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!

 

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!

 

 

‘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!

Good Company, Great Food, the Best Music: A Special Sunday Afternoon in Dominica!

Lise and Hans are the owners/managers of the award-winning Champs Hotel, Restaurant & Bar in Picard Dominica.  They first opened their doors in 2008.

Lise and Hans are the owners/managers of the award-winning Champs Hotel, Restaurant & Bar in Picard Dominica. They first opened their doors in 2008.

I had looked forward to enjoying a special outing to The Champs Hotel, Restaurant and Bar in Picard (near Portsmouth) Dominica to DSCF0301partake of their monthly Sunday Live Jazz Lunch for some time.  Part of the appeal was The Champs perfect venue – set high on a hill overlooking  pretty Prince Rupert Bay with the scenic Cabrits National Park and Fort Shirley in the distance and the expansive Ross University Medical School directly below.

Morne Aux Diables is a prominent massif of almost 3000' which is north of De Champs.

Morne Aux Diables is a prominent massif of almost 3000′ which is north of De Champs and towers over the town of Portsmouth (far left).

Prince Rupert Bay and the Cabrits National Park (centre left) feature promoinently from The Champs.  Ross University Medical School Buildings and Housing in Picard are in the foreground.

Lovely Prince Rupert Bay and the Cabrits National Park (centre left)  as seen from The Champs. Ross University Medical School Buildings and Housing in Picard are in the foreground.

Michele's back-up band consists of  very fine musicians.  Her husband' Junior' is on the  front right of the photo.

Michele’s back-up band consists of  the finest  Dominican musicians. Her husband’ Junior’ Delsol (right) is on the bass guitar.

The  afternoon’s exceptional entertainment would be provided by none other than  acclaimed  singing sensation Dominican chanteuse Michele Henderson and her Band.  And of course, the food! A delectable dinner menu was being prepared by American chef Eric Subin, who has definitely  made a name for himself on Dominica.

Chef Eric Subin  concentrates while his  cheerful assistants await his instructions. preparing the delcious menu selections for De Champs' Sunday Live Jazz Lunch.

Chef Eric Subin concentrates while his cheerful assistants await his instructions as they prepare the creative menu selections for De Champs’ Sunday Live Jazz Lunch.

My Canadian friend Nancy offered to drive, so I was able to put my feet up and enjoy the seaside sights on the hour plus drive up the west coast from Roseau to Picard.  I had not been at The Champs for over a year, and I was excited to renew old acquaintances, revisit a lovely property and partake of some of the best food and music that Dominica has to offer!

When we arrived around 12:30 p.m., we were cheerily welcomed by Hans & Lise and directed to our table for two with a lush coconut palm tree-lined southerly view of the Picard area  and the sparkling Caribbean Sea beyond it.  As we sipped refreshments and perused the menu, Michele (pronounced Mi-kel) came over to say ‘hello’ and hugged me warmly.  Although she was due to start her show at 1 p.m., we had a few moments to catch up on news and have a chuckle or two.  Her spontaneous outburst of merriment was prompted when I produced a photo of her with me and Marilyn Smith as the singers in the Beau Bois Ensemble back in 2003!  We reminisced and I gave her recent greetings from Marilyn, who now lives in Canada.

The Beau Bois Ensemble in April 2003, just before Marilyn returned to Canada.  Those were the days.  We had a great time, that's for sure!

The Beau Bois Ensemble in April 2003, just before Marilyn returned to Canada. Those were the days. We had a great time, that’s for sure!

As well, I asked the Dominican singer about her latest international and local performances.  Delightedly, she informed me that she was received extremely well at the recently opened Crescendo Jazz Lounge in Rodney Bay, St. Lucia by large crowds  for three nights in a row.  In Virgin Gorda (British Virgin Islands), she and the Band headlined an event called “Jazz on the Hill’ to great reviews.  Her feature at Dominica’s annual Jazz ‘n Creole pleased the huge audience tremendously.  Then she mentioned that she would be traveling to Sydney Australia  in the near future to participate in a church event to raise funds for some social programs.  As usual, she left me nothing short of impressed and she hadn’t even started to sing yet!

All of a sudden, it was 1 p.m.: time for Michele to start the show and for Nancy and me to make our lunch selections from the detailed menu.  Our helpful server answered our questions about ingredients and dietary concerns. Nancy chose the tuna dish and I opted for a vegetarian Indian specialty.  While we waited for the meals, we listened pleasurably to Michele on flute as she warmed up the diners for the afternoon’s  entertainment.  Her superb musicality was clearly evident in a funky Chick Corea rendition that had me tapping the

Michele is an accomplished trained flautist, as well as a superb soprano vocalist.

Michele is an accomplished trained flautist, as well as a superb  and versatile soprano vocalist.

table to the beat.

Nancy delights in the visual presentation of her main course: Sesame-Seared Tuna wiht Sweet Soy Glaze, Wasabi, Jasmine Rice and Temoura Onion.  She thoroughly enjoyed it too!

Nancy delighted in the visual presentation of her main course: Sesame-Seared Tuna with Sweet Soy Glaze, Wasabi, Jasmine Rice and Tempura Onion. She thoroughly enjoyed it!

Then our lunches arrived.

I was amzed a teh generous serving of Chana Masala with Mango-Apple Salad and Jasmine Rice. I really savoured all the Indian inspired flavours!

I was amazed at the generous serving of Chana Masala with Mango-Apple Salad and Jasmine Rice. I really savoured all the Indian inspired flavours!

We gazed at them open-mouthed: yes, we were hungry and the huge plates were filled up with our appealing orders.

By now, the room was packed.  Large contingents of faculty and students from Ross University Medical School were seated at long tables. Other Dominicans and expatriates filled all the remaining available space.  I was thankful that I had made a reservation, as I could see that late-comers could be disappointed or at least have to wait for a while to eat!

Lise and Hans take a little break while the rest of us take to the dance floor.  Sarah (centre) is a well-known restauranteur and food services consultant.

Hosts Lise and Hans took a little break while the rest of us took to the dance floor. Sarah (centre) is a well-known local restauranteur and food services consultant.

Michele doesn't just sing a song: she puts her heart and soul into it too!

Michele doesn’t just sing a song: she puts her heart and soul into it too!

We tried our best to finish everything on our plates.  I felt badly about leaving a bit – but I had already enjoyed some smooth and mildly piquant hummus with pita bread as an appetizer, for which Chef Eric is famous.  And there was no way I was going to pass up dessert.  While we let our dinners digest, we leaned back in our chairs to take in the mellow sounds emanating from the front of the room.  I was touched that Michele publicly acknowledged me from our earlier singing days. Then she belted out many well-known classical and contemporary jazz and jazzed-up favourites:  ‘Favourite Things’ (Sound of Music); ‘Livin’ my Life Like It’s Golden’; ‘Give Me One Reason to Stay Here’;’The Beat Goes On’ (her own composition at my request!); some popular reggae  tunes and many more over two enjoyable hours.

Michele's brilliant and expressive voice always please her audiences, whether she performs in a small room, a large stadium or on a concert stage! her husband Junior is on the bass guitar.

Michele’s brilliant and expressive voice always pleases her audiences, whether she performs in a small intimate room, a large outdoor stadium or on an international concert stage! Her husband Junior Delsol is on the bass guitar.

After that substantial meal, I knew what I wanted  to satisfy my sweet tooth with only the slightest glance at the menu.  I have previously tasted Chef Eric’s chocolate concoctions elsewhere so it is no surprise that the ‘dark chocolate cake’ was my choice.  It was only one mouthful before I exclaimed to Nancy that it was the BEST CAKE EVER!  It’s a good thing that I live a distance from Portsmouth or I might be found sneaking daily into the kitchen to ask for possible leftover slices!

However, I did savour it slowly, and endeavored to work off a few calories by hitting the dance floor with some of the ladies from Ross University. Wow!  Can they move it!  I also met

After my divine dessert (Dark Chocolate Almond Truffle Tart with Coconut-Cashew Crust), I had to work it off to the cool beats of Michele and her Band!

After my divine dessert (Dark Chocolate Almond Truffle Tart with Coconut-Cashew Crust), I had to work it off to the cool beats of Michele and her Band! Orla has her back to camera.  She was definitely groovin’ to the tunes!

up with Orla, a faculty member who had me laughing and singing on the trails during Hike Fest.  It was great to see her again – although at first we didn’t recognize each other without t-shirts, caps and boots!

Just after 3 p.m., the music wound down and we reluctantly dragged ourselves off of the dance floor.  I still had some cake to finish and then it was time to go!

It is such a pleasure and honour to know Michele Henderson. It's also a thrill to watch her career grow locally, regionally and internationally.  I wish her continued and endless success!

It is such a pleasure and honour to know Michele Henderson. It’s also a thrill to watch her career grow locally, regionally and internationally. I wish her continued and endless success!

It was such a wonderful way to spend a Sunday afternoon.  Chef Eric’s culinary creations, Michele’s magical musicianship, the warm hospitality of Hans and Lise and the fantastic atmosphere at The Champs  guarantee that I will return for Sunday Live Jazz Lunch again very soon!

Spending a ‘Spa Day’ at Dominica’s Papillote Wilderness Retreat

Some secluded and private  hot and cold  water pools are found within Papillote’s four-acre garden.

The female or ‘mother’ cascade(on the right when facing the falls from the viewing platform) of the twin Trafalgar Falls is a short, uphill hike from Papillote Wilderness Retreat. Photo by Edwin Whitford.

Every now and then, I look forward to a day away from Roseau by escaping to Papillote Wilderness Retreat, which is located in the mountains around the Roseau Valley in Dominica’s interior.  It’s only a 20 minute drive from the city and is nestled in a four-acre tropical garden not far from the twin Trafalgar Falls, which is a popular tourist attraction and is easily accessible from this hotel by foot.

But for those seeking privacy and seclusion, there are many reasons( including  breathtaking waterfalls right  on  the site!) just to’ stay put’ on this lovely property, which has been in existence as various hospitality businesses since the  1960’s.  It now operates as an intimate hotel, restaurant and spa and is the recipient of numerous  travel and eco-tourism awards!

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 bestowed 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!

Physiotherapist Ariane pauses for a moment between clients in the Birdwatchers’ Hut at Papillote Wilderness Retreat.

I particularly like to spend the occasional TGIF (Friday) there because I can get a wonderful massage from Ariane Magloire, who is a  German-trained physiotherapist.  She has a very busy  ‘mobile’ practice, so I appreciate that she is available on Friday mornings at Papillote.  My recovery from a  persistent ‘flu  and cough had been very slow up to this time. But after Ariane worked on some tender points on my chest, face and arms and quelled the painful muscle spasms in my back, I felt an inch taller and could breathe  deeply without coughing!  It was impossible NOT to relax on the massage table in the serene setting of the Birdwatchers’ Hut, where hummingbirds flitted to and fro through the extensive garden and cheeky finches perched on my  covered feet in the hope of a taste of pure coconut massage oil.

After that sensational treatment, I felt on top of the world!  And my ‘spa day’ had only just begun!  While I waited for a friend to complete her massage, I wandered on trails through the tropical garden and admired the numerous plants that thrive in this rainforest setting.  There are actually hundreds of them and I realized that most of  those I had once recognized by name, I have since forgotten.  That will be rectified on my next visit by booking a proper ‘Garden Tour’ with one of the knowledgeable  staff members!  It had been a several years since my last one and it is time to refresh my memories of   Papillote’s prolific botanicals!

The calabash gourd thrives in this locale. The fruit can really get big and heavy. Its hard outer skin makes a great  container.

Anthurium lilies grow abundantly in the moist humid rainforest climate.

This plant looks like it might be a member of the ginger family, but I will confirm that after I take my garden tour!

I was surrounded by nature and had only the plentiful birds for company.  No other human was in sight!  I had my pick of a number of natural hot and cold mineral pools so I decided to move from one to another until it was time for lunch.  At the first one, I allowed the cleverly constructed cascade to pummel my back and neck to further loosen up stiff muscles and to take away some of the tenderness from the sore spots that Ariane had attended.  Then I flopped on my belly, propped myself up on the edge of the stone ‘bath’ and stared all around me at the magnificent greenery and colourful flowers.  This was definitely ‘paradise found’!

Reds, pinks and purples adorned my table – the sorrel juice, vase of anthuriums and hot pepper sauce complemented my meal.

The views of the Roseau Valley from the dining room area are simply stunning!

The dining room at Papillote is cozy, inviting and open to the natural surroundings.

I relaxed in another deeper pool for some minutes and then it was time for lunch! The friendly staff, many with whom I am acquainted from previous visits, warmly and cheerily welcomed me again.  We chuckled because invariably I always order the same thing – not because the menu lacks other temptations – but simply because I LOVE the flying fish platter so much that I must have it! I did savor every morsel  – tastefully seasoned in a mild peppery Creole sauce with lightly fried dasheen (a starchy root vegetable) puffs and a generous organic salad on the side.  I washed it down with a slightly sweet and spicy sorrel juice, which is made from the sepals of  hibiscus  flowers.  It was really delicious!

After lunch, there was time  for another soak or two on this perfect afternoon at Papillote.

It’s easy to refresh right under this waterfall or just admire it from the nearby naturally hot and cool pools.

Tim, a videographer who produces promotional material about Dominica ( See: ‘Are You Breathing?’ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tjrhQ7OdXZo) cools off near the waterfall while waiting for his visiting mother who has just enjoyed a hot pool massage with Ariane.

My friend and I chatted with other acquaintances as we lounged and luxuriated in the hot waters a few steps from the restaurant.  After a while, we descended a trail in the garden which led us to a hot pool and a cold pool in a sunny exposed area next to a lovely accessible waterfall.  I heated myself up a number of times and then squealed with trepidation as I hesitatingly  waded into the cooler pool.  My friend showered herself under the cascade’s cold torrent  but I was not so inclined on this day. In this pristine ecological environment,  I could feel my body and mind completely unwinding, and all my cares seemed to float away.

Unfortunately, I did have to face the reality of driving through Roseau’s Friday afternoon rush hour. I reluctantly pulled myself away from Papillote Wilderness Retreat  while maintaining  complete certainty that I will return again..and again…and again…