Article by Amy Thomas
All I wanted to do in Grenada was veg on the beach. I had a stack of paperbacks, SPF 70 and reservations for a Balinese massage. It was my first time back to the Caribbean in 10 years, and my first beach vacation in nearly as long. The prospect of eternal days of sunshine, frothy novels and morning yoga to keep me from morphing into a true sloth seemed like heaven.
I had good reason to spend a few nights on this remote island, 100 miles north of Venezuela: it was my 40th birthday. I wanted to retreat and reflect. But after 40 years, you’d think I knew myself better. Day after day of mindless loafing at my bohemian-luxe resort, Laluna, where I bounced between my cottage-sized bungalow — one of 16 on the hillside property — and a chaise longue on the small, private beach, no matter how indulgent and quasi-spiritual it sounds, gets old. I wanted stimulation, not to sit still.
Luckily Grenada’s rising tourism trade offers plenty of activities. With lush rain forests and bustling villages, nutmeg factories and cocoa plantations, the island is filled with natural and agricultural delights. Indeed, Grenada is nicknamed the Spice Isle, and sensory adventures abound. I let my nose lead the way.
There are several ways to get around the 120-square-mile island, including rental cars and public buses. But the easiest — and most informative — is renting a taxi with a local driver at the wheel. Which is how I found myself riding shotgun in a minivan next to a guy named Elvis.
We were heading to Belmont Estate, a 300-year-old plantation that harvests spices like cinnamon, cloves, bay leaf, ginger, nutmeg and mace, and supplies the Grenada Chocolate Company with organic cocoa for its chocolate bars. As Elvis navigated the winding, hilly roads up the island’s eastern side, taking us past fruit stands stocked with breadfruit, mangoes and bananas, goats tethered to telephone poles, and pastel-colored homes covered in bougainvillea and perched on stilts, he gave me a brief lesson on the island’s agricultural history.
In 2004, after 49 hurricane-free years, Hurricane Ivan roared across Grenada, damaging 90 percent of the island, including its nutmeg trees — source of a chief export. Hurricane Emily, which hit in 2005, further damaged crops and infrastructure. In the storms’ aftermaths, Grenadians started cultivating more cocoa than nutmeg since cocoa trees take half as long to mature. This shift in priority was evident at Belmont Estate.
The 400-acre estate is carved into a green hillside. Rows of royal palm trees lined a path through wild vegetation, everything from towering tamarind to petite bergamot trees. Goats from the dairy farm grazed in a fenced-in patch. A soft-spoken guide took a small group of us inside a cavernous barn, where the funky scent of fermenting cacao beans, still white and gooey, permeated the air. As she explained the process — drying, roasting, pressing, conching — she brought us outside, where beans were turning brown under the tropical sun. But the estate’s expertise really came to life inside the boutique, where you can buy everything from rum truffles to chocolate-covered pineapple to pâté de mango, a sweet, gummy bonbon enrobed in dark chocolate.
On the way home, Elvis suggested we take the west coast. “You get a lot of ocean views in the west,” he said in response to my breathless “Whoa!” as we rounded a bend and saw the turquoise water before us. Not long after, he pulled over to a roadside stand and ordered a couple of local Carib beers. Elvis was a sales rep for the company and, with quiet pride, he handed me a bottle. I don’t know if it was the chocolate aftertaste or Caribbean views, but it was one of the best brews of my life.
A couple of days later, I was on my way back up the west coast, this time with a driver named Francis and two addresses that seemed to offer definitive Spice Isle experiences: Dougaldston Estate and the Gouyave Nutmeg Processing Cooperative.
If Belmont Estate is Grenada’s “finest agri-tourism experience,” then Dougaldston Estate is its forgotten cousin. With a worn boucan — a building with long drying trays on rails that can be pushed under the building during rain — the estate has the broke-down beauty of Miss Havisham’s mansion. Inside, the spices were displayed as artfully as if a food stylist had prepped them. Branches of cinnamon and pimento trees were splayed on work stations along with giant cocoa pods and calabash shells filled with allspice, bay leaf, nutmeg and mace: the perfect prelude to our next stop.
A short drive away in the fishing village of Gouyave, the nutmeg cooperative enveloped us in the spice’s unmistakable citrus-cola scent. Tons of nutmegs occupied long, shallow beds on the warehouse’s second floor, where they soaked up the heat beneath the roof’s eaves. Unlike cacao seeds, nutmegs can’t be exposed to direct sun and take two months to dry. They’re then fed into a machine that spins and cracks them, and workers do the rest by hand: separating the shells and testing the nuts for quality before bagging them for export.
Having by now explored the full perimeter of Grenada, I decided it was time to venture inland, which led me to another driver: Lenox. As we putted up the mountainous interior in a boxy diesel van, lush ferns lined the road and bamboo trees bowed overhead, creating a green tunnel. The air became dramatically cooler. We’d entered the Grand Etang National Park.
Cassava, clove, nutmeg, cinnamon, hibiscus, passion fruit, star fruit, pineapple, avocado, yam, banana, mango, coconut, soursop, sugar cane — the worn trail on which we started our hike was a botanist’s dream. And Lenox, a dream guide.
He explained how papaya seeds can expel parasites from the digestive system. He demonstrated how the tiny Mimosa pudica recoils at a human’s touch. And passing a guava tree, Lenox plucked a couple of the ripe green fruit, instructing me to bite off and spit out the stem, and enjoy the firm, pulpy insides.
As the aromatic vegetation gave way to wild forest, Lenox stopped. “We are going to do a spiritual exercise, O.K.?” For one full minute, he instructed, we were to close our eyes and just listen. I heard water babbling in the distance. Wind rustled through leaves, and birds chirped. Somewhere, a piece of fruit dropped with a soft thud. “As we go deeper into the forest,” Lenox said, “it’s important to really listen. It is important to hear what nature has to say.”
I did keep my ears peeled during our hike, but more to Lenox’s continuous observations and instructions. “Do you want to do a little extra?” he asked, about 45 minutes in. Fully under his — and Grenada’s — spell, I said yes.
He veered off the path, leading me through branches, over streams and around fallen trees. Up and away, deeper into the unknown, we finally arrived at a sloping rock wall with water shooting down: the end of the line. Or so I thought. Following Lenox’s careful instructions, I slid off my shoes and followed him as he started slowly sidestepping up the rocky ridge, through the rushing water, groping — sometimes clinging to — the facing rock wall for support. It was an intimidating climb, but we eventually reached the top. The water’s roar subsided, and all was calm again. Then I saw my reward: Honeymoon Falls. One of several waterfalls in the park, and rarely reached by tourists, as it is off the well-traveled trails. As I took in my tropical surroundings from the bracingly cool, heart-shaped pool under the waterfall, I felt nothing but gratitude — for Lenox, for Grenada, and for my inability to sit still.
I didn’t entirely eschew the beach. In between chocolate tastings and nutmeg lessons, the forest and the falls, I found time to honor my original intent for visiting Grenada. I watched the sunset each evening while paddling in the warm water. I watched local men pull in their catch from fishing nets. And in the afternoons, if only for an hour or two, I observed the mellow parade of joggers, uniformed schoolgirls and the politest of peddlers straggle by. It was, I decided, a good life in Grenada.
WHILE YOU’RE THERE
The best way to engage in Grenada’s agri-tourism offerings is by hiring a taxi driver, which costs approximately $25 to $30 an hour (the U.S. dollar is widely accepted on the island).
Laluna (Morne Rouge, St. George’s; 473-439-0001; laluna.com), an Italian-owned resort with 16 cottages, a restaurant, spa and private beach, has cottage suites from $495 in the winter.
Le Chateau Restaurant and Bar (Grand Anse, St. George’s; 473-444-2552) is a relaxed restaurant away from the beaches, near the Grand Anse Shopping Center. Dinner for two, with beer, is about $30.
The Beach House (Point Saline, Airport Road, St. George’s; 473-444-4455; beachhousegrenada.com) is a friendly, lively spot on the beach offering international twists on local seafood. Dinner for two, with cocktails, about $75.New York Times
Laluna Earns Fodor's Choice 2012 Distinction from Fodor's Travel
Fodor’s, the leading name in travel guides for over 75 years, today announced that Laluna has been recognized as a 2012 Fodor’s Choice selection. This distinction designates Laluna as a leader in its field for service, quality, and value in the 2012 year. The editors and experts of Fodor’s have been selecting only the top fifteen percent of their listed properties and activities as Fodor’s Choice award recipients since 1988. Every year, Fodor’s writers experience, examine and evaluate thousands of hotels, restaurants and attractions in their travels across the globe. While every business included in a Fodor’s guide is deemed worth a traveler’s time, only those offering a truly remarkable experience are given the Fodor’s Choice designation.
For more than 75 years Fodor’s has presented travelers with the very top recommendations from hidden-away restaurants to can't-miss museums, to make sure they’re making the most of their travels. The 2012 Fodor’s Choice recipients are the best of the best, providing a remarkable experience in their price range or category.
As a 2012 Fodor’s Choice property Laluna will receive special recognition in the next Fodor’s guidebook to this area and on www.Fodors.com.Fodor's Travel
Laluna Resort ranked one of Cocotraie Design & Excellence Award's Top Caribbean Resorts
Here at Cocotraie Magazine we pride ourselves in bringing our world wide readers the most visually arresting and luxurious properties and resorts from around the world.
Our Design Awards are all about identifying, highlighting and rewarding those who have set new standards in luxury and hospitality as well as pushing the boundaries in design innovation and aesthetic. The nomination process requires Resorts to have excelled within the following criteria.
- Design individually
- Attention to detail
- Sensitivity to the environment
- Harmony with surroundings
- Use of space and materials
- Guest experience
- Level of service
In the Design & Excellence Best Caribbean Resort category, judging was carried out by an Awards committee made up of designers and representatives from both the travel and tourism industry as well as Cocotraie contributing editors …
… Whilst many of the top luxury Caribbean resorts may look similar that doesn’t mean they all offer the same level of luxury, refinery or experience. So what do the very best do to distinguish themselves? They highlight what makes them Different. The style and design of many of these resorts can often be referred to as Tropical Modern, a challenge to convention. Combining contemporary architecture with local materials and traditional touches of decor to stunning effect. These are Resorts where lines between the indoor/outdoor living experience are blurred. These are Resorts which embrace and are at one with their surroundings …
… Just above a beach hidden away from all but the guests of the resort, Laluna has a strictly limited number of guests with an emphasis on the individual. The luxury of Laluna embraces a wonderful sense of style with seclusion and romance.Cocotraie Design & Excellence Caribbean Resorts Awards
Laluna Estate is a very private and exclusive villa development nestled on 25 acres of prime waterfront land, located 10 minutes away from both the capital St George’s and the Maurice Bishop International Airport (GND). With only seven residences available, designed by two acclaimed Italian architects and over 30 partnership agreements with the leaders in the Italian design industry, the quality of the villas are of the highest standard, and offer a warm and intimate atmosphere where you can enjoy the casual and unique Caribbean lifestyle. Laluna resort opened ten years ago with 16 suites, an Italian restaurant, an Asian Spa and a beach front yoga pavilion, and immediately established itself as the premiere boutique resort on the island attracting jet set clientele from all over the world. The new development consists of seven- four and five bedroom villas, all uniquely designed, currently under construction and completion date of December 2012. Owners are offered special incentives of tax exemptions and concessions granted exclusively to Laluna Estate, that makes the investment in one of our residences even more attractive. The headaches of second-home ownership are replaced with services and amenities only found in the world’s finest resorts, and with the opportunity of an extra income. Villa owners can benefit from a management contract with Laluna and rent their villas while not using them. Laluna Estate has partnered with Camper Nickolson Marina to include a boat berth in St. George’s Harbor in the price of the villa. Ocean Home Magazine - "Laluna: Paradise in the Caribbean"
With an electric band of celebrity fans - including Frank Skinner, Kate Moss, and Dave Stewart - this is the most fashionable hotel in the Caribbean. A paean to Italian chic, it's owned by an ex-Prada consultant, who decked out the rooms with Balinese antiques and infinity pools. An Asian0inspried spa opened this year.
October 2011 ( Page 123 )
Sicilian chef Benedetto LaFiura was raised in the kitchens of Taormina. and he remains close to the lesson of his youth. preparing savory Mediterranean pastas and elegantly simple seafood dishes. But by adding international invention such as Thai black rice to a seafood plate or wasabi vinaigrette to a shrimp dish, he elevates his traditional repertoire to an entirely new and satisfying plane. Especially noteworthy is his eponymous seafood dish, studded with shrimp, crab and scallops and served in a rich red sauce with risotto; the herb-crusted dolphin in lemon-butter sauce; and the peppercorn filet mignon-a carnivore's fantasy. The open, thatch-roofed dining room is smack-dab on a strip of deserted beach, so the stars and surf are a side dish with every meal. Sixteen secluded suites are also on hand. just in case the fine wine list gets the better of you
( 473-439-0001; entrees, $20-$40 )
May 2001 ( Page 184 )
Laluna's brightly-coloured one and two-bedroom cottages trickle down a hillside to the beach and sport a funky chic designed to lure a whole new crowd of voguish visitors to Grenada.
Laluna is the brainchild and first hotel project of Italian fashion maven Bernardo Bertucci. The resort's free standing cottages of jaunty purple, green and yellow feature private plunge pools and bamboo-roofed verandas with Balinese day beds and thick cane rockers overlooking the sea.
Gabriella Giuntoli, who has designed villas for the likes of Giorgio Armani, provides a "concrete chic" of dappled amber, mauve and russet walls, built-in counters and couches and swirling floor designs covered by simple straw rugs.
Four poster beds are swathed in white fabric and piled with soft pillows. Baseline lamps feature bundles of bamboo "growing" through angular shades. The ceiling are immensely high; windows, trimmed in bold primary colors, look through manchineel trees and a kaleidoscopic of bougainvillea to the sea.
Place a half calabash on the porch carved with "Do Not Disturb" and Laluna's crescent moon logo, and it's time to luxuriate with Laluna's herbal cleansing gel and shampoo from Hortus Fratis, an Italian company whose products are fashioned by monks in the Italian Alps.
Outside your room, relax on an oversized settee among an assortment of white-cushioned couches and chairs and Balinese sculptures in the open-air, thatched roof loungs. The entire Polynesian-Caribbean-Italian melange opens to the emerald sea. Stroll past the pool to the al fresco restaurant, where Italian chef Benedetto La Furia melds the tropics with his native cuisine in such dishes as seafood gnocchi, local lobster tossed in olive oil and "seafood Benedetto" - shrimp, crab, scallops and fish in a rich red sauce accompanied by risotto. Want a touch of the ast? Try the Tahi pumpkin-pinger soup or spicy peanut chicken curry. And how many island tipplers start with a "Caribbean Seabreeze" and finish up with a potent Mediterrean Grappa di Brunello?
Best of all, laluna has an utter lack of presumption, beginning from the minute the van picks you up at the airport. You'll find not a trace of "aren't we hip" posing at the friendly resort, and you're very likely to find Bertucci or his wife and manager Wendy Potter, a native of nearby Trinidad, greeting guests. After dinner, you'll climb the steps to your cottages as the moon rises over a dark Caribbean and its sliver of light gracefully tells you why this Italian hoteiler chose the name "Laluna".
APRIL/MAY 2001 (Pg.184)
Grenada Laluna Resort which opened in December on the Caribbean island of Grenada, is the brainchild of Bernardo Bertucci, a former public relations consultant to the Italian fashion industry. His financial backing came from friends at Benetton and Zegna; the design is by Carmelina Santoro and Gabriella Giuntoli, who counts Giorgio Armani among her clients. Not surprisingly, Laluna has a beautiful hihg-fashion look. Sixteen brightly colored villas are dotted acrss a hill. Their interiors are painted warm cinnamon and sienna tones and furnished with hand-carved Balinese wood fourposters and silk pillows. The communcal open-air living room is thatched with elephant grass and accessorized with more Indonesian furniture and eclectic finds from other parts of Asia. Though highly designed, the resort, refreshingly, has no haughty attitude. Instead this is the sort of simple place that rarely exists in the Caribbean anymore; a place to go just to relax on a small beach in a private cove. There is blissfully little to do, with the exception of lazing in your plunge pool. DEPARTURE MAY/JUNE (Pg.58)
We Are Creating an Experience
Workmen are tromping on a makeshift path about a foot away. Plus, the pump on our plunge pool isn't working, so we break for lunch.
We are the lone dinners in the open-air restaurant, which looks as if it seats about 50. The Italian chef still has jet lag-he arrived two days before we did-so there's no menu, but he manages to pull together a three-course meal of antipasto, linguine, and swordfish with red sauce, served by a gaggle of waiters.
A sail around the spectacular cove on a Hobie Cat aids our digestion, and just as we return to shore, a waiter approaches to take our drink orders. It appears that the blender isn't working or hasn't arrived, so we settle for Carib beer.
I silently wish that every hotel kept a staff-to-guest ratio of 19 to two. I also wonder whether this is the first Caribbean resort in history that doesn't have a functional blender.
By our third evening, however, things are taking off. The areas around the pool have been swept clean, a gift shop has materialized, and someone has installed a small hose on the main patio for rinsing sandy feet (beats using the plunge pool). The biggest triumph? A blender! Bertucci approaches us with a freshly printed drink menu. "You see?" he says proudly. "we are making progress." It's true-Laluna may have had a slow start, but it's coming together fast. And especially compared with the larger, more garish hotels on the island, the place is a jewel. As we comment on the vast improvements of the past three days, Bertucci breaks into a wide smile. " I knew it! You have the best resort on the island all to yourself. I should be charging you double!"
FEBRUARY 2001 (Pg.232)
Forget St.Barts and Pink Sands. This year the bold-faced and beautiful are flocking to Laluna, Grenada's super-stylish retreat in the West Indies with a mere 16 oceanfront villas (each with its own private plunge pool, natch).
Interior designer Gabriella Giuntoil (who counts Giorgio Armani among her clients) has paired Meditarrean-inspired colours with breezy Caribbean motif: split-level verandahs and gauzy net bedding. Guests will appreciate extras such as yoga classes and in-room massages, not to mention the thatched roof Sunset Bar decked out with Indonesian daybeds for maximum lounging. Shoes are discouraged. - JF
MARCH 2001 (pg.128)
Forget St. Barts and Pink Sands. This year the bold-faced and the beautiful are flocking to LaLuna, Grenada's super-stylish retreat in the West Indies with a mere 16 oceanfront villas (each with its own private plunge pool, natch). Interior designer Gabriella Giuntoli (who counts Giorgio Armani among her clients) has paired Mediterranean-inspired colors with breezy Caribbean motif: split-level verandahs and gauzy net bedding.
Guests will appreciate extras such as yoga classes and in-room massages, not to mention the thatched roof Sunset Bar decked out with Indonesian daybeds for maximum lounging. Shoes are discouraged.-JF
Under the stars in Grenada, plus pre-flight pampering. By Francesca Martin, Laluna is a magical hotel set in a secluded bay on the island of Grenada. Combine the Italian enthusiasm and charm of its owner, Bernardo Bertucci, with the Caribbean welcome and relaxed way of life, and you will have some idea of its allure. In fact, when Kate Phelan, Vogue's senior fashion editor, returned to London from shooting Angela Lindvall with photographer Corinne Day for Castaway (July 2001), she declared it the best hotel she'd stayed at in years.
Laluna is made up of 16 one and two-bedroomed cottages, each with a canopied bed, a private deck and a plunge pool - from which you can smell scented frangipani trees and enjoy panoramic views of the bay. The cottages are stylishly decorated with Balinese furniture and they all feature a partially exposed bathroom, so you can wash beneath the stars. At the heart of the hotel is the infinity swimming pool, with its surrounding cocktail bar, and the small restaurant, which serves top-notch Italian food and fresh fish. Everything you might want is at your disposal - from a massage to scuba diving (highly recommended is a trip to one of the local jazz festivals).
Small enough to feel utterly romantic and with the friendliest staff, La Luna doesn't really feel like a hotel, more like a friend's wonderful house.
Laluna has a look and vibe that would suit Armani
I'll be honest: My wife and I were leery when we saw the last stretch of road to Laluna, a quarter-mile-long, impossibly runneled chunk of Caribbean dirt with more ruts than Keith Richard's face. It was enough to make us wonder if conditions had improved in Grenada since "the intervention", as locals call the 1983 American-led invasion that made the island safe again for banana daiquiris and cinch medical degrees. Indeed, as Laluna co-manager Wendy Potter, the wife of proprietor Bernardo Bertucci, puts it, "Even now we get calls from America asking, 'Is the war still going on?'".
Happily, Grenada has been at peace for two decades now, and in Laluna it has one of the region's most tempting hideaways, a tiny yet tony gem (maximum guests: 32) that's well worth the chauffeured schlep over a rutted road. Carved into an oleander- and hibiscus-scented hillside above a nearly deserted beach, Laluna is the brainchild of Bertucci, a 39-year-old Italian by way of New York City, where he spent 10 years in the fashion industry as a consultant to Giorgio Armani, La Perla and Prada. It's no coincidence that his 16 cottages - cool concrete dusted in shades of blue, green and cinnamon - are the work of the same designer who did Armani's European vacation villa.
On an island that was named by the Spanish, ruled by the French and colonized by the English, it makes perfect sense that Grenada's most stylish hideaway would be run by Italian's, who have brought a distinctly global flavor. "Everything here has a story," Bertucci says. The teak four-poster beds, hand-carved bathroom mirrors and kooky crotch-grabbing fertility symbols? Bertucci handpicked them in Bali. The Medusa-style light fixtures and exotic bath creams? Imported from Italy. Why, Bertucci even thatched the open-air bar and restaurant with 30,000 pounds of elephant grass direct from Vietnam.
Guests can embark on excursions to the rain forest, visit the Saturday spice market in nearby St. George's and take spins on a Hobie Cat, kayak or mountain bike. Or they can do what we did: lounge on the beach, enjoy in-room massages and watch the sunset from our private plunge pool overlooking the sea.
Nighttime brings a new cast of characters. There's chef Benedetto La Fiura, whose Sicilian specialties (with a Caribbean twist) put the fare at Tony Soprano's favorite restaurant to shame. There's Wilton, the dreadlocked David Blaine of barmen, who can entrance you with an industrial-strength rum punch and a bulging bag of parlor tricks.
Two years after its launch Laluna has turned into a hot spot among in-the-know fashionistas, to say nothing of urban hipsters from New York, London and Milan who want to avoid the tourist hordes that overrun the neighboring islands. (Model Jerry Hall and former Eurythmics member Dave Stewart are two recent guests.) Best of all, Laluna is proof positive that you don't need a flamethrowing, drumbanging floor show to have a memorable Caribbean vacation. Good food, a gorgeous setting and a chill vibe: Another U.S. invasion may be coming, only this time it won't be the Marines.
Despite having only a few luxury hotels Grenada still attracts big-name celebrities looking to escape for a while. Here is where the fashionistas take in the vistas...
The hotel that is currently on every celeb's lips is Laluna (www.laluna.com) located on the south west of the island. There are 16 one or two-bedroom cottages scattered across the hillside, hidden by jasmine and bougainvillea, all overlooking the hotel's pretty private bay. It was opened earlier this year by Bernardo Bertucci, an Italian who used to work as fashion consultant for Armani, Prada and La Perla. One of his great friends is Donatella Versace, who has already been to stay - as have Dave Stewart (who is rumored to have hired the whole hotel for Christmas), Jerry Hall, Frank Skinner and Kate Moss. It has also been reported that Madonna has sent one of her scouts to check the place out.
Guests like the day beds and dip pools on their private terraces, and the Indonesian-inspired chick décor - think four-poster Balinese beds, crisp linens, seagrass matting and ethnic carvings. Make a beeline for Goldie, who will guide you through all the watersports on offer, and the charismatic Italian chef who serves up mouth-watering pastas and pizza.
The hotel currently on every celebrity's lips is Laluna, located on the south-west coast of Grenada. Guests stay in one of the 16 one or two-bedroom cottages scattered across the hillside, hidden by jasmine and bouganivillaea, that overlook the hotel's pretty private bay. It was opened earlier this year by Bernardo Bertucci, a former New York-based Italian fashion consultant for Armani, Prada and La Perla. One of his great friends, Donatella Versace, has already been to stay, as have Date Stewart, Jerry Hall, Frank Skinner and Kate Moss (pictured). Dave Stewart gave an impromptu concert to the resort's guests, in tribute to the late George Harrison.
Guests can recline on day beds and cool off in dip pools on their private terraces, amid the Indonesian-inspired decor. make a beeline for Goldie, who will guide your through all the water sports on offer, and the charismatic Italian chef who serves up mouth-watering pastas and pizza.
Caribouts (020 7751 0660) offers a seven-night package, including flights and transfers, from GBP 1369pp.
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