Remembering Mona, My First Friend on Dominica

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Mona George-Dill was a beautiful, dynamic and gracious Dominican woman.

It is with profound sadness that I write this post as a tribute to Mona George-Dill, my first friend on Dominica.  She departed this earthly life and ascended to heavenly paradise on Sunday October 30, 2016.

It is she to whom I give credit for guiding me during my early days in Dominica and helping me to understand a culture very different from my own.

Perhaps it was serendipity that brought us together in 1997.  I was looking for a place to live that would give me an improved quality of life, as I had been suffering from severe environmental health challenges in Canada for several years.  When I started to research other countries that offered clean air, food and water, I rigorously quizzed Mona, who was at that time the Manager of Springfield Plantation Guest House and a research institute called SCEPTRE, under the auspices of Clemson University in the United States.  Before I even set foot on the Nature Island, she informed me of her pro-environmental approach to the maintenance of the entire estate. She assured me that she would do her best to ensure my comfort and well-being during my initial stay.

When I finally arrived at Springfield around the end of March 1997, after having spent several hours travelling from Bequia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines by LIAT planes that were sprayed with insecticide at every stop, I could barely hold my head up and was extremely nauseous. As I stepped out of the taxi after a  winding 20 minute drive into the mountains from the Canefield Airport, Mona warmly greeted me and showed me to my room, which overlooked the Antrim Valley down to the Caribbean Sea.  It was bright and breezy, and the air smelled  clean and fresh on the edge of the rainforest.  I’ll never forget the concerned look on her face when I told her that everything seemed to be fine, but that I would appreciate the removal of an area rug due to my allergies.  It was immediately taken out.

Later,  I had the first of many memorable meals, made from organic ingredients on the property.  The paw-paw (papaya) soup was divine, and I actually asked for a second helping, even though I was still recovering  from my travels!

When I finished eating that first evening, Mona came to sit with me and we began to get acquainted. I told her that I was a free-lance journalist, with a strong interest in environmental issues as a result of my health challenges.  She in turn informed me about a pressing issue in Dominica at that time, with respect to a proposed mining initiative.  I subsequently interviewed her about her concerns in that regard. The interview was then published in Alternatives, a Canadian environmental magazine.You can get a copy of that article by clicking Mining on Nature Island magazine article 1998. Immediately, I discovered that Mona was an outspoken conservationist who cared deeply for her country and had no hesitation in speaking out to voice her concerns.

At the same time, I learned that a mysterious fire had destroyed a student residence at Mount Joy,  located above the main plantation building, a couple of weeks before my arrival.  While thankfully no one was injured or killed as the students were on an outing at the time, she suffered tremendous losses and was not able to replace it.  Despite her worries and the shock of this event, she devoted considerable time to giving  me a ‘feel’ for life in Dominica, both the highlights and the challenges.  I listened attentively to everything she said and immediately fell in love with this pristine place as I willingly succumbed to the warm hospitality of this engaging lady and her caring staff.

As time went on, my admiration for Mona grew incessantly as I learned more about her.  For many years, her energy focused on environmental, conservation  and tourism initiatives through the Dominica Conservation Association (currently inactive), the International Whaling Commission and the Dominica Hotel and Tourism Association, to name a few.

As well, she constantly demonstrated love and provided various forms of support to many young people, who still refer to her as ‘mother’, which is evidenced in the tributes on her Face Book Mona George-Dill page. She was certainly protective of me, and as we were about 15 years apart, I preferred to think of her as an older ‘sister’. We connected instantly and easily.  Our private exchanges covered all manner of topics and sometimes ended  in tears or laughter.  She was someone in whom I could confide in the strictest of confidence.

I also related well to her love of all animals.  She had a particular penchant for little dogs as pets.  One time, she’loaned’  me one of her local breed ‘Pot-Hound’ dogs named Mother so that I would have company while I lived in a little house above the main plantation.From time-to-time she had cats too, and became well-acquainted with my Tia-pet, who was originally a Springfield cat.

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Mona at Springfield in October 2001. She considered this beautiful locale to be ‘a garden’.

Mona was  such a loving person that it was impossible to be in her presence and not feel how much she genuinely cared about one’s situation.  She was also a strong ally, and defended me in a couple of instances when people tried to take advantage of a naive newcomer.  I also admired her convictions and deep loyalty to her country  when I observed her at a political meeting at Springfield. During the session, she challenged (now deceased) Rosie Douglas (before he became Prime Minister) on various social issues and the position of the Dominica Labour Party on those matters. Curiously, she had only moments before introduced me to Mr. Douglas and I could tell that they had a great respect for each other.

 

When I first applied for Citizenship in Dominica,  Mona’s letter of reference stated that my health had improved here, I had never ‘bad-mouthed’ anyone in Dominica despite some negative experiences and that she felt I was worthy  of Citizenship. As I am now a naturalized Citizen of the Nature Island, I am forever indebted to her for vouching for my character and having abiding faith in me.

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Mona  is seated to the right of Gwendominica at a Baha’i meeting in December 2007.  Her daughter Connie (in pink) is  beside me on the left .My brother Edwin, who is also a Baha’i is on the far right. I was welcomed as a special guest and friend by the Baha’i community in Dominica.

My late friend was also a devout and longtime member of the Baha’i faith.  From her, I learned a great deal about this particular religion.  Although I did not formally join this church, I was always made to feel welcome and could attend their activities and services whenever I wished. I could see that she truly embraced the principles of her faith and that may be why so many people were drawn to her – because of her accepting and fair outlook towards everyone in any situation. I understand now from her daughter Connie and other Baha’i friends that she was prepared to accept God’s will.

 

This lovely Dominican lady could also be fun-loving: she took me to my first play at the Arawak House of Culture in Roseau. I didn’t understand Creole at that time and I didn’t get the jokes, but Mona good-naturedly explained everything to me.  She also took me along to Ballroom Dancing classes where I met a number of Dominicans with whom I am still acquainted years later.  She did introduce me to many people and helped me to find apartments after I left Springfield in search of a bigger space for my personal possessions from Canada.  When I lived at Springfield, she even included me on the insurance for her 4WD vehicle and let me borrow it when she wasn’t using it.   One time after I had moved out and bought my own car, I persuaded her to go to the beach.  That was a big deal, as she insisted that she was not fond of the seaside.

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An afternoon at Castaways on Mero Beach, ca. 2003. Mona is in the centre, with Dr. Pat Rodney from Ross University on the right and a guest from Springfield on the left.

As time went on, I made my way in Dominica and Mona retired from Springfield around 2005. She moved to the suburb of Goodwill, and although she was closer to me in terms of location, we saw less of each other.  However, we did occasionally chat on the phone or meet in Roseau for lunch.

Before I left Dominica to return to Canada this past June, I made a point of visiting with Mona at her home for an afternoon.Although she did seem more tired and frail than earlier times, her spirit was ever strong. We reminisced about many of my experiences that were connected to her during my almost 20 years in Dominica.  I expressed my appreciation to her in our conversation,and also gave her a card in which I had noted my extreme gratitude for all that she had done for me.  When I left her that day, the last thing I said was, “I love you,” to which she replied in kind.

Then, on my recent birthday in August,  Mona wrote on my Face Book timeline:”It’s hard to accept you are no longer on island. I miss knowing you are here. Enjoy your birthday, Virgoan. Hope it is the best.”

 

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Mona and Gwendominica ‘ham it up’ at Springfield in March 1999. Photo taken by my brother Edwin, who was visiting at the time.

Ironically, it is hard to accept that Mona is ‘no longer on island’.  And I do miss knowing that she is ‘there’. However, I rest assured knowing that we shall meet again in the heavenly paradise where she now resides with her Maker.

 

Mona, I hope you get this message – and yes I am repeating myself – but I will always love you and I thank you for being an important part of my life in Dominica. I do think you will be a spectacular angel. I can almost hear you modestly chuckling about that!

 

To Mona’s children Connie, Bobby, Randy and Richie, their families and everyone else who loved her, please accept my sincere condolences.

R.I.P. Mona George-Dill, September 3, 1942 – October 30, 2016.

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This plaque was erected by Mona while she lived and worked at Springfield.  It is also currently the banner on the Facebook page for the Archbold Tropical Research and Education Center at Springfield as a tribute to Mona.

 

The Ghosts of Springfield

Voices in the night.

A light mist falls

and caresses the old plantation

like a lover in the night.

Stifling hot stillness is relieved

by soothing breezes.

The spirits speak kindly

to those who stay

and seek refuge

in a tranquility

rarely found elsewhere.

The garden of Springfield

blooms eternally

with a love

that will never die.

To Mona,

Love, Gwen

October 14, 1997

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Sweet Meanderings Around Soufriere Dominica

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Soufriere Dominica is tucked into a valley which once formed part of an ancient volcanic crater.

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Soufriere is a very pretty and historic fishing village located in southwestern Dominica.

Although it’s been a while since I took a long hike on the Nature Isle, I am currently contented with little outings around Dominica.  Readers of Ti Domnik Tales will know by now that the possibilities of things to do are endless in this lovely little country.  For the past few weeks, I have been occupied with preparations for my overseas relocation to Canada, which is timely and necessary.  But every now and then, I take a break in order to immerse myself in the intriguing aspects of “nature, culture and adventure” that prevail in this beautiful tropical paradise.

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Scotts Head village and promontory as seen from the Soufriere look-off above Soufriere Bay.

 

 

 

On a Saturday afternoon not long ago,  I decided to take the short drive from my home to Soufriere, on the southwestern side of the island.  I hadn’t been there for a couple of years, and of course, I was curious to see how things had changed (or not) following Tropical Storm Erika last August.  This time, I did not travel down to the end of the main road, where the village of Scotts Head is located.  I did enjoy that journey a couple of years ago and you can read about it here.

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Soufriere is renowned for its historic seaside catholic church and is a prominent fishing village in Dominica.

 

 

This time, I decided to check out the Soufriere Sulphur Springs Eco-site, as I hadn’t been there for quite a few years.  First I parked at the main crossroads in the village and took a walk up the road to a popular view-point.  I gazed at the gorgeous southerly scene, which included tranquil seaside vistas of Soufriere Bay, the distant promontory at Scotts Head, and inland views of the steep hills that form part of an extinct volcanic crater.

DSCF7013I drove beyond the village down well-marked side roads and then entered the park where the famous and historic sulphur springs are located. I could immediately smell the pungent fumes

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The big pool at the Soufriere Sulphur Springs is a great place for a soothing soak.

emanating from the area, which is renowned for its sulphur deposits and hot  mineral springs, also indicative of the ancient volcanic terrain.  It was very hot and dry in this area, and I perspired profusely as I hiked a short distance uphill to

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A sulphur deposit at Soufriere Sulphur Springs Eco-Site

view the

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This once-flowing sulphuric river was completely dry – perhaps as result of TS Erika or maybe not!

mineral deposits.  I remarked to myself that the area did look somewhat different form my last visit there, as one of the strong streams was not presently flowing.  A few people were enjoying natural baths in small enclosed cabanas.Apart from the occasional bird call, all was quiet.  I caught an iguana having his midday

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This iguana was not bothered by my presence in his sleepy state.

nap on a tree.  While I stood very close to him to capture his essence on camera, he was not bothered in the least by my presence!  When I arrived at the large bathing pool, no one was in it at all.  It seemed somewhat eerie to me, as I recalled other times when one had to wait for a turn to enter the murky healing water, as it was filled with bathers.  Something didn’t seem quite right, but at that moment I didn’t know what it was.

 

DSCF7034I had already decided to take a sea/sulphur bath later, so I left the site and drove a short distance to another lovely locale that I had not visited for a few years:  Rodney’s Wellness Retreat. As luck would have it, I met a senior forestry officer, Jacqueline André as I walked down the little lane en route to this  attractive enterprise. We stopped and chatted for a few minutes and I shared my sense of something changed at the Soufriere Sulphur Springs Eco-Site with her. She then told me about the signficant damage that the site had sustained from Tropical Storm Erika, and that the entire park had been buried under several feet of mud!  She described the extensive clean-up process, and exclaimed that what had been done to restore the site was quite remarkable.  All of the pools had been submerged in silt, and the buildings located there had been damaged too.  Now I understood why it didn’t look exactly the same as I had remembered from a few years earlier!  .

I was very hungry by this time, and I welcomed the opportunity to have a meal in the open

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The open air restaurant at Rodney’s Wellness Retreat is set in a beautiful tropical garden.

air restaurant set in a pretty garden on the property.  On this lovely Saturday afternoon, I dined on Mahi-mahi, commonly known as Dolphin – but not the Flipper type!  Hummingbirds flitted to and fro amongst the colourful hibiscus flowers.  In this peaceful setting, with a fresh breeze blowing down from the steep hills, I further relaxed as I chatted with Bevin Lewis, one of the owners of this family run business. He encouraged me to take a garden stroll and to look at the newly built

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Sweet steel pan music is now a part of Rodney’s Wellness Retreat.

‘pan house’, where traditional steel pans would be housed to be teach students and entertain visitors and residents .

 

We also chatted about hiking, as Segments One and Two of the Waitukubuli National Trail are located in this area. Bevin informed me that a large landslide still exists on Segment One in the Morne Crabier area (March 2016).  He said he had had to rappel down the slope in that area, so hikers be forewarned!  I was so happy to have completed that segment when the trail was first opened.  I fell in love with the section of it known as the French Quarter, which is also part of an archeological dig as it was a inhabited by the French in the 18th century (not far from the village of Scotts Head).

DSCF7039Along one of the garden trails, I came upon an inviting hammock and was sorely tempted,but I felt there was too much else to see before taking a nap that day! As I wandered around the lushDSCF7033property, I became completely captivated with the concept of ‘caldera’, meaning large volcanic crater. I really gained a sense of being in a ‘bowl’ as I looked up at the verdant hills high above Soufriere.  And of course, I could see evidence of changes to the terrain DSCF7041resulting from landslides, thanks to TS Erika.  Thankfully, Rodney’s Wellness Retreat did not sustain damage from the devastating storm.

As the afternoon was wearing on, I had one more stop to make before heading home.  My reward for my very relaxing afternoon would be a dip and soak at the Bubble Beach Spa, seaside in front of St. Mark’s Catholic Church in the village of Soufriere.

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I enjoyed studying the sky above the Soufriere hills while I lounged in the Bubble Beach Spa.

 

 

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The hot pools at Bubble Beach Spa also offer a spectacular view. The promontory of Scotts Head is in the distance.

The angle of the sun was fairly low over the sea as I  first submerged myself  just outside of the stone enclosed hot water pools.  I bounced around in gentle waves in a shallow spot just offshore, and then walked over to warm up in the hot water, which results from sulphuric vents on the sea floor mixed with sea water.  I screeched when I stuck my big toe into one of the pools: it seemed to be boiling hot!  Then a young man who was in the same location but further away from shore informed me that the temperature was a little cooler in deeper water.  Bathers be warned!

 

I then submerged in another pool of more

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This young man was groovin’ to the disco tunes of the 70’s and 80’s, such as those from Saturday Night Fever. His enthusiasm  was definitely infectious!

moderate temperature.  I chatted with some of the other guests, and we even sang along to the oldie-goldies pumping out of the sound system at the beach bar on the premises.  Spirits were high and the scenery was out of sight!

 

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The bar at Bubble Beach Spa is cute and comfortable.  There is a change room too.

After the better part of an hour, I was sufficiently cooked and if I had stayed any longer I would have been overdone!  I thanked the proprietor and his wife for arranging this adorable spa, which also offers massages, drinks and food.  I was amazed that they only requested donations to help with upkeep of the beach and hot pools. I made my fair contribution and trust that everyone who visits this delightful spot would do the same.  It’s good karma, after all!

 

“Now that was an afternoon that needs to be repeated,” I said to myself as I drove off into

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There’s nothing like a Caribbean sunset to end a perfect day in paradise!

the sunset. And if you know what’s good for you, you’ll spend some time meandering around Soufriere Dominica as soon as you can!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Nature Meditation at Springfield Dominica*

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It’s always restorative to occasionally return to Springfield, my first home in Dominica.

After having spent several days “under the weather” in the midst of planning my overseas “relocation” to Canada, I felt that a day spent in a nature meditation would put me “back on track.” What better place to go than my beloved Springfield, an old estate where I lived and became familiar with the beauty of Dominica and its people in 1997 and 1998.

Nowadays,  Springfield is actually a private international research and educational institution, called the Archbold Tropical Research and Education Center (ATREC).  You can read more about it in an earlier article I wrote for Domnitjen Magazine by clicking here. I am fortunate to be well acquainted with its Managing Director, Nancy Osler, who is a longtime Canadian friend. On the day of my visit, there were no students or other researchers in-house, so I was able to freely roam the grounds for an afternoon and clear my mind of all things of immediate concern.

Although I had hiked part of the Fifi Road above the old estate with friend Jen about a year ago, I had never gone to its top viewpoint before.  I was certainly in the mood for a moderate workout and the slightly overcast conditions allowed for a very comfortable amble on a groomed trail through the rainforest.  As I strolled along, I admired the multitudinous shades of green, interspersed with colourful wild flowers and other tropical plants.  It was fairly easy going, with only a couple of felled trees to climb over or under.  As I looked into the distance, I observed obvious landslides and  recent gullies that reminded me of Tropical Storm Erika’s wrath upon the Nature Island only six months earlier.

But in the forest, with  background accompaniment of  intermittent calls  of warblers, finches, thrushes and parrots,  I could feel my mind quieting down.  In fact, I ceased to really think about anything at all, thanks to the distraction of the natural beauty that enveloped me on all sides. In this paradise-like setting, I was content to be “in the moment” – at least for the next hour or two.

After  a gradual uphill climb of about half an hour, I reached a clearing which faced east

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Prominent mountains such as Morne Anglais are part of the southerly view from Springfield esate.

and south of the Springfield property.  I gasped – in amazement, not shortness of breath! Before me was the most mystical and magical scene: low clouds shrouded the mighty Morne Microtin, situated at the top of the Roseau Valley, as I looked in a south-central direction.  As the skies cleared slightly, I also could see beyond this massif, as I looked further south. Morne Anglais prominently featured on the skyline, along with other mountains beyond her!  And when I turned my head to look at the densely forested ridge to the

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Peek-a-boo!  I think that’s a peak of Morne Trois Pitons  as seen in an easterly direction from the heights of Springfield Estate.

east of my vantage point, I observed a small section of a very high peak, which I guessed could only be Morne Trois Pitons,  the dominant feature in the centre of the island.  Forgive the cliché, but these “million dollar views” (as my brother Edwin would say about Dominica) were naturally breathtaking.

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The mountain village of Cochrane, as seen from the top of Springfield Estate.

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Morne Micotrin as seen from the heights of Springfield Estate.

I wandered around the small clearing for several minutes taking  in the views from slightly different angles.  Then I decided to let the scene soak in to my soul as I seated myself on an exposed tree root. It was impossible to think about anything troubling as I stared into the distance.  Euphoria seemed to be overtaking me and I didn’t even want to think why.  I just let it happen, as waves of tranquility washed over me.

When I had filled my mind (and camera) with plentiful images of the Nature Island at its

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Heliconia plants thrive in the lush terrain at Springfield.

 

finest, I  slowly wended my way back down this track.  Where it ended, I eagerly clamoured up  a few dozen concrete steps to an

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Some of the inviting steps up to the Mount Joy area of Springfield Estate.

area known as Mount Joy. This was originally an  independent estate but for many years has formed part of Springfield.  That detail is also found in my earlier article about this estate, which you may refer to here.   I did not linger long in this area, except to watch hummingbirds flit to and fro and admire the prolific heliconia plants and stately

coconut palms. I delighted in all the wildflowers along the way, such as these:

By this time, I had worked up an appetite, and as I was in close proximity to a popular eatery called Miranda’s

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Good food is always found at Miranda’s Corner, on the Imperial Road just above Springfield.

Corner, I followed the trail to the main road and walked a short distance further uphill.  Miranda is a woman who has a reputation for consistently good home-cooked Dominican-style food. And she always remembers me, even though I haven’t lived in the area for years.  Although she was not there at that time, her  welcoming daughter served me a deliciously seasoned meaty chicken leg and a huge serving of macaroni and cheese, accompanied by a small salad. Initially, I was afraid that I would waste some of the meal, as it was so large.  But that was not to be the case…I think I even surprised Miranda’s daughter when I showed her the empty plate!

It’s a good thing it was a downhill stroll back to Springfield, as my stomach was more than full.  By that time, it was mid-afternoon, and I was anxious to spend some quiet time at

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Santi is the sweet resident cat at Springfield who is always up for a few pats and a close chat.

the grave site of my dearly departed kitty, Tia-pet. He died in 2014 and you can read about his amazing life and our Springfield

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My dear Tia-pet rests in a beautiful natural setting that I adorn with flowers and rosemary whenever I visit Springfield.

connection here. I still miss him very much, as he was with me for 16 years. I like to pay tribute to my long-time companion by placing flowers on his resting place.  But before I continued to that site, I spent a little time with a lovely cat named Santi, who is the resident mouse-catcher and attention-seeker at Springfield.  She is very affectionate and I enjoyed a little down-time by benefiting from some  pet therapy too.

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“When angels are near, feathers appear.” I found this one not far from Tia-pet’s grave.  For what it is worth, I was comforted by that notion!

After a little while, I descended to the area of the estate where Tia is buried.  Whenever I am there, I always feel a tremendous sense of peace and calm. And this time, a little voice   in my head  encouraged me to go ahead with my relocation plans, while reassuring me that everything would work out fine.  Wherever it came from, I don’t know, but in this heavenly location, I reaffirm my belief in angels!

From there, I continued along a track  that leads to the Springfield River. It was all I could do to watch my step as I was constantly gazing around the forest as I visually absorbed copious shades of green!

When I arrived at the river bank, I gasped again – but this time it was in shock!  Tropical Storm Erika had definitely made her presence known here, as the scene was completely different than what it had been for the past almost 20 years that I had visited this spot .  Gone were the big boulders for sitting by the riverside, and the deep pools beside the track’s end had completely disappeared.  I was able to walk across the  now very shallow river in an area where it would have previously been impossible.  I did not linger long, nor did I take a river bath, as for numerous reasons, it just didn’t feel right.  When I return next time, I will take a ‘river walk’ in order to discover a new pool in a nearby location. There is no doubt that Mother Nature is in control.  As well, climate change has left an indelible mark on the Nature Island!

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Water once flowed freely in this section of the Springfield River below Springfield estate.

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The same area AFTER T.S.Erika

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The bathing pool below Springfield on the Springfield River BEFORE T.S. Erika.

However, I continued with my meditational reverie as I walked back up to the guest house section of the property.  There, I met Managing Director and friend Nancy, who enthusiastically showed me her growing garden. As I looked at the thriving plants, I felt very thankful for Dominica’s fertile volcanic soil, and of course, Nancy’s green thumb!

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Nancy’s garden is definitely thriving, thanks to her TLC and the fertile soil.

As the afternoon wore on, I felt tired but truly refreshed after having spent some time in this precious protected place and its pristene surroundings. In my mind, there is nothing more therapeutic than  being closely connected to nature and its offerings.

Why don’t you try it, and tell me what you think, no matter where you live on the planet!

* Special thanks to Nancy for the opportunity to have some  “downtime” at my favourite place on Dominica and for helping me identify the mountains and village in the photos.

 

A Sensational Start to 2016 on Dominica, the Nature Island

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The 4 acre garden at Papillote Wilderness Retreat near Trafalgar Dominica is a place to really appreciate the splendour of the Nature Island.

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You know it’s the Christmas season when beautiful Poinsettias are in bloom in Dominica.

There are hundreds of tropical plants to admire and appreciate at Papilotte Wilderness Retreat.

There are hundreds of tropical plants to admire and appreciate at Papillote Wilderness Retreat.

What better way to start the New Year in Dominica than to take day trip up the Roseau Valley to spend some time with friends at Papillote Wilderness Retreat. It seemed incredible that I had not been back to one of my

A therpaeutic soak in natural hot mineral waters is always a treat at Papillote Wilderness Retreat.

A therapeutic soak in natural hot mineral waters is always a treat at Papillote Wilderness Retreat.

favourite places on Dominica since April 2015!  Of course, Tropical Storm Erika had something to do with my delay, as I was  reluctant to venture into areas where her heavy rains had altered infrastructure and terrain.  Thankfully, four months after this significant weather event, the road was passable, with only a couple of tricky spots, and the countryside looked as lovely as ever.

January 1, 2016 was a fine day for this outing, and I started out well ahead of my lunchtime rendez-vous to check out the changes to the twin Trafalgar Falls.  These cascades are only a short distance from this award-winning eco-lodge, and I was more than curious to observe the ‘new’ landscape that was created by the intense and prolonged rainfall of August 27, 2015.

After I announced my presence to the friendly staff at Papillote, I headed up the steep hill to the eco-site, and sauntered along the groomed trail for about 10 minutes before catching my breath – not from being winded from slight exertion, but from the dramatic scene that greeted me at the sheltered viewing platform.

I had been told that one could only fully ‘appreciate’ the extent to which TS Erika ravaged the Nature Island after having seen it first-hand.  Now, I could completely comprehend that sentiment.  Before me, a very changed landscape helped me to understand the power and the force behind such a catastrophic weather event.

Unfortunately, I was not able to walk towards the Mother Fall as before because the walkway and track had been destroyed by the excessive torrents.  However, I did step just beyond the cautionary sign to take a few photos of the unfamiliar surroundings below the cascades.  As the flow of the water was ever strong, the two waterfalls were as always, awesome and awe-inspiring.  I recalled the most basic life lesson on this lovely New Year’s Day in Dominica, that NOTHING stays the same.  Life is always changing, and Mother Nature is definitely in control.

The twin Trafalgar Falls as seen from the viewing platform in April 2015.

The twin Trafalgar Falls as seen from the viewing platform in April 2015.

At the same time, I was reminded of how human beings have negatively affected the planet with pollution and

Th twin Trafalgar Falls as seen from the viewing platform on January 1 2016 (about 4 months after TS Erika).

Th twin Trafalgar Falls as seen from the viewing platform on January 1 2016 (about 4 months after TS Erika).

overall thoughtlessness about our precious environment. On Dominica, climate change is increasingly apparent, and the heavy prolonged rainfall produced by

The area below the waterfalls experienced a massive landslide during TS Erika in August 2015.

The area below the waterfalls experienced a massive landslide during TS Erika in August 2015.

Tropical Storm Erika which resulted in extensive flooding and destructive landslides is only one example in one country of the harm we have done to our dear earthly home.

The path towards the Mother Fall at Trafalgar was destroyed by these boulders during TS Erika in August 2015.

The path towards the Mother Fall at Trafalgar was destroyed by these boulders during TS Erika in August 2015.

The Father Fall at Trafalgaris even more remote following TS Erika on August 27, 2015.

The Father Fall at Trafalgar seems even more remote following TS Erika on August 27, 2015.

When I faced these natural wonders in mindful meditation for about half an hour, I resolved to be ever-conscious on a daily basis of how I can help to protect our precious environment every day in every way possible as an individual. Will you join with me in enacting this New Year’s resolution?  Please give it some serious thought!

The CHristmas tress in the dining room at Papillote gave it an especially homey ambiance on New Year's Day.

The Christmas tree in the dining room at Papillote gave it an especially homey ambiance on New Year’s Day.

Under light rainfall, typical of this rainforest setting, I returned to Papillote about 15 minutes later. There, I joined longtime friends Anne Jno Baptiste, who is the proprietor of this beautiful eco-hotel, and Nancy Osler, who is the managing director of ATREC, an international research and educational learning center based at Springfield for a delicious lunch in the airy dining room. We caught up on year-end news and toasted the New Year, with the collective hope that it would be a good one.

The staff at Papillote never have to ask me what I ould like for lunch. I am in love with their flying fish platter!

The staff at Papillote never have to ask me what I would like for lunch. I am in love with their flying fish platter (with dasheen puffs, fried plantains and salad)!

In this relaxing setting, I further unwound later that afternoon with a luxurious soak in a natural hot water pool.  As I gazed in ceaseless wonder at the sensational splendour all around me, I could only wish  for a better year than the one before and dream of playing my part to make it a reality.

A soak in a hot pool at Papillote is a heavenily experience on earth.

A soak in a hot pool at Papillote is a heavenly experience on earth.

Happy New Year to one and all!  Pray for peace and protect our precious planet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dominica’s Desiderata: Delightful Dining in the Capital City of Roseau

Le Cafe Desiderata is centrally located at 8 Old Street (entrance on King George V St.) in Roseau, Dominica. It's found very close to the historic Old Market in the French Quarter of town.

Le Cafe Desiderata (448-6525) is centrally located at 5 Old Street (entrance on King George V St.) in Roseau, Dominica. It’s found very close to the historic Old Market Square.

During the unrelenting oppressive heat wave in Dominica and the rest of the Caribbean in May 2015, I have been fortunate to

The colours and decor in Desiderata invite patrons to sit down, relax and escape the noise and haste of the city while enjoying a delicious meal.

The ambiance in  Le Cafe Desiderata invites patrons to sit down in comfort, relax for a while and escape the noise and haste of the city while enjoying a delicious meal.

escape  some days to the cooler climate of the mountains. But that is not possible everyday, as it is frequently necessary to do business or run errands in Roseau, the main commercial center on the Nature Island. Fortunately, it is no longer necessary to ‘sweat it’  in the sweltering heat for hours in the city without a cool break, thanks to the offerings at  Le Café Desiderata  –  a restorative oasis –  in more than one way!

That’s what I have been doing at least once a week to cope with the extremely hot weather when running around Roseau.  Sometimes, I may start  with breakfast at Desiderata before I hit the streets, and other times, I’ve finished all tasks and go there for a tasty lunch.

The ingredients in the substantial omelettes change every day. Have you tried one with brie? How about artichoke?

The ingredients in the substantial omelettes change every day. Have you tried one with brie? How about artichoke?

If I arrive around 8:30 a.m., I am often the first client, which is perfectly fine with me.  While I wait a short while for a delicious omelette with brie, or a mouth-watering smoked marlin and cream cheese bagel or a perfectly-made- to-my-liking creamy cappuccino, I  get a little writing  or reading done on my laptop or tablet, thanks to wireless in this serene setting. And the comfortable climate-controlled temperature seems to be conducive to creativity! I am usually amazed at the number of words I can churn out before I eat, or when sipping on my coffee or herbal tea afterwards.

The Breakfast menu offers selections for a light meal, or one that will last all day!

The Breakfast menu offers selections for a light meal, or one that will last all day!

Whenever I look at the specials on the board, I am always amazed by the diverse dishes that are offered, and even more surprised to see that they change every day!

I enjoyed this delicately seaoned mahi-mahi with mixed mashed potatoes and tender-crisp vegetables.

I enjoyed this delicately seasoned ginger-sesame mahi-mahi with mixed mashed potatoes and tender-crisp vegetables for lunch.

My friend Nacny enjoyed this delightful goat cheese/beet salad.

My friend Nancy really liked this delightful feta (goat cheese)/beet salad.

Look at all those choices for lunch, at great prices too.

Look at all those choices for lunch, at great prices too.

Lunches are definitely a gastronomic experience, and as a person who does not each much meat, I am always thrilled by the variety of vegetarian and fish offerings.  But I also appreciate that if I want a soup, salad or sandwich/wrap, I can order it off of the regular menu.  As the staff well knows, I love the fish wrap, and the generous salads are filled with goodness! I am not the only one to say that Chef Nickie assembles the best salad in Dominica – the ingredients are varied and the end results are exceptional!

Chef Nickie Esprit, Dominica's Island Chef 2014 is an exceptional culinary talent, and is recognized as such.

Chef Nickie Esprit, Dominica’s Island Chef 2014 and 2015 has an exceptional culinary talent, and is recognized as such.

Chef Nickie Esprit, the mastermind behind these creations, is a young lady with a real talent in the kitchen.  She’s the reigning (2014) Island Chef in Dominica, but I knew she was special long before she was awarded that prestigious title. I have consistently enjoyed her savory concoctions for several years, in fact, from her early days in the food service industry.  It was always evident to me that she had a real knack for making an ordinary plate into something extraordinary.  Call it a gift, but in terms of her cooking, she is a natural!  She is the perfect fit at Le Café Desiderata.DSCF6052

I also enjoy conversation with Dominique, the lovely and knowledgeable wait-staffer.  If I don’t know what I want, she is always ready to make a suggestion.  It amazes me that I am never disappointed with her idea. Then she follows up to ensure that I am

Dominique is a lovely wait-staffer who 'raises the bar' in terms of impeccable service!

Dominique is a lovely wait-staffer who ‘raises the bar’ in terms of impeccable service! She is seen here in the tapas bar section of Desiderata.

satisfied with what she has recommended.

Proprietor Portia Bird-Astaphan has definitely got a

Gwendominica often wears outfits that seem to blend into the serene surroundings at Desiderata. At least, that's what Proprietor Portia says!

Gwendominica often wears outfits that seem to blend into the serene surroundings at Desiderata. At least, that’s what Proprietor Portia says!

good thing going at Le Café Desiderata.  Her vision of creating a true oasis in Roseau, with complete consideration for her clients’ comfort,along with the presentation of a varied, tasteful menu at reasonable prices make Le Café Desiderata a ‘must-go’ when spending time in the city.  And if you’re in a rush and need to get out-of-town, they do take-out orders too!

Would you believe I have only just scratched the surface?  Check Le Café Desiderata’s Facebook page here to learn more – you might also enjoy the tapas bar on Friday nights and Saturday evening dining!  They are closed on Sundays for a well-deserved rest – but you can enjoy their offerings on the six other days of the week.

I can’t wait for my next taste of something extremely special at Le Café Desiderata!

Into the ‘Heart of Dominica’: A Restorative Day at the Center of the Island

Morne Trois Pitons dominates the 'Heart of Dominica', as seen from the Pond Casse round-about in the center of the island.

Morne Trois Pitons dominates the ‘Heart of Dominica’, as seen from the Pond Casse round-about in the center of the island.

On a blistering hot day in early May 2015, with brush fires and choking smoke persisting near my neighbourhood, I high-tailed it out of Roseau and headed for the ‘Heart of Dominica’. Friend Jenny was game for a little ‘cool out’ as well, so I drove us out-of-town and up the Imperial Road, passing by Springfield en route to the Pond Cassé round-about, in the center of the island.  From there, we proceeded in an easterly direction  on the road to Marigot and the Melville Hall (Douglas-Charles) Airport. By the time we reached this central plateau in the island’s interior, the temperatures were lower by a few degrees and the air was sweet and pure. We gazed in awe at Morne Trois Pitons, Dominica’s second highest peak, which dominates prominently in this area, and we were glad to be in her soothing shadow!

My agenda was three-fold, and I was determined to realize a couple of leisurely activities outside of a pre-planned

Jenny 'cools out' by the Laurent River at the River Stone Bar & Grill in Bells, Dominica.

Jenny ‘cools out’ by the Laurent River at the River Stone Bar & Grill in Bells, Dominica.

lunch and ‘lime’ at the peaceful and popular River Stone Bar & Grill on the westerly outskirts of the village of Bells (Belles). Managing Director Maxine Alleyne-Esprit had told me only a few days earlier that she is now open for lunch from Wednesdays to Saturdays, as well as  on her usual Sunday afternoons.  Once I knew that, and the weather was more than fine, I couldn’t wait a moment longer to go there!  I was long overdue to spend a little time in this lovely setting, as  I had enjoyed other afternoons in this pristine locale.  You can read about them here and there.

The Penrice (Spanny) Falls is on private property, but one can access it by checking in at the bar next door.

The Penrice (Spanny) Falls is on private property, but one can access it by checking in at the bar next door.

Our first stop along the way before our lunch destination was at a popular little site located close to the Spanny Disco, just before Bells and about a 15 minute drive from Pond Cassé.  The original proprietor of this bar/snackette (now deceased) had developed a trail to take people to two pretty waterfalls about 15 -20 minutes by foot into the rainforest. The Penrice Falls, now commonly known as the Spanny Falls have been admired by thousands, but for me, it would be the first time  I went right to the viewing platform.  Fifteen years ago, I had taken a visitor there, and we had commenced the mini-hike.  However, it had been very rainy and we did not have on proper footwear to negotiate extra-large mud puddles, so I never actually got there! Better late than never.  I did explain this to the current proprietor, Spanny Junior, and I think he was amazed.  We paid him $10 ECD each to enter the private property to cover maintenance costs for the upkeep of the trail, as it is not a government eco-site.

The cleared path to Penrice (Spanny) Falls is well-kept and easy to access at its trail-head.

The cleared path to Penrice (Spanny) Falls is well-kept and easy to reach at its trail-head.

As  we walked along the cleared track, we admired flowers that had obviously been planted and well-tended by the owner.  Then we passed quickly through a bit of farmland and directly entered the forest.  Jenny examined some bright red insects and I too studied them with curiosity.  We descended stone steps, cut into the rock and home-made handrails ,which at times were  a bit loose, therefore, I grabbed onto them with care.  We descended further into the woods until we came upon a constructed platform and the first of the two falls directly in front of us .

I look to look at the different types of fungi that appear on tree trunks near the forest floor.

I like to look at the different types of fungi that appear on tree trunks near the forest floor.

The vegetation on this natural stone wall is lovely to look at.

The vegetation on this natural stone wall is lovely to look at.

Jenny gazed up at the top of the first Penrice (Spanny) waterfall in the bright sunlight.

Jenny gazed up at the top of the first Penrice (Spanny) waterfall in the bright sunlight.

Well constructed steps aid in the descent to the waterfall, although the railings are loose in spots.

Well constructed steps aid in the descent to the waterfall, although the railings are loose in spots.

The first Penrice (Spanny) Waterfall is a pretty sight with a shallow pool beneath it.

The first Penrice (Spanny) Waterfall is a pretty sight with a shallow pool beneath it. The pool beneath the second cascade is apparently deeper.

In the dappled sunlight, the tumbling waters took on  jewel-like colours at its base.  We noticed a rope attached to some trees to our right of the first waterfall, and assumed it led to the second cascade, apparently five minutes further.  We did not attempt it at that time, as we were not dressed to grapple and climb over rocks and loose soil.  We also remarked that the dry season was clearly evident, as the river below the falls was almost completely dry!

Depp in the rainforest by Penrice (Spanny) Falls, the river appeared to be almost dry, as is common in the month of May, normally the hottest month.

Deep in the rainforest by Penrice (Spanny) Falls, the river appeared to be almost dry, as is common in May, normally the hottest month.

I think this is Morne Couronne, which is located east of Penrice (Spanny) Falls.

I think this is Morne Couronne, which is located east of Penrice (Spanny) Falls.

After a short while, we headed back to the Spanny Bar (where I had parked the car) and spent some time looking at the pretty flowers, marvelling at distant mountain vistas and listening to some Jaco Parrots, which had been perched nearby and took flight when they saw/heard us!

A lovely mix of anthurium lilies is found at the trailhead to the Penrice (Spanny) Waterfalls.

A lovely mix of anthurium lilies is found at the trail-head to the Penrice (Spanny) Waterfalls.

Whatt a pleasure to see beautiful cultivated roses in the Heart of Dominica!

What a pleasure to see beautiful cultivated roses  by the Spanny Bar in the Heart of Dominica!

I thanked Spanny Jr. for the viewing opportunity and we drove further into the Bells area for the main event: lunch and ‘lime’ at River Stone!

When we arrived a few minutes later, we were warmly welcomed by wait-staffer Carlos and Chef Kevin Gregoire.  They had been expecting us as I had made a reservation the day before. We sat under a large umbrella on the cozy veranda overlooking the Laurent River.  I remarked once again that the dry season was clearly evident, as the water level was so low, as compared to how I had seen it at other times of the year. We first enjoyed some fresh pineapple and mango juice, delicious and sweet.  This generous drink held us well so that we could ‘bathe’ in the river before having a big lunch.

Jenny stuck her toe in, and decided that she would not go further.  Besides, she was entertained by little fishes that were fascinated by her feet, the only part of her body that she dipped into the cool rushing river. I, on the other hand, ventured further into the flow.  Even though the level of water was low, the powerful current forced me to proceed cautiously and hang on to nearby boulders. Otherwise, I would have definitely ended a little further down river.  Because it was more shallow than at other times of the year, I did not swim about, but contented myself in submerging between two big rocks!  In no time, I was definitely cooled off! We both focused on the upriver scene before us.  While butterflies and birds flitted about, we wondered about the power of nature and the strength of the waters rushing down Morne Trois Pitons, regardless of the season.

At River Stone, I appreciated this beautiful pure white anthurium lily.

At River Stone, I appreciated this beautiful pure white Peace Lily. (Thanks to Fae Martin for flower ID).

If this is a Bird of Paradise flower, the it is the perfect complement its lovely surruondings.

This Heliconia is the perfect complement to its lovely surroundings. (Thanks to Fae Martin for flower ID).

The flowers around River Stone Bar & Grill add to the peaceful ambiance of the place.

The flowers around River Stone Bar & Grill add to the peaceful ambiance of the place.

The River Stone Bar & Grill, as seen from the river bank below.

The River Stone Bar & Grill, as seen from the river bank below.

The Laurent River at Bells has a very powerful flow, even with lower water levels in the dry season.

The Laurent River at Bells has a very powerful flow, even with lower water levels in the dry season.

The River Stone Bar & Grill is situated right over the Laurent River.  What a view!

The River Stone Bar & Grill is situated over the Laurent River. What a view!

After this commune with the river, we wandered around the property. Once again, we admired the gorgeous flowers that grow prolifically on the grounds.  When we were satiated with the views  of the Nature Isle in this pristine locale, we returned to the cozy outdoor dining room to order lunch.

The cheery, expansive dining area evokes a feeling of oneness with nature.

The cheery, expansive dining area evokes a feeling of oneness with nature.

We both ordered a very tasty mahi-mahi fish wrap, with purple cabbage salad on the side. The delightful combination of herbs on the fish and in the dressing

Chef Kevin Gregoire serves up sumptuous lunches at the River Stone Bar & Grill in Bells, Dominica.

Chef Kevin Gregoire serves up sumptuous lunches at the River Stone Bar & Grill in Bells, Dominica.

caused us to slowly savor every morsel.

This delicious fish wrap with tangy cabbage salad on the side was prepared by Chef Kevin  Gregoire at the River Stone Bar & Grill in Bells Dominica.

This delicious fish wrap with tangy cabbage salad on the side was prepared by Chef Kevin Gregoire at the River Stone Bar & Grill in Bells Dominica.

While we had only ordered small portions instead of possible large ones, we were surprised to be filled up by the generous serving, and as such, had no room for dessert!

In the freshest  air imaginable, high in the mountains, surrounded by verdant rainforest and a rushing river, we both totally relaxed and forgot about our cares back in the city.

After almost four hours of ‘lime’ time, I suggested reluctantly that we move off and head back to our respective homes.  Otherwise, I might have been tempted to stay all night!  We said good-bye to Carlos and Chef Kevin, with assurances that we would return as soon as we could!

As we drove back to Pond Cassé, the third part of my plan was eventually realized.  It took me  two drive-by’s,

The entrance well-constructed steps down  to Jaco Falls actually refers to its as Hibiscus Falls!

The entrance has well-constructed steps down to Jaco Falls, but actually refers to it as Hibiscus Falls!

along with assurances from Jenny (and what she could read on the sign), as well as a query to a bus driver who had parked at Spanny’s Bar that we had actually passed the nature site that  is originally known as Jaco Falls.  I had been confused because the sign in a brightly coloured kiosk refers to the setting as Hibiscus Falls.  However, I now understand that the two names mean the same thing!  I pulled over by the side of the road and went to the attendant to make enquiries about entrance fees.  The charge in 2015 is $3 USD for visitors and $5 ECD for citizens of Dominica.  As I am the latter, I paid the lesser fee; however I felt unsure that the lady was convinced of my status. But I am what I said I am, and that’s the truth!

Jaco Falls is a pretty little site located close to the main road to Marigot and the airport.

Jaco Falls is a pretty little site located close to the main road to Marigot and the airport and is just minutes from the Pond Casse round-about.

I entered under a large sign announcing Hibiscus Falls, and immediately descended numerous steps before I arrived at the viewing area. All in all, it probably took me 5 minutes.  The stairs are well constructed with a strong railing, and one can even view the Jaco/Hibiscus Falls near the top of them.  Therefore, no need to exert energy to see another lovely waterfall, just minutes off of the main road.  I took a few photos in the late afternoon sunlight.  As Jenny had seen this site before and remained outside ,I did not linger, but I was glad to have finally ‘found’ this waterfall.

Jaco/Hibiscus Falls can be easily viewed without much effort from the top steps near the entrance to the site.

Jaco/Hibiscus Falls can be easily viewed without much effort from the top steps near the entrance to the site.

After many years of driving by the property, it had been right under my nose, with a different name than I had expected!

A few minutes closer to the round-about at the center of the island, we pulled in to the Waitukubuli National Trail (WNT)office.  A friendly neighbour saw us drive up, and he quickly advised us that the staff had just left, as it was now 4:30 p.m.  We still got out and looked around, as we were curious about the building and its lay-out in this natural setting.  It is conveniently located near the trail-end of WNT Segment # 4 at Pond Cassé, and is very near to the trail-head of WNT Segment # 5.

Finally we stopped at Pond Cassé to admire majestic Morne Trois Pitons and to photograph her, even though her three peaks were slightly shrouded in clouds. I recalled a day many years ago when I had attempted the challenging climb to her summit.  While I didn’t quite reach the top, the views from my very high vantage point of the countryside below were unforgettable!

By now, the light in the mountains was fading, and we returned to the oppressive heat that lingered along the west coast and the Roseau area.  However, I managed to ‘stay cool’ that evening, as I fondly recalled the wonderful day spent at River Stone Bar & Grill and the ‘Heart of Dominica!

A Celebration of Flowers in Giraudel, Dominica: Nature’s Finest on Display Indoors and Out!*

The Giraudel Youth Group organized a Flower Festival for the first time this year.

The Giraudel Youth Group organized a Flower Festival for the first time this year.

It was a relief to wake up on Saturday May 9th, 2015 to intermittent rain showers after days of unrelenting heat and high winds in Dominica.  This slight change in the weather was good news for everyone. It brought some relief to parched plants and quelled bush fires that had recently erupted on the west coast of the Nature Island.

Although the higher elevations were not as adversely affected by this hot weather, I was glad of slightly cooler

I wish I could have taken this bowl of Dahlias home with me from the Flower Festival!

I wish I could have taken this bowl of Dahlias home with me from the Flower Festival!

temperatures for a planned walk from the village of Eggleston to its nearby neighbour, Giraudel.  There, the Giraudel Youth Group had organized a weekend-long Flower Festival, as the usual Flower Growers’ Show, a very grand and longstanding annual event, would not be taking place this year.

My mountain chicken (crapaud) research friend Jenny, a keen nature enthusiast, was eager and able to explore this mountainous area near Roseau with me.  As well, we have Dutch/Dominican friends, Gijs and Georgie, who live in this lovely region. We intended to drop in for tea on our way to the Flower Festival, a short distance away from their home.

This time, Jenny drove, and I had the pleasure of taking my eyes off of the road and gazing at the gorgeous views below us.  When we reached the hamlet of  Eggleston, we turned in to a long lane that lead to the beautiful and secluded Holy Redeemer Retreat Center, which is run by Redemptorist missionaries. We parked  nearby with permission from the priests on the site, as we intended to walk along some of the peaceful trails on the property after our foray to Giraudel.

These lovely anthuriums graced the entrance-way to a home on the road to the Retreat Center.

These lovely anthuriums graced the entrance-way to a home on the road to the Retreat Center.

The view across the Roseau Valley from Eggleston is one to be admired!

The northerly view across the Roseau Valley from Eggleston is one to be admired!

We trekked back up the lane we had just driven down, but this time, we both could enjoy views overlooking residential areas, the Caribbean Sea and mountains to the south of the island. Then we were back on the main road. This time, we looked over the distant Roseau Valley, to the villages of Morne Prosper on its south side and  across to Cochrane on the north side.  Jenny and I remarked to each other that we had appreciated this view from the opposite side only last weekend, when we hiked from Springfield to Middleham Falls!

As we continued along, we admired lovely hedges of flowers,fertile gardens and gave thanks for the tall shade trees on either side of the road.

Even the disco in Eggleston is named after a flower! (although I imagine it is associated with a lady's name...)

Even the disco in Eggleston is named after a flower! (although I imagine it is associated with a lady’s name…)

The main road between Eggleston and Giraudel is well-shaded.

The main road between Eggleston and Giraudel is well-shaded.

Jenny told me that this plant is Pride of Barbados.  We admired this hedge along the main road.

Jenny told me that this plant is Pride of Barbados. We admired this hedge along the main road.

After about an hour and a quarter, we arrived at Gijs and Georgie’s beautiful home.  While we were a little late for our appointment, our friends greeted us  warmly and bade us enter and rest awhile on their pleasant porch, facing the Caribbean Sea. Georgie served us mixed mint tea, picked moments earlier from her  herb garden.  Then she offered tempting sweets: tamarind balls, coconut ‘cheese’, and sweetened local gooseberries.  While we chatted and covered a broad range of topics, including mountain chickens, boa constrictors and lizards, Jenny and I cooled off from the first ‘leg’ of our walk.  After we were refreshed, we toured their  lush, fertile grounds, admired distant views across the Roseau Valley and became introduced to two of the most beautiful hens I have ever seen: Rosie and Blanche.  These tame free-range ‘layers’  roamed the property at large, cheerily clucking away as they foraged for plentiful bugs and favourite grasses.  They certainly stole my heart!

Gwendominica admires one of Gijs and Georgie's beautiful hens.

Gwendominica admired one of Gijs and Georgie’s beautiful hens. Photo taken by Jenny Spencer.

Giraudel's history is explained here in a nutshell!

Giraudel Dominica’s  history is explained here in a nutshell!

When we heard loud music playing a short distance from our friends’ home,  probably signalling the start of the Flower Festival, we said our good-byes and continued along the main road. We passed the bandstand and stopped for a snack of tuna bakes (like a deep-fried biscuit).  Then we continued up the road until we noticed a tent, where we spied flower arrangements through its opening.  We crossed the street and discovered that we were indeed in the right place for the floral display.  We entered the site by paying $5.00 ECD, and took in the lovely arrangements.  We also admired a variety of paintings by renowned local artist, Caesar Catin. Then, one of his daughters engaged us in conversation and told us about the Giraudel Youth Group and their concerted efforts to organize this Flower Festival.  Jenny and I felt that  they had done a good job, on a small-scale, although I was concerned about the strength of the tent’s supports in the high winds! (Everything was still standing when we left about an hour later.)

Some images from the Giraudel Youth Group Flower Festival 2015:DSCF4967DSCF4976DSCF4980DSCF4968DSCF4987DSCF4982

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Jenny admired ginger lilies on the rack between Giraudel and Eggleston.

Jenny admired ginger lilies on the track between Giraudel and Eggleston.

From there, we walked back through the village and headed for a shortcut that Gijs had recommended that would take us through the forest, where we would exit just above the neighbouring village of Eggleston. It was a lovely

Heliconia plants grow prolifically in the rainforest -even when it's rather dry!

Heliconia plants grow prolifically in the rainforest – even when it’s rather dry!

downhill saunter, and we paused several times to admire wildflowers, tended plants and the occasional insect!  We exited the trail after about 30 minutes and continued along the main road, returning to our starting point at the Retreat Center. By now, the clouds had lifted and the afternoon was once again, very hot.  We looked up at Morne Anglais, towering over the village of Giraudel, and wished for a few moments that we were on its peak!  (It’s a two-hour trek to the summit of Morne Anglais.  Although it can be a very steep and muddy trip, the reward at the top is a 360 degree view of Dominica and beyond).

Morne Anglais towers above the mountain village of Giraudel.

Morne Anglais towers above the mountain village of Giraudel.

My legs were now feeling rather ‘wobbly’.  We wandered along a few of the trails, but we both gave in to hunger pangs so did not fully explore the lovely grounds of the Retreat Center that day.  We seated ourselves on a wooden bench, and would have appreciated the natural solitude of this meditative place, except that the Flower Festival was now in full swing, and their  music makers’ melodies carried long distances (including to my home far below, as I later discovered!).

Pretty plants are seen along the Retreat Center Road.

Pretty plants are seen along the Retreat Center Road.

Poinsettias seem to be scarce right now, but we found this one along the Retreat Center road.

Poinsettias seem to be scarce now, but we found this one along the Retreat Center road.

The Retreat Center has plenty of places for quiet contemplation, prayer or meditation.

The Retreat Center has plenty of places for quiet contemplation, prayer or meditation.

The Retreat Center is adorned with beautiful plants and shrubs in this tranquil setting.

The Retreat Center is adorned with beautiful plants and shrubs in a tranquil setting.

These bright flowers captured our attention along the Giraudel main road.

These bright flowers captured our attention along the Giraudel main road.

Time to go home!  The drive out of the Retreat Center is peaceful and pastoral.

Time to go home! The drive out of the Retreat Center is peaceful and pastoral.

As we had been several hours ‘on the road’, Jenny and I felt content with our varied exposures to numerous

varieties of beautiful flowers that grow prolifically in the Giraudel-Eggleston area.  We also agreed that plentiful pure, clean mountain air, a good, long walk and  time well-spent with lovely  friends contributed to another wonderful day on the Nature Island!

*This piece is dedicated on Mother’s Day to my late mother, Vesta.  She truly loved nature and its beautiful offerings. She really liked hens too!