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"We're bouncing back, man! We're bouncing back!"
Enthusiastic words from our taxi driver, Cati, echoed in my mind as I wondered what to expect during our post-Hurricane Ivan trip to Grenada. It was dark when we arrived, making it hard to see the aftermath of the worst hurricane Grenada had seen in over 50 years.
The air in Grenada carries the aroma of the many spices produced here (primarily nutmeg), and the country is filled with beautiful, well-preserved examples of French and British Colonial architecture. After a short, 30-minute drive, we reached Bel Air Plantation. The resort is perched on a hill overlooking St. David's Harbor, so we were anxious to see what daylight would reveal.
We were delighted to receive our very own cell phone upon check-in. Each guest is provided one for their use during their stay. Talk about convenience! Being able to call from anywhere on the resort-or the island for that matter-was a great bonus.
After check in, Cati drove us right to our villa door. What a treat for us weary travelers! It felt like we were coming home. Little did we know, it was just a foretaste of the comfortable, at-home atmosphere we would experience our entire stay at Bel Air Plantation.
Our villa, like all the others, was a stand alone structure on stilts. Apparently their wooden construction-a rarity in Grenada and other Caribbean islands-is what saved them from major destruction during Hurricane Ivan (the wood moved with the winds).
A good bit of the front portion of our villa is all veranda-perfect for taking in that "Oh...my...gosh!" view of Bel Air and St. David's Bay below when we awoke the next morning. More than 100 sailboats plying in and out of the harbor, pristine water, and lush flowers and trees mesmerized us for a good while. Other touches, like original artwork, huge four-poster beds teeming with comfy pillows, and creature comforts make it hard to leave the villa at all.
Father and daughter owners, Dr. Fisher (a retired scientist) and Susan Fisher, have created a true haven for people looking for something other than a "cookie cutter" vacation experience. Overcoming many years of challenges, they finally opened Bel Air Plantation in 2003, naming it after the childhood home of Susan's mother. The excitement of the first busy season was tempered with the arrival of Hurricane Ivan. However, blessed with good construction and a leeward location, Bel Air was spared destruction (only one window was broken).
As we walked down to breakfast, we were surrounded by a colorful array of Bougainvillea, Hibiscus, Nerium Oleander, as well as shade-giving White Cedars, Rubber Trees, and Panama Hat Palms. The winding nutmeg-covered trails flowed down from the infinity edge swimming pool-another heavenly experience.
Because the resort is located along a bay, the beach area is small. But the promise of the perfect beach is just five minutes away. A quick phone call to the front desk resulted in a friendly "Come on down, I'll take you over."-and we were off to La Sagesse Beach.
Cati, our taxi driver extraordinaire became our island guide. We toured the historic forts and local shopping areas, but the opportunity to feed monkeys in the rainforest was perhaps the highlight.
Every meal we ate at Bel Air Plantation was incredibly light and full of flavor. We fell in love with the nutmeg ice cream (think of a summer eggnog treat!) and the guava cheesecake. Although dining at the restaurant was not to be missed, it was nice having a fully stocked market on the premises. Anything from meats and cheeses to vegetables and drinks can be found here. And if the store is closed, just call the front desk and they'll let you in to buy what you need-another example of the low-key and gracious attitude we encountered here.
At Bel Air Plantation we didn't find schedules, shuttle bus lines, "hours of operation" postings and loud music. The trade off was mint. We discovered genuine hospitality in a luxurious-yet not pretentious-setting. To be able to "blend in" with the locals and become a part of the landscape even for just a week is such a rarity in vacations today.
The Grenadian people have such a positive spirit about them and have made huge progress in recovering from Hurricane Ivan. Now is definitely the time to see the best of what Grenada has to offer at Bel Air Plantation.