GRENADA TRIP REPORT: April 1-10, 2006
Part 1
If It’s Not One Thing…

The first time we went to Grenada, back in 1992, it was a snap.  We hopped on a jet at BWI, stopped in San Juan, then stayed on that same jet all the way down to Point Salines – with its lovely, long, Communist-built runway (the one that contributed to all that fuss by the U.S. Navy back in 1983).  We’d arrive in the early afternoon.

That routing is now history.  For reasons only surmised at by Grenadians, American Airlines has become significantly more punitive in its scheduling of flights.  Sure, you can get to SJU the same morning you left home, but now you get to cool your heels there til at least 6 p.m., before you hop on AA’s only flight to GND, an American Eagle prop plane, and spend two-and-a-half long hours droning over a dark Caribbean Sea, arriving at nearly 9 p.m.  Not even the pleasure of a daylight landfall.

Not content that this was enough, we compounded our own misery by having the audacity to book our trip using frequent flier miles.  Which meant that instead of flying directly to SJU (punishment enough), we got a fly to the worst airport in the Americas –MIA -- first (on a 6 a.m. flight, no less) – then to SJU, then finally to GND.

This time, at least, events conspired to ensure that we wouldn’t have to worry about how to fill the resulting 4 hour layover.  Caffeine-spiked on the café Cubano  I had for “brunch” at MIA, I was jazzed to watch San Juan’s beautiful harbor and El Morro fort as we made our descent into SJU.  But just a few feet above the runway, the plane made an abrupt ascent and started circling back around.  Sheepishly, the pilot got on the intercom and announced that iguanas on the runway prevented our landing.  Rick and I looked at each other with knowing smiles, while both of us imagined Captain Jack Sparrow slurring “Welcome to the Caribbean, love.”

A second attempt to land followed.  By now, the rain showers over the airport had turned into a torrential downpour.  Fifty feet above the runway – I could count the coconuts on the palm trees! – we popped back up again.  This time, the pilot explained, the rain had rendered visibility nil.  We would circle around for a few minutes to make another attempt.  Alas, the third try was much like the second: close but no touchdown.  Unfortunately, we were out of fuel now.  So, rather than risk another failed attempt, we had to set down and refuel at an alternate airport.  Mayaguez, we wondered?  Aguadilla?  St. Thomas, even?  Wrong.  We were on our way to St. Croix where, incidentally, the weather was perfect.

By now, people were getting airsick.  And the lavs were getting nasty.  And folks – especially those whose final destination was STX but were not allowed off the plane – were getting testy.  I was cool with it because we had and endless layover to consume AND I figured that if this is my one “Typhoon Tonya Event”* for this trip, it’s not as bad as these things go, and I might as well get it over with. 

After about an hour of refueling and messing about with paperwork, we finally left St. Croix bound for SJU.  The weather had not improved much over the airport, but it was good enough to finally land.  At this point, we had enough time to collect our travel companion Emily at the bar (she had flow USAirways to SJU before the weather arrived), grab a hot dog and empanada at a snack bar, and get to our Eagle departure gate.  We arrived at GND on time.

On our return trip – which began at the ungodly hour of 7:30 -- we avoided the endless SJU layover by simply planning an overnight in San Juan, which is always a pleasure for us.  We arrived just around 10 a.m., and were pleased to find our room at the Ritz Carlton was ready for us.  We enjoyed the middle of the day strolling around beautiful Old San Juan and having a fabulous ceviche (and sangria, and Medalla, and mojito …) lunch at trendy Aquaviva.  A lazy afternoon lolling on cushioned loungers in front of the hotel (with attendants bearing washcloths and papaya snacks), followed by dinner at Metropol, helped ease our transition back home the next day.

(*  For those not in the know, I am nicknamed “Typhoon Tonya” because of the various weather and travel disasters that bedevil my journeys.  Many of them are described on this webpage.  I don’t know, however, what my travel insurance carrier calls me, other than, perhaps “Oh, Her Again.”)