Independent Canadian book publishers working 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.

Dutch Marines coming

In roofless kitchen every cupboard, every mug and plate is covered with dirt and shredded leaves. I am surprised to find that our tightly closed spice jars are half-full of water pumped in under enormous pressure.

It is hard to believe two weeks already passed since the hurricane Maria. We are still spending lots of time sorting our things drenched in muddy water. It takes hours to pull them out, dry them in the sun, clothing spread on branches of our broken mango tree. In the roofless kitchen every cupboard, every mug and plate is covered with dirt and shredded leaves. I am surprised to find that our tightly closed spice jars are half-full of water pumped in under enormous pressure. Nothing stayed dry.

Soaked, messed boxes of stuff ready for our moving – now ready for garbage bin.

destroyed chapel at Retreat House

I am opening soaked boxes only recently packed to move to our new home – now totally destroyed by hurricane. In a dry weather we burn wet packaging, discoloured moldy clothes, destroyed furniture. Our neighbours, the Retreat House, kindly offered us a dry room to store the few things we managed to salvage. We are at the retreat house unloading boxes when we hear loud engines of approaching helicopter – a large Dutch military craft. Two uniformed figures descend on a steel line. They came from St Maarten hit by hurricane Irma and can compare. Dominica was hit much stronger, they say. They are looking for a Dutch couple living nearby to check if they are OK. They left only to come back soon with food for all of us – cans of beans, juice and rice. We laugh saying it will make the most expensive dinner in our lives.

How this tiny stream could turn to the nasty river? All these rocks were brought by water, damaging all homes around…

We are tired of experiencing a waterfall in our living room with every rain, so we decide to call village rastas for help making a temporary roof cover. We hear there is one store in town selling metal galvanized sheets for roofing. We can’t possible go there – our road is still blocked. We decide to find all our old pieces of galvanage and patch them together.

Typical scene of destruction

Finding them is not easy – some are blown away as far as the bottom of the ravine. Dragging them through bushes is a daunting task. We gather wooden rafters and metal sheets scattered around the house and go searching. I found a good sheet of galvanage, but it is stuck on a tree. We are out of luck for this one. After two days of hard work the job is done. To celebrate it, we spend the first night since the hurricane in our own bed. What a luxury, comparing to three weeks spent in our car!

Margaret walks on main street of Soufriere…

Step by step with much effort, our lives slowly improve. We made our pizza oven work again and bake our European bread. We can’t deliver it yet to shops, but we simply share it with neighbours and people in our village. An old friend of ours shipped a new generator as a gift – this will surely make big difference. Another friend invited us to see page www.gofundme.com and do search for Derek Galon. She organized a donation fund to help us, with friends and total strangers chipping in! Some other friends sent us their individual donations. Each such thing feels like a miracle. Gestures like that not only help rebuild our lives, but also show us much needed support. We are full of gratitude and appreciation. And we feel even more motivated not to fail.

While path to Emerald Pool is now cleared, the waterfall looks like set in middle of forest clear-cut

Soon we will be able to drive again – a hired excavator is clearing the road. We are invited to a bbq chicken party at village’s roofless bar. Everybody share their hurricane stories. There is a strong sense of togetherness which makes it easier to face days ahead.

 

 Please subscribe to see more photos and read next part soon.
Thank you!
Margaret Gajek
www.ozonezonebooks.com
Derek Galon
www.ArtPhotographyServices.com

If you wish to help us in this difficult situation, you can do so by using link
www.paypal.me/DerekGalon
Thank you.

Please respect copyright of this story and photos. Contact us if you need to reuse this material.

Tags:  #hurricanemaria  #hurricane #maria #tropicalstorms #dominicastrong #dominica

 

Center of Roseau

what remained of our bedroom and new home. most belongings were later stolen

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Margaret checking damage morning after hurricane

First weeks after Hurricane Maria are really tough for us. Not only because watching such an enormous destruction of the island hurts the soul, but also because simple everyday tasks combined with the challenge of survival require a lot of energy and effort. We have no roof – rain comes inside making a waterfall in the living room. We are trying to save our possessions moving them to dryer corners and covering them with plastic bags. With so much messy water our Syrian furniture are disintegrating, books melting away, clothes discoloring and moldy, photo equipment malfunctioning. Evening by evening, wet and tired we retreat to our car where we sleep.

Preparing food for lunch

There is no running water in the house, all pipes are broken. We’ve made a simple contraption to catch rain water for washing, and thankfully we have a bit of drinking water left. With our bathroom shattered we wash outside using a cup of water per person. But we need to cut our way through fallen jungle quick, to get drinking water from a nearby the spring. Day after day we make progress cutting bit by bit using our small chainsaw and cutlass. After ten days of exhausting work we can hardly move our hands. Derek says I am looking like a ladybug, covered with neat round bruises from heavy branches I had to pull out of our way. Finally we cleared our way to the neighbouring Retreat House.

Derek and Brother George from Retreat House clearing path to the spring

Seeing our neighbours for the first time since hurricane, we learn that the road to village is blocked by many land slides. What used to be an easy walk to the spring, is now a serious hike. With heavy backpacks we need to cross fallen trees, landslides and surprisingly deep mud ponds. Broken bamboo make haunting, eerie sound. There is profound silence – no birds and no sound of leaves. Leafless trees don’t provide shelter from the scorching sun.

Collecting water from the spring

However, we had to undertake this hike to village soon, for we were told at the top of village road we can sometimes get mobile phone reception. I’ve always liked to walk this road from Retreat House to the village, enjoying lush vegetation. There was always cool here, even on the hottest of days. Now it’s very different. Countless trees uprooted from the hillside fell to the ground. It it difficult to climb over them. Although we both have cutlasses, we make a slow progress. Dense clusters of fallen bamboo with their sharp prickly branches are especially hard to cross.

On the path to the village

I turned another corner and stopped in awe: what used to be a sleepy creek became a raging torrent during the hurricane and made this wide white valley full of huge boulders blocking the road. We finally reach the village. The view from the road takes our breath away. This immense destruction we see has a suffocating effect on us. Destroyed roofless houses, concrete walls crumbled, lots of debris, countless landslides are all around, as far as an eye can see.

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Destruction of Eggleston

We call our family and friends. Hearing their voices in this scenery of desolation feels surreal. I am happy to hear them but it’s very difficult to describe in a few words what we’ve been through. Soon we have no money left on our cell phones. For top-ups we need to hike to Roseau; the road is not cleared yet – it will take us at least four hours one way. We head back home.

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Drying our salvaged stuff on broken mango tree.

Our generator broke after only three days of working, so we have no power. As we need to clean food supplies from our dead fridge, we have a feast lasting for two days. I spread spoiled mango jam on the grass for bees and other insects – there is nothing for them to feed on. I can see unripened fruits scattered by hurricane on the ground. Most fruit trees are damaged, but even these standing will have no fresh fruit crop for half a year. Feeding five dogs is a challenge. There were only two dogs with us during hurricane. The rest disappeared day before hurricane on one of their adventures. Now they are coming back, exhausted, frightened and hungry.

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Our dogs have fun on broken mango tree

Friends from the village brought us canned food and horrific stories about many deaths and miracle survivals. They also heard that our newly built house on the hillside is totally destroyed – only one wall still standing. What if we spent the hurricane night there? I am afraid to think what might happen to us. Our friends leave soon – the hike back to village is long and dangerous after dark.

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Remains of Champagne Beach facilities

We get up with the first rays of light – just after 5 am. The gas stove still works. We can cook our simple meals in roofless kitchen while it is not raining. We eat on a small patio with roof still on, sharing food with always hungry dogs.

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Cleanup of Roseau

It is remarkable how quickly one can adjust. Life in a shattered house, in conditions unworthy a basic camp site is quickly accepted as the new normal, just the way things are. We live on…

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One of trees we had to cut to get to Retreat House

This story covers first two weeks after #HurricaneMaria. Another part coming soon. Please subscribe to see more photos and read next part soon.
Thank you!
Margaret Gajek
www.ozonezonebooks.com
Derek Galon
www.ArtPhotographyServices.com

If you wish to help us in this difficult situation, you can do so by using link
www.paypal.me/DerekGalon
Thank you.

Please respect copyright of this story and photos. Contact us if you need to reuse this material.

Tags:  #hurricanemaria  #hurricane #maria #tropicalstorms #dominicastrong #dominica

We wanted to post things many times, always too busy to do it. But now, with the hurricane – we just have to share with you this story. And – after 5 weeks since it we just got an internet connection to use for a few moments –  so, here it is…

There are as many stories about Hurricane Maria as many people lived through this monstrous experience. While ours is not the most terrible ordeal, for we survived uninjured, we want to share our memories with you. This is my humble addition to all told and untold stories – Margaret’s and Me being in cyclone’s eye in Dominica. This short story is dedicated to all directly hit by Caribbean hurricanes of 2017.

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Path of Maria – born to kill. She turned from her path just to go through whole length of Dominica with maximum impact. The red point is where our both houses were.

Day 0 – Monday (18th of September 2017)
When the shockingly nasty hurricane Irma chopped through Caribbean islands some 10 days before, it went very close to Dominica but didn’t really hit it. We all on our small island breathed easier. Perhaps too easy. A new tropical storm announced by media supposed to be not so bad, and again not to go over Dominica. Lots of us didn’t pay attention to it, thinking that after Irma the worst is over. Well, not exactly. It wasn’t. Reports eventually changed, but until last moment we were told that while Tropical
Storm Maria may become a hurricane by time of crossing through Leeward Islands, it should be a small one and pass off the Dominica coast, somewhere on the sea closer to Guadelupe. We should just get some rain and a bit of wind. Terrible misjudgments by meteo services made us just mildly worried. Somehow it reminded me of misinformation about the terrible storm Erika which damaged our island some two years before. Then too we were told the path of the storm should be east of Dominica, not affecting us directly. It was just at the last hour before it devastated our little country that instead of
promised safe passage, Erica showed on meteo maps hitting us directly. Way too late to do anything.

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morning after hurricane. Shocking landscape near our home.

So it was this time. Just hours before expected passage, on Sunday evening reports started to be a little more worrying – yes, Maria will be a hurricane soon and may intensify a bit. Not on direct conflict path with Dominica, but a bit stronger than expected. We planned to do some last minute shopping on Monday morning, also delivering our usual load of fine breads to food stores. But on Monday morning tone of alerts changed drastically. The Hurricane intensifies and may be a category 2 by the time of its closest encounter with Dominica. People were advised NOT to go shopping, businesses not to open, and to prepare for possible heavy winds. All shops, offices and work places closed, but we still were shown by online weather sites that the path of Maria will pass in some distance to us from the east.

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the home we rented – two days after hurricane. You can see our white subaru – which we used as bedroom for weeks to come.

Only one site showed a disturbing image of Maria passing through center of Dominica. Should the http://www.windy.com be right, or they were mistaken, since everybody else predicted a different path? We were to learn the truth very soon. Together with Margaret we experienced the Storm Erika, and also a terrible winter storm in Canada some 10 years ago. That one had wind speeds between 150 and 180 km/h flattening many trees and inflicting serious damage. That helped us recognizing wind speeds, and when in late afternoon things got pretty nasty, we could say clearly that we already have winds worthy a strong Tropical storm. Believing that the Maria will pass away from us, we expected these winds to stay with us until late night and then ease up. But they got stronger and stronger.

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cutting our path to freedom – Margaret’s turn to use chainsaw

The old plantation house constructed solely of wood – the place we rent – did withstand previous hurricane David some 40 years ago, so we hoped it will cope with this one too. Power went out around 6pm, so we had no chance of checking any more storm details. It was easy to hear through closed shutters that wind was already stronger than we remembered from Canada (around 150-180km/h or 80-90 miles/h), and intensifying. By 8pm it became just unbearable. We had to fight with window shutters which were constantly bursting open, pushed by unbelievably strong winds. Every moment of an opened shutter meant heavy amounts of water sprayed inside like by a mega power-washer. The concoction of water mixed with soil, debris and finely shredded leaves and greenery. We heard trees falling, stuff flying around the house and crashing with heavy bangs, roof slowly giving up to the intense power of wind. We were sure it is as bad as it gets. At one point doors to bedroom rapidly opened, pushed by heavy wind coming through opened bedroom shutters. I rushed to close them, and to my shock I saw in light of my flashlight branches of a big tree slowly moving through opened window and spreading on our bed. In desperation I grabbed the tree trying to push it away, but quickly understood that my efforts are futile. The tree was there to stay. But then suddenly wind gust changed and pulled the tree outside, giving me a moment to close the shutters once again. Scared and exhausted, we were standing in the middle of the house, ready for yet another dramatic intervention. Little did we know that what we experienced was just a gentle flavour of things to come.

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Typical scene of destruction

Suddenly at 9pm mad winds stopped like cut with a blade. First moment of it was amazing – total silence. Perfect stillness of the air. You could smoke a cigar and watch your puffs go up in perfect order. But then came realization that this silence can mean only one thing – we are in the eye of cyclone! Contrary to most predictions, hurricane went just above our heads. We knew we had only minutes to check and fix whatever we can before the fun starts again. But when it started some 15 minutes later, very quickly it became obvious that real problems are starting just now. Wind came from another direction, from more exposed side – the Caribbean sea. Blows to the house were so strong that it shake and made noises like a crashing sail ship hitting a reef in heavy storm. Huge bang announced a direct hit by a large tree growing next to the house. Roof broke allowing cascades of water in. We had no way of intervening and had to retreat to another part of the house. However, that started a wild interaction of wind inside and outside, with shutters ripped out of their hinges, roof being pulled out with terrifying noise of ripped metal, and water mixed with debris and shredded leaves ravishing freely
inside the house. We both experienced that rare sensation when pressure changes so strongly and quickly, pushing your ear drums in very unpleasant way. Did you ever drive a car at about 180 km/h and rapidly open your window? Well, that kind of thing, only much stronger. To make it more memorable, through all the rain, wind, and banging of crashing things, we constantly heard outside a very distinct and unusual sound – like huge ship engines running at full blast in far distance. A constant deep roar of passing hurricane.

Retreat-House

Damage of Retreat House

The wind intensified further and kitchen shutters flew away ripped from their hinges. We had to retreat to another part of our home. Where would it be safest? Bathroom? No, we decided for a storage room and run there with our dog, closing door tightly. But it was just a few moments before Margaret shouted – “look at the ceiling! My God!”. Indeed – we could see in dim light of our flashlight that roof was pulled up by the wind several inches, then let go, and then again going up – only higher. Sound of breaking wood did not make us calmer, and we decided we need to run from that place before roof takes off.
A glimpse at the bathroom confirmed our decision not to go there – there was practically not much left of it! With our options down to only our bedroom still holding on, we went there and tried to secure shutters, knowing this is our last place to hide. The roof above us started to break, allowing water to come. Margaret made a quick and brilliant decision. Closets! Our bedroom has two built in tiny wardrobe closets, each about good for one standing person. We quickly pulled our clothes out and went inside, each of us in separate closet. Dog went between Margaret’s legs totally silent, quiet, and scared.
Last two hours we spent in these two closets, listening to the destruction around us and praying that closets will survive.

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Street near waterfront

Do you remember a scene from Jurassic Park, when a guy tries to hide from a T- rex, and runs from room to room, only to see the beast systematically tearing walls apart to get him? It was quite similar to what we felt. A monster, perhaps King Kong or Gozilla ravishing the house to get us. But at last – after midnight winds eased up a bit. Not much, but enough to notice the worst is over. It is funny how quickly you can adopt. We came out of our closets and decided to have a look around the house. Winds which normally would be still terrifying, but just a bit less than these we experienced an hour ago did not matter so much any more. We just knew things are getting calmer, and whatever did not break already will probably be ok. So, off we went for house inspection. Constant banging in the attic – several broken shutters and parts of roof torn away and allowing tonnes of water inside the upper floor, drowning our furniture and stuff just ready to move to our new home. Not good. Main floor – rain comes through the ceiling. But it is not just rain – it is the flood upstairs finding its way down through gaps in wooden floor. All furniture in living room wet and messed up. TV? Sound system? Well, you know – messed up to, like everything else. We noticed that old wooden beams holding the ceiling are bowing in under heavy flood waters upstairs. Not only the rain in living room
was not nice, but this looked like the attic may simply collapse, sending down water and all furniture and boxes stored there. That would bury our things and finish whatever remained from the house. A quick decision – chainsaw. We looked where the most of pouring water comes down, and cut an opening in wooden floor of main floor for water to run through. Then, an additional small cut in flooded attic – to let the water go down through that same location. We had instantly a waterfall in bedroom, with buckets of water coming down through the hole – and disappearing in the matching cut in main floor. At least temporarily – we saved the attic from collapse and reduced the flood of our
earthly possessions.

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remains of a known hotel

Further inspection was very brief – nothing left of bathroom. Not much left of kitchen. Pantry without roof and all cupboards forced open, with all things inside soaked with mix of water, mud, and shredded leaves. Some broken windows in office, terrible mess and flood in dining room where roof was hit by falling tree. Unfortunately it was where we stored most of our freshly imported bread flour. Most of the supply gone. We were simply too tired to bother with it. We went to the bedroom and fell asleep on wet bed until late morning.

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what’s left of our newly built home. in the kitchen area.

Day 1 – Tuesday
We woke up early, to the sound of water dripping in our bedroom and rest of the house. It was still very windy. Quickly dressed in some wet clothes, off we went to see the world outside. The damage exceeded our expectations and came as a shock to both of us. Margaret cried a little – not for our situation, but for the sad state of our island. The land around us was almost bare – broken trees everywhere with some stronger trees either completely uprooted, or having most limbs cracked off, pieces from our roof and roofs of some other houses mixed on the ground. Plenty of unrecognizable wet stuff on the ground. Smaller plants gone, most bushes stripped off all greenery, palms broken or
with tops twisted off. The brown-grey tone dominated all landscape, with green colour almost non- existent. Rain still falling, but even through its sound we distinctly heard the noise of newly formed rivers in ravines near us. With all greenery gone it was easy to see land slides. More land slides than intact soil. It was easy to see that what we experienced with tropical storm Erika two years was just a child’s play. Proportions of Erika damage times ten seemed like a correct estimate. Our road to Retreat House completely disappeared under fallen jungle. Several meters high jigsaw puzzle of broken branches, palms and trees. We could see the Retreat House totally smashed, with roof and some walls gone. A total disaster. Other houses visible on next hill looked similarly destroyed.
Well, our own house was also smashed. Garage and storage shed simply disappeared, water system in rubble. A big tree broke our roof, and other half of roof totally gone. Everything around scattered in one big mess.

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Things seem to get upside down

Looking at the extreme extent of this disaster, with no radio or phone signal and unable to get any news, we quickly realized that perhaps the night of Hurricane was easy comparing with challenges waiting for us in next days, weeks, and months… We felt like Robinson Crusoe left alone on an empty island, trying to think how to organize things.
And then came days of desperate chainsawing our way out, fixing and drying damaged belongings, sorting salvaged food, learning about misfortunes of neighbours, and so on. Days of hard work and nights spent in our car which miraculously survived. A day when we went to see how is our newly built dream home we supposed to move into in the week following hurricane – only to discover that – despite it being built of concrete and super strong cement fiber elements – it was completely wiped out, attacked by hurricane with unprecedented fury and power. Days of pain and moments of happiness.
The spirit of sharing and mutual support, but also acts of looting. But – as they say – it is another story…
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It was only some two weeks later – when Dutch marines arriving in helicopter to give us a bag of rice – that our thoughts were confirmed. It was indeed a monster hurricane – they said. It should be category 7, only there is no such thing on official charts. Winds up to 220 miles per hour (410 km/h). And the eye went through the whole length of Dominica. As they also helped on St Martin which has been the iconic disaster of hurricane Irma, they also said we had it much worse than that. How comforting to
know 😉  We also heard about many deaths and horror stories in other parts of Dominica, learning that we were indeed among the lucky ones. With that come realization that – if we moved to our new house earlier and faced the hurricane there – we would most probably die there crushed by its power, with nowhere to hide. But all this and much more I plan to write in part two of this story, later on.

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crossing damaged bridge in Roseau

If you wish to help us personally or Dominica as a whole – please do so as it really is a disaster on unprecedented scale and every little gesture of help makes the difference. We lost almost everything including most of my pro photography equipment and our newly built tiny dream home. And almost everyone here lost a lot and has a terrifying story to tell.
Thank you!
Derek and Margaret
http://www.ArtPhotographyServices.com
My Paypal account for donations:   photosalon@ozonezonebooks.com  (set only for USD and Canadian Dollars) We bake bread and give out to people in our community. Your donations will help this cause too. Every little help counts! Thank you.

hashtags: #hurricanemaria, #hurricane, #caribbean, #extreme weather, #dominica, #maria, #disasters, #global warming, #atlantic, #derek galon
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Secret Bay as it looks today

Recently, we felt lucky again to work at the Secret Bay eco-resort here, on the island of Dominica. We felt lucky because this is one of our favorite places on earth. We witnessed the birth of the Secret Bay when six years ago we photographed the first, newly constructed villa called Zabuco, and watched with excitement their further development over the years. This time, our job was to photograph two Ylang-Ylang villas, a newest addition to six already existing ones.

One of Ylang Ylang villas

 

Shortly after arrival, when carrying our photo equipment (heavy!) and setting it up, I felt it again: calm joy of being there, my blood pressure decreasing, my muscles relaxing. The place is of extraordinary beauty: situated on a cliff with stunning wide view of the Caribbean Sea visible from every villa and bungalow. Looking at the new villas I’m amazed how well they fit into the landscape; they look like they were always there!

Covered patio with kitchen blends inside with outside space

We’re photographing the state of the art equipped kitchen entirely open to the surrounding nature. Inside the villa, sliding doors and huge windows allow the inside space harmoniously blend with the outside.

Another angle on patio reveals its fantastic view

Secret Bay was built by sustainable methods: all the surrounding trees were preserved, only higher brunches were trimmed to open up the amazing vistas. We’ll write more about sustainable development of Secret Bay for the next MACO magazine; please check it out.

While working on our first Caribbean photo coffee-table  book  “Tropical Homes of the Eastern Caribbean” we saw many extraordinarily beautiful homes and resorts all over the Caribbean. Secret Bay is unique among them; it has it all: breathtaking location, exceptional organic architecture, fabulous food and unpretentious friendliness of people who work there. Being here is a very special privilege for us. After work, we take a swim at the Secret Beach and night snorkel – what an uplifting and blissful experience!

 

Ylang Ylang villa with its swimming pool connected by hardwood patio.

We did not post anything for a while, and we missed you! We will try to publish another post soon. It is just that we are getting incredibly busy at times – working on many projects such as photo-shoots of Miss Dominica, photo sets for hotels and resorts, and also – building our own little house! But that is yet another story…

Stay tuned! Cheers!

Margaret

Story by Margaret Gajek, all photos by Derek Galon. Please respect the copyright.
Thank you.

_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.

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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

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