I pick up my walk around town from where I left off last time, which you can read about here. As I continue north along the Bayfront, I pass the Post Office and the round-about. On the east side of the street, I stand before the Barracoon Building, which is considered one of the oldest structures in Roseau. It was once a holding centre for recently arrived slaves from the mid-18th century until the abolition of this trade in 1807. This structure serves as a sombre reminder of this unfortunate aspect of Caribbean history. It is the only one that remains intact in the region. A court house and the Roseau City Council currently occupy the premises.
As I am close to the Roseau River where the New Market is located, I meander over to purchase some farm-fresh local fruits and vegetables. I also love to buy a bunch of flowers, usually anthurium lilies grown or harvested by ladies in the mountain villages of Wotten Waven, Trafalgar and Giraudel,
A recent addition to the riverfront near the New Market is the Chinese-built ‘Friendship Bridge’. The symbolic ‘Fu (Foo) dogs’ adorn the four end points of the bridge. There are now three bridges across the Roseau River, which aid traffic congestion tremendously.
With purchases packed in my reusable bags, I head back into the town’s centre. I really enjoy taking time to admire the diverse street scenes of this Caribbean capital.
Occasional hurricanes and fires over the years have left their mark, particularly in the absence of trees and some vacant lots that once contained wooden buildings. Presently, some of the existing wooden Ti Kaz (little house) types are brightly painted and lend cheer to the pervasive grays found in the volcanic stone buildings, which have largely been around since the 19th century. Very often, the second floor is built from wood. Fancy fretwork, protruding verandas, dormer windows and hurricane shutters are predominant features that reflect what is called a “Caribbean Creole” style.
Of course, progress does not escape even the smallest island. Multinational companies set up shop amidst more traditional ones.
Newer businesses, such as La Flamboyant Hotel complement the existing traditional designs with a more contemporary style.
Some older buildings have considerable historical significance. Jean Rhys, a novelist who is greatly admired by the international literary community was actually born and raised in Roseau in the early 20th century. Although she left for England when she was 16, and only returned once in her lifetime, her works are rife with references to the Nature Island. Her most famous work, Wide Sargasso Sea is frequently found in libraries, advanced literature courses and general reading lists.
Since I have been walking around town for a while, it is time for a delectable Dominican treat. From the former home of Jean Rhys on the west side of Independence Street, I cross to the east side, and head in a southerly direction. About a block before the junction of Independence and King George V Streets, I stop to place my take-out order at Marvo’s Corner. This talented lady (qui parle francais aussi) and her husband have created little roadside snack shops that rival all the others. Marvo serves up Creole-style breakfast meals ‘to go’, such as substantial bakes (like deep fried bread) filled with omelettes, seasoned codfish, provisions (starchy vegetables) and salad, fresh local juices, fruit or vegetable smoothies, accras (deep fried seasoned often with tasty little fish) and other filling snacks. If you’re going home, back to your guest house, over to the Botannical Gardens or on an outing, you can pack these hearty treats to take with you. For those who are planning a long hike, or simply relish the taste of something rich and sweet, be sure to ask for energizing homemade cocoa tea with coconut milk. It’s the best in Roseau!
Another of my favourite food stops , if I happen to be in town on either a Wednesday or a Saturday, is Pearl’s Cuisine (448-8707) in the historic Sutton Place Hotel on Old Street. My main mission is to devour a substantial and very economical West Indian roti, which is packed with either a curried meat or fish or vegetarian filling, other cooked vegetables and wrapped up in a flour ‘skin’. I love the ambience of this pretty dining room. At lunch time, the place fills with a veritable mix of hungry diners and can be a real who’s who of various professionals who have business offices in the area. Of course, tourists, expats and conference participants know that a roti lunch will hit the spot any Wednesday or Saturday of the year! (NOTE: As of November 2012, some rotis (chicken and vegetable) are available from Monday to Saturday, but are no longer served as twice weekly specials due to the unfortunate death of the man who prepared the genuine roti ‘skins’. The staff assures me that once someone else is found who can undertake this particular skill, then they will offer specials once again).
Now it’s time to digest those wonderful meals and head home. There is much more to be said about Roseau, of course. The gardens and the government buildings will feature in subsequent posts. Hope you can join me on my next ‘walk’ around town!
Honychurch, Lennox. Dominica: Isle of Adventure. Second Edition. (MacMillan), 1995.
Honychurch, Lennox. Historic Roseau: The Capital of Dominica. (Paramount), 2000.
SHAPE (Society for Heritage, Architecture, Preservation and Enhancement. Self-guided walking tour: Historic Roseau. (booklet).