Company was the first.  The grocery stores also sometimes carry the local vanilla or the passionfruit honey which is to die for.

You will save approximately 50% by doing your shopping for these local items at these big grocery stores as opposed to the smaller tourist shops near the cruise ship port.

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The second mall is a short walk from Spiceland and is located across from the Raddison Hotel.  It is the Grande Anse Shopping Centre.  There is a grocery store and this is where you will find Mike’s Pizza.  He opens at 11am and he used to also have ice cream.  But there is also a little dress and gift shop tucked in right by the fountain.  Too-kachi Boutique and Craft Studio carry a nice selection of locally made gifts, cotton and beach clothing.  All prices are in EC.

BTW.  I am not a fan of malls anywhere but I am also not keen to spend 50% more for anything.

Eating out in Grenada can be very expensive if you go to restaurants (as opposed to the local stands).  We stopped for toast and sausages at Moch Spoke (you can also rent bicycles but you are taking your life into your hands on the Grenadian roads!), a cup of coffee, and a shared orange juice.  For two it came to $12 CDN.  The full English breakfast with toast, eggs, bacon or sausage, and beans is $33 EC or about $16.50 CDN each.  Note:  You can also get a great breakfast – some of the most amazing French toast – at The Papillion.  It is a short walk up the hill behind the Spiceland Mall.  They are open Wednesday through Sunday.

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KFC is spotlessly clean, large, and is freezing cold.  Early in the morning, you can see the locals heading in there for fried chicken for breakfast.  Here is a look at their Value Menu.  The best way to convert currency for Canadians is simply to divide the EC by 2 and you get the equivalent Candian dollars.  Despite what the currency exchange boards say, by the time you are finished that appears to be the most accurate conversion.

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Last tip of the day:  wear a hat!  The top of your head can get sunburned very quickly!  And if you forget your flip flops, you can purchase name brands and no name all over the island.