Independent Canadian book publisher with office in Dominica, W.I. specializing in coffee table books of architectural treasures and lush gardens. We also promote fine artistic photography. This blog contains unofficial reports and comments from our various trips, photo sessions, and jobs – an unofficial scrapbook of our travels, explorations and photo-related work. See “about” for more.

_DAG8956-smWe were fortunate this year to attend the Giraudel Flower Show in Dominica, where we live now. This special event was held in the village of Giraudel situated on the slopes of Morne Anglais, one of the tallest mountains in the south. The village of Giraudel is known as the “flower basket” of Dominica.

At the entrance to the show

At the entrance to the show

Rich volcanic soil and frequent rains make ideal conditions for growing flowers and healthy vegetables this village is famous for. The Flower Show started in 1973 and grew out of local celebrations of Achievement Day, showcasing local produce, crafts and the best gardens. Since then it was run every second or third year with a bigger break after devastating hurricane David. _DAG8903sm

Sybil Alfred and Desmond Augustine at the Show.

Sybil Alfred and Desmond Augustine at the Show.

We, the Flower Grower Group, recently bought this piece of land and finally have a permanent home for the show,” explains Sybil Alfred- one of the organizers who is involved from the very beginning. “It is very much a community effort, everyone contributes in a different way and everyone is welcome – from small individual growers to commercial flower shops and gardens”.
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”We went into the small house containing flower arrangements. “This year’s general theme is ‘Flowers in a changing environment’”, says Sybil. “When you look around, you see trees being cut, too much garbage and destruction. We say- stop this and concentrate on natural beauty instead.” The display space is divided into sections with different themes and corresponding flower arrangements. Some of the themes are: “Prevent destruction”, “Protect nature’s diversity”, “Resilience”, “Bury careless damage”, “Eat local”, “Harmony with nature” and the last one: “We will bloom again.”

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The display is colourful and striking. Different varieties of Anthurium, Ginger and Costus are the most frequently used plants, together with Alstroemeria, Dahlia and Marigold. I really like a bouquet made of blue Agapanthus- these showy globes are three times bigger than what we grew in our garden in British Columbia, Canada. I truly started to be fond of these strong combination of reds, orange and yellow only when we begun to work on our book “Exotic Gardens of the Easter Caribbean”. As a gardener, I’ve always preferred pastels, whites and textural plants – but here, under tropical sun these vibrant colours really make a strong statement against the background of intensely green rainforest.

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We step outside into the sunshine and wonder around another section showing a variety of natural landscapes and different growing conditions on the island: from lush rainforest of the interior to dry Caribbean coast. This section is skilfully put together by Desmond Augustine, owner of the local plant nursery and a master florist. Here the display includes funky mannequins impersonating workers in the fields.
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But this is not everything: there is a tree house with ferns, a shade garden, a field of colourful zinnias, bromeliads… there is still so much to see! We had a wonderful time discovering all corners of the Giraudel Flower Show and ended up buying beautiful peace lily, spathiphyllum wallisii to be planted in our garden later on. I can’t imagine a more enjoyable Sunday afternoon.
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I wish you were here!
Until next time!
– Margaret.

If you enjoy this story, please SHARE, let your friends read it too!
Thanks!

Story by Margaret Gajek
Photos: Derek Galon, Ozone Zone. Please respect copyright.

Martinique

Beginning of this year has been extremely busy for us, filled with new, exciting, and often challenging projects. Among other activities we contributed articles and dozens of images to several publications including two last editions of MACO Magazine – the ever-popular Caribbean lifestyle magazine. Our write-ups are about unique and quirky homes on Dominica island where we now live. MACO also featured our story about rebirth of Montserrat after it’s last devastating volcano eruption. When our family came from England for a visit, we decided to take a short break from work, and travel with them to a neighbouring island of Martinique._DSC7245

We boarded catamaran ferry operated by L’Express des Iles which links a few nearby islands with Dominica. From the ferry you can really see how extraordinarily beautiful this mountainous island is, covered with lush greenery and surrounded by turquoise coral reefs.

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Last glimpse at Dominica – heading to Martinique

Our boat left calm Caribbean Sea and entered rough Atlantic waters. With strong winds it could be a rough ride. Fortunately, the day was calm and soon we were able to see silhouettes of approaching Martinique. It is much more populated than Dominica – over four hundred thousand people live there. From a boat you can clearly see quaint little villages dotting the coastline, and much bigger concentration of population around the Fort-de-France area. It is a metropolis comparing to Dominica with only seventy-two thousand inhabitants.

photo: Derek Galon

Bibliotheque Schoelcher by architect Pierre-Henri Picq

The first thing we noticed after leaving the ferry terminal in Fort-de-France was an elaborate, colourful building of Bibliotheque Schoelcher on the other side of grassy lawns of La Savanne park. Its architecture has a fairy tale quality, and perhaps could look more at home somewhere in Turkey or Italy – maybe because of eclectic, curious mixture of different designing influences including Byzantine, Art Nouveau and ethnic building traditions of French colonies. Library is named in honour of Victor Schoelcher, the French cabinet minister and influential abolitionist. In 1883 he donated books from his own collection to the people of Martinique and was inspiration for this development.

This intricate building was designed by Pierre- Henri Picq in 1884, built in Paris, displayed at the 1889 World Exposition and shipped in pieces to Fort-de-France. Picq is also an architect of other city landmarks like Cathedral St-Louis, Grand Marche – covered produce market, and corner building of Magasin du Printemps. His another eye-catching building, the Museo Artequin in Santiago, Chile, perhaps resembles Bibliotheque Schoelcher the most. Interestingly, in most English speaking travel guides (including Lonely Planet) his last name is spelled Pick, which explains why I couldn’t find any information about him on-line on English sites.

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Patisserie Friandises des Iles – our most favourite, perhaps the best small chain in Martinique, with shops in Fort de France, Schoelcher, and case Pilote.

The old city of Fort-de-France is small but full of interesting buildings and… patisseries. Our sightseeing was seriously distracted by our weakness for sweets – but how can you resist delicious French eclairs with fluffy, delicate and fragrant cream?

We took a drive up the scenic coastal road north, which goes through old fishing villages. Our favourite was Case Pilote with old stone church and a charming town square with town hall, a water fountain in the middle and yes, a delicious patisserie.

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Fountain in Case-Pilote

Atmospheric town of St Pierre has a fascinating and gloomy history. On May 8th , 1902 the whole city was totally destroyed by pyroclastic flow from erupting volcano of Mont Pelee in 10 short minutes. The speed of black clouds carrying volcanic gases and burning ash was over 670km per hour and temperature as high as 1,075 degrees C. Wikipedia brings a very detailed description of this tragic eruption. Nearly 30 thousand people lost their lives. One of the lucky escapists was a prisoner named Cyparis, locked in a jail cell.

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Mont Pelee

Not much have been left from the original city. The most impressive ruins are of an old 18th- century theatre, which once seated 800. It was built in 1786, reconstructed in 1831, resembling a theatre in Bordeaux. Well preserved a double set of stairways gives a sense of grandeur and an enormous scale of the building.

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Double set of stairs to amphiteatre

Depth of the stage allowed for big productions, ranging from classical to vaudeville as well as great operas. Setting for the theatre is as spectacular as the building itself – located on a hill with spectacular views of the sea and Mont Pelee.

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Mt Pelee seen through old gate of theatre

In times of its glory it must have been an awe inspiring sight. Curiously, the theatre was closed down shortly before the eruption of Mont Pelee as a result of huge loans for renovations in 1900, that couldn’t be paid off.

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Old, rusted trasnformer in theater ruins.

 

We wandered through the narrow streets of this fascinating town ending up (of course!) in another delicious patisserie.

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Remainings of the theater

Back from this short trip, refreshed and excited, we got back to our work with new energy – but this is yet another story…

Until next Time! Cheers!
Derek and Margaret

If you like this story, please Share and Like it.
Story by Margaret Gajek
Photographs by Derek Galon – please respect copyright.
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Front of a typical old house in St Pierre

We did not post anything for quite a while. It was a very busy time for us. Among other things we had to process all images, organize judging, Awards Gala evening here in Roseau, Dominica, and take care of other tasks to finalize the 3rd International Ozone Zone Photo Salon 2015. And yes – the Salon is closed and the catalog of winning and accepted images is already posted on line.

If you enjoy fine photography, please have a look. There are some amazing entries, and we are proud to see so many great works. We already work on the next competition – our 4th Salon, to be open in early June.  Here are links to the winners’ list and the catalogue. Enjoy!

The catalogue is here:
http://www.internationalphotocompetition.com/catalogue2015/index.html#p=1

The list of winners and accepted images by country is here:
http://www.internationalphotocompetition.com/index.php/en/winners

 

The image below is our Grand Prix winner, titled Awakening, by Marek Biegalski from Ireland. Congratulations to the author!
(image is copyrighted, no usage without author’s agreement)

Awakening - Marek Biegalski, Ireland.

Awakening – Marek Biegalski, Ireland.

See you next time, cheers!

Derek and Margaret

_DAG1505_6_7-Panorama-sm-sAbout a month passed since the tropical storm Erika lashed  Dominica, flash-flooding it with about 15 inches of rain in mere 10 hours of time. It was in the news around the world, so I won’t repeat the tragic ordeal we all experienced here. With the destruction and heavy losses, the whole country stood together working hard to patch the biggest wounds as soon as possible. Countless and  huge  landslides are in most part cleared, temporary bridges are being installed, whole villages keep working together on major cleanups. Both airports are reopened and the tourist season will start soon.  And guess what? Dominica is still as beautiful as ever!
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We both were anxious to find out what happened with most popular and beautiful attractions, making the Dominica what it is – the “Nature Island of the Caribbean”. Weather became beautiful once again. We packed our photo and video gear, and went on hiking.  Trafalgar Falls – the iconic falls were easy to drive to, and we were impressed how quickly landslides were cleared off the long, winding road. The falls themselves changed a lot. Not only they are now devoid of much vegetation, exposing huge, bare boulders (some of which are freshly fallen, pushed by massive power of flooding waters), but also another surprising change occurred. _DAG1453_4_5-sm-sHidden for decades, hot sulfur springs running next to the taller waterfall were uncovered by the storm. So, now the waterfall is joined by picturesque hot springs, clearly visible thanks to their sulfur-stained, intense orange rocks. The milky water running down the spring mixes with fresh water of the waterfall in a small rocky pool, making it a delightful option for a nice, warmer bath.  We went up and close to both falls which was a bit tricky as we had to drag with us about 20 kilograms of photo gear, and it is not a typical hike but rather jumping and climbing between huge builders, constantly up and down. Our efforts were well rewarded by the beauty of the newly reshaped falls. To be so close to them, to hear hiss of falling water, feel the cool breeze of tiny droplets – it was quite magical experience. We photographed, filmed with drone and regular video camera, and enjoyed every minute of this blissful time. It was so good to see the falls in full glory, perhaps even more unique than before._DAG1475_6_7-sm-s

See them up and close as we did, simply play the HD video we are sharing with you. We hope you will enjoy!

Fantastic weather continued, and just couple of days later we decided to check the trail to Boeri Lake, and our favourite Freshwater Lake. Driving up the steep road to Laudat, once again we were impressed with amount of work done to clear dozens of huge landslides. Parts of the road damaged by floods are already being restored and fixed.

We arrived at the beginning of trail without problems, and started the one hour long hike to Boeri Lake. The views were breath-taking and hike was fun. In one spot we had to take hiking shoes off to cross a shallow  river, which added a flavour to our walk. The trail survived Erika really well and  the whole hike was really enjoyable. Arriving at the end of path, we looked in silence at the serene, small but amazing Boeri Lake. [Group-6]-_DAG1683_4_5__DAG1704_5_6-8-images-sm-s
It is the highest freshwater lake in Dominica, set in an old volcano crater at 850 meters above sea level. Air is cool and fresh here, lush greenery around  – pristine and unspoilt.  We were alone, enjoying the serene feel of the place. The weather was fantastic and lake full of vibrant green and blue colours. We were told most times it is misty and cloudy here, with lake looking mostly  black and eerie. Seemingly we were lucky to catch it on one of these clear, sunny days.  Looking closer we were surprised to realize that water level was clearly much higher than usually. Grass and smaller plants were visible some two feet under water, adding a green carpet to the shallow shore of the lake. _DAG1719_20_21-sm-s

As we descended back, we decided to stop at the nearby Freshwater Lake, which is in the same area and located just slightly lower. We were there just 6 weeks earlier, and saw it covered with low clouds, mist and fog. At this time, however, it looked sunny and happy, inviting for a quick, refreshing swim.  Never before we saw this place with no wind at all, so calm, fresh and still. I just had to fly our drone and film it.

Same as with Trafalgar Falls, we would like to share our hike with you and show you our short video clip. We hope you will enjoy!

These two trips awaken our appetites to see more. We plan to visit other places soon, filming and photographing them for you.
So, subscribe to our blog and be among the first to know our new posts. And if you like what you see – please SHARE with friends.
Until next time, cheers!

Derek and Margaret

Please note: all images/video are copyrighted, please respect our rights. no usage without authorization. Thank you!

When it rains - it pours...

When it rains – it pours…

Danny is coming! Tropical storm Danny transformed to Hurricane 2, and is coming. People were a bit uneasy. When it came, seriously weakened and without much umph, leaving just a bit of rain behind – people were relieved. There was in the news that anther tropical storm – Erica – is on the way. But the hurricane weakened so much encountering difficult conditions – Erica will be even less noticeable, people thought. It should pass far away – on the other side of Montserrat, heading to Virgin Islands. Too far from Dominica to be concerned.

We went to bed to be awaken by hammering sounds of rain on the roof. So loud. A heavy rain and some remote thunders. But it was only in the morning when we so how powerful this rain is. A wall of water, mixed with stormy wind gusts. A constant humm of water hitting the roof like a power wash, and hiss of wind bending old bamboo and coconut palms. The power went off, our Digicel mobile phones can’t find the network.

Our driveway looks like a stream

Our driveway looks like a stream

We found a pool of water in the kitchen and some water in other parts of the house. Roof clearly gave up a bit under constant showering. We dried things, and now – sitting in dark living room we are waiting for the storm to pass. Water is all around us. Our rainwater tank which usually takes several days of rain to fill, overflowed pouring water through bursting excess pipes. Our driveway turned to a stream, front lawn to a pool. Dogs hid under our bakers’ oven – the most secure and concealed spot in garage area. It also is wet, but not as wet as most other places. They didn’t even want to leave for their meal.

It is now after noon, thunders still rolling from time to time. With power off it is as dark as in early morning hours. Rain does not ease, and I can imagine the mess on Eggleston road. For sure there are some fallen trees and land slides – possible the reason behind no power. We are happy our stove uses gas, not electricity. At least we can have some hot tea, while waiting for the storm to pass. Erika – the Wet Lady. She clearly sent Danny as a decoy to have a more mighty entrance with an element of surprise. And – she succeeded!

Our road to village is blocked by this huge fallen tree, another fallen tree and two land slides...

Our road to village is blocked by this huge fallen tree, another fallen tree and two land slides…

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This is what I wrote in the morning of Erica’s arrival on my laptop. Battery died soon after, and no power and phone made it impossible to comprehend the scale of destruction.  Only after noon when rains eased a bit we went to the Retreat House – our neighbours – to find out about situation. And, we were told of terrible misery and damage! We had no idea! Then more and more details and stories came to life as we met with other neighbours and I started our generator, so we could use some moments of internet.

The second fallen tree. It broke our power line.

The second fallen tree. It broke our power line.

People working tirelessly to clear the road

I will not repeat all the tragic details, nor I will repost photos of destruction down on the coast which were shown by various papers and media. This is just our humble contribution to the whole image emerging slowly as the aftermath of this tragic night. We hear more and more stories about stranded tourists, people lost in mud slides, boat trips to cut-off fishing villages… It just starts to give us an idea as to the shocking size of this tragedy.
We can only say we are amazingly impressed with all people of Dominica. No hysteria, no fuss, just the sober understanding that it is up to all of us to clean this mess, and we need to get to it. If any nation can pull together and overcome this disaster – it is Dominica. Wish us luck and pray for us.

photos and text by Derek Galon. No usage without authorization.

We had a nice hike last week – around the Freshwater Lake in the Morne Trois Pitons Natonal Park. It used to be our favorite place when we were coming to Dominica as visitors, only for a short time. Now, because we live here, we have an opportunity to take our time and hike the entire loop around the lake and enjoy stunning vistas.

Freshwater Lake, Dominica

Freshwater Lake, Dominica. Sun behind fast moving clouds creates spectacle of lights.

When we left the capital town of Roseau, car thermometer showed 31 C; upon arrival to parking lot, temperature dropped to 20C. We are on elevation of over 700m above sea level, high in the mountains, at the heart of the island. There’s always wind blowing clouds of mist soothing the skin after scorching heat of the city. We breathe deeply fresh air and take a first look at the lake. It’s situated in a valley surrounded by sharp peaks covered by montane rainforest, dense patchwork of every shade of green color. The natural beauty of the place is astounding; it is also very calm and serene. As we start to hike, thoughts and noises in our heads gradually quiet down, and we fell under charm of this magical place.

The trail is made entirely of steps held together by wooden logs and tree fern trunks. We’re lucky it isn’t raining; it can be really slippery. Apart from the wind, there is only glass flute-like sound of mountain whistler (rufous- throated solitaire) singing long notes, beautiful and soothing. We climb steeply uphill taking a closer look at the unique vegetation found only on higher elevations. Shrubs and trees form a dense, low growing thicket dripping with moisture from the swirling clouds. There seems to be more ferns, bromeliads and epiphytic plants than anywhere else. Some plants are striking like Lobelia stricta with spiny leaves or epiphytic vine with red and yellow flowers (Alloplectus cristatus)

Finally, we are at the top of the ridge, and views are amazing! We can see Freshwater Lake shrouded in mist and all volcanic peaks of the interior. Standing there, you can see both sides of the island (how small this island really is!): to the west there is Caribbean sea, to the east, distant views of Rosalie Bay on the Atlantic side. The path descents and climbs up again yet to another peak with slightly different vistas, equally stunning. _DSC5429_30_31

After the walk we feel thoroughly refreshed and amazingly light-hearted. We have to return there soon.

Actually, we may return indeed, as while hiking and enjoying the natural beauty of this place, our old idea of creating a coffee table book about Dominica rippened in our minds, and we just decided it is time to do it. Therefore in upcoming months we will be travelling the island scouting for most picturesque locations, photographing, interviewing people, and collecting all material for this fine task. It may take up to a year to produce it, but we hope it will be as nice as our Exotic Gardens of the Eastern Caribbean, Tropical Homes of the Eastern Caribbean – or even better, as our publishing experience over last years accumulates, helping us do what we love better and better._DSC5438

We will keep you posted on progress of our works, therefore please subscribe to this blog, and share it with friends.
Cheers!
Margaret and Derek

All photos by Derek Galon, writing by Margaret Gajek. Please respect copyright.

Serenity

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Morne Guay, our current home.

Last couple of months were a busy time for us. We received our residency documents, created proposal for publishing a tourism magazine, edited videos for Tourism authority in Montserrat  (lots of my photos from 3 months ago are already on their new Web site, check it out!), and took some more photos and aerial videos for clients in Dominica. We are also updating our photo competition site and work on improving our culinary skills – in order to soon open so called “closed door restaurant” here in Dominica. On top of that we meet with our architect and builder, preparing our land to build our new home.  So, why do I title this post “Serenity”?

Well, work is something we will always do and have, being idle is not our thing. But the place we rent now – one of the oldest inhabited houses in Dominica – it radiates sense of peace and serenity. Mornings with breakfast on patio with fresh breeze, afternoon coffee watching yachts on Caribbean sea, listening to birds, hissing sound of bamboo wadding in wind – it all is quite a new experience for us. A bliss of serenity, harmony and peace. We love every moment spent around this house, and we want to share with you a few insignificant, but lovely things we just experienced.

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A male Cigarron awaiting female

We noticed amazingly big bee-like insects clumsily flying in our front garden. Totally black, insanely huge – like a small hummingbird – they make strong impression and lots of noise. We tried to find more about them and found only a skimpy info on line. Someone said there are huge black bee-like insects which are sting-less and clumsy. Local name for them is Cigarrons as they bring to mind flying black cigar. We started watching them and soon noticed that the huge black one is actually female. Males are about only 1/3 of their size, nice brown and more bee-like.

Did meet one!

Did meet one!

They hide in dense bushes where they fly in small circles, performing a sort of dance and trying to attract these big black females.  I was lucky enough to take couple of photos. Hopefully those who see Cigarrons will enjoy these photos – and also appreciate our impression that indeed these are sting-less (or at least not using stings in aggressive way). I intruded with my camera quite enough to irritate a more aggressive insect. But these big ones don’t mind.

Glassy Point cliffs on Atlantic side of Dominica

Glassy Point cliffs on Atlantic side of Dominica

We went for an excursion yesterday. We visited a place called Glassy Point. What a magnificent rocky shore of Dominica! Atlantic side can be rough, but seriously beautiful at the same time.
Here is a photo taken from the sharp cliff.

And here is another unrelated story  adding to our experience:
There were couple of wild dogs living in our area. We heard them at night, and sometimes saw them far away, but they are very shy. And just 3 days ago a dog – female and a mother – decided our place is the safe place. She drops off her 5 puppies at the edge of our lawn, disappears for hours, and they just play around. She comes and goes. we give them leftovers from our diners, and they love it! So, suddenly we have 5 little puppies, and a friendly mom.
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Well, not much of a big story, but all these little things add lots of colour to our current life. We hope you enjoy reading about them.
Cheers, until next time!
Derek and Margaret

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(all photos by Derek Galon, please respect copyright)
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PS. We just have a small announcement, we are selling 1 acre of land in Giraudel, Dominica. it is a prime location. Have a look if interested, thanks!
https://dominicalandforsale.wordpress.com/

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Roseau and last cruise ship of the season. Aerial photo from session I did for a client.

 

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