A Sensational Start to 2016 on Dominica, the Nature Island

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Return to Middleham Falls: Hiking to One of Dominica`s Superb Natural Sensations

There she is!  Even through the trees, Dominica`s Middleham Falls is a treat to the eye and a gift to the soul.

There she is! Even  through the trees, Dominica`s Middleham Falls is a treat to the eye and a sight to behold.

Middleham Falls captured my imagination (and my heart) the first time I ever visited Dominica. That very first hike,  I walked all the way from Springfield on the Imperial Road, then traversed a steep secondary road above  Cochrane village before even reaching the trail head. It took me five hours return in those days.  It was exhausting but

Getting closer to Middleham Falls.  Still a little distance to go!

Getting closer to Middleham Falls. Still a little distance to go!

exhilarating.  You can read about my initial fascination and  impressions right here. I have returned to gaze at this marvel of nature several times since March 1997, but I `ve only taken the trail from the Laudat side in the Roseau Valley twice.  So when I proposed  revisiting this waterfall to my longstanding hiking pod friends, they enthusiastically grabbed their gear and off we went! Liz and I were putting ourselves to a test of strength and endurance about our bouts of Chikungunya.  We were curious (and I was a little anxious) to see how we would make out.

The morning skies were dark and drizzly when Nancy, Liz and I set off from Roseau.  By the time we arrived at the trail head and got out of Nancy`s SUV, buckets full of rain were falling on our heads.  Although Nancy suggested that we head north to the Cabrits in search of drier land,  we stayed put and waited it out. We also held back because the Walsh family (Simon and Wendy and their son Andrew) pulled in to the parking lot at about that time, so there was no turning back!

We chatted and snacked for a few minutes at the sheltered interpretive facility, and after a few minutes, the sun came out!  Andrew and his dad took off ahead of us (both are avid athletes and naturalists) while the ladies purposely lagged behind. We set off at a leisurely pace, and were  slowed down at the start when Nancy and I decided to take off our footwear to cross the one and only shallow river on this route.  I didn`t regret it though.  I was happy to have relatively dry boots and socks for the duration of the journey.  Liz sensibly wore all-terrain sandals and Wendy got a little `help“ from her family so that her feet remained dry!

Wendy and Liz patiently wait for Nancy and I to put our boots back on after the river crossing.

Wendy and Liz patiently wait for Nancy and me to put our boots back on after the river crossing.

We ascended some steep steps and then picked our way carefully around exposed tree roots extending  from massive chatanier trees and their impressive buttresses.  The moist rainforest environment did dampen the path considerably, and we watched out for slippery rocks and deep

The prolific tree roots add a bit of a challenge to the moderate hike to Middleham Falls.

The prolific tree roots add a bit of a challenge to the moderate hike to Middleham Falls.

mud  puddles.  Sometimes we engaged in conversation and other times we contented ourselves with listening to the sounds of the rainforest. We admired abundant epiphytes and bromeliads on  the tall ancient gommier trees when we often stopped to refresh from our water bottles. The tuneful call of  mountain whistlers hiding in the treetops accompanied our pleasant foray.

Nancy manoeuvers around  tteh buttresses of a massive Chatanier tree

Nancy maneuvers around the buttresses of a massive Chatanier tree

It would be hard to get lost on this well-marked and maintained trail.

It would be hard to get lost on this well-marked and maintained trail.

After about an hour, we reached a sign which clearly pointed the way to Middleham Falls.  Without delay, we carefully quickened our pace on  the steep and rocky descent, and after about 15 minutes, the distinct roar of the gigantic cascade could be heard in the distance.  We did pass by a couple of pretty mini-falls en route, but they were only teasers leading up to the real thing!

Simon and his son Andrew take a quick rest stop in the mist blowing at them from Middleham Falls.

Simon and his son Andrew take a quick rest stop in the mist blowing at them from Middleham Falls.

Gwendominica takes a moment to catch her breath at the sign pointing the way!

Gwendominica takes a moment to catch her breath at a sign pointing the way!

The rainforest is filled with pretty sights - the mini-waterfalls are cause for a pause along the route.

The rainforest is filled with pretty sights – the mini-waterfalls are cause for a pause along the route.

And then we saw Simon and Andrew,

comfortably propped on a huge rock facing the falls.  They were  soaked by the significant spray showering the area from the powerful force of water flowing down the precipice.  At 270 feet, (82 meters), Middleham Falls is one of Dominica`s tallest chutes, and it deserves special respect during the rainy season. If we had been there in the dry season, we might have been able to descend the rocky slope and have a cool `bath`in the cavernous pool below.  However, we all agreed that the excessive strength of the waterfall was only to be admired from a distance on this day.  Besides, we were already soaking wet! I was glad that I had experienced the chill of this “cold“ water setting before.  You can read about it here.

Nancy and Liz contemplate the beauty and strength of marvellous Middleham Falls.

Nancy and Liz contemplated the beauty and strength of marvellous Middleham Falls.

Wendy`s joyful gaze taken in the natural spendour of the setting.

Wendy`s joyful gaze took in the natural splendour of the setting.

It`s the real thing! Middleham Falls is so tall that it is impossible for me to capture it all on my camera!

It`s the real thing! Middleham Falls is so tall that it was impossible for me to capture it all on my camera!

There`s that cool pool at the base of the falls.  take a dip if you dare (but don`t dive!).

There`s that cool pool at the base of the falls. Take a dip if you dare (but don`t dive!).

Snacks were hauled out and“ inhaled“, as we all had worked up appetites from our mountain-rainforest adventure.  We settled ourselves on various rocks or leaned against substantial trees as we took in this natural beauty and her forceful voice. After about half an hour, Simon and Andrew set off, with Wendy close behind as they were going to finish their day with some fun at Mero Beach. Liz, Nancy and I paced ourselves carefully and kept to quiet conversation or solitary meditation on the return.

By the time we reached the shallow river, Nancy and I unhesitatingly walked right through it!  It was the perfect method for removing mud and dirt that had accumulated on the footwear over the two plus hour trek.

At the Interpretation Centre, we changed into dry clothes in the convenient washrooms, nibbled on some chocolate, and then set off in Nancy`s vehicle  for a light lunch  and a soak in a hot pool at Papillote Wilderness Retreat a few minutes`drive  away.

Liz, Nancy and Anne, the active octogenarian and owner of Papillote Wilderness Retreat  relax after a hoot pool soak.

Liz, Nancy and Anne, the active octogenarian and owner of Papillote Wilderness Retreat relax after a hot pool soak.

When we arrived, we were fortunate to catch up with proprietor and friend Anne Jno Baptiste.  After our quick meal (I had delicious vegetarian callaloo soup!), Anne took us on a little tour of the upper garden and then we settled into a lovely secluded and sheltered hot mineral pool.  We allowed the healing waters to soothe our sore muscles and we further unwound with  light-hearted chatter.

This secluded, shletered pool at Papillote Widerness Retreat is the ideal refuge for treating post-hike soreness.

This secluded, sheltered pool at Papillote Wilderness Retreat is the ideal refuge for treating post-hike soreness.

At the end of this sensational afternoon, Liz and I agreed that despite some soreness possibly due to the lingering effects of Chikungunya, we were ready to take on another moderate hike soon.  Our long-range goal is still set to tackle more of the Waitukubuli National Trail.  Without a doubt, we`ll get there, and Nancy and Wendy will come along for the fun too!

A Warm Welcome in Wotten Waven, Dominica’s ‘Natural Spa’ Village

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It’s a pretty 15 minute drive through the forest from Roseau to Wotten Waven.  Photo by Edwin Whitford.

Over the past weekend,  cool rain showers and bleak overcast skies kept me indoors despite my desire to spend some healing time in the Nature Island’s interior.  It was not a complete loss – other ‘to-do’ projects got done.  So when Monday morning dawned bright and clear, I  turned off my lap-top, packed my bathing suit and towel, pulled out my walking stick-umbrella, donned my all-terrain sandals and headed up the Roseau Valley to the ‘spa’ village of Wotten Waven.

Geo-thermal activity is abundant in the Wotten Waven area.

Geo-thermal activity is abundant in the Wotten Waven area. Photo by Edwin Whitford.

I did have a bit of a plan: I wanted to walk up to the ‘top’ of the village and check in on a few establishments that I had not frequented for some time.  It was a quiet morning – the cruise shippers were yet to appear  and I had the place practically to myself.  This area is very popular with both residents and visitors, as a number of ‘natural spas’ are in close proximity.  They are all designed differently, but each one offers opportunities to soak in hot, warm or cool  sulphurous mineral pools that are reputed to have healing properties and restorative benefits. In my experience, I have always felt better, had less muscular pain and am more relaxed after a little time in these ‘waters’.  I have previously written about the popular, award-winning Screw’s Sulphur Spa.  You can read about it here.

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The Trail-Head for Segment 4 of the Waitukubuli National Trail is easily found at Wotten Waven.

Tia's has natural bamboo cottages and a restaurant above the pools complete the natural spa experience.

Tia’s Bamboo Cottages and  restaurant above the pools complete the natural spa experience.

As I began my little foray, I paused for a moment by the sign for Segment 4 of the Waitukubuli National Trail and recalled my adventures on the day that  I and a number of other intrepids tackled it in reverse from Pond Casse to Middleham Falls as part of Dominica’s annual Hike Fest.  We didn’t make it to this sign, but I assure you we had gone most of the distance of that lengthy and challenging trail, which you can read about here.

Before I walked up the road, I passed by Tia’s Bamboo Cottages to make sure that the friendly Rastafarian was opening his pools on that quiet Monday.  I hadn’t seen him for a while and we greeted each other warmly.  He assured me that the sulphur pools were always there for me – any time.  Wow!  Did I feel special as a longtime client of his unique business.  That certainly put the first smile of the day on my face.  I told him that I was about to take a walk up to  the heights of the village and would return later.

Just before I started my walk in earnest, I met Brenda in front of her shop, which is strategically located at the junction of the

Brenda's is a popular tourist stop for a drink or some home-made chips.

Brenda’s is a popular tourist stop for a drink or some home-made plantain chips.

main roads in Wotten Waven.  When she saw me, she hugged me like an old friend.  Although I have only seen her occasionally over the years, she has never forgotten me and always takes time to talk to me.  We caught up on a little news and then she handed me a packet of her homemade plantain chips – for the road.  They would serve me well a little later.  Many of the tour buses stop at her place for drinks and light snacks and I hope I didn’t deprive a tourist of this special treat!

I was reminded of my real goal on this morning’s walk by a sign located opposite Brenda’s shop.  I had been to the

Dominican Artist David Burton and his sons display their paintings in a gallery surrounded by flowers and beautiful vistas.

Dominican Artist David Burton and his sons display their amazing paintings in a gallery surrounded by  his cultivated flowers and beautiful mountain vistas.

Paradise Art Gallery and Floral Gardens only once before and it was my intention to check it out when I got a little further up the  road. This was not a day for an intense work-out: people chatting along the sides of the road or walking down to the Roseau bus-stop smiled and called out cheery ‘hello’s’ as I responded in kind while gazing at the lovely vistas in the distance.

Fresh mountain breezes carried an occasional hint of sulphur and shimmering leaves loudly rustled in the quiet morning atmosphere.  I inhaled deeply and could feel my sinuses clearing  as I continued up the road.  I noticed a woman working on a flower bed who seemed vaguely familiar.  When she turned around and noticed me, she rushed towards me with the biggest smile and open arms.  I delighted in hugging my ‘flower lady’ , who sells beautiful anthurium lilies at the Roseau Market on Saturdays.  For some reason, she has always spoiled me with big bunches and even  occasional freebies.  I really appreciate her generosity.  To me, she is one of the wonderful Dominicans who lives in Wotten Waven!

While we chatted, I noticed our proximity to the trail-end of Segment 3 of the Waitukubuli National Trail (WNT).  As with Segment 4, I recalled that arduous trek from Bellevue Chopin in a thunder and lightning storm, up and over the muddy mountains at Giraudel, down the precipitous river valley and way back up to Morne Prosper and then gently descending to Wotten Waven, where some rewards awaited Hike Fest participants.  (Note: I have already detailed this hiking adventure here).

Le Petit Paradis in the perfect place to relax before/after a hike, or to connect with nature or to visit  nearby hot pools!

Le Petit Paradis is the perfect place to relax before/after a hike, or to connect with nature or to visit nearby hot pools!

As I positioned the camera for a shot of Segment 3’s end-point, I recognized the voice of a lady coming up behind me.  Lo and behold, it was none

The end of Segment 3 of the Waitukubuli National Trail gently welcomes you to Wotten Waven!

The end of Segment 3 of the Waitukubuli National Trail gently welcomes you to Wotten Waven!

other than Joan, owner of Le Petit Paradis guest house and restaurant, which is directly across from the Segment 3 trail’s end!  I chuckled when we greeted each other, as we recalled the time I was at her establishment, along with 40+ other damp and dirty hikers.  She had prepared huge pots of hot,  hearty Dominican cuisine to satisfy our enormous appetites after that highly strenuous trail work-out.  Everything was delicious and we left nothing behind!

Her cozy establishment is a great place to end the Segment 3 hike, rest overnight and awake refreshed to tackle Segment 4 next day!  We spoke for a few minutes, and then Joan went back to tidy up for her next set of guests while I continued on my leisurely jaunt.

A few minutes later, I was standing in front of the sign for another popular natural spa: Ti Kwen Glo Cho. I had last spent a pleasant hour or more soaking in the big pool with other hikers after the above-described trek.  That therapeutic down-time had saved me from enduring a lot of sore muscles the next day. I am forever grateful!

As luck would have it, I met up with that spa’s owner, Henry George a few minutes later, when I entered the porch of the Paradise Art Gallery and Floral Gardens. As I approached, I noticed that he and artist David Burton were deep in conversation.  Once they saw me, I was greeted in typical Wotten Waven fashion –  with warm smiles and welcoming words.

There are hundreds of cultivated flowers at Paradise Floral Gardens.

There are hundreds of cultivated flowers at Paradise Floral Gardens.

We spoke together for a few minutes.  While they did not recall my face, they acknowledged that I was no stranger to their places.  Henry left to attend to his business and David stopped working on his floral garden to show me around the art gallery.  He and his sons are all talented artists with slightly different styles.  Their works really capture the essence of Dominica through nature scenes and cultural representations.

The Burton family captures Dominican culture on canvas.

The Burton family captures Dominican life on canvas.

David Burton and his sons are well-known Dominican artists.

David Burton and his sons are well-known Dominican artists.

The massif, Morne Macaque (Micotrin) at the top of the Roseau Valley as seen through the 'scrim' around one of David Burton's flower gardens.

The massif, Morne Watt at the top of the Roseau Valley as seen through the ‘net’ around one of David Burton’s flower gardens.

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Strictly Itals café forms part of the Paradise Art Gallery and is operated by artist David Burton’s wife. Her creative talent is in the kitchen!

He gave me an update on his industrious and creative family, and then described his plans to  further develop the flower gardens.  He also showed me his  colourful fish pond and the new kitchen for his wife’s delectable and wholesome vegetarian meals and beverages. They can  soon be enjoyed right on the site.

Although he had many other things to do, we did speak at length on a whole range of subjects – from his farm on Paradise Estate, which is a little higher up the mountain to meetings about the proposed geothermal plant in the area to life on Dominica to my experiences as an expatriate.

After a time, I thanked him for his hospitality and informed him that it was time for me to walk back down to the bottom of the village for my soak at Tia’s Bamboo Cottages and Sulphur Pools/Spa. Of course, I promised to return another day to experience his wife’s wonderful cooking.

I checked in at Tia’s restaurant where I was bestowed the biggest welcome of all.  Bernadette, Tia’s wife emphatically expressed her delight at seeing me, as it had been a while. She professed that she had even recently asked her husband if I was still on-island, as she had not seen me for so long.  Her sincerity really made me feel like an old friend who had been truly missed.

Tia's 'natural spa' has some private enclosed pools, one of which has wheelchair access.

Tia’s ‘natural spa’ has some private enclosed pools, one of which has wheelchair access.

At that time, I had the place to myself.  There are some enclosed pools, if one prefers privacy, but I opted for the outdoor variety so that I could gaze at the greenery and soak up a little sun as well.  As I moved between pools, I took  a little time to stand under the natural hot water shower.  I situated myself so that the torrent could pummel some sore spots on my neck and shoulders.  After about 10 minutes, the pain was gone.  I lingered a while longer in this exquisite and intimate setting.  Then  visiting British couple Madeleine and Tony joined me and we talked about Dominica and shared some experiences, along with our favourite places.  Madeleine had a tender shoulder, so I suggested that she try the natural ‘shiatsu’ shower.  After several minutes, she declared that it felt better.  I was thrilled that the natural spa treatment worked for her too.

This forceful natural hot water shower at Tia's provides a strong massage for sore muscles

This forceful natural hot water shower at Tia’s provides a strong massage for sore muscles

By then, I’d spent about four hours in Wotten Waven.  It was time to return home and I reluctantly declined an invitation to join the friendly pair for lunch at Papillote Wilderness Retreat    near Trafalgar Falls. I assured them that they would enjoy it immensely!  I wished them a pleasant stay on the Nature Isle and then climbed up the steps to bid Bernadette good-bye for now and declare that I would definitely be back again very soon!

Then I promised myself that when I am feeling a little out-of-sorts, a short trip to  the warm, friendly ‘natural spa’ village of Wotten Waven would be my cure!

Tia's Bamboo Cottages overlook the pools.  They are surrounded by many trees, including nutmeg and cocoa.

Tia’s Bamboo Cottages overlook the pools. They are surrounded by many trees, including nutmeg and cocoa.

The pools at Tia's have different temperatures for your personal preferences.

The  cozy pools at Tia’s have different temperatures to suit your personal preferences.

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…