Leave The Beach and Hit The Strip: Drag Racing in Grenada

After a long day of tooling around the island of Grenada in a van, cutting corners too quickly and, as far as I was concerned, nearly nose-diving off of at least 20 different cliffs into the Caribbean Sea, we finally pulled over to a used-to-be airport. The dilapidated runway was beginning to overgrow in places and cows, fastened by rope to the terrain, chewed grass alongside the cement, looking at our stopped car with suspicion.

In any other place, this old airfield would slowly give in to the overtaking of nature and become the mix of pavement and plant so many other abandoned airports have become. But in Grenada, this runway is a place for routine drag racing. Community-approved and police-monitored, big boys (and one girl hailing from Trinidad, reportedly) shine up speedy cars and enroll in races that take place a handful of times a year. With a license to gun it all the way into the crashing sea at the end of the track, spectators are wowed by the thrills and flock to the races.

As bad luck would have it, a race date didn’t occur during our visit. Instead, I cautiously meandered through the cows’ field toward a long-gone airplane. Someone told me it was a gift from Cuba which leaves me asking some questions. Did Grenadians ever even use this plane from Cuba? Or was it immediately thrown out to rot? Did Cuba give Grenada a plane after it had crashed and dubbed it a gift? Maybe it was re-gifted from Russia?I don’t know. But I do know I’d grab some Caribs and fried breadfruit and climb up on that plane to catch the view were I in town during a race. Drinking, grilling, and watching engines explode: exactly what I hope to do the next time in Grenada.

By: Elizabeth Seward, Photos By: Ben Britz

BBC Beach, Grenada: The Locals’ Spot

Ben Britz and I were on an island. An island filled with beaches, monkeys, and spice… Grenada! We tiredly checked into The Flamboyant Hotel one evening, not feeling so flamboyant after our 16 hour commute to the island (Pittsburgh, Dallas, Miami, Grenada). We didn’t pay much attention to the admittedly beautiful beach directly in front of Flamboyant, Grand Anse Beach, the island’s claim to fame. It was dark and the water danced back and forth around the protruding rocks and layered sand, looking like ink drowning out a universe.

When the sun rose, the teal waters were glistening like they do in Corona commercials (one of those was actually shot in Carriacou, an even smaller island just off Grenada’s coast). I floated on my back in the crystal clear sea, staring up at the piercing blue sky. The Caribbean was warm, the air was warmer, and my memories of attempting to swim in the similarly crystalline but frigid Lake Superior earlier this summer were fortunately repressed. But we had a problem: Grand Anse just can’t be The Anti Tourists’ beach, as nice as it is. Although it boasts far fewer tourists than so many other resorty beaches I’ve been to, it’s still the island’s go-to beach for vacationers looking to explore the island as far as their resorts’ front yard. We had to find another beach, the one reserved for those lucky few in-the-know.

We drove all around the island. Up the north side and around to the south side. In and around and up and down and back and forth, we got lost. Driving on the left is fucked (Fun Fact: you can get in trouble with the police for saying ‘fuck’ in public in Grenada. The same rule applies to Virginia Beach, or it did the last time I was there, at least). Luckily, Ben handled the driving. We stayed in a villa at True Blue Bay Resort for a few nights and ruled out recommending the muddy harbor. We made a lot of wrong turns on the way to La Sagesse Beach–a beach we read was one of the most secluded and romantic on the island. Although La Sagesse was cool in that ‘this looks like the set of Lost’ kind of way, it wasn’t what we were looking for.

It turned out that what we were looking for was a stone’s throw away from Grand Anse. A local and now trusted Grenada travel resource, Roger, steered us in the right direction. “BBC is where you want to go”, he told us. “Yeah, but which beach would you say is the most pristine, the best beach on the island?” Ben pushed. “I say BBC is still where I’d go”, said Roger, firm on his choice. And so we had no choice. We had to go and see the beach just around the bend from Grand Anse.

We drove past Grand Anse and past the Flamboyant  and down the steep road that leads to BBC Beach, which is actually named Morne Rouge on maps, but is referred to by everyone, even the road signs, as BBC. That was apparently the name of a  night club that used to exist on the beach, I was told–the legacy lives on! With nowhere else to park other than Fantazia, a night club Roger loves, we bought ourselves some fruity drink at the bar and walked out onto the softest white sand I’ve ever felt. Ben squealed excitedly, and shrieked with delight as the warm Caribbean waters lapped at his feet. Seriously. He did.

A man tried to rent me a lounge chair on the beach but I wasn’t having it. Neither was anyone else–nearly all of them were empty. Populated only by a handful of locals, the beach was what Roger had said it was. It was beautiful, secluded, quiet, and perfect. The fluffy sand felt like powder beneath our feet and the palms provided shade not far off from the water’s crest.

I spread one of my towels out on the sand, stubbornly refusing to pay for a lounge chair when the softest sand in the world could hold me.

The beach’s drop-off, at least where we were, was a little sudden and the undertow was a little strong, but we like it a little rough. We played like little kids and rested when we were done, unaffected by the buzzing Grand Anse beach just around the corner. So Roger was right. BBC is where to be for the island feeling. One love!

By: Elizabeth Seward, Photos by: Ben Britz

Gouyave Fish Fry – Best Fish in Grenada, Maybe the World

There is a tasty, crispy golden-brown tradition in Grenada I feel should be spread across the world: a weekly fish fry that takes place island-wide every Friday evening. “Fry” is misleading, however, as there is plenty of grilling, possibly broiling and sautéing as well, definitely steaming and baking and lots of drinking, and everyone participates. No matter where you go on a Friday, whether passing through St. Georges on the way back to the Hotel Flamboyant, or dabbling your feet in the teal waters at BBC Beach, you’ll see the trademark Grenadian grills made from metal barrels fired up, pots of oil bubbling away, and hundreds of grinning, well-fed faces.

Without a doubt, the best (and most) fish is served up in Gouyave (pronounced gwav), a small fishing village about three quarters of the way up the west coast of the island. Grenada’s own “city that never sleeps”, Gouyave’s Friday night fish fry tradition is famous throughout the entire landmass. Internet lore has it that a couple of Gouyave’s sons were even awarded medals by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II for excellence in fishing, so, that’s cool, right? Right??!

We had rented a car the day before from J & B Auto Rentals to explore the island. It is by far the best way to get around, and they were very accommodating and modestly priced with a nice fleet. It was an absolute blast driving up and down the steep mountainsides, driving on the left side, no less, on tiny two-way roads barely big enough for one car, let alone two.

This was the longest drive I had to make, from the True Blue Bay Resort, where we were staying at the extreme south end of the island, up the west coast to Gouyave. It was early evening but very dark; night in the tropics seems to be darker than anywhere else, and there isn’t much light pollution in Grenada. I could have used a little more light pollution maybe. The headlights weren’t so bright and there is no such thing as a good road map of Grenada, not one that matches up with the actual roads anyway. We drove on and on, farther than it seems like we should on an island that’s only 22 miles long. I hoped every cluster of lights we saw in the distance would be Gouyave’s famous fish fry, but each time we reached them it was only some other, less famous fish fry. And we at the Anti Tourist are all about the authentic experience, the real deal, so on we drove.

Unfortunately, after about an hour, the road ended. It was dark; it was inky. I drove tentatively beyond the “Road Closed” sign but it was unnavigable. And so we went back again, thinking we’d missed the town; we hadn’t; we drove back again towards the closed road, thinking we’d missed a turn; we hadn’t. This time another car pulled up close to us and stopped when I waved them down.

“Is this the way to Gouyave?” I asked the driver in the other car, motioning to the closed road. The driver was a young guy, cocky: “Just follow me, I take you there.” He drove around the “Road Closed” sign and somehow managed to pick his way through the potholes and washed out portions of the road. It was only about a mile, but the road was closed for a reason. Thank god for our little Suzuki Jeep, which handled the obstacles much better than I hoped. I guess I’m used to driving our ’96 Accord (268,000 miles so far! Cross your fingers, we’re driving it to Texas as we speak…) which can’t handle anything, anything at all.

And there we were! There was activity in the streets. Everyone was out and about, dancing and singing and mouths full of fish. Vendors lined St. Francis and St. Dominic Streets with all their fish-cooking equipment. And oh god, the fish: fish cakes, kebabs, jerk marlin, barbecued snapper, fry jacks, lobster, conch, and the best, the absolute best coconut shrimp that have ever found their way into my mouth. We were lucky enough to randomly run into someone we already knew, a man named Roger who is the best guy to know on the whole island. If you need a guy who knows everyone, everything, and probably could get you out of any sticky situation you may find yourself in, you need Roger. On this night we only needed him to recommend us some fish, but if I were kidnapped by ne’er-do-wells, I’d call Roger.

In addition to all the seafood, there is always Carib and Stag to be had, as well as a variety of Grenadian rums. You can also buy the ubiquitous spices and cocoa anywhere you look, and we did! We got one of everything and ate it ALL. I highly recommend you do the same.

By: Ben Britz

The Hotel Flamboyant – Great Place to Stay in Grenada

The Hotel Flamboyant clings to a steep hillside overlooking Grand Anse Beach on the Caribbean island of Grenada. I dug the place: simple, clean, inexpensive, and a largely helpful staff. It isn’t all that flamboyant; it is very much a laid-back beachside hotel and kind of smells like summer camp, but in a sweet and nostalgic way.

And, like everywhere else in Grenada, there is a hint of spice in the tropical sea air. The sun, so direct and so close, gives everything a silvery sheen, a burning effervescence. Now that I’m away, the memory seems like a dream, like a dream sequence shot over-exposed in a film.

With a decent pool and beach access down the hundreds of arduous feet of stairs, the Hotel Flamboyant is a good spot for a less ostentatious Grenada vacation; while not out-of-the-way or really that far off the beaten path and other clichés, it’s a good price on a clean suite on one of the Caribbean’s prettiest beaches—though perhaps second to BBC Beach, itself just a stone’s throw away.

The Owl Sports Bar, down by the beach in front of the Hotel Flamboyant, is what you’d expect—a low-end Caribbean beach bar, open late, patronized by locals and travelers alike. You can find a good cross section of the people of Grenada on any given day: locals mingling with Europeans, Americans, and South Americans in varying combinations, all drinking Carib or rum cocktails and watching ESPN or, perversely, Lifetime. You may even be lucky enough to talk to a gentleman who advises you to “stay cool” and provides an all-natural, healthful Caribbean herbal remedy to help with that, Jah willing!

By: Ben Britz

Stormy Waters: Grand Cayman

7 Mile Beach, Grand Cayman is a pretty popular destination if you’re stopping off on the island–unless you’re stopping off during one of those terrible and totally regular Caribbean tropical storms. Then the beach is empty. I’ve always enjoyed watching storms over water, but watching the storm you see brewing in this picture over the teal waters of Grand Cayman takes home the cake for me. Even though the horizontal pounding rain shut me and a handful of other people as close to the bar as we could get in the nearest beach-side bar/restaurant hut, I look back on those stormy hours fondly–glad I saw a version of these waters most tourists don’t.

By: Elizabeth Seward

Souvenirs For The Anti Tourist

I went to St. Maarten/St. Martin in the fall. I gratefully escaped the humidity of New York, only to find myself in another humid place–but one with mesmerizing beaches. I collected some souvenirs on this trip. Souvenirs and tourists, generally speaking, make up most of what I don’t like about traveling. But I managed to collect some special souvenirs while on the island and I documented my favorites for Up! Magazine. Check it out!

By: Elizabeth Seward

Ruby Bute and Ghosts: Caribbean Legends

I met Ruby Bute because I went to St. Maarten/St. Martin and started pressing locals for information on the island’s spooky side. I wanted to dig my claws into the island’s history and, as with any place, sometimes I feel this is better done by examining that which you’re not shown on the surface when visiting a new place. What is dark is usually buried deep in a culture’s history, with the exception of cities like New Orleans, of course. Some people asked some people who I think asked some people and the final conclusion was that I should make my way over to the French side of St. Martin and meet Ruby Bute, an island legend.

Here’s what I knew about Ruby going into this: she is an island resident who is well known for her exceptional art, poetry, and story telling. I conjured up an image in my mind of what this woman might look like, feel like, smell like. I was relieved to find out when I finally pulled up in her drive way that I wasn’t far off.

We’d commissioned a friendly island taxi driver, Gilbert, to drive us to Ruby’s art gallery, which sits beside her home. As we neared her grounds, the neighborhoods became increasingly farther spread apart from each other and quieter by the mile. By the time we’d pulled into Ruby’s gallery, first having to get the gate opened, the land was far more wild than any I’d yet seen on the island; uninhabited by the urban constructions of downtown Phillipsburg. Cows roamed around freely and the landscape was growing unbarred.

Ruby slowly made her way out of her yellow one-story home. Step by step she hollered a “Hello” out to us and we greeted her eagerly, excitedly, absolutely unsure of what to expect. It took her a while to remember that we were the ‘writers from New York’ who’d requested a visit with her. She unlocked her art gallery and left us in there to inspect each piece of art carefully while she went back to her house to eat her lunch. By the time she came back to join us at the gallery, we’d already fallen in love with her. Each piece of artwork was colorful and expressive, haunting and hopeful simultaneously. When we flipped through her poetry book, we found wise and beautiful words printed on the pages that reminded me of Maya Angelou. We bought what we could afford and I had almost forgotten that I’d come to her home to hear about the island’s darker side. And with all of the flawless art around me, I was kind of embarrassed that I had.

When Ruby finally decided to grace us with the ghost stories we had come for, she leaned into me with an undeniable spook and intensity glossing over her eyes and said, in a strong Caribbean accent, “Who want the stories of the ghosts?”. She knew it was me, but did us the formality of asking, anyhow. I explained, casually so I thought, that ghost stories are an interesting way to dig into a culture and she waved us outside to her porch where her stories would be told. Before she locked her gallery door behind her, she grabbed a fist full of assorted hard candies, glued to their wrappers from the island heat, and handed them to me. I passed them out to Meghan, Michelle, and Gilbert.

We scooted our chairs in to the table and waited for Ruby to take her seat. She took her seat slowly and began.

“Every nation has a story” she said while interrupting herself to ask Gilbert to get a stick so that she might keep her black excited dog under better control. “It is a part of man to create the imagination”. The mosquitos were biting but we were already enthralled, just by her introductory lines. “It is the other side of God: Fearing. The unknown becomes mysterious. Those of us who are gifted to feel and see will feel and see.” She floats into her thoughts on St. Martin, specifically. “There are houses that the living cannot LIVE in.” She dives into the spirits that exist on the island thanks to the island’s history. “They derive from the days of piracy, conquerers, slaves, the middle passage, the suffering of the people brought over.”

The back yard of Ruby’s gallery is wild land. Overgrown with brush and inhabited by iguanas the size of an average adult, purple flowers blossom throughout the harsh landscape and there is no visible path to the ocean, although I could descry it over the branches that pertrude on the horizon. The land has been in Ruby’s family for generations upon generations. But there is a reason, she says, that her plot of land in Frier’s Bay has yet to be cultivated the way much of the rest of St. Martin has been. “This is virgin land. Buried treasures on this spot, slaves were here, working the fields, lashed and killed. The edge of our property is where slaves were brought in and this energy exists. Treasures were buried here. Pirates always had a slave who had to do the work. So the pirate has the slave’s head cut off so the head can stay with the treasure so he can watch over the treasure.”

Ruby’s grandfather was beckoned by a vision to dig up this treasure once. Ruby told us about the story she was given, that he was awakened by a vision telling him the exact day and time that he was to seek out the treasure. He told his family members but, alas, when he went to the spot he’d been instructed to go to, there was no treasure. Ruby explains to us that she won’t be doing any digging. She hopes the treasure is never found if it exists at all.

She goes on to tell us other spooky stories from the island and when Meghan, Michelle, and Gilbert are back in the van, she pulls me aside. “Why you so interested. Why you come here asking about the ghosts. You have got to focus on the positive, the negative will follow you when you start looking for it.”

And believe me, Ruby, I know, was all I could think.

By: Elizabeth Seward