This island is guaranteed to put some spice in your life - as well as more than its fair share of international headlines. Grenada produces so much spice that its No 1 product, nutmeg, is pictured on the national flag. It's a small island of 21 by 12 miles with a population of about 90,000, many of whom are soccer players. The entire population of this sports-besotted island with the Caribbean's prettiest harbour would fit in an American football stadium.
In 2004, islanders staged a "Spice Invasion" during the Grenada opener of a two-match 2006 World Cup soccer qualifying series against the US in Columbus, OH. The "Spice Boyz," as the Grenada team is nicknamed, hosted US soccer competitors at Grenada's 7,500-seat National Stadium. When the US "invaded" Grenada for the match, it was a matter of light-hearted good nature, with players shooting goals instead of bullets, in retaliation for the US invasion of Grenada in 1983.
It was just over a generation ago when US President Ronald Reagan ordered a successful military attack to block Communist Cuba's increasingly significant role in Grenada politics and lifestyles. The 11 soldiers killed in action are remembered with their names carved in stone. There are no hard feelings today about US bombs and bullets of long ago. In fact, the October 25 date of the US invasion is a national holiday known as Thanksgiving Day.
Grenada is much more than a gorgeous, hilly island with a breathtakingly beautiful capital city called St George's. The city's name honours George III, last king of 13 rebellious American colonies on the east coast of North America. Beyond the capital, the island is marvellously fertile and green. The soil grows many kinds of spices sold in markets all over the world, hence the title: Spice Island of the Caribbean.
Americans were not the only Spice Island invaders. After "discovery" by Europeans, Caribs (read that cannibals) met all invaders with a shower of arrows and a king-sized cooking pot waiting in the wings. However, in 1650 French explorers from Martinique settled on the island destined to become Grenada. Very soon after, there ensued a violent war in which the French were victors. The defeated Caribs threw themselves over a cliff rather than surrender. Grenada then switched back and forth from British to French ownership. After an awful lot of strenuous politicking, Grenada became an independent nation within the Commonwealth of Nations on Feb 7, 1974.
Grenada is chockablock with idyllic tropical beaches and magical seaside haunts with secluded bars and no end of opportunities to sun, swim and snorkel. There is no shortage of unspoiled rain forests where you can commune with monkeys, opossum, a special species of nine-banded armadillo and many birds - maybe even the national bird, the endangered Grenada dove. You will, for sure, see the national flower, the bougainvillaea. It's everywhere.
One of the best things about Grenada is its fabulous French-influenced food. Grenadians take dining seriously. The menus, as well as many place names, reflect the enchanting flavour of La Belle France, off-and-on colonial rulers of Grenada.