‘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!

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…