Tuesday, February 27, 2024

A Day in Grenada

We spend a day at sea to get to get to Grenada, waking up at a wharf in St. George's, Granada, in the charming freight port (not the big cruise boat terminal).

Tied up at the wharf in St. George's

We decide to go tubing on the Balthazar River, but unfortunately don't have any pictures -- we leave all the cameras and phones behind as we each put on our life vest and helmet and hop into a tube to shoot through the rapids.  It has been raining for several days and the river is flowing fast so we experience fast water, bounce off rocks, and get stuck in quiet coves where the staff wade over and push us back out.  They make this a real adventure, guiding each tube through the best part of the rapids and we have a lot of fun!  Our only complaint is that it's too short.  We could continue down the river for hours.

Afterwards, we wander through St George's, the capital of Grenada, which was founded by the French in 1650, passed to the British in 1763, and became independent in 1974.  In 1983, the U.S. invaded Grenada, as one local explained, "to prevent Cuba and the Russians from taking over."

St. George's has around 5,000 people of the 34,000 or so on the island and is divided by a large hill.  We take the easiest path through (rather than over) the hill to get to the spice market, sharing the one-lane, 340-foot Sendall Tunnel with cars and other folks crossing through.

 The Sendall Tunnel

On the other side of the tunnel is the main [large] cruise boat terminal, but we head the other way, to the right a few blocks to the market square, packed with spice stands.  Granada grows and exports nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, and ginger.  The smells are great and we stroll through the stands and eventually buy some nutmeg to take home (but not in the stands, rather, in the supermarket on the wharf, which has the spices at good prices for local cooking).  Grenada is the second largest nutmeg exporter in the world, after Indonesia.

Spice stands in market square

We walk back through the tunnel and pop into a gallery on the harbor.  We buy some fun local art, charming metal metal fish that catch our eye, just missing the artist by a few minutes.

Metal fish in the gallery

Then, the sun sets on our day in Grenada and we settle in for a relaxing dinner.

 Looking out from St. George's as the sun sets

Looking back at St George's at night

And,highlight our favorite Granada sign.

Friday, February 23, 2024

Pigeon Island, Saint Lucia

We stop for a day at Pigeon Island National Park, St. Lucia.  Our cruise ship, the Wind Star, anchors in the middle of the bay and we go ashore to the beautiful island, now connected to the rest of St. Lucia by a causeway.  One side of the island has calm, sandy beaches, while the other side has high surf and wind.

At anchor in the bay

Both sides of the island, calm bay on the right, surf on the left

 Views of the high-surf side

Before we swim, we walk to the closest town, Gros Islet, about 3 km (1.9 miles) away from the island and pass some great island signs.

Road into Gros Islet

Dump and graze your animals elsewhere!

Repair your mermaid here

At the end of Pigeon Island stand several tall hills that provided strategic lookout points for the British to monitor traffic in the area and guard the bay, particularly watching out for the French coming over from Martinique, 81.5km (51 miles) away, in their contest for the control of St. Lucia.  The ownership of the island changed between the French and British around a dozen times between the late1600s and 1814, when the British took permanent ownership.  In 1979, St. Lucia achieved full independence.

After returning from Gros Islet, we hike up to the lookout points and enjoy the panoramic view of St. Lucia's northwest coast, without having to watch out for the French.

 Hiking up to the lookout points

 Panoramic views of St. Lucia

We head down to the beach on the bay, swim for a while, then stop at a beach shack for a local Piton beer.  What a great, relaxing day.  As the ship leaves Pigeon Island, we head down the western coast of St. Lucia past the Pitons (probably named after the beer),  a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2005, consisting of two mountainous volcanic spires, 771m (2530 feet) and 743m (2438 feet) high.

 Along the coast, past the Pitons

After passing the Pitons, it's open water and time to relax.

Moving on

Tuesday, February 20, 2024

A Quick Stop in Barbados

We pass through Barbados twice on one trip and stay at the Hilton in Bridgetown, which has a small beach, with a much quieter beach around the corner.  Not to mention the beach bars on the bay.

 Hilton Barbados Pool and Beach area

 View of the bay next to the Hilton, with beach bars on the far side

 Beach bars across the bay from the Hilton in the distance

Barbados is rich in history, claimed by the the British on behalf of King James I in 1625 and eventually gaining full independence in 1966.  The parish structure and architecture of the parish churches still reflects the influence of the Church of England.

St. John's Parish Church and gravestone behind the church

 View of the coast from St. John's Parish Church

Barbados is the eastern-most Caribbean island and is the only island not created by volcanic eruption.  Barbados was formed by the collision of the Atlantic crustal and the Caribbean plates, causing tectonic uplifts which ultimately pushed coral reefs out of the water.  This action created many caves, the most popular of which is Harrison's Cave, which developed from water erosion of the underground coral beds.  Harrison's Cave was not seriously explored until the 1970s and, in 1981 was opened to the public as a major attraction of the island.  The beautiful stalactites and stalagmites in the cave developed through infusion of the calcium-rich water through the limestone rock of the cave.  We tour by tram that descends 180 feet into the cave.

 Stalactites and stalagmites in Harrison's cave
The British built many large plantation houses, Great Houses, where the plantation owners lived.  The original Sunbury Plantation House in the parish of St. Philip was built around 1660 by one of the first British settlers on the island and became the the Great House for a plantation that grew to 413 acres.  Sunbury Plantation House is open to the public and features one of the best collections of antiques and artifacts in Barbados, including the largest collection of antique carriages in the Caribbean and many items used in the day-to-day operation of the plantation.

 Sunbury Plantation dining hall

 A few of the carriages

 Random other items displayed at the Sunbury Plantatation House

Everyone we meet in Barbados is friendly and helpful and we truly experience a lot there in our few days.  And, as with most islands here, we view and enjoy incredible tropical plantings.

Tropical plants grow everywhere