This is Grenada: Belmont Estate (Grenada Chocolate Factory)

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Belmont Estate is one of my very favorite places in Grenada; I could easily spend hours and hours there wandering through the gardens, petting goats, sampling chocolate, tasting goat cheese, and chatting with the talking parrot, Rainbow. The Estate is actually a fully functioning 17th-century plantation that houses a cocoa processing plant (which is why many on the island refer to it as the Chocolate Factory), organic vegetable garden, goat dairy farm, restaurant, petting zoo, museum, and arts & crafts collective. It’s located at the northern end of the island in the town of St. Patrick, which is just about two hours away from where we live in Grand Anse. Belmont is perfect for a day trip, and I’d recommend getting there just in time for their lunchtime buffet. :)

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A buffet meal with all the local faire: salad with nutmeg dressing, sauteed provisions (root vegetables), chicken, local fish, beef, and mashed pumpkin.

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Local fruits and spices: jackfruit, papaya, coconut, turmeric, cashew fruit & nuts, tamarind, ginger, wax apples, cocoa beans, and many more that I can’t name. Belmont Estate comes down once every two weeks to the local farmer’s market in Grand Anse, and I’ve had the chance to get to know some of the people who work there. The plantation is one of the few places in Grenada where they grow jackfruit, and I’ve been lucky enough to buy jackfruit from them several times at the farmer’s market. Apparently, it’s not widely known or eaten in Grenada, so I often have Grenadians asking me how to eat it!

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A tour guide explains to us the process of making cocoa: cocoa pods are picked from the trees, their pulp is thrown into a bin where it is fermented for several days, and then the beans are laid out in the sun to dry on racks.

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At Belmont Estate, they have both traditional racks, which are rolled out when it is sunny and quickly rolled in when it rains or in the evening, and also newer structures that allow the sun to penetrate while protecting from rain.

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After the beans have dried completely, they are roasted and packed up to go to the Grenada Chocolate Company, where the chocolate is actually made. If you ever get a chance to try their chocolate, you’ll know that it’s about the closest to pure chocolate that you’ll ever taste. It’s also 100% organic and sustainably produced and exported (by sailboat!). They produce bars ranging from 60% pure chocolate to 100% pure chocolate (with a couple of specialty bars in between that contain things like Caribbean sea salt or cocoa nibs – yum!). I’ve only tried them in Grenada, but I’ve heard they’re available at Whole Foods too.

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Belmont is also home to The Goat Dairy, a non-profit organization dedicated to sustainable agriculture production, education, and empowerment among Grenada’s low-income families and youth. They provide training for local farmers and set up an educational program with the local elementary schools to teach students about agriculture, animal care, and home economics. They use the dairy farm as the centerpiece for teaching cross-curricular study, making it a teaching tool for teaching math, science, language, business, ethics, and art. Talk about project-based learning! There’s a really nice article here that describes the school project in more detail. Oh, and did I mention that they also make really great cheese?!

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Some animals in the “petting zoo” and some photos from the organic garden.

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And finally, a stop at the museum to learn all about the history of the plantation and to view some of the artwork of the local craftsmen.

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This is Grenada: Grand Anse Spice & Craft Market

1Crystal-clear water, long stretches of fine, white sand, easy access, and tons of shade-offering trees make Grand Anse Beach a favorite for locals and tourists alike. It’s also the perfect spot for a spice & craft market, and you’ll often find vendors walking the beach selling their handmade jewelry and “spice necklaces.” My friends and I spent the afternoon wandering through the open stalls, sniffing spices, chatting with local artists, and admiring all the handmade crafts and jewelry that the market had to offer.

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This is a turtle shell/skin(underbelly?) that can be cut, smoothed, and shaped into a beautiful bracelet. Some of the other bracelets are made of coral or calabash shells.

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Hand-carved and painted animals – perfect for a nursery!

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Weathered hands work skillfully on a piece of jewelry.

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A little bling-bling.

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Photo on right by Kat Fung.

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This is Beijing: 798 Arts District

The 798 Arts District is a thriving arts community in Beijing that is home to several art galleries, artist studios, design firms, and trendy restaurants and bars. Its name comes from the factory 798, an abandoned electronics factory that has since been converted to an art space and now has become the most recognizable icon of the 798 Arts District. The community is compared to art districts like SoHo or Greenwich Village, but since it is quite new (started in 2002), it doesn’t have quite the depth or variety of art/artists found in those places.

Overall, 798 felt a bit touristy to me. There is an art school there and several modern art galleries, but I think perhaps a bit more time is needed for the art community to develop and establish its character. It had a nice offering of artsy boutiques, cafes, and restaurants, so it’s a great place to spend an afternoon. I’m excited to see, though, how it transforms in another ten years.

Have you visited 798 before? What did you think of it?

Baby E appreciates modern art.

I like to call this one, “The Burden of Westernization.” :P

 

This is Beijing: Summer Palace

We spent a weekend afternoon exploring the grounds of the Summer Palace, enjoying the breathtaking scenery and getting a little bit of exercise hiking up the multitude of hills and stairs along the way.

I was fascinated to learn that the Summer Palace was home to the Empress Dowager Cixi, a figure that I remember from my mother’s stories as one of the most powerful and ruthless rulers in China’s history. It turns out that after a series of restorations to the Palace, the Dowager Cixi eventually smuggled money from the royal navy fund to reconstruct the Summer Palace into a resort for herself and the royal family.

In 1924, it opened to the public and can now be enjoyed (for a small fee) by locals and tourists. In fact, I even saw some local boys sporting nerf guns into the gardens…I’d say that’d make a pretty epic battleground. Capture the flag, anyone?


This is the Long Corridor, apparently the longest painted corridor in the world (how many painted corridors do you know of?). It’s said to contain 14,000 different paintings that feature illustrations from Chinese literature, history, and folk tales.

The Marble Boat

 

This is Beijing: The Great Wall

What’s a trip to Beijing without a visit to the Great Wall of China? The Wall is only about an hour drive out, so it makes for a great day trip and nice respite from the bustle and congestion of the city. And even just a short distance out, you can feel the drastic improvement in air quality — you can actually see blue skies!

Since we brought baby E with us, we decided we’d ride the lift up instead of doing the hike by foot (we probably wouldn’t have hiked up without the baby either :P). I’d actually recommend the lift though, since it gives you breathtaking views of the mountainsides, and I think your energy is better spent actually hiking on the wall than up to it! I had heard about a section of the wall where you can actually toboggan down a metal chute instead of taking a lift or hiking down, but I was bummed to find that it would take us an hour to walk there. Next time. :)

 

This is Beijing: Hutongs

Visiting the hutongs was one of my favorite parts of my Beijing trip. The hutongs are narrow alleys found in between the traditional, siheyuan compounds that consist of houses around a central courtyard. The hutongs link all of these compounds and courtyards together, forming a wonderfully charming maze of winding lanes and alleys. Many Chinese people still live in these neighborhoods today, and the word hutong now refers to these historic neighborhoods.

Many of the hutongs have been designated by the government as historic landmarks, making them hot spots for tourists. If you stay on the main roads, you’ll find boutiques and small shops filled with cute trinkets, silk scarves, fun souvenirs, and small eats. If you take a peek into the alleyways though, you’ll get a true glimpse into the life of the hutong dwellers.

 

This is Beijing – Panjiayuan Market

Panjiayuan is an antique-lover’s paradise. It’s one of the largest and most popular antique markets in China, and you’ll find all sorts of Chinese antiques/vintage wares, furniture, and arts & crafts. It boasts over three thousand individual stalls with a wide variety of items ranging from vintage toys to telescopes to terra cotta statues. There’s some pretty kitschy stuff, like the Mao action figures and also a lot of really lovely pieces too. I loved walking around getting a glimpse of what each stall owner had collected over lifetime. Some of them were so well-curated, I wanted to buy the whole stall! I didn’t pick up any souvenirs this time, but will be sure to go back before I leave Beijing.

It can get quite hot in Beijing during the summer months, so you’ll often find Chinese men walking around with their shirts rolled up halfway. I was rather disturbed and annoyed how often they showed up in my photos. :P

These are walnuts. The Chinese extract the seeds, wash and polish them, then carve them into beautiful works of art.

Ancient Chinese money. I think they’d make fabulous necklace pendants.

Beautiful vintage suitcases.

Toys!

Little E came along for the ride. He’s got four teeth sprouting already. :)

If you’re ever in Beijing, be sure to check out Panjiayuan Market!

Panjiayuan Market
No.18 Huaweili, Panjiayuan Road, Chaoyang District, Beijing, China

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