St. George’s, Grenada
Monday, March 24th
We arrived in St. George’s, Grenada at 7 am this morning after traveling passed the Windward Islands of Martinique, St. Lucia and St. Vincent. The high today is supposed to be 82 degrees…yesterday it was (supposedly only 79 and it was HOT)
This is the Spice Island and you may recall that we were on the wait list for the tour of the nutmeg processing place, but are going to the rum distillery/tasting instead. I’m sure it will be fine.
We decide to have a healthy breakfast in our room and go upstairs to get coffee, etc.
There are tour tickets in our mailbox so it looks like we got into the tour we wanted on Bonaire tomorrow. Yeah!
Get back to our cabin with breakfast, check tomorrow’s tour tickets and Oh My God they are for this morning!! We have tickets to the spice tour we wanted and it’s leaving 5 minutes ago!! ACK!!! We dash around…sunglasses, sunscreen, cameras, hats and go running down the hall, off the boat and down the pier just in time! Wheee!
I told Jeff that Rico, our cabin steward, will probably report us as abducted. In our room are two breakfasts…one has cereal poured into the bowl, milk in a glass next to it, the other plate has a bagel with one bite out of it, coffee untouched…
The tour was perfect. We visited a spice plantation – we saw cocoa pods, nutmeg right off the tree, cinnamon bark, cloves, loofahs, bay leaves (humongous bay leaves!!), ginger, and were shown how each of those things are handled at the plantation. (This is no longer a working plantation, but is used for education). There were huge trays outside on which the spices were laid to dry, the trays were attached to the building on huge tracks and could be rolled under the building at night to keep the spices dry.
We saw that inside the nutmeg there is a red mantle. It is removed and also dried and is the spice, “mace”. So, nutmeg and mace both come from the nutmeg pod.
From here we went to the nutmeg processing plant. Fascinating!
The one part of the process that has been recently automated is the cracking of the nutmeg shell. Numegs look like giant walnuts and you have to crack them to get the mantle and nut out. Until somewhat recently they were cracked manually with hammers. The crackers all wore dust masks because nutmeg is a hallucinogen and too much of it can kill you. (Did you know that?)
Now though the plant has a cracker and 150 pounds of nutmegs are loaded into the cracker at a time. When it is running the noise is deafening.
After being cracked they are put into a GIANT circular hopper around which sit numerous women.
These women remove the nuts from the shells – put the whole nuts in one sack, broken pieces go into another sack and the shells are put into a third sack. I forget, but they may also be responsible for removing the mantles.
This entire process is done manually…women sit around this huge silo type structure manually sorting the nuts. It was one of the most labor intensive things I’ve ever seen. It was very reminiscent of a scene in one of our favorite Johnny Depp movies – the scene involved squirrels.
CONTEST: the first person to email me the name of that movie wins some Grenadian nutmeg!
Then the nuts are laid out on trays to dry for three months.
These trays are indoors, about 100 feet long, 4 feet wide and stacked 4 tall. The number of nuts was staggering. Every day someone takes a big wooden paddle rakes and turns all the nuts to help them dry evenly.
The whole process was so interesting to learn about. There are several grades of nutmegs and they are sorted by how they float in water which indicates how much oil is in the nut.
The best are used for the international spice market – the stuff we buy in the grocery store; the second are used in commercial kitchens and bakeries and for lotions/shampoos, stuff like that; the third are used medicinally (nut-meds). Apparently nutmeg oil is a good topical treatment for pain.
I am SOOO happy we got to take this tour!
After the tour of the processing plant (and after I spent WAY more on spices than I meant to!) our tour continued into the rain forest. Now that we had seen cocoa and nutmeg pods it is easy for us to spot them as we drive along. There are many trees along the roadside laden with these pods.
Our tour guide was great in pointing out all of the different vegetables and fruits growing wild: calabash, breadfruit, mangoes, papayas, Seville oranges, bananas (smaller varieties than we usually get at the grocery store);
a kiwi type of fruit that I don’t remember the name of; Callaloo (also called Elephants Ear because that’s what it look like and which tastes like spinach; gardens overflowing with cabbages, wild growing peas, a truly amazing variety of flora and fauna
Our next stop is at Grand Etang National Park where there is a short walk to see an extinct volcano’s crater lake. Here we are treated to a complimentary beverage – Jeff and I both have a rum punch – more rum than punch. Jeff buys an airplane-sized bag of peanuts/raisins for us to share – breakfast of champions!
Our next and final stop is at Annandale Falls.
The falls are in a lush grotto and the water cascades about 30 feet into a pool of water. It really is pretty.
Nice tour…we’re back to the boat just before final all aboard.
There was a majestic clipper ship in the harbor which looked very inviting and something to consider as a future trip.
A few days ago we met a very interesting couple in Skywalkers during the special hors du’voeres and drinks time. Bill and Stella are much older than us and they have great stories.
When we parted from them that afternoon, Stella hugged and kissed us and we exchanged cabin numbers. As a result we are meeting them for tea this afternoon. Tea is one of my favorite things to do on the cruise but I very rarely make time for it. So, win-win – tea and scones with Bill and Stella. Tea was just lovely, they regaled us with tales of the cruise they took last year – a 107 day around the world cruise! Bill also gave us advice about maintaining a happy marriage and telling the kids/grand kids that they needn’t worry about how much they would get when we die because we’re going to spend it all! It was a very nice afternoon.
After tea we weren’t hungry for dinner so decide to go to the early show in the theater. It is a new act, a comedian named Phil Tag and he is a riot! He has good cruise ship jokes that we haven’t heard before and we’re going to make sure to see him again on Friday.
The finale of our day was a burger and fries while we watched a big deck party going on. Lots of singing and dancing… What a great day!