It was Nancy who suggested that some friends should celebrate their birthdays, which are actually a few days apart at River Stone Bar ‘n’ Grill in Dominica’s mountainous interior. The proprietress, Maxine Alleyne-Esprit was acknowledging her own big day a little in advance – on Sunday August 25th, and was offering good food, smooth tunes and a chance to ‘lime’ (West Indian for hanging out and having a good time) at her establishment along the Laurent River near the village of Bells. I had been there once before – in May, after Hike Fest’s foray along and through(!) the Layou River to experience the Jacko Steps and Jacko Flats. I had so much fun dining, dancing and bathing in the river post-hike that day. I looked forward to a repeat performance as part of this birthday bash.
The only initial drawback was the weather: heavy rain was in the forecast. It is not advisable to drive in Dominica’s interior on that kind of day, as landslides of rocks and mud and flash floods on the rivers are always possible. We all chose to err on the side of caution and waited throughout that morning with hopes that the clouds would lift. Miraculously (well, I think so), by midday, the sun started to shine, so we were a ‘go’!
Four of us met at Springfield Plantation in the early afternoon, where Nancy (the manager) offered us a celebratory drink before we piled into her vehicle for the half hour ride further into the rainforest for our birthday get-together. As the skies continued to brighten, I admired the silhouettes of significant massifs as we headed in an easterly direction. When we approached the Pond Cassé round-about (traffic circle) in the middle of the island, I gazed in awe at Morne Trois Pitons, Dominica’s second highest peak, which dominates the area with its multitudinous shades of green.
Our conversation was lively and chatty, as we caught up on each other’s news and plans. In no time, we approached the Laurent River Bridge and turned into the lane way that lead to our destination. It was about 3 p.m., and at that time, we had the place to ourselves. I think the earlier inclement weather prediction was holding people back from making the inland trip. We did not mind, as we were there to have a good time, no matter who else was there! We selected a table which was situated almost directly over the river. It was close enough to a sheltered overhang, if it actually did start to rain.
Liz and I professed to being very hungry so we ordered and subsequently tucked in to a huge lunch right away. It was a feast that perfectly complemented the celebratory day. Liz really enjoyed well prepared pork with a BBQ sauce, breadfruit, tasty ‘rice and peas’ (beans) and a hearty green salad . I devoured the ‘mahi-mahi’ fish, which was slathered in a delicious herbal seasoning, along with the same delectable accompaniments. It was a substantial meal, and we both made short work of it!
As we were deep in the mountains, the sun quickly disappeared as the afternoon wore on. Liz was keen for a swim and wondered if I would partake of a ‘river bath’ too. I was
tempted, and had even brought my suit along. I declined but she went in, while I took off my sandals and sat by the riverside. When I put my feet in, I quickly pulled them out: too cold for
me! Yes, those mountain rivers can be chilly, as is the case with the Laurent. Liz toughed it out, and it seems to me that she had fun! (She said it wasn’t so cold once in the water for a while, but I was content to stay mostly dry).
By the time we arrived back at our table, people with whom we were acquainted happened along. Soon it became common knowledge that there was a group of birthday girls in the house!
This fact was reinforced by Maxine, proprietress of the property, who made a general announcement over the D.J.’s sound system. Seeing as the “secret” was out, D.J. David Sorhaindo played some appropriate birthday tunes, including Kool and the Gang‘s “Celebration” (1980). Liz and I got up to move to the beat and stayed for a while on the floor while D.J. David played a sequence of favourite ‘Oldie Goldies’ from the 70’s and 80’s. I was in my element – but I
won’t say anything more about that – you had to have been be there…
Of course, what would a birthday be without cake. It certainly was my lucky day, because I savoured a sensational slice of the homemade sweet prepared by Maxine’s mother. I have to honestly say – it was one of the most delicious I have eaten in recent memory – it was so moist, flavourful and light. Thanks, Mrs. Alleyne! I hope I will have the good fortune to order a slice or more when I return to River Stone next time. Maxine, take note! While another cake was making the rounds, I did sample it but I was more desirous of having an extra piece of the first one. And now you know why!
We lingered a little longer even though darkness set in all too quickly. Then the rain did start, which signalled us to depart and come back to the relaxing River Stone Bar ‘n’ Grill another day.
Thanks Maxine, for hosting a very sweet birthday ‘lime’ which we enjoyed immensely. It was a memorable afternoon in a super natural setting within Dominica’s beautiful interior. See you on another Sunday sometime soon. And Happy Birthday to you!