In the mid-1990’s Herman Wouk wrote a novel (which subsequently became a Jimmy Buffet musical) called Don’t Stop the Carnival about a displaced advertising exec who finds himself on a Caribbean Island managing a beachfront hotel. If you ever thought that you’d just like to escape the northern climes to move permanently to the tropics, and perhaps manage a little hotel, you need to read this novel first as a bit of a cautionary tale – or so said one of the managers of the spa-hotel La Source who recommended the book to us when we spent an eventful week on the idyllic island of Grenada.
A few years ago, we decided that we wanted to experience a spa vacation of sorts. We had never been to the Caribbean island of Grenada, and it looked like a place we might really enjoy. So, on closer inspection, we noticed that the hotel La Source billed itself as a place where those spa-like activities were all part of the package. The place looked like exactly the sort of place a discerning traveler might spend a relaxing week being pampered in gloriously tropical surroundings. So, with the full knowledge that the property was just re-opening a month before our arrival after having been closed for a couple of years (it was hard-hit by hurricane Ivan), we set out for a week of relaxation and spa treatments.
When we arrived, everything looked wonderful – the newly planted vegetation in the central courtyard was just starting to take root, and our beachfront room with its mahogany four-poster bed and high-pitched ceiling was lovely.
We did note, however, that the building directly behind ours was not quite renovated. The pool looked inviting and the beach dazzling. The resort’s two boats (one to take us water-skiing or biscuiting, and one to take us on dives) were moored in the cove. But where were the people? Well, they were there – all 50 or so of them, but the place seemed deserted. Being lovers of seclusion, we thought that was just fine.
The first evening there we happened to meet a member of the management team over drinks in the bar. This was just as we were listening to other guests regale us with their stories of what had occurred the week prior to our arrival. Their two-week sojourn had begun with a week where the pool was empty as a result of lack of water on the premises and – you guessed it – no water for several days in the rooms. We were appalled! During the week that we were there, we had only one day when there was no hot water, but at least there was water. This all sparked off the conversation with the manager who told us that running a high-end spa in the Caribbean, especially one that had been devastated by a hurricane, was not for the faint of heart.
There had been personnel issues, construction woes, water difficulties, materials deficiencies – just the sort of story that Wouk’s book detailed. But that had been fiction.
We had been well aware that the place had just reopened. We went with our eyes wide open, which is more than can be said for some of the people we met that week. However, most seemed to take it all in stride. We found the people who worked at the property all polite and personable in a reticent kind of way. It’s part of the culture, and as slightly reserved Canadians, we understood this kind of cultural approach. We enjoyed the lack of people and wondered what it would be like with 200 – the capacity – rather than the 50 or so who were there the week we were.
We both wonder now if Patty would have been as inclined to go in a biscuit with Stanley, the head of water sports (since she has a fear of the water) if there had been more people around. And we wonder if Art would have been inclined to make his way to the spa for his daily treatments wearing a spa robe, as everyone did. Neither activity is within our individual personalities – but La Source just seemed to bring it out in us!
We happened to be in Grenada again last winter during a day trip when we were cruising the Caribbean. We got off the ship and hired a taxi to take us back to La Source. When we arrived we found an amenable front-office staff person who gladly took us onto the property (after assuring herself that we were presentable and would not accost the guests) so that we could see the finished renovations. What had been newly planted gardens were now lush and full, and there was a new boutique in the spot where an empty building had stood. It still seemed to us that there were few people around, although she assured us that the resort was full. Ahhh, we thought. It would still be a great place to take a spa vacation week. We then headed back into St. George’s for a beer at our favorite water-front bar, The Ocean Grill.
After our week in Grenada the first time, we did read Don’t Stop the Carnival and it was as if we were on holiday again. Bottom line: if you’re planning a winter escape this year and are looking for a great beach read, this is it. Bon voyage!