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Welcome to Dominica

I woke up this morning in Dominica. I'm staying at the Roseau Valley Hotel, which is almost like staying at grandma's house. It's decorated like a grandma's house. The owners are friendly and care about the guests like a grandma. The hotel is just outside of town, so you have to take the bus in order to get anywhere. To get to town for breakfast, I just started walking down the road, waiting for a bus to come get me. Before a bus got me though, some lady pulled over and asked if I needed a ride to town.In the states, I would never accept a ride from somebody I didn't know. In the states, nobody but a loon is likely to offer. One thing I've learned about Caribbean culture is that it's common to stop and offer rides like that. It's just normal. I'm not saying don't use caution or don't listen to your instincts. I also wouldn't intentionally hitchhike ever. But, when some nice old lady offers, I accept. I know my mom isn't happy about reading that, but it's just an accepted part of the culture here and not something odd like it is in the states these days. While the ride is only a few minutes, we had a lovely conversation. One of the things we talked about is how calypso music is so local. Each island has its own political situation and the calypso songs sing to it. However, that prevents a cross-island appeal as the folks on one island don't really know about or care about what is going on in the government of the other the same way they do about their own government. She was suggesting that if the calypsonians occasionally sang about carnival or bacchanal (like the soca bands do) they might have a better chance of getting heard elsewhere. In any case, she dropped me in town and pointed out to me which way to the various things to see. I grabbed a quick breakfast of a cheap guava turnover at Frans' Patisserie in town and headed towards the river and the ocean.They meet at the market. It was early and there was no cruise ship in, so the market was full of folks selling their vegetables and fruits. I even passed a fish stand where a lady was scaling the fish right in front of everybody. The souvenir vendors were just getting set up, but they were relatively sparse compared to the produce vendors.I strolled up the road that fronts the ocean. Since the cruise ships pull right up to it (and dwarf the town), that is also the hub for the touristy things. For example, the Dominica museum is right there. The museum is pretty good for the Caribbean. The pictures are bright and varied. The topics range from the geology that created the island to the creatures living in the reefs surrounding the island, to the history of the island itself. I found the displays to be fun and informative- much better than the St. Barth's museum. Also in that area of town is a craft market where the locals can sell home-made crafts, and trinkets imported from China that happen to say “Dominica” on them. There were plenty of carvings and woven items though, so you're not stuck with generic souvenirs. At the end of the road that fronts the ocean is the Fort Young Hotel. The hotel is the fancy place to stay in town, so it has a tour desk and a dive shop right in it. I booked tomorrow's activities there. From there, I walked around town a bit. The town itself reminds me of Basseterre in many ways- the street vendors, the style of music emanating from the various radios, the type of shops present, the people in the streets. It is very different in others though- a lot of the buildings are much taller than those in Basseterre, the streets are wider in a lot of places, and there are a lot more homes mixed in with the businesses. Roseau also has a “local” fast food chain- Patty Shack. I got a patty there, just to see what fast-food Jamaican patties would be like. It wasn't anything special. In my wanderings, I headed up towards the botanical gardens and passed a few of the churches and schools. Since it was Friday before Carnival, a lot of the schools were having celebrations. I heard Gangnam Style blaring from one school. Another was having a calypso competition. As I walked around the botanic gardens (and sat there to read), I listened to the various calypsonians. They were good. Not “good for kids,” but good. I was definitely impressed with the songs that were coming from the school.The music made the botanic gardens much more enjoyable. I suppose that if you're really into botany, the gardens might be better, but for those of us who don't really know plants that much, it seemed like a regular large park. There was a lot of grassy area, and it made a nice place to sit, but there weren't a lot of exciting flowers to look at. There were some caged parrots that weren't doing much, but that's about it for excitement in the gardens. There are paths that leave the gardens and go out onto trails which may be exciting, but I'm not sure that going hiking alone is a good idea anywhere, especially somewhere you're unfamiliar with the paths, so I didn't take them. I grabbed the bus back to the hotel (it's super-cheap and easy) and napped a bit. I called my tour company to confirm the afternoon tour, but was told it was cancelled. This is the only time viator has ever failed me. I booked and had confirmation that I was going, but because there was only 1 person, the tour was cancelled. I was disappointed, but more so because I wasn't notified until I called. Instead, I ended up with a surprise tour. The nephew of one of the hotel owners apparently does tours, and he offered me an afternoon tour. First though, I got a quick lunch at a Chinese restaurant by the digicel building. The restaurant is upstairs, so got a nice view of the town AND I got the bonus of hearing some of the calypsonians sing because digicel was running some event right caddy-corner from the restaurant. The Chinese restaurant was a typical Caribbean restaurant. I specifically asked “do you have?” when I ordered, knowing that on any given day a typical Caribbean restaurant doesn't have half the items that the menu contains. I still had to re-order. The food tasted Chinese though, and not Indian-style Chinese, so I was happy with that. After lunch, I went on my tour. I was driven south to Soufriere and the end of the island. The end of the island juts out as a big rock that is climbable. As we hiked it to the area with the old canon, I learned some of the history of the island. Like most Caribbean islands, Dominica went back and forth between the French and the British many times. It was especially desirable as it has great farmland and abundant natural resources. While there is a strong French influence (Creole is spoken by the locals), it was in British hands when the battles were over. One interesting point my guide made was that most of the islands that ended in French hands are still part of France today, but most of the islands that ended in British hands are independent countries, or feel like they're closer to the USA than Great Britain. Apparently a lot of this has to do with treatment. He said that the citizens of the French “colonies” get full French rights, whereas the citizens of the British “colonies” don't get all the British rights. Therefore, many of them became independent countries, but they still remain within the commonwealth (like Canada and Australia). That's why they have their own money with The Queen on it. After viewing Soufriere from the rock, we went into the town. It is a small town, but it has a very unique and beautiful church. Right by the church was a fence and a hole in the ground that had a sign saying “Bubble Spa.” Soufriere is named for the French word for “sulfur” because there are lots of sulfur springs. Apparently, that one was turned into a spa. I was headed to a “real” one though. The government has a bunch of parks and natural sites that you can buy passes for and then go to, one of which is a sulfur “spa.” I bought my pass and went in. It was basically a rock-lined pool filled with sulfur-orange water that was coming in from who-knows-where and leaving down a little outlet that led to a creek. The pool is in the middle of the woods, so it's actually very relaxing. At this point, it started to drizzle, so the nice warm water felt really good. The pool was nice and relaxing- it was in the quiet woods, the tour guide and I were the only ones there, and the water was so very warm. If I had been stressed before, I certainly wasn't afterwards.It was a nice end to the tour and the day.

produce market

produce market


streets of Roseau

streets of Roseau


Streets of Roseau

Streets of Roseau


botanical gardens

botanical gardens


end of the island

end of the island


canon at end of island

canon at end of island


Soufriere Bay rainbow

Soufriere Bay rainbow


Soufriere church

Soufriere church


Soufriere sulfur springs

Soufriere sulfur springs

Posted by spsadventures 16:00 Archived in Dominica

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