Roseau Dominica: Charming Caribbean Capital – Part 2

The Barracoon Building is just north of the round-about by the General Post Office in the Bayfront. It was built in the mid-18th century and was initially used as a holding centre for slave arrivals and auctions.

I pick up my walk around town from where I left off last time, which you can read about here.  As I continue north along the Bayfront, I pass the Post Office and the round-about.  On the east side of the street, I stand before the Barracoon Building, which is considered one of the oldest structures in Roseau.  It was once a holding centre for recently arrived slaves from the mid-18th century until the abolition of this trade in 1807.   This structure serves as a sombre reminder of this unfortunate aspect of Caribbean history. It is the only one that remains intact in the region.  A court house and the Roseau City Council currently occupy the premises.

Freshly cut flowers can be purchased for a very reasonable price at the Roseau market every Saturday. Seen here are white anthuriums in the foreground, bird-of paradise in the centre and red ginger lilies in the background.

The Roseau Market is a feast of colour for the eyes and offers substantial nourishment for the body. I go every Saturday for the widest selection of produce.

As I am close to the Roseau River where the New Market  is located, I meander over to purchase some farm-fresh local fruits and vegetables. I also love to buy a bunch of flowers, usually anthurium lilies grown or harvested by ladies in  the mountain villages of Wotten Waven, Trafalgar and Giraudel,

One of the four guardian ‘Fu Dogs’ which are found on the outer four corners of the Chinese built ‘friendship bridge’ over the Roseau River.

A recent addition to the riverfront near the New Market is the Chinese-built ‘Friendship Bridge’.  The symbolic ‘Fu (Foo) dogs’ adorn the four end points of the bridge. There are now three bridges across the Roseau River, which aid traffic congestion tremendously.

With  purchases packed in my reusable bags, I head back into the town’s centre.  I really enjoy taking time to admire the diverse street scenes of this Caribbean capital.

This brightly painted Ti Kaz- like building advertises a soft drink product very well!

Look at the lovely fret work on the balcony of this stately King George V Street building. The private veranda provides shelter for pedestrians below and shade for inside inhabitants. The steep shape of the roof, called ‘hipped’ helps deflect high winds.

The dormers on this King George V Street building help hot air to escape and also provide more space to stand up straight! The yellow hurricane shutters are open on the dormers but are closed on the veranda.

Occasional hurricanes and fires over the years have left their mark, particularly in the absence of trees and some vacant lots that once contained wooden buildings.  Presently, some of the existing wooden  Ti Kaz  (little house) types are brightly painted and lend cheer to the pervasive grays found in the volcanic stone  buildings, which have largely been around since the 19th century.  Very often, the second floor is built from wood.  Fancy fretwork, protruding verandas, dormer windows and hurricane shutters are predominant features that reflect what is called a “Caribbean Creole” style.

Pizza Hut (foreground) and Fedex (sign in the background) do good business in Roseau.

Of course, progress does not escape even the smallest island. Multinational companies set up shop amidst more traditional ones.

La Flamboyant Hotel on King George V Street adds colour and contrast to conventional surroundings.

Newer businesses, such as La Flamboyant Hotel complement the existing traditional designs with a more contemporary style.

This building on the corner of Cork St. and Independence street was the childhood home of early 20th Dominican novelist Jean Rhys.

Some older buildings have considerable historical significance.  Jean Rhys, a novelist who is greatly admired by the international literary community was actually born and raised in Roseau in the early 20th century.  Although she left  for England when she was 16, and only returned once in her lifetime, her works are rife with references to the Nature Island.  Her most famous work, Wide Sargasso Sea is frequently found in libraries, advanced literature courses and general  reading lists.

Marvo’s Corner is found on the east side of Independence Street, about a block north of its junction with King George V St.

Marvo welcomes you to her snackette. Ici on parle francais, as well as English!

Since I have been walking around town for a while, it is time for a delectable Dominican treat.  From the former home of Jean Rhys on the west side of Independence Street, I cross to the east side, and head in a southerly direction.  About a block before the junction of Independence and King George V Streets, I stop to place my take-out order at Marvo’s Corner. This talented lady (qui parle francais aussi) and her husband have created little roadside snack shops that rival all the others.  Marvo serves up Creole-style breakfast meals ‘to go’, such as substantial bakes (like deep fried bread)  filled with omelettes, seasoned codfish, provisions (starchy vegetables) and salad, fresh local juices, fruit or vegetable smoothies, accras (deep fried seasoned often with tasty little fish) and other filling snacks.  If you’re going home, back to your guest house, over to the Botannical Gardens or on an outing, you can pack these hearty treats to take with you.  For those who are planning a long hike, or simply relish the taste of something rich and sweet, be sure to ask for energizing homemade cocoa tea with coconut milk.  It’s the best in Roseau!

Pearl’s Cuisine in the Sutton Place Hotel’s dining room fills with hungry patrons who enjoy the lovely  ambience and delicious meals.

The Sutton Place Hotel is a welcoming place with good food in the heart of the city.

Another of my favourite food stops , if I happen to be in town on  either a Wednesday or a Saturday, is Pearl’s Cuisine (448-8707) in the historic Sutton Place Hotel on Old Street.  My main mission is to devour a substantial  and very economical West Indian roti, which is packed with  either a curried meat or fish or vegetarian filling, other cooked vegetables and wrapped up in a flour ‘skin’.  I love the ambience of this pretty dining room.  At lunch time, the place fills with a veritable mix of hungry diners and can be a real who’s who of various professionals who have business offices in the area.  Of course, tourists, expats and conference participants know that a roti lunch will hit the spot any Wednesday or Saturday of the year! (NOTE: As of November 2012, some rotis (chicken and vegetable) are available from Monday to Saturday, but are no longer served as twice weekly specials due to the unfortunate death of the man who prepared the genuine roti ‘skins’.  The staff assures me that once someone else is found who can undertake this particular skill, then they will offer specials once again).

Now it’s time to digest those wonderful meals and head home.  There is much more to be said about Roseau, of course.  The gardens and the government buildings will feature in subsequent posts.  Hope you can join me on my next ‘walk’ around town!

References:

Honychurch, Lennox. Dominica: Isle of Adventure. Second Edition. (MacMillan), 1995.

Honychurch, Lennox.  Historic Roseau: The Capital of Dominica. (Paramount), 2000.

SHAPE (Society for Heritage, Architecture, Preservation and Enhancement. Self-guided walking tour: Historic Roseau. (booklet).

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Hanging Out at the funky Zam Zam Cafe in Citronier, near Roseau Dominica

Even when skies are gray, Zam Zam Cafe`s beachfront invites guests to relax and gaze  on the seemingly endless Caribbean Sea.

UPDATE: (MARCH 2014) Zam Zam Cafe  has reopened with the same great food and service, including the addition of culinary talent, Chef Floyd.  They had experienced extensive damage in a severe rain storm that occurred on December 24, 2013.  It had been closed for a few months. Tom and his wife Irieri worked very hard to repair, restore and improve upon the seaside setting that is Zam Zam. They received no assistance of any kind (as did others were were adversely affected by the storm) but were able to perservere with their creative vision of the setting.  The end result is absolutely stunning!   The reopening of Zam Zam is wonderful news and a Mexican-inspired dining experience at this lovely establishment is more than worth it! (GW)

 

I admit that  there are many wonderful places to watch the sunset on the west coast of Dominica.   But there is something about the simply sweet ambience and fabulous Mexican food at the Zam Zam Cafe that pulls in a crowd most afternoons.  It is earthy and rustic,  set in wood and stone construction, accented with plenty of potted plants and adorned with exotic wall art.

Tom and Irieri have created a popular south side (of Roseau) Mexican inspired eatery.

When I went there a few Fridays ago to meet friends for a little `lime`(it means hanging out, West Indian style, if you recall…), owners Tom, a British expat and his wife Irieri, who hails from Mexico, welcomed me warmly.

The Anchorage Hotel is located just south of Zam Zam. Their catamaran called Passion was heading out for a late afternoon party sail. This is the boat that I sailed on to Marie-Galante, French West Indies.

It was an overcast day, so there was no spectacular sunset.  No one seemed to mind.  A few people relaxed on chairs by the seaside.  Others ventured into the warm waters for a refreshing dip before dinner.  Before I settled down at my seat, I ambled around  the rocky beach and admired a number of boats that were moored close by at the Anchorage Hotel, Whale Watch and Dive Centre.

The rocky shoreline to the north of Zam Zam Cafe is ideal for shell seekers and sea gazers.

Despite the close proximity of other homes and businesses, the café and its beachfront were very private and quiet.  The surf gently touched the shoreline.  Soft music played  in the background as I joined my group for a pre-dinner drink at our table.  Of the numerous choices, both alcoholic and non-alcoholic, I was craving a Margarita, but felt that full strength would be too strong for me.  I asked the friendly waitress for only a few drops of tequila  and she graciously complied.  Of course, there is a Mexican-Latin American emphasis  on all offerings at Zam Zam. Tasty Sunrises, Mohitos and Coronas are on the expansive beverage menu.

Tables are adorned with flowers, tucked cozily amidst plants and situated so that there is always a seaside view. (Photo taken facing inland, of course!)

We laughed and chatted for some time as we nursed our drinks and admired the darkening sky and twinkling lights of Roseau to the north.  Suddenly, we collectively agreed that we were ravenously hungry.  Most of us were repeat customers and already knew what we wanted to enjoy that evening.  Some of the gathering had already nibbled on hearty nachos and chips, but clearly desired more of the delicious offerings. While most people selected a burrito with different fillings, I chose a chicken quesadilla.  Once the substantial meals arrived, everyone devoured their dinners and remarked on their wonderful flavours.  Mine was too big for me to eat at one time.  I got to take half of it home, with  zesty salsa on the side.  Some people even had room for dessert – it was ice cream that evening – a perfect complement to the mildly spicy main course.

When my tummy was filled and my eyelids started to droop, I bid farewell to the assembled gang and paid up my reasonably priced bill.  I promised Tom that I would be back to Zam Zam very soon for more good eats in such a pleasant atmosphere.  Hasta pronto!

Zam Zam Cafe (440-7969; 612-7471) is open from noon to 10 p.m., Wednesday to Sunday. It is located about one mile south of Roseau, next to the Anchorage Hotel.

Roseau Dominica: Charming Caribbean Capital – Part 1

Hurricane season is here – and the heat and humidity are turned up high!  As you might imagine, the Nature Island is showered with rain, sometimes gentle and sometimes fierce at this time of year.  Although it doesn’t stop me from hiking, I am mindful of approaching storms and  inclement weather, as there are increased risks of flooding and landslides.

It’s no matter really – I can still get a good work-out around the capital city Roseau – and a sauna on the streets if I am there in the heat of the day.

This charming Caribbean capital is filled with history, gorgeous views and diverse shops and houses – both old and new.

For me, this town provides endless fascination, as its mood and temperature can dramatically change from early morning to late afternoon.  And every day is different too!

I like to walk up to the top of  Morne Bruce, which was once the island’s largest military fort.  It is situated above the Botanical Gardens.  It’s a lovely spot to take in a bird’s-eye view of Roseau on a quiet Sunday morning or a late afternoon, when the sun is sinking low over the Caribbean Sea.  The roughly half hour climb up the road is steep and is  good preparation for any future foray into the forest!  The following pictures depict some of the sites/sights  seen from above the town:

The 12,000 seat cricket stadium features prominently when looking down from Morne Bruce. The Botanical Gardens are in the foreground.

People often light memorial candles at the base of the Morne Bruce Cross which overlooks Roseau.

Behind the cross, one can gaze inland up the Roseau Valley to Morne Micotrin (Macaque), a dormant volcano.

Scotts Head is seen in the distance when walking up or down the road to Morne Bruce.The village that appears to be in front of the promontory is Pointe Michel.

The only cannon left on Morne Bruce from the 18th century seems to protect Roseau from an imaginary invasion.

The Roseau Public Library is among my favourite hang-outs in town.

Once back down from the Morne, two of my favourite haunts are found nearby on Victoria Street, on the  southern approach to the downtown part of Roseau.  I love the Roseau Public Library – and that’s no exaggeration!  This stately building is just over a century old, and was actually built with funds donated by American philanthropist Andrew Carnegie. I credit this little library with expanding my tastes in literature and always offering me books of interest to take home and enjoy every week.   It’s a comfortable place to study or write, and they have wireless internet too.  The book choice is broad.  I’ve read classics, current and past best sellers, Nobel and Pulitzer Prize winners, foreign authors in English translation and little known gems of literature. I’ve even expanded my familiarity with past and contemporary Canadian and West Indian writers.  There are many generous donors, including authors, expatriates, the Canadian Consulate, the U.S. Embassy and some cruise ship lines.  The library has an online public access catalogue (OPAC), so you can look at their collection, no matter where you are!

The main entrance to the Fort Young Hotel on Victoria Street. This establishment is a very popular place to socialize and/or stay awhile.

As I continue towards the town centre, I always pass by and sometimes go into to the historic Fort Young Hotel, which was originally built in 1770.  It became the Police Headquarters in the mid-19th century and then was converted into tourist accommodation in 1964. However, it was demolished by Hurricane David in 1979 and did not reopen until 1989.  It’s a very popular spot for a cool drink, a seaside meal, special events and meetings. Their famous Friday Happy Hour always draws a crowd.  It’s a great place to meet and greet friends – both old and new!

Remembrance Day 2012 at the Cenotaph in Roseau Dominica. The President of Dominica, Eluid Williams is in the dark suit in the centre of the photo.

On the way to the Bay Front and the Cruise Ship Pier, I take note of the War Memorial (Cenotaph) at the round-about on my right.  That’s where I attend the official Remembrance Day commemorative service every year.  Across the road, Peebles Park offers benches and shady trees, as well as a bandstand, which is always used by the Government Band for its ever-popular annual Christmas Concert.

The cruise ships can anchor  at the pier on the Bay Front in downtown Roseau. Photo by Edwin Whitford

During the cruise ship season, I really enjoy

A number of cruise liners anchor at Roseau during the tourist season (Oct. - Apr.)

A number of cruise liners anchor at Roseau during the tourist season (Oct. – Apr.)

watching those massive boats anchor along the pier.  It’s also fun to see them off.   I always hope that all the passengers who disembarked on the Nature Isle had a truly wonderful day.

The Dominica Museum is a great place to learn more about Dominica’s history and culture. The Tourist Information office is on the ground floor of this building.

In order to refresh my memory about Dominican history, geography, geology and culture, I occasionally re-visit the Dominica Museum, which is directly opposite the Cruise Ship Pier. It’s filled with artifacts, maps and displays.  I always come away with a better understanding of this country and am constantly in awe of its unique attributes.  Then I like to go behind the Museum and walk around the Old Market.  This particular cobblestone square is rife with history. It was a public gathering place for meetings, as well as slave auctions and punishments in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.   In addition, it was a market where at one time the trade was fruits and vegetables. This is now in another site called the ‘New Market’ – to be described in  another post.   These days, colourful stalls showcase and sell crafts, clothing, local music, and other products of interest to visitors and residents alike.  I enjoy purchasing trinkets, locally made products, T-shirts and beach wraps from the friendly vendors for gifts when I travel to Canada.

This old fountain stands over what was once a well for potable water in the Old Market Square.

The quaint Cartwheel Cafe on Roseau’s Bay Front is situated in a sturdy stone structure that has endured for more than a century and a half!

The friendly staff at the Cartwheel Cafe serve up delicious dishes and make everyone feel at home!

By now, I’ve been walking and looking around for a couple of hours.  It’s time for some refreshment at the Cartwheel Cafe (448-5353), which is  just a few steps north on the opposite side of the Bay Front from the Cruise Ship Pier.  I usually devour their Dominican breakfast, and especially enjoy the codfish plate.  If I’m just looking for a snack, I’ll typically munch on a couple of tuna-filled quiches.  Their local lunches are always large and flavourful. These tasty meals hit the spot after a big work-out (such as this amble around town!). I usually end up taking home a slice of their delectable chocolate cake for later –  in my estimation it’s the best in Roseau!

My walk around Roseau will continue on another day.  In the next post, I’ll be showing you some diverse streetscapes.  They’re an awesome mix of old and new!

References:

Honychurch, Lennox. Dominica: Isle of Adventure. Second Edition. (MacMillan), 1995.

Honychurch, Lennox.  Historic Roseau: The Capital of Dominica. (Paramount), 2000.

SHAPE (Society for Heritage, Architecture, Preservation and Enhancement. Self-guided walking tour: Historic Roseau. (booklet).