I love New York. I really do. But if you don’t get away from the city every now and then, it eats you up and spits you out. Your senses are subjected to a chaotic cacophony of stimuli: movement, sounds, stress, deadlines, angry people, unpleasant weather, hot subway cars, traffic, $8 beers, etc, etc.
So what do you do? Book an impromptu vacation to a tiny island you’ve never heard of and get away. (duh)
I stumbled onto this vacation idea while cruising around on Jetsetter. Up until then, I had never heard of Canouan. For those of you who were in the same boat as me, allow me to 411 you: Canouan is one of the islands in the Grenadine Island chain, about 100 miles southeast of Barbados. The biggest of the Grenadine islands is St. Vincent.
Canouan itself is about 3 miles long and 1 mile wide. It’s tiny, intimate, and not all that well known. It’s probably due to the fact that its not all that easy to get to- we flew to barbados via Jetblue and then had to take an (expensive) charter plane to the island. Still, it’s totally worth it.
Canouan is small and intimate, unsullied by the open-mouth-breathing bro’s of spring break. It’s not touristy. The scenery is immaculate, and the people that live and work there are genuine. Somehow they’ve escaped the epidemic of being jaded tourism-locale residents.
We stayed at the Tamarind Beach Hotel- a Tiny, 40-room hotel. Being as we came during the off season, we pretty much had it all to ourselves. Every morning we woke up and were greeted by sunlight and ocean sounds gently intruding through the slatted doors, which opened up directly to the beach. It’s not a super deluxe hotel, but I’m glad that it wasn’t. You had no reason to go to your room except to sleep.
There’s something to be said about doing nothing on a beach for a few hours. My most pressing to-do was to put on sunscreen, which actually was a big deal, considering how close to the equator the island is.
We spent a good deal of time beach bumming and consuming the duty free booze we brought along with us. My new favorite summer drink is now Rum and Bitter Lemon Soda.
Bitter lemon soda is a caribbean soda bottled in St. Vincent. Made using tiny limes known as “bitter lemons,” the soda has bits of lime pulp swimming in it. It’s the best citrus soda i’ve ever had. It makes Sprite look like the Frank Stallone of citrus sodas. Pair it with a good Bajan rum such as Foursquare Rum (yes, i know), and you’ve got a drink that’s refreshing, easy to drink, and an all-star at getting you drunk.
Being surrounded by crystalline azure waters also means that the Grenadines are a bangin’ location for snorkeling. We spent one day sailing around on a Catamaran that took us to 2 neighboring island: Mayreau and the Tobago Cays.
That day trip was one of the best we ever took. We napped on the netting on the catamaran as its billowing sails pulled us to the islands. When we got there, we snorkeled with Sea turtles and swam through coral reef, which is an uncanny experience.
The reefs are teeming with life. The longer you stare at it, the more you see. All of these beings and organisms exist and interact with each other in a beautiful display of life an nature. It makes me sort of wish I had kevin costner-style gills so that i could hang out down there for hours without worrying about air.
As for the food, it’s was a bit two sided. The hotel food was, well, hotel food. It was overpriced and not all that good. As the hotel was owned by Italians, it featured a robust italian menu, which was the opposite of what I wanted to be eating in the caribbean. That being said, on an island that small, pretty much everything is flown in. I wasn’t there for the food, so I didn’t let it ruin my trip.
All was not lost, though. When we left the hotel we found a few pockets of delicious, authentic sustenance.
The Mangrove restaurant was a little restaurant on the beach that was built out of an industrial storage container. They served only one or two items a day, and it was dirt cheap and delicious. we went there a few times and had awesome dishes such as stewed chicken, jerk fish, and Roasted Jerk Pork, which was my favorite. It was simple and genuine food. I wished the hotel would serve food like that. No one goes to the caribbean to eat pizza and pasta.
That aside, one of the best features of Canouan was the sunsets. the hotel faced west and gave us a front-row seat to daily solar naptimes. With Rum & Bitter Lemon in hand, we watched the day give way to night, temporarily free of the static and noise of our lives back home.
We’re back home now, but those 4 days on an island I had never heard of was exactly what I needed to get through the rest of the hot, humid, busy NYC summer.