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The Grenadine Islands



"Tommy Hilfiger." He spoke his name with the supersmooth assurance of Casey Kasem announcing the number-one song in America. "I'm having a few old friends for dinner tonight, and we'd love it if you could join us."

I covered the receiver and made goofy faces at Ilene.

"Love to," I said. "But we're leaving in an hour."

"Fly back tonight!" Tommy countered.

"Can I take a rain check?"

We had to get to Canouan. There was a brand-new resort there! And turning down dinner at Tommy Hilfiger's house was actually cooler than going, I convinced myself. Ilene remained unpersuaded.

Canouan's Carenage Bay Beach & Golf Club is a tribute to modern technology and the basic human need to sip umbrella drinks at a swim-up bar. From the airport, you drive past the goats and hovels and I LOVE THE LORD churches into the gated resort community and golf course that, it is rumored, has been played by Bill Gates. To realize this $180 million project, roads, power and desalinization plants, and a large casino were built. Just watering the golf course costs $1 million a year. Our suite was huge. They all are. Jumbo bedroom and living room with coral-colored couches that double as daybeds. Kitchen area with cappuccino machine. (Italian management.) High vaulted ceilings, and doors made of dark Brazilian wood so heavy it sinks in water. Two bathrooms, the master outfitted with a huge tub, a bidet, and light Frette robes. Cable TV. A/C. Italian sparkling wine and a fruit basket.

The clientele is heavily Euro, mostly French and Italian. Swarthy men weighted down with gold and deeply bronzed size 0 trophy wives. Ilene saw one mother of two in a white knit bikini casually using a $3,000 piece of Louis Vuitton luggage as her beach bag. After lounging at the immense, banana-shaped pool, we walked a few paces down to the beach and rode a couple of water bicycles over the reef. A little later, we took a golf lesson from a French Canadian who told us that everything we did was wrong. Dinner, a beach barbecue, was another Euro fashion show: Mrs. Vuitton had switched into gold jeans and a leopard-print tank with full bra exposure. A man who looked like Charles de Gaulle walked by in a madras shirt, red jeans, and brown loafers.

I felt a desperate need to upgrade my resort wear. Ilene did so, dropping major plastic on various Roberto Cavalli creations at a boutique run by two extremely sexy and nice Italian women.

"At last, real shopping!" Ilene was moved to exclaim.

On our snorkeling excursion the next day, we met Mrs. de Gaulle, whose plastic surgery was outdone only by the number of outfits she wore during the boat trip (in amazed admiration, Ilene counted three). The Carenage dropped a couple of stars in our eyes when we saw the ratty catamaran they'd provided to take us to the Tobago Cays. The equipment was worse. Leaky masks. Flippers made for elves or Shaquille O'Neal­nothing in between. Once in the water, though, you could see why fish freaks make pilgrimages here. The reef is spectacular, and so shallow that a few of us stood up in it and were yelled at by a local patrol.

Back at the Carenage that night, we found that the casino was closed. Ilene, who never met a blackjack table she didn't like, was crestfallen. Dying to check the place out, she asked for a tour the morning we were leaving. A large white building atop the resort's highest ground, it had a Monte Carlo-manquÈ look. Inside were baccarat tables and chemin de fer. Our Italian guide showed us where a gambling room was under construction, with tables for "crabs" and "slots for when the women get bored."

After the Freshly Minted Euros on display at the Carenage, we embraced the old-money shabby gentility of Young Island, our final stop. This resort island is just a few hundred yards off St. Vincent. A peacock was sitting at the door of our little cabana, and I chased him around in the rain, hoping he'd flash his plumage, NBC-style. He didn't. This was our last full day in the Grenadines. My only real goal was to go deep-sea fishing, which I'd never done. We set it up for the next day with Hal. At 7:30 a.m. it was raining again. Yesss!-a reprieve after being up late in the bar, drinking and bouncing to the strains of a tireless steel-drum band.

No such luck. Hal was right on time. Jim too, as well as a sharp-witted older gentleman named Henry, who turned out to have been one of the country's highest-ranking civil servants and a former UN official. Henry chatted on his cell phone with a doctor friend onshore as Hal hacked off chunks of sugarcane and gave them to us to chew on. The sun came out, but the fish didn't. Nothing but barracuda, the rats of the sea. Then I reeled in a tuna. Baby yellowfin. Three pounds maybe. More like sushi, really.

I could have cried.


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