The story that I (Zickie) want to tell here is not about a Caribbean beach -- although it's certainly about that, too -- but about a connection to a person and a place. After our arrival on Grenada's smaller sister isle, Carriacou, we stepped off of the ferry, quickly got our rental car (that's a story in its own right), checked into where we were staying, and jumped back into the car in search of a spot called Paradise Beach.
After a couple of wrong forays onto one-way streets, putting three-point turns into practice, Laura and I eventually found ourselves along what our beach-homing-beacons were telling us was the right direction. Sidebar: Driving in Carriacou is not for the novice or uninitiated. As a Jamaican, I was comfortable with the right hand drive manual car, un-signed roads, goats, pedestrians, and many other creatures and objects, and yet still found myself somewhat befuddled at times. The scenery of vegetation, twisting roads, road-side shops, bars, and “snackettes” along the way reminded me so much of my island home, but with its own “Kayak” feel. (Kayak or Kayac is the local term for Carriacouans.)
(Hanging at Joe's Banana bar with Joe. Paradise Beach, Carriacou, Grenada)
All of a sudden, there it was, the sign saying we had reached Paradise Beach. We Island Runaways were both duly impressed. Turquoise ocean, coconut palms and almond trees, a long stretch of sand. Yesssss.
The beach, as beautiful as it is, however, was not what inspired me to write this post, but rather the serendipity of running into the undiscovered new experience. After stripping down to our swimsuits and lying on the sand soaking in the last of the day's rays, listening to the small plane fly in to the nearby airport, our curious desire to see more took hold and we ventured off on our walk down along the shoreline (with the somewhat not too-hidden agenda of finding somewhere to grab an evening beach drink).
We passed a group of tourists and locals playing beach football (or "soccer" for my North American friends). The sound of the slap of dominoes on a wooden table pulled our eyes further from the immediate vicinity of the ongoing game to see the beach bar “Banana Is Merit”, and I flagged this as a likely possibility for “that drink”. We continued to walk and saw another bar which has had lots of well written reviews, when the skies opened up (so much for Carriacou being dry!). Our minds made up for us, we raced back to the spot of activity happening at the Banana bar. (Or "Banana In Merit Bar & Museum" to give it its full name.)
(Island Runaways' Laura chilling at Joe's Bar on Paradise Beach.)
The dominoes game had now been relocated to a dry spot in the overhang. We sauntered up to the bar where we met Joe, the dread-locked proprietor. Joe had a warm, easy smile, and a face full of character and a lifetime of his own stories to be told. "I'm a fisherman, and I have this bar," he said, shaking my hand as I introduced myself.
I found the breadth of my Jamaican accent expanding and slipped into an easy banter with Joe as we exchanged small slices of our own stories and I told him where I originally came from. Visitors from nearby boats stood in the small bar, drinking Carib beers and smoking, as they waited for the skies to clear. Soon enough, that happened.
Joe and I chatted about this n' that for a while. I liked the fact that he was interested in humanity, not simply pushing drinks. In fact, he didn't push anything. Joe simply let the world come to his Banana Bar, on this perfect stretch of Paradise Beach.
Perfect serenity on Paradise Beach, Carriacou, Grenada)
As I felt the warmth of the dark rum with ginger beer (no tonic water to make my favourite drink) seep into my veins, I felt my soul relax, knowing that though I was Jamaican, I felt at good in my skin. Far away from my current abode in the States, and hundreds of miles from Jamaica, and I had found a perfect barman who made everyone, wherever they were from, feel at home...