I stayed in Roseau for the majority of my two-week visit to Dominica, and due to that I got to know the city fairly well. On my first foray into the downtown area, where the mix of modern and French colonial buildings press in on the small roads that crisscross through the city, I couldn’t help but find myself feeling very intimidated. The roads, which were narrow to begin with, usually had cars parked on either side, and despite the fact that they were one-lane and one-way, walking through the city was a game of trying to stay out of every drivers’ way.
The sidewalks in the city were wide enough for two people to pass in some areas, in other places they were just wide enough for one person, and in others, they were nonexistent; while walking down one street, I often encountered all three, and this often forced me, and the other people walking the city to weave in and out of the street. On top of dodging cars, almost every sidewalk was made of separate slabs of concrete, which usually weren’t level, and I had to keep my eyes on the ground to avoid tripping, especially since most of the streets and sidewalks were lined with open drainage ditches, which were at least a foot deep.
Despite my discomfort during the first few days of my stay, Roseau slowly grew on me, and once I got the hang of walking through the city, I found that there was a lot to explore and enjoy. The part of Roseau that is familiar to most of its visitors is the cruise dock, and the shops that line the ocean. When cruises are docked, tabletop sellers gather along the water’s edge and between the buildings nearest the cruise harbor. The Dominica Museum and visitor’s center are also in this area, and unfortunately, I was unable to visit the museum due to my schedule. The entrance fee is only $3 US, and the museum was put together by the famous Dominica/Caribbean historian Lennox Honychurch, so I think that the museum is most likely well worth the visit.
Besides the museum, this area is home to the Fort Young Hotel, a historic landmark that was once a fort built and rebuilt by the French and British as they struggled for control of the island. I stopped for lunch here, and kept to the dock-side bar to avoid the expensive food in the hotel’s restaurant, and it was well worth the visit. The hotel itself was beautiful, and few of us would complain about stopping to eat lunch right next the Caribbean Sea, in the shadow of one of the massive cruise ships that characterize tourism in this region. Another place that I frequented in this area during my stay was the Cartwheel Café.
This little, blue roofed restaurant was recommended to me by the hotel manager of the inn where I stayed, and it did not disappoint. The restaurant itself was a small, stone building, with the a large window at one end, and a high, airy ceiling which was decorated with Kalinago baskets. It was a comfortable, quiet space, despite the bustling market just outside its doors, and their breakfast was both delicious and well-priced.
Another area that I ended up visiting more than once was Roseau’s Botanical Gardens. In terms of some of the other botanical gardens that I have seen, there wasn’t much to it. Mostly, the garden is just a large expanse of grass ringed by large trees with a few picnic tables tucked into the cool shadows of the foliage. It is a popular area for cricket games on the weekends, and plenty of locals used the area as a relaxing area to lunch during the work week.
Besides this recreational area, there is an organic monument to Hurricane David of 1979- a massive downed tree that crushed an empty school bus during the violence of the storm. The tree itself continues to grow, despite its traumatic past, and it seemed someone symbolic to me of the bravery and persistence of the families that survived the storm. The botanical gardens are also home to the Parrot Conservation and Research Center as well as the Mountain Chicken Captive Breeding and Research Facility. As far as I could tell, these weren’t accessible to visitors, but I did get a glimpse of a Sisserou parrot from the trail towards Jack’s Walk.
Jack’s Walk is a short trail that leads up Morne Bruce to the east of the park, through a quiet wooded area. When I hiked up here, there were a variety of rather large lizards scampering through the underbrush, and this made the trek rather interesting, as I spent a good amount of time trying to snap off a photo of one of them- to no avail.
At the top of the trail is a flat grassy area with beautiful views of Roseau and the Caribbean sea, and centered by a large monument of a crucifix. Under the shade of one of the large trees here, I relaxed, enjoyed the ocean breeze, and stayed long enough for several anoles to feel comfortable revealing themselves to me.
In terms of my day-to-day life in Roseau, there were some things about the city that I greatly enjoyed. First, the city is a hub for the buses that run to all different parts of the island, and thus travelling out from here is fairly easy. It should be noted, however, that many buses run only in the morning and afternoon as locals move from their neighborhoods to get to work, so planning ahead is necessary. Second, Roseau has a massive open market where a vast variety of fresh fruits, vegetables, and fish was available. There were also some standard supermarkets which made it easy to avoid eating out three times a day. I have never been to a busier supermarket, however, and one Saturday when I visited the line to check out went from the front of the store, all the way to the back, and while waiting, there were a good number of people who tried to cut, which made getting to the register somewhat difficult. Finally, I was surprised to find that pretty much everything was closed on Sunday, besides the hotel restaurants.
While in Roseau, I stayed in a small inn in Riverside, called Narakiel’s Inn. The nightly rates were very reasonable, the room was small but comfortable and clean, and the area was just outside of downtown Roseau, and thus a nice place to seek some calm after braving the city. Besides this, the hotel manager here was very accommodating and proved to be a great source for local information.
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