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!

The Marvellous Tastes, Sights and Sounds of Creole Day 2014 around Roseau Dominica

This prety Chapeau Paille (straw hat) is symbolic of Dominic`s Creole culture.  It was displayed on the stone wall of Cartwheel Cafe on the Bayfront in Roseau.

This pretty Chapeau Paille (straw hat), adorned with madras fabric is symbolic of Dominica`s Creole culture. It was displayed on the thick interior stone wall of Cartwheel Cafe (448-5353) on the Bayfront in Roseau.

Every year, I look forward to the last Friday in October in Dominica.  That’s when Creole Day is celebrated, in recognition and honour of the

The Kai K Boutique adjoining the Cartwheel Cafe on the Bayfront in Roseau displayed a simple and elegant dress with a Creole accent!

The Kai K Boutique (440-6922) adjoining the Cartwheel Cafe on the Bayfront in Roseau displayed a casually elegant dress  with a Creole accent  by the door for all to admire!

Nature Island`s traditional culture, comprising food, language and fashion.  This year, I decided to focus on a Creole Breakfast and  a Creole Lunch – both near the seaside – but at two different locations.

I was a little early for Creole fashions on the street that morning and I did not stay in Roseau for too long because I would be savoring Creole Lunch closer to home.  But I did enjoy the glimpses of colour and design that I observed on others  around me who proudly dressed in Creole wear.

When I arrived at Cartwheel Cafe at around 8:30 a.m., I was one of the first diners on that special occasion.  It’s a familiar place for me: I know that staff and they know my meal preferences without even asking.  I always enjoy its congenial, comfortable and casual atmosphere and the historic architectural setting close to the Cruise Ship Pier in downtown Roseau.

Flavian is one of the friendly servers at Cartwheel Cafe who always welcomes me with a warm smile.

Flavian is one of the friendly servers at Cartwheel Cafe who always welcomes me with a warm smile.

As usual, I devoured the generous serving of codfish, seasoned with herbs, which was accompanied by breadfruit (a starchy ‘provision’ that grows on a tree of that same name), a boiled egg and garden fresh salad fixings.  A cup of coffee complemented the large meal perfectly.

My Creole Breakfast at Cartwheel Cafe included boiled egg, breadfruit, salad fixings (including avocado) and seasoned codfish.  Coffee complements the meal perfectly.

My Creole Breakfast at Cartwheel Cafe included boiled egg, breadfruit, salad fixings (including avocado) and seasoned cod (salt fish). Coffee complements the meal perfectly.

This traditional meal is still a favourite in the Caribbean.  Of course, the salt fish (cod) is imported from countries where it is plentiful and  it has to be ‘unsalted’ by soaking it  overnight in cold water.  Then it is shredded and stewed or fried with various seasonings, including onion and peppers.  For me, it was an acquired taste and now I must have it at least twice a week! This filling food combination gives one energy and following this hearty dish, there is no need for a mid-morning snack.  (But if tempted, or in need of  a take-away to enjoy later in the day, I highly recommend Cartwheel mini-quiches (meat and/or vegetarian) and a slice of their incredibly moist  homemade chocolate cake).  And the price is right too!  You don’t have to wait for Creole Day to eat at Cartwheel Cafe.  At this dining

Simone at Kai K Boutique has a flare for fashion.  She is adorned in a vibrant and sexy outfit for Creole Day.  Find her at this shop and she''ll help find something new that is just right for you in quality natural fabrics for a fabulous price!

Simone at Kai K Boutique has a flare for fashion. She is adorned in a vibrant and sexy outfit for Creole Day.Go say hello and she’ll help you  find something new in quality natural fabrics at a fabulous price!

On Creole Day, it's always possible to buy a hand-made creation at varoius shops or from vendors right on the street.

On Creole Day, it’s always possible to buy at the last-minute a hand-made creation  from vendors  on the sidewalk.

establishment, you will always get a taste of Dominican-style fare.  Try it and you’ll see what I mean!

The only other item on my Creole agenda this morning was a ‘sitting’ for my annual Christmas photograph to insert in greeting cards for my Canadian relatives.  As with the last couple of years, I walked over to Lasting Images Photo Studio on King’s Lane.  It was still early in the day, and I had not worked up too much of a sweat yet.  The pleasant photographer arranged me in a few ‘standing’ poses, took the shots and then showed me each one.  I was pleased with his results, which serve as  souvenirs of  my dress-up for Creole Day every year.  While my outfit was not new, I felt like a different person in my mix of madras coördinates that I had gathered over the years.  Someday, I will look back at my participation in this important local event and smile even more broadly than I  did in the photos!

Gwendominica dressed the part for Creole Day, October31, 2014.  She is wearing a plaid (madras) jip (jupe = skirt),  a white blouse (bluse), a slightly different patterned head piece and wrist-wrap, matching necklace, earrings

Gwendominica dressed the part for Creole Day, October 31, 2014. She is wearing a plaid (madras) jip (jupe = skirt), a white lace-fringed blouse (bluse),  a different patterned head piece and wrist-wrap, coordinating necklace, bracelet and earrings. The shoulder bag is made from madras material too! Photo credit: Lasting Images, Roseau Dominica

After this pleasant start to my Creole Friday, I drove back home to write for a while before my next gastronomic outing: a long-awaited dining experience at the Westport Tavern (276-9513), a quaint seaside restaurant and bar in Citronnier, a short drive south of Roseau.

Westport Tavern is conveniently located on the seaside by the main road just south of Roseau

Westport Tavern is conveniently located on the seaside by the main road just south of Roseau

Just after midday, I left the car at home, and was quickly picked up  by one of the buses that frequents my neighbourhood.  The main road from the south of the island to Roseau was getting very busy, as  school had finished for the day and everyone made their way to their chosen Creole lunch destination.  Fortunately, I didn’t have far to go, although my friend Nancy from Springfield did got stuck in the city traffic for a while.  Eventually, she made it through, and by that time, we were both more than ready for our festive meal!

Creole Lunch at Westport Tavern in Citronnier, just south of Roseau was a delicious repast for celebrating a  very special annual event.

Creole Lunch at Westport Tavern in Citronnier, just south of Roseau was ideal for celebrating a very special annual event. There were a number of traditional dishes from which to choose on the menu.

I was craving a Crab Back, and Nancy had kindly pre-ordered this popular Creole treat when she made the reservation. This

There's my crab back. Yum!  This delicacy was prepared by Chef Sandra from Springfield. She has a knack for doing up this seasonal dish.

There’s my stuffed crab back. Yum! This delicacy was prepared by Chef Sandra from Springfield for distribution at various venues. She has a  unique knack for doing up this particular seasonal dish.

delicacy is only available during the Independence season, as hunting of this crustacean is permitted for a few months each year.  I also ordered all the side dishes on the menu. How could I resist!?! Nancy enjoyed Lionfish Couboullion ( a type of traditional stew with herbs and other seasonings).  This particular fish has a bad reputation as it eats other types of marine life. There are concerted efforts to harvest it in an attempt to control it in Dominica, as it is very tasty to eat.  Westport Tavern often serves other dishes with Lionfish to great acclaim.  You can read more about this predator here.

The expansive bar at Westport Tavern offers all kind of tempting beverages.  I had unsweetened ginger beer (no alcohol).  Its strong taste perfectly complemented my Creole meal.

The expansive bar at Westport Tavern offers all kinds of tempting beverages. I had unsweetened ginger beer (no alcohol). Its strong taste perfectly complemented my Creole meal.

Chef Jessica knows how to dish up very delicious dinners.  You should go to Westport Tavern of an evening, and find out for yourself!

Chef Jessica knows how to dish up very delicious dinners. You should go to Westport Tavern of an evening, and find out for yourself!

The lovely covered dining room offers lovely seaside views and refreshing breezes. Boaters can anchor nearby too!

The covered dining room offers lovely seaside views and refreshing breezes. Boaters can anchor nearby too! There’s a wharf that leads directly to the dining room.

DJ David Sorhaindo played wonderful tunes in keeping with the Creole season, which complemented the cheery atmosphere at Westport Tavern.

DJ David Sorhaindo played plentiful  local and regional tunes in keeping with the Creole season, which complemented the cheery atmosphere at Westport Tavern.

As we gazed out on the serene Caribbean Sea, we savored every morsel of our delectable lunches. Fortunately, we were there a bit before  other eager diners filled the spacious restaurant.  I lingered over every bite of my Creole lunch, and especially enjoyed the Plantain Madras Pie.

My Creole Lunch at Westport Tavern: from upper right: mixed provisins;  stuffed crab back; plantain pie; salad; pumpkin rice. Yum!

My Creole Lunch at Westport Tavern: from upper right (clockwise): mixed provisions; stuffed crab back; plantain pie; avocado/farine ball; salad; pumpkin rice; red beans in coconut milk. What a feast!

Award-winning Chef Jessica knows how to put a wonderful meal together – and I was fortunate to be one of the beneficiaries!

It might not surprise you that I had no interest in supper that evening.  With two wonderful Creole meals ‘under my belt’, I would say that my 2014 celebration of this aspect of Dominica’s culture was complete!

 

 

 

 

Daytripping Along Dominica`s Eastern Shore: Pagua Bay, Richmond Bay and Rosalie Bay

Sunrise Farm Cottages are nestled on a slope above the Atlantic close to an organic  farm on the property.

Sunrise Farm Cottages are nestled on a slope above the Atlantic close to fields of organic produce.

After my nutritious and  filling breakfast at Beau Rive on Sunday morning, I decided to take a little walk uphill from the hotel along the main road.  My intention was to

Sunrise Farm Cottages are located a short distance from an entrance to Segment 6 of the Waitukubuli National Trail and the Kalinago Territory.

Sunrise Farm Cottages are located a short distance from an entrance to  Segment 6 of the Waitukubuli National Trail and the Kalinago Territory.

explore the setting of  a different type of accommodation. I tackled  another steep climb of about 10 minutes and came upon Sunrise Farm Cottages, which is situated on an organic farm.  It is aptly named, and one can easily watch the sunrise from any vantage point!  The wood constructed self-catering cottages scattered discreetly around the acreage certainly appealed to me.  I may give them a try for a longer stay in the Castle Bruce area sometime!

Also nearby was the trail head to the  interior part of Waitukubuli National Trail, Segment 6. I had taken this track some years earlier, but had picked it up in Salibia in the Kalinago Territory, a few kilometers further north.

This trail marker takes hikers into the rugged. coastal part of WNT 6.  Until this point, the track is on the road leading from Castle Bruce.  The whole trek takes 6 - 7 hours - and it`s worth it!

This trail marker takes hikers into the rugged. coastal interior  of WNT 6. Until this point, the track is on the road leading from Castle Bruce. The whole trek takes 6 – 7 hours and passes through several Kalinago villages.

I`ll have to complete it from this point on my next trip to the east coast!  However, this was not a day for any big `walks`.

Shortly after I returned to Beau Rive, I freshened up and then drove away for the day`s planned adventure: Pagua Bay House and its renowned lunch menu.  Before I departed, Mark, the proprietor suggested that I take a slightly different route to reach my destination.  As I drove through the Kalinago Territory,  I followed his instructions and turned left onto Horseback Ridge Road when I saw the  sign for it.  I drove up the concrete roadway for a distance and then looked for a point where the road forked.  There, I turned left again instead of right, which continued as the Horseback Ridge trail and is part of WNT Segment 6.   I continued along on the roughened concrete, making several steep descents while glancing briefly at valley vistas in the direction of the Concord Valley. (I did not stop to take pictures as the incline was a little scary for me).  After about 10 minutes, I arrived at the Touna Kalinago Heritage Village on the south side of the Pagua River . (This Kalinago Village is well worth a stop to observe the traditional ways of these indigenous people.  I had visited there many years ago.)  I  crossed the river and made a right hand turn back towards the ocean, while passing through the village of Concord, then Hatton Garden and finally Pagua Bay! I quickly turned left (away from the ocean) and I was there!

Pagua Bay Bar and Grill and Guest House is conveniently located near the airport and is across the road from Pagua Beach.

Pagua Bay House is conveniently located near the airport and is across the road from Pagua Beach.

Pagua Bay  House ,Bar and Grill  is conveniently located directly across the road from the beach, and is only about 10 minutes away

Pagua Bay is the perfect place for a beach walk.  However, I would be cautious about a swim as undertow can be strong here.

Pagua Bay is the perfect place for a beach walk. However, I would be cautious about a swim as undertow can be strong here.

from Douglas-Charles  (formerly Melville Hall) Airport. Of course, I took my walk along the beach first so that my appetite would be adequate for a large lunch. The day was fair and a blustery breeze blew in off of the ocean.  I could taste the salt – or perhaps it was sweat!  In any case, it did the trick and after half an hour I felt as if I were ready to try out their tempting menu!

Golden apple juice appealed to me again (it is in season) and I started off with a large glass.  Jenny, the welcoming waitress reviewed the selections with me and I chose a vegetarian bean burger with the toppings.  I was careful to only eat half of the bun because it was necessary to satisfy my sweet tooth.  It was completely satiated with a moist melt-in-my-mouth generous slice of New York style cheesecake, complemented with a cup of coffee made to my specifications (mild, not strong!).

Afterwards, I succumbed to a little lie-down in a comfy lounge chair set in the cool blue pool overlooking the ocean.

The bar at Pagua serves refreshing and uncommon alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks.

The bar at Pagua Bay  House serves refreshing and uncommon alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks.

Lovely Sarafina was a pleasant lunch companion. She rested quietly near my table and was as good as gold.  No, she did not beg, and no, I did not tempt her. Those eyes are something else!

Lovely Seraphina was a pleasant lunch companion. She rested quietly near my table and was as good as gold. No, she did not beg, and no, I did not tempt her. Those eyes are something else, though!

Eyes open or closed, the pool at Pagua Bay invites one to have a dip before or a rest after a delicious lunch!

Eyes open or closed, the pool at Pagua Bay House invites one to have a dip before or a rest after a delicious lunch!

Jenny, the gracious server and Sheldon the charming GM made me feel right at home at Pagua Bay Restaurant and Bar.

Jenny, the gracious server and Sheldon the charming GM made me feel right at home at the Pagua Bay House Restaurant and Bar.

I gazed around me at the lovely scene for a few moments, but I did feel drowsy and I gave in to that sensation for about half an hour.  Before I departed, I chatted amiably with Sheldon Bruno, the engaging General Manager.   We discussed his review of the first two nights of the  World Creole Music Festival, as he had attended both and would go for the final night after work.  I shouldn`t have been surprised when he told me that he lived in Roseau and drove across the island to work – in about 45 minutes.  The newly refurbished road through the Central Forest Reserve (named after former President Nicholas Liverpool) certainly makes it easier and quicker to go from one side of the island to the other. I expect this daily trek  doesn`t phase Sheldon – he is a very high energy guy with a ready smile and a positive attitude firmly in place. He definitely is an invaluable member of the team at Pagua Bay!

This view of Pagua Bay from its south side near the village of Atkinson also includes the two large rocks  (far right) that are situated near the bigger village of Marigot.

This view of Pagua Bay from its south side near the village of Atkinson also includes the two large rocks (far right) that are situated near the bigger village of Marigot.

A few raindrops chased me away from this enchanting site.  It was now mid-afternoon so I thanked my hosts and leisurely drove  for half an hour through the Kalinago Territory back to Beau Rive.  It was time to rest for dinner and make plans for my next and last day on the east coast.

Next morning, I tripped along the main road from Beau Rive in the opposite direction of the previous day.  I was curious to walk down to Richmond Bay, with its rocky shoreline and river mouth.  It had been about 10 years since I had spent part of day lounging in cool river pools with some Dominican friends who have since moved overseas.

I  slowly walked through the coastal forest on the public access road. When I reached the end of this right-of-way, a hand-made sign pointed the way to the beach so that no one would accidentally trespass on private property where a hotel is under construction. It was a bit tricky from here-on and I slid through slick mud and  stumbled over slippery rocks, but after a few minutes, I was ocean-side.

This river that flows into Richmond  Bay has some inviting pools in which one can cool off and revitalize!

This river that flows into Richmond Bay has some inviting shallow pools in which one can cool off and revitalize!

Richmond Bay`s remoteness gives it a wild, completely natural feel.

Richmond Bay`s remoteness gives it a wild, completely isolated feel.

I admired the views, but did not linger as I would be checking out of Beau Rive shortly and had to head back up the steep slope straight-away. I was in awe of this rugged shoreline and its secluded setting.  A great place to meditate!

My time at Beau Rive had passed too quickly as usual.  With the knowledge that I would be back sometime soon, I drove away with an idea that I should go down the coast to briefly revisit Rosalie Bay on this lovely day before returning to Roseau and home.

Rosalie Bay Resort is nestled just above the beach and the ocean.

Rosalie Bay Resort is nestled just above the beach and the ocean.

When I reached the T- junction of roads to the west of the Emerald Pool, I turned left and headed south to Rosalie. Road repairs were

Rosalie Bay Resort also abuts the mouth of the Rosalie River.

Rosalie Bay Resort also abuts the mouth of the Rosalie River.

underway and I travelled cautiously around broken pavement and potholes.  I arrived at Rosalie Bay Resort about 20 minutes later and noticed dark blue-black clouds approaching from the east.  I got out of the car and could feel the wind gaining strength. I really just wanted to walk along Rosalie Beach, which is renowned for sea turtles coming ashore to lay their eggs at certain times of the year. I was just at the end of this season, but I wanted to revisit this area and recall a time when I had watched sea turtle hatchlings run to the ocean to begin their lives underwater. I admire the ongoing dedication of volunteers and staff of the Rosalie Sea Turtle Initiative for their education and conservation efforts about three types of endangered sea turtles who come to this beach to lay their eggs.

The inviting patio at the Rosalie Bay Resort Restaurant is very inviting - except during a rain squall! (This photo was taken 5 minutes before it hit!).

The patio at the Rosalie Bay Resort Restaurant is very inviting – except during a rain squall! (This photo was taken 5 minutes before it hit!)

Rosalie Beach is a protected turtle nesting site.  It`s a great place for a brisk beach walk too.

Rosalie Beach is a protected turtle nesting site. It`s a great place for a brisk beach walk too.

That early afternoon, the dark clouds moved in quickly, carrying an intense rain squall which would be unleashed on Rosalie moments later!

That early afternoon, the dark clouds moved in quickly, carrying an intense rain squall which would be unleashed on Rosalie moments later!

I watched those menacing clouds draw near, and I ran back to the restaurant to order a simple take-out meal for the road: hummus, plantain chips and veggies.  While I waited, I became increasingly nervous as the wind blasted the building and table settings on the porch flew off in every direction.  I picked a few pieces up and then rushed inside as the rain pounded down.  I sipped on sorrel juice and when my lunch package arrived, I hurried out to the parking lot in a torrential downpour.

Suffice to say that the squall diminished as I headed north. The sun shone as I climbed the mountainous road and entered the Pond Cassé round-about in the middle of the island en route to Roseau.  Half an hour later, I was back in the capital and the rain was about to begin!  I wasted no time in driving the additional ten minutes to my home where I unloaded my light luggage and snacked on my take-out from Rosalie Bay Resort. I would have to meet friends Victoria and Neil, who live near Rosalie on another day when the weather promised to be fine. You can read about our previous get together and gastronomic experience at this eco-resort here.

As I reflected on my east coast sojourn, I felt grateful for the pleasant conversations, dramatic scenery, delicious meals and serene settings that I had experienced over the past few days.

Without a doubt, I look forward to my next adventure on the Nature Island with great anticipation!

 

Daytripping Along Dominica`s Eastern Shore: The Village of Castle Bruce and Environs

Gwendominica enjoys a little rest stop at the Emerald Pool in Dominica`s interior. It`s a popular site, with good reason, due to its natural beauty.

Gwendominica enjoys a little rest stop at the Emerald Pool in Dominica`s interior. It`s a popular site, with good reason, due to its natural beauty.

DSCF3268

The Emerald Pool features a variety of pretty green hues.

Whenever I spend a little time at Beau Rive in the Castle Bruce area on Dominica`s east coast, I always make a stop at the Emerald Pool   on my way there. It`s an easy 20 minute loop trail and the waterfall is found about halfway along the path.  Although only 20 minutes from my destination, I enjoy stretching my legs and breathing in the pure air in this rainforest setting.

The view from a look-off on the east side of the Emerald Pool trail includes the mighty Atlantic in the distance.

The view from a look-off on the east side of the Emerald Pool trail includes the mighty Atlantic in the distance.

Segment 5 of the Waitukubuli National Trail passes near the Emerald Pool.  It begins at Pond Casse in the middle of the island and ends at Castle Bruce.

Segment 5 of the Waitukubuli National Trail passes near the Emerald Pool. It begins at Pond Casse in the middle of the island and ends at Castle Bruce (about 13 kms).

I had a little refreshment  at the on-site snack bar and  then I was on the road again. But not for long.  It was early afternoon by the time I arrived on the east coast and I`d worked up an appetite from my little outing in the forest. I headed straight to Islet View Restaurant, run by a Canadian-Dominican named Rudy.  He can really cook up a storm and this time was no different, confirmed by the fact that every seat in the dining room was filled with visitors, mainly from the neighbouring

Gwendominica is glistening and glowing from her Emerald Pool work-out.  She refreshes herself with a big glass of golden apple juice - the local variety of course!

Gwendominica  glistened and glowed from her Emerald Pool work-out. She refreshed herself at Islet View Restaurant with golden apple juice – the local variety of course!

French islands. They were in Dominica to enjoy the 18th annual World Creole Music Festival.  I found a little space at a back table where I enjoyed my overflowing plate of Mahi-mahi fish, ground provisions, stewed beans, rice and  green salad. I ate as much of it as I could.

I always enjoy the view of the islets of Castle Bruce from the restaurant of the same name!

I always enjoy the view of the islets of Castle Bruce from the restaurant of the same name!

The Castle Bruce beach beckoned me for a beach walk.  I did so the next day!

The Castle Bruce beach beckoned me for a beach walk. I did so the next day!

I felt it was enough for two people, and I was also holding back. I was well aware that I would receive another large meal at Beau Rive a few hours later.

The next morning, I set off from my quaint east coast home base to explore the village of Castle Bruce and its expansive beach.  The pretty little hamlet is situated near to the ocean.  Although there was no storm that day, the persistent surf made its presence known, whether one was at sea level or higher up the steep slope of this compact residential area. I admired the church and its serene setting and then drove along the road that skirted the ocean.

Villagers take pride in their beautiful beach and they respectfully request that you do the same!

Villagers take pride in their beautiful beach and they respectfully request that you do the same!

The Sea Breeze Inn as seen from Castle Bruce Beach.

The Sea Breeze Inn as seen from Castle Bruce Beach.

The pretty Catholic church is situated a short distance from the ocean in Castle Bruce.

The pretty Catholic church is situated a short distance from the ocean in Castle Bruce.

I stopped when I came upon a bright blue building set against the beach.  It was in fact a little hotel, called the Sea Breeze Inn and I was on time for a late morning snack!  But first, I took a leisurely stroll along the long stretch of sand.  Storm clouds were moving in, and I walked as quickly as I could to its far end, where I came upon the mouth of the Castle Bruce River.  There, I saw a man with a fishing net. I assumed he knew where he would make a catch. I waved at him and hastened back to the inn for my treat. Before I reached

The mouth of the Castle Bruce River offers shallow pools for wading and fishing.

The mouth of the Castle Bruce River offers shallow pools for wading and fishing.

the entrance way, a squall caught me off-guard.My umbrella was no help in the stiff breeze and driving rain.  Although a little damp, I dried off in no time, as it was actually a very warm day. Ms. Lockhart, the proprietor served me the freshest guava juice, along with a tuna bake and a special surprise: her homemade pumpkin fritters.

Fresh guava fruit juice, a tuna-stuffed bake (deep fried bread) and sweet spicy pumpkin fritters (bottom) sustained me for several hours.

Fresh guava fruit juice, a tuna-stuffed bake (deep-fried bread) and sweet spicy pumpkin fritters (bottom) sustained me for several hours.

This delicious local snack quelled my hunger pangs so that I was ready for the next part of the day`s adventure: a southerly drive along the coast to the well-known historic fishing village of San Sauveur.

As I drove along the steep and winding road, it was difficult to admire the gorgeous views of Grand Marigot Bay

and the surrounding quaint villages high above the ocean.  Therefore,

Grand Marigot Bay below with the village of Good Hope perched on the steep slope!

Grand Marigot Bay below with the village of Good Hope perched on the steep slope!

when I reached the hamlet of Good Hope, a friendly lady named Rachelle directed me to a safe parking spot so I could walk and admire the sights  instead.  I switched from sandals to walking shoes and headed `down`to the coastline. After 20 minutes, I stood in front of the historic Catholic church in San Sauveur.

The San Sauveur Catholic Church

The  sturdily built San Sauveur Catholic Church at sea level  has stood the test of time against the elements.

Despite hurricanes and occasional strong storms, it  offers regular worship services to faithful followers in this somewhat remote area.

I continued along behind the church for a few minutes until I came upon a number of fishing boats at their moorings.

Fishing boats rest quietly on the moorings at San Sauveur on a Saturday afternoon.

Fishing boats rested quietly on their moorings at San Sauveur on a Saturday afternoon.

A few had been out and had come in a short time earlier.  The fishermen rushed over to me to enquire about my interest in a purchase of fish.  I of course declined as I was being served meals at Beau Rive, which included such fare.  They were disappointed as it was a quiet afternoon.  As I turned to go, they asked where I had parked my vehicle.  When I replied that I had walked down from the neighbouring village of Good Hope, they were collectively shocked!

Outside of the breakwater fro the boats, the surf at San Sauveur was very strong that Saturday afternoon.

Outside of the breakwater for the boats, the surf at San Sauveur was very strong that Saturday afternoon.

As I commenced the steep ascent, I was glad that I had carried my umbrella, not for protection against rain though.  It was early afternoon and strong sunshine prevailed high above me. I didn`t mind the sweat and distracted myself with all the breathtaking vistas below me. After a short while, I was back in Good Hope.  The villagers who had watched me leave were surprised that I had been able to do the trek so quickly!  I proudly proclaimed that I had hiked over large parts of Dominica and was now getting back in shape after my bout of Chikungunya.  I purchased a cold bottle of spring water from  a tiny snackette and returned to the car.  After this lovely outing, I headed back to Beau Rive on the quiet road.  About half an hour later, I was sitting on my porch chair, looking forward to dinner and contemplating the routes for my excursions over the next couple of days.

You`ll read about  my visits to Pagua Bay, Richmond Bay and Rosalie Bay in the next post!

A Bit of Bliss at Beau Rive on Dominica`s East Coast: An Initimate Boutique Hotel with Countless Charms!

The view from my guest room at Beau Rive in Dominica is naturally soothing and entirely sensational.

The  Atlantic Ocean  view from my guest room at Beau Rive in Dominica is naturally soothing and completely sensational.

From any angle, this lovely plantation style inn is tucked in to natural surroundings.

From any angle, this lovely plantation style inn is tucked in to natural surroundings.

There are always so many things to do on Dominica, and the Creole-Independence season is no exception.  It had been a hectic and health-challenged couple of months since my return from Canada, and I felt that the best tonic for my recovery would be a little time away from the vibrant festivities.  So, instead of attending the 18th annual World Creole Music Festival, as I have for many years,  I decided I was deserving

Beau Rive Hotel is nestled into coastal forest and is surrounded by  lovely gardens on the property.

Beau Rive Hotel is nestled into coastal forest and is surrounded by lovely gardens on the property.

of a little down time at Beau Rive, a beautiful boutique hotel  near the village of Castle Bruce, on Dominica`s east coast.

I had spent some time here a few months earlier, and that brief respite aided me in my recovery from Chikungunya and helped me work through my grief from the loss of my beloved cat, Tia-pet.  I knew that another visit would lift my spirits and boost my immune system and I really looked forward to my next sojourn at Beau Rive.

From the moment I arrived, I could feel the  tension and stress melting away as I focused on the gorgeous gardens, stunning vistas and pounding surf as I settled into my cozy room.   I seated myself on the patio chair and meditated on the captivating view below me.  While the scene might seem the same to some, a careful study of the surf and terrain revealed different shades and hues of the rocks and the ocean`s multi-faceted moods at different times on different days.

From the dining room, I stare with fascination at this spellbinding scene.

From the dining room, I stared with fascination at this spellbinding scene.

I love to study this rocky outcrop and listen to the rhythmcial surf from my porch seat.

I love to study this rocky outcrop and listen to the rhythmical surf from my porch seat.

Then I  went back inside and lounged on the chaise longue as I read a few more chapters of an intriguing murder mystery, with settings in London, Toronto, Lisbon and Washington! ( I recommend Every Secret Thing by Canadian author Emma Cole, which I had borrowed from the Roseau Public Library).

Part of the healthy breakfast at Beau Rive included a fresh fruit bowl and a lime curd. Yum!

Part of the healthy breakfast at Beau Rive included a fresh fruit bowl from the garden, tangerine juice and a lime curd.  And there was more to come. Yum!

When I changed my view from distant to close-by, I had only to turn my head slightly to admire these beautiful flowers.

When I changed my view from distant to close-up, I had only to turn my head slightly to admire these beautiful flowers beside my room.

My pool  time before sunset enhanced my serene mood in this lovely locale.

My pool time before sunset enhanced my serene mood in this lovely locale.

Just before sunset, I  refreshed myself with a dip in the pool.  I had it all to myself as I swam back and forth several times to make sure that my appetite was at its peak for the delicious dinner I would enjoy a short while later.  Once again, I found myself in a hypnotic state as I gazed around me at the lush greenery and watched darling hummingbirds flitting to and fro as they sought one last floral drink before nightfall.

I had not yet seen Mark Steele, the proprietor  as he was overseas and would be arriving later that  first evening.  However, his friendly staff made sure that I was completely comfortable.  I had even been given advance notice about what I would have for my dinner – and I could hardly wait!  But the time passed quickly, and at 7 p.m. sharp, I was immediately delighted with the plates that were set before me.  I first savoured

Watercress Soup like no other - and it`s nutritious too!

Watercress Soup like no other – and it`s nutritious too!

mouth-watering watercress soup and garlic bread, and was tempted to ask for more.  However, that would not have been necessary,as the scrumptious California-style fish and chips with a  garden-fresh side salad were beyond compare.

California-style fish n chips - the taste was beyond compare!

California-style fish n chips – the taste was beyond compare!

I did not hesitate to tell the staff (and Mark the next day)that  the Beau Rive version of this popular Friday night dish was the best I had ever eaten!  The local fish Mahi-Mahi was sliced very thinly, fried very lightly and the potato chips were similarly cooked in  healthful coconut oil by Chef Anise.   I won`t soon forget that meal and I hope to have it again!  Needless to say that the other meals

Lime and ginger cheesecake - light and tangy - not overly sweet - just right!

Lime and ginger cheesecake – light and tangy – not overly sweet – just right!

were definitely delectable: homemade basil pesto on pasta the following evening; and yellow fin tuna (local) with fresh seasonings on my last night.  Homemade desserts always satisfied my sweet tooth.

Good thing I did a lot of walking on the hilly terrain around the property and along the quiet  main road. My exertions were entirely worth the reward of these fantastic dinners.

I certainly appreciated the horticultural efforts of Mark and his gardener.  Lovely flowers abounded all around Beau Rive.  I was amazed at the variety and I admired this additional aspect of simple, natural, elegant beauty on the hotel property.  I didn`t have to know their names, but I knew that the blooms, plants and trees gave me great delight and added to the serenity of my downtime at this quaint DSCF3294hotel.DSCF3300

Here is an array of the glorious offerings in the gardens around Beau Rive:DSCF3295

 

 

After my  active late morning-early afternoon forays along the east coast, (which will be described in forthcoming posts), I peacefully unwound in the tranquility and splendor which surrounded me at this casually elegant locale.  Mark and his staff, most of whom have been with him for many years have a knack for making guests feel right at home.  Their warm personalities, culinary talents and collective  desire to ensure that one`s stay is completely comfortable  add to the unforgettable experience of time spent well at Beau Rive.  If you don`t believe me, then check all the rave reviews on Trip Advisor    which confirm my own sentiments.

Frederick the frisky feline knew just what to do to make me laugh.

Frederick, Beau Rive`s frisky feline knew just what to do to make me laugh.

During my next visit to Beau Rive, I am going to spend time in this hammock located just off of the library.  Here, I am going to review some of the  books in the extensive collection right here.

During my next visit to Beau Rive, I am going to spend time in this hammock located just off of the library. I will review some of the books in the extensive house collection right here.

When visiting Dominica, or  in need  of a little escape from the rigors of everyday life, whether residing on-island or elsewhere, a little (or longer!) stay at Beau Rive is the perfect tonic for body, mind and soul.  It certainly works for me!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A ‘Staycation’ in the North of Dominica at The Champs Hotel: Casual, Convenient and Comfortable!

Gwendominica takes a 'Staycation' for her birthday at Comfortel De Champ, a lovely little hotel in Picard, near Portsmouth Dominica.

Gwendominica takes a ‘Staycation’ for her birthday at The Champs Hotel, a lovely place in Picard, near Portsmouth Dominica. Photo taken by a helpful staff member.

As a treat for my recent birthday, I decided to spend a weekend “up north” in Dominica.  It had been some time since I had enjoyed the area around Portsmouth and Calibishie,  with its dramatic and varied topography, as well as prominent historic sites and natural attractions. Although I had only recently returned from Canada, this little adventure was most affordable, due to an on-island promotion called a ‘Staycation’.  This initiative is the brainchild of the Discover Dominica Authority, and a number of tourism partners are participating  by offering  Nature Islanders reduced rates at certain accommodations and activities during the summer months.  Amazingly,  Dominica is very different from one locale to the next, and a Staycation offers residents opportunities to appreciate various parts of their beautiful country and save money by staying home for a holiday!

When I read about the incredible accommodation and meal specials available at The Champs Hotel in Picard, near Portsmouth, I didn’t

Lise and Hans are the warm and welcoming proprietors of Comfortel De Champ in Picard, near Portsmouth Dominica. The Cabrits and Prince Rupert Bay are in the background,

Lise and Hans are the warm and welcoming proprietors of The Champs Hotel in Picard, near Portsmouth Dominica. Their hotel overlooks The Cabrits National Park and Prince Rupert Bay, which are in the background,

hesitate to book a room.  I am well acquainted with proprietors Hans and Lise, as I have previously stayed and/or dined there on other northern jaunts.  In fact, I am in the record books as their first guest when they opened in 2008!

It was an easy drive on the recently refurbished West Coast Road (E.O. LeBlanc Memorial Highway).  I was there in one hour and five minutes – record time for me – and that’s at 50-60 kms (not miles!) per hour from Roseau. Lise welcomed me warmly and then took me down two flights of stairs to my room.  I unpacked and headed upstairs for lunch.  Along the way, I met Hans and he suggested that if I could wait for a few minutes, the couple would join me, along with their marketing assistant.

I enjoyed a large ‘brunch-style’ lunch of scrambled eggs, smoked salmon and tasty home-made hash brown potatoes, prepared by renowned Chef Eric

Chef Eric has an excellent reputation on Dominica for his culinary techniques.  He and his assistant are preparing  tempting and tasteful Saturday lunch selections.

Chef Eric has an excellent reputation on Dominica for his culinary specialties. He and his assistant are preparing tempting and tasteful Saturday lunch selections.

and his assistants.  As we chatted, the energetic hoteliers brought me up-to-speed on all the latest developments and news of interest in the Portsmouth-Calibishie area.  I was amazed at some of the changes in the few years since I had spent any time “up north” on Dominica.  I was happy to hear that there was some progress in the tourism-related sector.  I would be seeing some of that for myself over the weekend!

My first plan was a boat ride along the famous Indian River, and I informed my hosts of this.  Lise immediately offered her driver to not only take me there, but to make an arrangement with a tour guide so that I would not have to choose  one once I arrived at the site.  More on that sensational trip in a subsequent post!

Upon my return a few hours later, I refreshed myself  in anticipation of The Champs  popular pizza night.  This hotel is in very close proximity to Ross University School of Medicine and many students frequent the dining room and bar area for a good meal and some refreshments after an intense day of study or exams.  Although many students were on a summer break, Lise informed me as soon as I arrived in the dining room that a take-out order for 20 pizzas had just  been placed by some  campus personnel, which might delay my order by half

The wood oven pizzas at The Champs are delicious, as they are completely home-made!

The wood oven pizzas at The Champs are delicious, as they are completely home-made!

an hour.  No problem for me – I had a sunset to watch  and a newspaper to read: I was on holiday, there was no rush!

The restful southerly scene from my garden-view room.

The restful southerly scene from my garden-view room.

A spectacular sunset from the  open air dining room at Comfortel De Champ.

A spectacular Caribbean sunset from the open air dining room at The Champs.

I could not eat all of my vegetarian pizza with extra goat cheese, so I put it in my room fridge for Sunday supper, as that is the one night of the week when meals are not served.  I would definitely not starve!

Early next morning, I awoke with joy to celebrate another birthday and gave thanks to God for this gift.  It was a beautiful day – and what better way to start it than with a ‘sea bath’. I walked down the steep hill from the hotel and then wended my way to nearby Picard Beach, Dominica’s longest stretch of sand.  I walked for about half an hour.  No one else was in sight.  It was only 7:30 a.m. on a Sunday!  I found an old wooden pallet near the seaside and dropped my backpack, T-shirt and shorts on it. Yes, I was already dressed for the water!  The soft sand under my feet made the entrance easy and I soon lifted them up and bounced around in the gentle surf.  The stunning scenery all around me provoked me to once again express gratitude to the Creator for His handiwork on the Nature Island.  I needn’t say any more about that.  Let me show you:

The Cabrits National Park and Fort Shirley (two dots on left hill) are any easy gaze across Prince Rupert Bay from Picard Beach.

The Cabrits National Park and Fort Shirley (two dots on left hill) are any easy gaze across Prince Rupert Bay from Picard Beach.

The sun is rising in the east, creating long shadows on Picard Beach, on Dominica's west coast.

The sun is rising in the east, creating long shadows on Picard Beach, on Dominica’s west coast.

The southerly view of Picard Beach, which merges with Coconut Beach.

The southerly view of Picard Beach, which merges with Coconut Beach.

Morne Aux Diables is the prominent northerly mountain which is clearly seen from Picard Beach.

Morne Aux Diables is the prominent northerly mountain which is clearly seen from Picard Beach. Portsmouth is located in the distance (middle lower left).

 

 

After the steep uphill walk back to the hotel, I was more than ready for a big Sunday brunch before heading out for the day.  I gorged on a fresh fruit bowl, pancakes and scrambled eggs on the side.  I knew I would need additional sustenance for walking around Fort Shirley in the Cabrits National Park before heading over to the village of Calibishie on the east coast.  (To be detailed in later posts).

That evening, Lise heated up my yummy left-over pizza.  Then she, Hans and I admired another stunning sunset.  It was their evening off, so I did not prolong my latest chat with them.  Instead, I excused myself and Lise set me up in the jacuzzi.

The delightful northerly view of The Cabrits, Prince Rupert Bay, Portsmouth and Picard from the Breakfast Room at Comfortel De Champ.

The delightful northerly view of The Cabrits (left), Prince Rupert Bay, Portsmouth (far right) and Picard (mid left) from the Breakfast Room at The Champs.

Comfortel De Champ is "Hospitality Assured" by the Caribbean Tourism Organization. It shows!

The Champs Hotel is “Hospitality Assured”  certified by the Caribbean Tourism Organization. It shows!

The jacuzzi/lounge area at Comfortel De Champ is like an outdoor living room - covered, of course!

The jacuzzi/lounge area at The Champs is like an outdoor living room – covered, of course!

There, I unwound for half an hour as I stared at the darkening sky  and the emergent twinkling stars.

Then I prepared a cup of tea in my room and sat out on the porch where I  watched the quiet evening turn into a restful night; tree frogs chirped and bats flitted to and fro. Shortly thereafter, I returned to my room, read for a while and then quickly fell asleep.

Next morning, I had to repeat my ‘sea bath’ experience, although the weather was a little more inclement.  It didn’t stop me though: wet is wet! Back at the hotel, my breakfast awaited me, but I didn’t feel as hungry as I had overindulged on the previous day (my birthday) and was feeling a bit queasy.  I explained my dilemma to Lise and Manuela, the cook.  I asked if there was any ‘bush tea’ (herbal) available and Manuela immediately offered to pick some fresh mint from the garden and steep it for me.  It had a soothing taste and settled my stomach quite quickly.  I was impressed with her thoughtfulness!

All of a sudden, my wonderful weekend was over and it was time to head back home.  Lise, Hans and I conversed for a while longer.  Although they would be taking a  holiday to Europe in the near future to celebrate Lise’s parents’ 60th (!) wedding anniversary, they first would play important roles in the organization of an upcoming Rotary Club  ‘Sweet Jazz’ fundraiser for the PortsmouthDSCF3111 Hospital Emergency Room.  This caring couple firmly believes in giving back to the community.  As I observed them once again in action, I could clearly see that they have what it takes to make The Champs Hotel-Restaurant-Bar a preferred choice for reasonably priced accommodation, dining and entertainment in the northern part of the Nature Island.  If you don’t believe me, take a look at the glowing reviews on Trip Advisor!

Oh, I shouldn’t forget to mention the bill : I only paid for Saturday lunch, apart from my greatly reduced room rate for two nights.  Both big breakfasts and the large pizza (two suppers’ worth) and all my non-alcoholic drinks were included in the price.  This Staycation offer certainly was an ideal birthday present to myself!

I strongly encourage fellow residents to check out The Champs when in the Portsmouth area. Prospective visitors can view their web site for great deals too!  For my forays ‘up north’ on the Nature Island, there is no better place for me!

 

 

A Healing Weekend at Beau Rive, near Castle Bruce on the East Coast of Dominica

Welcome to Beau Rive! This inviting hammock, which is situated close to the library is one of a number of spots on the property for relaxation and solitude.

Welcome to Beau Rive! This inviting hammock, which  overlooks the ocean and is situated close to the library is one of a number of spots on the property for relaxation and solitude.

In a relaxed frame of mind after my invigorating walk at the Emerald Pool eco-site, which was followed by a fantastic lunch at Islet View Restaurant and Bar, I drove a short distance further to my destination that Saturday: Dominica`s renowned Beau Rive boutique hotel.

As soon as I arrived on the property, Florence and Maxim, the friendly house dogs barked excitedly as Mark Steele, proprietor of Beau Rive strode quickly to my car and warmly welcomed me with a firm handshake and  sincere smile. It was not my first time at this lovely hotel, and I felt instantly “at home” as I gazed around the beautifully manicured grounds. Right away, Mark took my bags and showed me to my room.

I am not a gardener but I do appreciate beautiful, well-tended plants and trees which adorn the property at Beau Rive!

I am not a gardener but I do appreciate the beautiful, well-tended plants and trees which adorn the property at Beau Rive!

There is something about Beau Rive - perhaps its simple  charm and inviting atmosphere that makes me what to return again and again!

There is something very special about Beau Rive –  its tasteful details, private setting and inviting atmosphere make me want to return again and again!

After some brief instructions about the room’s features and details about dinner, Mark left me to my own devices. I took a little time to unpack and then admired this sensational setting before a planned  nap.  Pretty anthurium lilies in a vase complemented the beautiful Nature Island painting by local artist Marie Frederick.  A quiet ceiling fan circulated cool ocean breezes around the room.  But  I was most enraptured with the expansive balcony and its captivating view: far below, a gentle, rhythmical surf pounded against ancient rocks that

At Beau Rive, every room and cottage has a spectacular ocean view.

At Beau Rive, every room and cottage has a spectacular ocean view.

formed a tiny promontory. As I gazed further out into the mighty Atlantic, several shades of blue blended into the cottony cloud-covered sky.  With the veranda doors wide open, I lay down on the bed, but resisted shutting my eyes.  I just couldn’t stop gazing at that magnificent scene right from my propped-up pillow!

When I arrived at the upstairs dining area just before 7 p.m., Mark met me there and asked if I had had a good rest.  I chuckled as I told him that I did feel more refreshed but that I had been unable to close my eyes because I was so entranced by the view!

Mark had already asked me about food preferences when I made the reservation.   He  and his staff had graciously prepared a delicately seasoned local tuna dish with fresh vegetables.  The appetizer did contain tomatoes, but I hadn’t mentioned that they can be problematic sometimes.  As it was only a starter, I did sample this popular fruit  which lightly topped a  delicate pastry crust – and  it was divine!  I had already requested smaller servings so that I could enjoy everything and let nothing go to waste.  Of course, I savored every morsel, including the rum-flavoured chocolate cake! (Unfortunately my camera could not capture the details of these appealing plates in the evening light).

In the background, a mix of  easy-listening tunes – R+B, jazz, opera arias and instrumental medleys complemented this superb dining experience.  In the foreground, the strong waves made their presence known and nearby  tree frogs greeted the evening with gusto. But the melodious blend of sounds did not interfere with an interesting conversation about books between me and Allison, another repeat guest at Beau Rive. We were enveloped in soft candlelight at our  adjacent table settings and our exchange flowed easily. She confessed that although she is Barbadian by birth  and now resides in the U.S., Dominica is always her first choice for a vacation – but not only that – in her mind it has to at Beau Rive, and nowhere else! When I queried this seasoned traveller further over the weekend about the essence of her attraction to this lovely hotel, she always responded with, ” There is nowhere else like it. It is so unique.  It is different from everywhere else.”   We both agreed that  one can get away from everything and quietly rejuvenate here in complete comfort.

Mark Steele obviously has a special gift and a magic touch that has enabled his quaint hotel to attract guests from all over the world.  Many return to repeat their exceptional experiences and some even invite him to visit them in their homelands!  It is obvious that careful thought, meticulous attention to details, consistent dedication to the highest standards possible as a hotelier, and of course, a love of, interest in and concern for his guests and his staff have resulted in regular  highly ranked recognition on Trip Advisor.   At this writing, Beau Rive is the  number one hotel in Dominica (June 2014). It’s not the only time he has placed first and he has also  previously received a number of other awards for his renowned hospitality endeavors.  If you stay at Beau Rive, you will quickly understand why!

Almost immediately after I ate, I returned to my room to read for a while.  It wasn’t long before I drifted off to sleep to the crash of  the distant surf and the pattering of a

Young Maxim welcomed me at the top of the stairs as I made my way to breakfast.

Young Maxim welcomed me at the top of the stairs and put a big smile on my face as I made my way to breakfast.

light rain on the roof. I awoke early to enjoy a muted sunrise amidst some gray clouds.  At about 7:45 a.m., I left the room for breakfast on the upstairs patio.  The dogs greeted me along the way and I also met Frederick the frisky ginger-coloured kitty.  These pets really gave me some extra cheer and lessened the pain of the loss of Tia-pet,     my cherished cat of 16 1/2 years.

This is the 'starter' to breakfast at Beau Rive.  Fruits of all kinds - in juice and salad, along with homemade yoghurt and local honey.  There was also a lime curd, if desired.  Then came toast and sweet rolls and home-made condiments including christophene jam!

This is the ‘starter’ to the healthy breakfast at Beau Rive: fruits of all kinds – in juice and salad, along with homemade yoghurt and local honey. There was also a lime curd, if desired. Then came toast and sweet bread and creatively concocted condiments including christophene jam!

As I took my seat overlooking that spectacular ocean scene, a huge bowl of mixed fruits was placed before me.  Mark enjoys growing his own fruits and vegetables and some of his labours were in the mix.  On the second morning, he proudly told me about his success at producing cantaloupe.  It’s very uncommon on the Nature Island and here I was enjoying it at that very moment!

My plan for a Sunday outing was a long overdue refresher tour of one of Dominica’s principle historic and cultural sites: Kalinago Barana Aute (Carib Model Village).  It was only a 20 minute drive through the Kalinago Territory from Beau Rive, and Mark felt this would be an opportune time to visit, as it would be quiet on the road on Sunday morning and it was also low season, meaning there would likely be fewer people there.

I left not long after breakfast.  I had already informed Mark that I would probably be a couple of hours.  I will report on that incredible experience in the next blog post, but suffice it to say that when I got there, I was informed that my tour would be delayed as the guides were waiting for a French group to arrive and I would go along with them.  Being familiar with Mark’s concern about his guests, I immediately called him and informed him that I would be later returning than I had earlier predicted.  He was very grateful for my message.  I knew that he would worry if I didn’t show up as planned.

When I arrived back at Beau Rive about four hours later, Mark was at his garden for the afternoon and it seemed that no one else was about. (The staff were in the kitchen quietly preparing dinner)> .  I lay down for a few minutes until I heard the sound of a familiar pick-up truck in the driveway.  Lo and behold, it was Dr. Ronnie and Dr. Nausima, my favourite veterinarians!  Mark mentioned earlier that they might be around to check on his

pets (including a cow tethered  near his garden).  I was surprised to see them and it was very meaningful to spend some time with the vets in a more relaxed setting since the cat had passed away.   After they attended Florence, mother of Maxim, they went to meet Mark and check on his cow.  I was supposed to go along, but after my lengthy morning tour and slow recovery from chikungunya, I opted for a little down time in my peaceful room.

Husband and wife veterinary team Dr. Ronnie George and Dr. Nausima Paul attend to Florence, beloved pet of Mark Steele at Beau Rive.    These wonderful vets can be contacted at their clinic (767) 440-8387 or by mobile at 277-4811/275-4935.

Husband and wife veterinary team Dr. Ronnie George and Dr. Nausima Paul attend to Florence, beloved pet of Mark Steele at Beau Rive. These wonderful vets can be contacted at their clinic (767) 440-8387 or by mobile at 277-4811/275-4935.

The timing was perfect, because when they returned about an hour later, they called me to join them for a drink on the patio. Mark prepared and served our preferred beverages. Then he joined us.  We discussed all manner of things, including, health, family, world affairs and of course, animals!  While Mark is usually reticent to disclose much about his earlier life (he is an accomplished professional pianist), the British expatriate told us about some other fascinating posts  and travels he had previously experienced in different countries.  He explained that all of his past endeavors contributed to  the realization of his dream of creating Beau Rive in Dominica.  I won’t give anything else away – you’ll have to ask him yourself!

Our conversation segued into the dinner hour.  The vets  took their leave and I sat down to the most delicious pumpkin-coconut milk soup imaginable.  That was followed by a big bowl of pasta topped with a  creamy goat cheese/sun-dried tomato sauce (made from scratch, naturally!), and then  ice-cream and cake for dessert.  I was full, but I ate it all – I could not resist it!  Allison and I chatted over tea for a while and again shared reasons for our enduring fascination with Beau Rive.  The conclusion was the same as before:  for our purposes of rest, relaxation, tranquility, character, charm, hospitality and price, it just doesn’t get any better than this!

Then Allison went to the library to watch a DVD and I stayed in the upstairs lounge for a little while longer to get better acquainted with Frederick the cat.  We played for a few minutes and then he was off  on a night-time prowl.  When I passed the library door, Mark asked me if I would like to see the movie, but I declined.  I was sleep-walking and could only just make it back to my room!

mark steele

Mark Steele, proprietor of Beau Rive has successfully created a casually elegant oasis that holds appeal for all those who have had (and will have!) the pleasure of spending time there. Photo contributed by Mark.

On my last morning, Mark departed after breakfast, taking along guest Allison to run  respective errands in Roseau.  I was told to take my time checking out and I did linger a little longer,spending half an hour doing mini-laps in the pristine pool.  In these peaceful surroundings, the swim in tepid water did ease the arthritis-like pain that persisted with chikungunya.

As I headed back to Roseau feeling very refreshed and revitalized, I reaffirmed that a little time spent at Beau Rive is definitely a healing tonic for body, mind and soul!

 

 

En Route to a Healing Weekend on the East Coast of Dominica

As I recovered from chikungunya and reflected on the loss of my little  cat, Tia, I felt that a weekend away from my home might be a boost to body, mind and soul.  It had been a long time (six years!) since I ventured over to the central east coast of Dominica and I could not wait a moment longer.  When Mark Steele, proprietor of Beau Rive, a lovely boutique hotel near Castle Bruce replied to my query about  room availability with an affirmative,  I unhesitatingly booked it right away. I had stayed there a few times in previous years, so I already knew that I would highly enjoy my short stay there.

I headed out on a showery Saturday morning with some trepidation.  I knew that I would meet more rain as I passed through the  mountainous interior of the island and I was

The Emerald Pool is located in Morne Trois Pitons National Park, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The Emerald Pool is located in Morne Trois Pitons National Park, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

anxious about road and weather conditions.  But the little voice in my head urged me on. While it was little scary and almost as dark as night  at midday when I passed in the shadow of majestic  Morne Trois Pitons, I took my time and carefully maneuvered around occasional potholes.

There was hardly any traffic on the road and  45 minutes after my departure , I arrived at the Emerald Pool Eco-Site.  By then, it was pouring, but I felt in need of a little outdoor ‘refreshment’.  Besides, it was  an easy walk  on a well-maintained track to this famous waterfall and I  carried my umbrella.

The track to the Emerald Pool passes through verdant rainforest in Dominica's interior.

The track to the Emerald Pool passes through verdant rainforest in Dominica’s interior.

Although my joints reminded me that  I was not ready for any big hike, I strode carefully and sometimes gingerly through the dripping rainforest to check out this popular cascade. I kept my head down as I sheltered under my umbrella.  After a few minutes, I heard the distinctive roar of a powerful torrent of water.

The Emerald Pool is magical, even from a distance.

The Emerald Pool is magical, even from a distance.

The Emerald Pool is so-named for the green hues reflected in the pool.  Although it was a gray day, she looked as pretty as always!

The Emerald Pool is so-named for the green hues reflected in the pool. Although it was a gray day, she looked as pretty as always!

Within 10 minutes, I glimpsed the beauty of the small but enchanting Emerald Pool.  Although the rain persisted, I felt invigorated in the fresh, pure mountain air.  And there was not a soul in sight!  It was the perfect day to take in this little gem of the Nature Island.  During the cruise ship season, this eco-site is a frequented attraction.  Over the years. I have only been here once with a crowd – and numerous other times on my own, with my brother, a few friends or a handful of visitors.  In those days-gone-by, I would even take a dip in the refreshing waters – but not today!  I’ve long acclimatised to the tropical climate and as a result, Dominica’s mountainous interior is too cold for me, unless I am on the move!

As I approached a view-point close to the waterfall, I was thankful for a handrail and constructed steps.  Normally, I would not have given rough terrain a second thought, but living with the arthritic after-effects of chikungunya has given me greater respect for accessibility issues. I did have my hiking pole with me as usual, which gave me extra support with occasional balance challenges (vertigo) since the mosquito-borne virus became part of my life.

By just gazing at the lovely work of nature, all alone in the rainforest and listening to its persistent, but gentle roar, I felt just “that much” better than I had the day before.  As I hobbled towards the exit from the site, I took the time to  look in an easterly direction towards the

The  easterly view from the Emerald Pool trail is breathtaking - no matter what the weather!

The easterly view from the Emerald Pool trail is breathtaking – no matter what the weather!

Atlantic where I was heading.  It seemed to me, that despite the pouring rain in my location, it was clearing on the coast.

I arrived in the parking lot a few minutes later and could feel hunger pangs returning that had been absent during my illness.   I was ahead of check-in time at Beau Rive so I decided to revisit an old favorite haunt for lunch, which overlooks the Castle Bruce Bay.  In only 15 minutes, I was there –  at Islet View Restaurant where proprietor and chef  ‘Rudy’, a Dominican-Canadian was in the house.

I’ve always enjoyed his home-cooked meals in the past, and this time was no different.

The exterior of Islet View is rustic and homey and the meals inside are unforgettable!

The exterior of Islet View is rustic and homey and the`home-cooked meals inside are unforgettable!

After reacquainting and reminding him of our Canadian connection, Rudy went in to the kitchen to prepare a fish lunch that would sustain me until dinner later at Beau Rive. I enjoyed sipping on sweetsop juice – not commonly served in restaurants and I really appreciated this treat.

My sweetsop juice was served in this colourful container - a hibiscus blossom in a coconut shell!

My sweetsop juice was served in this colourful container – a hibiscus blossom in a coconut shell!

 

The islets in Castle Bruce Bay easily captivate one`s attention.

The islets in Castle Bruce Bay easily captivate one`s attention.

The lovely view of the islets, the quaint village of Castle Bruce and its bay and beach distracted me from what ailed me. I was

The serene scene at Castle Bruce looks very inviting!

The serene scene at Castle Bruce looks very inviting!

quite amazed at how easily my spirits soared with such inspiring natural beauty before me.  Before much time had passed,

My lunch at islet View Restaurant: Mahi-mahi (aka dolphin - but not the Flipper variety!), provsions (sweet potatoes, green bananas, plantains, rice, lentils, salad.  It would be hard to go hungry on the Nature Island!

My lunch at Islet View Restaurant near Castle Bruce: Mahi-mahi (aka dolphin – but not the Flipper variety!), provisions (sweet potatoes, green bananas, plantains, dasheen) rice, lentils,cooked cabbage, salad fixings. It would be hard to go hungry if Rudy`s cooking!

Rudy appeared with a gigantic plate of food that caused me to worry and wonder (for a moment): `How will I eat dinner later!`

I did pretty well by all accounts – but I had to leave some on my plate.  It was impossible to eat it all as I had not been able to consume any large meals during my illness.  I was encouraged by the return of my appetite!

One of Rudy`s homemade `medicinal rums`is named after the current Prime Minister of Dominica.  It contains an herb called `long leaf`, which supports a `long life`!

One of Rudy`s homemade `medicinal rums`is named after the current Prime Minister of Dominica. It contains a herb called `long leaf`, which supports a `long life`!

Dessert was declined this

I don`t know where I put it, but I managed to find room for fresh fruit: watermelon; mango; and sugar cane.

I don`t know where I put it, but I managed to find room for fresh fruit: watermelon; mango; and sugar cane.

time, but I did have a chance to ask Rudy about his extensive `bush rum`collection. This simply means that various local herbs, purported to have medicinal properties for various ailments are `steeped`in a potent cask rum so that the ingredients are infused in the alcohol.  I was quite amazed by his knowledge of the various remedies“ that could be imbibed for longevity, virility and vitality, just to name a few common health concerns.  I was his first `case`of chikungunya.  Alcohol was out of the question, but he did take me to the roadside where he pulled out some lemon grass and advised me to steep it in hot water and then drink it as a `tea`.

Rudy is very knowledgeable about local herbs and probably has a bush rum to cure whatever ails you!!

Rudy is very knowledgeable about local herbs and probably has a bush rum to cure whatever ails you!!

As typical Canadians, we discussed a range of topics, including the weather but NOT Rob Ford, Toronto`s infamous mayor (sorry! 😉 ).  When I glanced at my watch, I saw that it was already almost 3 p.m.. Time to check in at Beau Rive and take a nap before dinner!

I wished Rudy a safe visit up north and promised to return for another wholesome meal when we both were back on-island!

My healing weekend was off to a great start, and I`d only been on the east coast for a few hours.  There was much more goodness to come!