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CARIB-Grenada250Come winter – when I can’t sleep at night and February grabs me by the throat – I conjure up a view of the falls. But my falls is no mere Niagara. This is Concord, a cascade coursing down the side of a mountain in Grenada. A nation of three islands less than three hundred kilometres from the coast of South America, Grenada is crown jewel of the Windward Islands.

She is a winter’s vision of paradise itself: green peaks swathed in scarlet Poinciana trees, secret beaches, orange fish-scale roofs capping Georgian buildings scattered like children’s blocks on the slopes towering over quayside cobblestones bordering the Caribbean’s prettiest harbour.

But most of all she is a memory of one special waterfall.

My mind’s ear plays the anthem of a thousand-voice-bird-choir, a continuo laid down by water plummeting twenty metres down a rock face into a narrow bowl festooned by hibiscus and bougainvillea and orchids.

Sure Niagara is bigger. But nowhere else in the Caribbean is the view so sweet as here on the Spice Island. For Grenada boasts mountains high enough to attract the rain and slopes steep enough to ensure the race to the sea is sufficiently spectacular.

In Grenada they spread cinnamon bark out on wooden trays in their front yards for drying. Rust-colored curled shavings bask in the Caribbean sun, sending cinnamon-flavored breezes aloft like nature’s own pheromones.

In Grenada those very spices make for intriguing side-trips and unequalled dining delights.

Gnaw on a plug of cinnamon at the Dougaldston Spice Estate then venture inside where an eighty-year-old woman in a sunhat holds up a peppery sprig of allspice. She reaches to a sun-dappled wooden table and holds up a green pod, sliced open and graced with a scarlet web of fauna that will eventually be ground into mace. Stroll between nutmeg trees high above St. George’s at Laura Herb Garden while a guide points out one particular spice and grins. “This will be very good for your love life” she says, leading you through a grove of trees where you once again inhale the aroma of cinnamon.

Mix with locals at Gouyave during ‘fish Fridays’. Browse the procession of vendor’s booths and sample the catch of the day – tuna pizza or grilled mahi-mahi – dining al fresco to the accompaniment of soca music emanating from loud speakers crouched in front of a two-hundred-year-old church.

Those selfsame spices add kick to the barbecue ribs at True Blue Bay Resort’s “Dodgy Dock”, a white-awning restaurant perched on stilts right over the water, where they liberally sprinkle their rum punches with nutmeg. They infuse the menu at Spice Island Resort, in an elegant dining room steps from a white sand beach where at night the lights of St. George’s twinkle like Christmas decorations, where the menu changes daily, a menu and ambiance so impressive innkeeper Royston Hopkin has been knighted for his contribution to Caribbean tourism. They add zest to the catch of the day offered up on the terrace high on a hillside overlooking Grand Anse beach at Mt. Cinnamon Resort’s Verandah Restaurant, Grenada’s newest spot for seafood.

For Grenada’s very name is spice. In Grenada you can walk on paths lined with the shells of nutmegs. In Grenada you can climb the mountain beside Concord Falls.

And that falls awaits your pleasure at the end of one path, teasing you and hiding from you at the same time, wanton courtesan and timid bride both.

She is a desirable as her island home. The French and English courted Grenada for centuries – St. George’s stands beside Morne Rouge, Halifax is hard by Gouyave. Carib Indians leaped to their deaths at Sauteurs rather than desert her.

But neither Grenada nor Concord Falls surrender so readily as all of that.

To woo her you must first survive the coast highway– a rollercoaster ride twisting and turning upon itself like a riled rattlesnake, climbing great heights and plummeting to stomach-churning depths. And then you must leave that road for one even more bone-rattling.

But she is worth it.

Hurricane Ivan ravaged much of Grenada but it left Concord Falls unblemished. And thankfully, I discover on my first post-storm visit, unaffected by either time or Ivan.

Still, as if they have never left, vendors in rickety ramshackle clapboard shacks hawk jewelry and nutmeg and a bonfire of hot sauces. Still they offer sweating Carib beers from blue coolers.

In the shade of a bridge an old man washes carrots in a stream that flows into the Concord. I swear he was here on our last trip.

Two boys hunch over rocks strewn across the river. One grins at me and hands me a line with an insect on it. I catch a crawfish and grin back. I know they couldn’t have been here last time – but someone was. That time two other boys caught dinner with line and locust.

And the water is just like I remembered it. Heart-shatteringly cold. Invigorating as the Carib I inhale while ensconced on the patio that clings to the wall of the gorge like a nervous goat. And I remember and meditate and look skyward as I tread water in this pool at the foot of paradise.

Here, I am convinced, they invented the word “fertile” – plants grow on plants that grow on plants that grow on plants. Here I leer at flesh-colored flowers draped by petals as voluptuous and lascivious as the gaze of the falls itself.

Grenada is a mountainous lush island boasting a wealth of accommodation, hiking trails that scale peaks nearly a thousand metres high, amber and black and alabaster beaches sheltered by towering bluffs.

But come winter, when I meditate upon the charms of this island, it is a view of a falls that I see in my mind’s eye.

And, joining a procession of four centuries of suitors, I am seduced anew.

Fats Facts

From December 21 until April Air Canada Vacations offers full packages and non-stop flights from Toronto. Log on to www.aircanadavacations.com

Perched high on a hill overlooking Grand Anse Beach, Mount Cinnamon Resort offers luxury suites with million-dollar views and opulent appointments. Check out www.mountcinnamongrenada.com for booking information

For a complete list of accommodations, activities and a thumbnail portrait of Grenada, go to www.grenadagrenadines.com