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!

 

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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘Paradise Found’ in Dominica’s Papillote Tropical Gardens*

I was well in to Dominica’s 35th Independence celebrations when I decided that a morning away from the city would recharge my batteries and reconnect me with the healing wonders of the rainforest. My destination was another of my all time Nature Island favourites: Papillote Wilderness Retreat.  My foray was two-fold, in fact:  I had an appointment with German-trained physiotherapist Ariane Magloire and then I also wished to wander through the substantial four-acre tropical garden on the property.  The owner, Anne Jno Baptiste had recently upgraded the trails throughout the site and I was eager to check them out.

When I drove up the Roseau Valley and  arrived at Papillote (pronounced PAP-ee-yot) at  8:30 a.m., I realized that I even had enough time to revisit one of Dominica’s nearby magnificent wonders, the twin Trafalgar Falls. From the hotel, I walked up the steep ‘hill’ to the eco-site entrance in the pouring rain, without a soul in sight.  As I greeted the lone attendant at the Information Centre, she informed me that there would be no cruise ship in port that Friday, and at that time, no other visitors had arrived.  I had the place to myself!

As I trekked up the well-groomed trail, I was soaked to the skin and a little chilly .After about 15 minutes, I quickly forgot about my  mild discomfort as I stepped onto the sheltered viewing

The twin falls at Trafalgar are an incredible site to behold: the 'Father' is on the left and the 'Mother' is on the right.

The twin falls at Trafalgar are an incredible sight to behold, even in the rain! The ‘Father’ is on the left and the ‘Mother’ is on the right.

platform.  Before me was the most incredible portrait of nature: the twin Trafalgar Falls – two powerfully cascading torrents of clean water tumbling down the mountainside.  I lingered for a while and took photos through the mist as I inhaled the purest air found anywhere.  My dull headache immediately lifted and my spirits soared at this pristine place, which was all mine at that moment.  What a fabulous way to begin that restorative day!

I slowly walked away from this incredible view, and realized that I would have to return on a drier day to approach the Mother Fall (on the right) as the rocks beneath it would have been treacherous in very wet conditions.  After I informed the attendant of my safe return, I wandered back down the road to continue my stroll around the gardens at Papillote.

I still had some time before my ‘massage’ with Ariane, so I grabbed my camera and umbrella and headed  down some steps beside the dining room and directly entered into’ the garden’.  Despite the persistent inclement weather, it was obvious that all the plants were thriving in these highly humid conditions.  I forgot about my shivers as my gaze moved from one plant to the next.  Although I was not  able to readily identify all of them by name, I reveled in this appreciation for some of ‘God’s work’, enhanced with a little TLC from Anne!

Since the late 1960’s, Anne, the director of this establishment has toiled away at this ‘labour of love’ for the benefit of everyone.  Her efforts epitomize the Nature Island,  as she has assembled and tended an immense and diverse range of tropical plants in a protected area.  There are hundreds, some of which are endangered, rare, endemic to Dominica, indigenous to the Caribbean region or exotic transplants from other parts of the world.  You can find out more about this  amazing endeavor by clicking on the Papillote Tropical Gardens website.

It is easy to wander through Papillote's 4-acre garden on well constructed paths.

It is easy to wander through Papillote’s 4-acre garden on well constructed paths.

While I have no ‘green thumb’, I certainly acknowledge and pay tribute to her 45-year-old project, to date.  As I roamed and admired the ‘fruits’ of her labours,  I was now able to cover the terrain more quickly than before.  Anne had recently improved the walking trails on the premises, which will allow for easier meanders for people of any age or ability.  There are also plenty of tables, chairs  and benches scattered at scenic locations all over the property, which allow nature and garden enthusiasts plentiful opportunities to ‘smell the flowers’ and enjoy the views!

Here are some of the natural botanicals that I have had the pleasure to see at Papillote Tropical Gardens:

At the bottom of Papillote's Gardens, a lovely waterfall froms a backdrop for a hot and a cold mineral pool.

At the bottom of Papillote’s Gardens, a lovely waterfall forms a backdrop for both  a hot and a cold mineral pool.

This pretty flower is called  Solanaceae Brugmansia, commonly known as Angel's Trumpet.

This pretty flower is called Solanaceae Brugmansia, commonly known as Angel’s Trumpet.

This pretty flower is a bromeliad called, a Tillandsia cyanea

This dainty plant is a bromeliad called Tillandsia cyanea. It is contained in a pot on table with chairs in the middle of the Gardens!

This plant  is in the ginger family and is a costus barbata.

This plant is in the ginger family and is named costus barbata.

The long strappy leaves are Bromeliad and the leaves below are Taccaceae Tacca chantrieri (black bat flower)

The long strappy leaves are Bromeliad and the leaves below are Taccaceae Tacca chantrieri (black bat flower).

This is a beautiful  begonia.  I remember when my mother used to grow them in pots - although they never got that big!

This is a beautiful begonia. I remember when my mother used to grow them in pots – although they never got that big!

This colourful flower is a hybrid  bromeliad (an aechmea.

This colourful flower is a hybrid bromeliad (an aechmea).

'Forbidden fruits' in the Gardens of Papillote!

This uncommon edible fruit  is called a naranjilla.  It is part of the solanaceae family, which includes peppers,  potatoes and  tomatoes

Frances holds a bunch of dandelion leaves from the Papillote Garden.They can be made into a tea ti help detoxify the body.

Frances holds a bunch of dandelion leaves from the eclectic Papillote Garden.They can be made into a tea to help detoxify the body.

My time was getting a little short before my physiotherapy, so I headed back to the dining room to pick up my backpack and walk up to the  sheltered Birdwatchers’ Hut, where Ariane and her massage table are situated.  En route, I met up with Frances, one of the wonderfully warm  and friendly staff at Papillote.   She was picking a plant near the dining room and I asked her about it.  “Those are dandelion leaves,” she told me, ” They are helpful for cleansing the body of toxins.’  I was intrigued, because although the plant looked different from the North American variety, it has the same function!  It is well-known that thousands of medicinal plants are found on Dominica.  The elders swear by their effectiveness – perhaps more of the younger people should consider taking  their sage advice to complement conventional treatments!

I hadn’t seen Ariane for a while and my session was long overdue!  She manipulated tight tendons and

Ariane Magloire is a German-trained physiotherapist who is available for treatment sessions most Friday mornings at Papillote by advance reservation.

Ariane Magloire is a German-trained physiotherapist who has a very busy practice, but is available for treatment sessions most Friday mornings at Papillote by advance reservation –  (767) 448-2287.

massaged muscle spasms in my  upper back and neck that were causing persistent headaches.  Then she worked on areas of my body where toxins were most likely trapped and she gave my overworked feet a good rub-down too!  She doesn’t know this as I write, but I felt very relaxed and calm and pain-free after one hour on her table.

This is called the iguana pool because the hot water flows through the mouth of a sculpture resembling that large lizard.

This is called the Iguana Pool because the hot water flows through the mouth of a sculpture resembling that large lizard.

In fact, when I dipped into the ‘Iguana’ hot mineral pool immediately afterwards, I propped myself on one side and almost fell asleep.  For me, that state of relaxation is all-too-rare.  Thank you Ariane for a super massage session!!!

I was so content to just lie there in the pool as the rain pattered on the leaves, the wind gently whooshed through the gardens and birds chirped high in the tree-tops.  As for the vistas –

From the vantage points of any of the four hot mineral pools on the premises, there is garden and froest all about - a true wilderness experience without having to do a back-country trek!

From the vantage points of any of the four hot mineral pools on the premises, there is garden and forest all about – a true wilderness experience without having to do a strenuous  back-country trek!

I sheltered while I soaked in this covered pool which is only a few steps from Ariane's massage table in the Birdwatchers' Hut.

I sheltered while I soaked in this covered pool which is only a few steps from Ariane’s massage table in the Birdwatchers’ Hut.

well I hope the photos give you an idea of this particular paradise!

An hour or so later, I was well ‘pruned’ and hunger pangs were setting in.  After changing into dry clothes, I sauntered down  the steps  to the dining room where I  ordered my favourite meal at Papillote:  the Flying Fish Platter, accompanied by my second glass of spiced sorrel juice.  As I sipped on the refreshing beverage, I glanced into the garden area that was very close to my indoor table.  All of a sudden, I was startled out of my reveries: a hummingbird was plopped on a fern in a very awkward-looking position. It looked as if it were dead!

This Purp;e Throated carib hummingbird looks as if it is bent in the wrong direction.  It is actually taking in some sun on its breast!

This Purple Throated Carib hummingbird looks as if its head is bent in the wrong direction. It is actually taking in some sun on its breast!

That same little hummingbird (I think) is contently perched on a branch.

That same little hummingbird (I think) is contentedly perched on a branch.

I thought that it had hit something and had broken its neck.  It did not move for a long  few moments and I feared the worst.  Just as quickly, it reversed its  head position, flitted its tiny wings and was off.  Shortly afterwards, I saw it perched in a nearby tree.  When I mentioned this to Anne, she suspected that it was likely a juvenile with its’ home’  nearby and that it was having a ‘sun bath’!  I was astonished that it felt so safe and comfortable within close proximity to human activities.  Obviously, the food sources were plentiful for that Purple-Throated Carib, one of four species of hummingbirds that are found in Dominica.  Anne tells me that all four types are often  seen in the Gardens.

I always enjoy the Creole-inspired Flying Fish Platter at Papillote. The fish is covered in a flavourful onion-tomato Creole sauce, the hearty natural and organic salad and the 'puffs' are made from dasheen, a local ground provision vegetable.

I always enjoy the Creole-inspired Flying Fish Platter at Papillote. The fish is covered in a flavourful onion-tomato Creole sauce, the hearty local salad  is topped with shredded beets and the ‘puffs’ are made from dasheen, a local ground provision vegetable.

It looks look like a vase of violets to me but Anne informed me that the lighter lavender are cuphea hyssopifolia and the darker purple are ground orchids..spathoglottis unguiculata

It looked like a vase of violets to me but Anne informed me that the lighter lavender  flowers are cuphea hyssopifolia and the darker purple are ground orchids-spathoglottis unguiculata.  My sorrel juice never stays long in the glass!

Once my lunch was served, I concentrated on savoring every morsel.  I ate everything on the plate, and then felt even more drowsy.  If I didn’t leave soon, I would have to ask for a bed!  I paid my reasonable bill and departed, with a promise that I would be back by Christmas.  Now that’s a plan that I wish to realize above most others!

Proprietor Anne Jno Baptiste was awarded an honorary membership in the Dominica Hotel and Tourism Association in November 2014.. Papillote is Dominica`s first true eco-inn and has followed ecological principles for several decades and is an international award-winning hotel! “She understood the magic of the product and stayed true to it…Papillote Wilderness Retreat is Dominica’s original ‘eco inn’ and remains one of the leading eco lodges in the region,” her citation reads.

Proprietor Anne Jno Baptiste was awarded an honorary membership in the Dominica Hotel and Tourism Association in November 2014.
Papillote is Dominica`s first true eco-inn.It has followed ecological principles for several decades and is an international award-winning hotel!

*Many thanks to Anne Jno Baptiste, Founder and Director of Papillote Wilderness Retreat for creating this perfect paradise on the Nature Island, and for taking the time to help me with plant identification.  Her knowledge-base of tropical  horticulture is nothing short of amazing!

Dominica`s Floral Splendor: The Giraudel-Eggleston Flower Show 2013

One of the most eye-catching floral arrangements was this map of Dominica, with its 10 parishes outlined in  yellow flowers.

One of the most eye-catching floral arrangements was this map of Dominica, with its 10 parishes outlined in yellow flowers.

It was such a delight to attend the recently resurrected Giraudel-Eggleston Flower Show, which formed  part of  Dominica`s Tourism Awareness

The annual Flower Show is held in May and is located in the heart of the village of Giraudel

The annual Flower Show is held in May and is located in the heart of the village of Giraudel.

Month. I am no gardener, but I do appreciate those who toil to grow plants for  both pleasure and purpose.  It appears that these two mountain villages (over 1,000 feet above sea level) have not only the right growing conditions, but also a dedicated group of people who make up the Giraudel-Eggleston Flower Growers Inc.  When I toured their site on the afternoon of Saturday May 25th, I was definitely impressed with their talents! About 1,000 others also took in the wonderful floral  exhibits during the previous week.  I hope that large numbers did attend the last two days  of the event after me ,before it closed on Sunday evening.

I did not expect a private guide, but as it was early in the afternoon and relatively quiet, Flower Grower member Susanne Blanc took me around the two and a half acre property.  Along with telling me something about almost every area on the site, she took the time to relay  its history and recent developments.

The Flower Show had not been around for the last nine years due to the destruction of the temporary building during heavy rains. But now they were overjoyed to have a permanent place, property, flower beds and a big greenhouse for cultivating their plants.  She noted that the Government of Dominica had played an integral role in assisting their organization to become fully operational.  As well, other international bodies such as the Global Environmental Facility (GEF), and the Community Management of Protected Areas (COMPACT) also came to their aid.

This corner of the Flower House paid tribute to the late Marvlyn Robinson, an active member of the Flower Growers`Group and staunch supporter of cultural activites in Dominica.  Portrait by Giraudel  artist Caesar Catin.

This corner of the Flower House paid tribute to the recently deceased Marvlyn Robinson, an active member of the Flower Growers`Group and staunch supporter of cultural activities in Dominica. Portrait by Giraudel artist Caesar Catin.

This joint community effort is certainly to be admired.  Both men and women from the two villages contributed to the success of the Flower Show in various ways.  Some people brought their flowers, others arranged them, administrative matters were managed, knowledgeable builders, farmers, tradespeople and home makers came together to proudly display their `claim to fame’`as the “Flower Basket“ of Dominica.

Giraudel`s new Flower Show building is beautifully adorned by village  artist Caesar Catin.

Giraudel`s new Flower Show building is beautifully adorned by village artist Caesar Catin.

Near the Flower Growers`Building, a wedding display portrays the potential of celebrating nuptials in such natural beauty!

Near the Flower Growers`Building, a wedding display portrays the potential of celebrating nuptials in such natural beauty!

While I am not proficient in recalling the names of most plants, Susanne did tell me about some of them more than once. She did kindly confirm some plant names for the pictures in this post.  However, any additional comments from knowledgeable gardeners or horticulturists are welcome!

There is nothing like a little garden appreciation time to lift one`s spirits. I felt rejuvenated after viewing these beautiful floral exhibits.

Susanne really did tell me the name of this pretty purple flower more than once.  If anyone can remind me via a comment, it would be very much appreciated!

This pretty purple flower is called Agapanthis or African Lily . Reference: Susanne Blanc.

I hope you will enjoy this sampling of some of the beautiful floral displays as much as I did!

Plentiful Nature Island bouquets welcomed me to the Giraudel-Eggleston Flower in May 2013.Show

Plentiful Nature Island bouquets welcomed me to the Giraudel-Eggleston Flower Show in May 2013.

Horticulturists and nature lovers should mark their calendars to come to Dominica for the annual Giraudel-Eggleston Flower Show, and partake of numerous other activities that are offered each May during Dominica`s Tourism Awareness Month, as well.  On this stunning island, nature, culture and adventure go hand in hand!

* Thanks to Susanne, for taking the time to tell me all about the Giraudel-Eggleston Flower Growers Inc. and for the detailed tour of the property.

** Giraudel is about a 20 minute drive south (and inland) from Roseau.  Ask your hotel for specific directions and information.

Anthurium lilies are my favourite flowers in Dominica.  I regularly buy bunches of them at the Roseau Market on Saturdays. they grow prolifically in the rainforest.

Anthurium lilies are my favourite flowers in Dominica. I regularly buy bunches of them at the Roseau Market on Saturdays. They grow prolifically in the rainforest.

Vibrant ginger lilies  are a common flower in Dominica.  They last well in a vase too!

Vibrant ginger lilies are a common flower in Dominica. They last well in a vase too!

Pretty Dahlias and other n`northern`flowers grow well in Giraudel`s cooler, moist climate.

Pretty Dahlias and other northern flowers grow well in Giraudel`s cooler, moist climate.

These flowers, called Alstromeria or Peruvian Lilies complement many arrangements.

These flowers, called Alstromeria or Peruvian Lilies complement many arrangements. Reference: Susanne Blanc.

Marvelous Heliconia - in reds, greens and yellows thrive in the rainforest.  Some of this species are endemic to Dominica.

Marvelous Heliconia – in reds, greens and yellows thrive in the rainforest. Some varieties of this species are endemic to Dominica.

Neat and tidy flowers beds were planted by Desmond`s Landscaping Plus of Eggleston : (767) 276-6774 or 614-2607.

Neat and tidy flower beds were planted by Desmond`s Landscaping Plus of Eggleston : (767) 276-6774 or 614-2607.

Queen Anee`s Lace grows very well around Giraudel.  It reminds of me of summer fields around my late parents`home in Canada.

Queen Anne`s Lace grows very well in Giraudel. It reminds of me of summer fields around my late parents`home in Canada.

Amazingly, cacti can thrive in the mountainous tropical climate, with proper tending and well drained soil.

Bromeliads  are at home in the rainforest, but the Flower Growers know how to care for  them too.

Delicate orchids are found in the rainforest.  They can be successfully cultivated with lots of TLC.

Delicate orchids are found in the rainforest. They can be successfully cultivated with lots of TLC.

Amazingly, cacti can thrive in the mountainous tropical climate, with proper tending and well drained soil.

Amazingly, cacti can thrive in the mountainous tropical climate, with proper tending and  soil with good drainage.

Another attractive flower bed by Desmond`s Landscaping Plus.

Another attractive flower bed by Desmond`s Landscaping Plus of Eggleston.

To lift one`s head above the flowers gives an appreciation for the mountainous terrain.  In this photo, a northerly view from Giraudel.

To lift one`s head above the flowers gives an appreciation for the mountainous terrain. In this photo, a northerly view from Giraudel.

So many different varieties of flowers thrive in the Giraudel-Eggleston area.

So many varieties of flowers thrive in the Giraudel-Eggleston area.

In my opinion, they all are!  Congratulations to the Giraudel-Eggleston Flower Growers Inc.  on a very successful show!

Yes indeed, Dominica is a natural beauty! Congratulations to the Giraudel-Eggleston Flower Growers Inc. on a very successful show!