Personal blog of Derek and Margaret, now living in Dominica, W.I., founders of Ozone Zone – an Independent Canadian book publisher 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.

Posts tagged ‘travel’

Still Stranded – Hurricane Maria notes – part 3

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

In the Eye of Cyclone – Our Encounter With Hurricane Maria

We wanted to post things many times, always too busy to do it. But now, hit by the hurricane – we just have to share with you this story. And – after 5 weeks since that, 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 lower red point is close to 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 all 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… once again!

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.

Giraudel Flower Show 2016

_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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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

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Story by Margaret Gajek
Photographs by Derek Galon – please respect copyright.
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Front of a typical old house in St Pierre

The Nature Island Still Rocks!

_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!

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

Click Share if you enjoy this post!

(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.

 

Revisiting Montserrat

Revisiting places you are fascinated by or feel affinity with is a very special treat. We were lucky to had an opportunity to come back to Montserrat, British Overseas Territory nicknamed “the emerald isle of the Caribbean.”

photographing outdoor activities...

photographing outdoor activities…

Life on this beautiful island was changed forever after series of volcanic eruptions on Soufriere Hills in the mid-1990s. Two-thirds of the island was destroyed including Plymouth -the capital town buried by a 40-feet thick layer of lava and volcanic debris.

photographing Volcano from St Joseph's hill - the closest possible point, already in the dreaded  zone V.

photographing Volcano from St Joseph’s hill – the closest possible high located point, already in the dreaded zone V.

Nineteen people lost their lives, eight thousand were forced to leave the island. Today, the volcanic activity is closely monitored by the Montserrat Volcanic Observatory with state of art facilities. Life is concentrated in the “safe zone” up north, where a new capital town is been constructed, and a new airport and marina recently opened.

Mutual attraction - Margaret photographing wild donkeys wondering over destructed old airport area...

Mutual attraction – Margaret photographing wild donkeys wandering over destructed old airport area…

Government’s renewed focus is on bringing new visitors to the island, and we were part of a creative international team working on a new promotion of the island, photographing it’s top attractions.

preparing our drone in the dreaded Volcano Exclusion Zone V

preparing our drone in the dreaded Volcano Exclusion Zone V

photographing volcano from a boat

photographing volcano from a boat

Along with the crew from London and Barbados, we were travelling island up and down, day and sometimes night, photographing and filming many different places. We are not at liberty to show you “official” photos, because they soon will be used in a major international promotion. However, we can share with you some photos showing us in action. We hope these will also give you a glimpse of this fascinating place….

photographing iguana gave me a chance of resting flat for a few minutes - a rare treat during busy schedule ;-)

photographing iguana gave me a chance of resting flat for a few minutes – a rare treat during busy schedule 😉

The island had changed a lot since our first visit 2 years ago. Perhaps the most striking difference for me was its lushness: some parts of the island which I remember as covered in ash are now filled with new vegetation. Boat tour around the island was a highlight of this trip for me: watching an awe inspiring, breathtaking scenery. As usually, we all worked long hours and hard …
We were able to get permission to enter the exclusion zone to photograph Plymouth, this time also using our drone which proved to be very helpful. You can read about previous our experience and see more photos in our earlier posts:

https://ozonezonebooks.wordpress.com/2012/07/30/montserrat-another-photo-shoot-trip-to-the-caribbean/

https://ozonezonebooks.wordpress.com/2012/08/01/new-pompeii-montserrats-old-capital-destroyed-by-volcano/

https://ozonezonebooks.wordpress.com/2012/08/07/plymouth-the-new-pompeii-margarets-notes/

leaving the zone V for a safer ground...

leaving the zone V for a safer ground…

We hope to be back in Montserrat for some more work, and would like to thank MDC, the Tourism Director, our amazing hosts and Montserrat Government, for having us in this brilliant international team. Not only it was a fascinating work, but we all became good friends.

We also thank you for stopping by at this post. Until next time – and Happy New Year to you!
If you like this post, Share and Like it, or Follow to be updated on further stories. Cheers!

Margaret and Derek

Margaret with our boatman after boat tour, along with Patrick and Mark from our creative team.

Margaret with our boatman after boat tour, along with Patrick and Mark from our creative team.

Written by Margaret Gajek, photographs by Derek Galon and Margaret Gajek. Please respect the copyright.

Independence Day – part II Dominica Creole Fest

Beautifully dressed children going with mom to join parade

Beautifully dressed children going with mom to join parade

During the Independence Day celebrations in Dominica, all restaurants and hotels are serving festive Creole food. Street food stands are dressed up in national colours, and people proudly wear traditional dresses.CreoleParadeAndFYH2014small-0293

We went to our favorite Fort Young Hotel to try some of the traditional dishes. As we’re vegetarians, we skipped traditional “goat water” – a kind of a broth/stew, and concentrated our interest on roasted veggies with breadfruit and plantains, cassava bread, callaloo soup and colorful salads – all very delicious!CreoleParadeAndFYH2014small-0428

Walking through the streets of Roseau feels like taking part in a fashion show: almost everyone is wearing some version of national costume made of colorful madras cotton. The history of this fabric is fascinating. Produced in Southeastern India, it made its way to all corners of British colonies including Caribbean in the 18th century. It is believed that its criss-crossed pattern was influenced by tartan worn by the Scottish regiments in India. CreoleParadeAndFYH2014small-0286However, unlike tartan with particular patterns representing one clan, Caribbean madras is used by everyone in endless variations of colors and patterns. The only limit is one’s creativity, although some rules may apply as Adrianna Henderson explains in her article about national dress of Dominica:
http://ciad.org.uk/2012/05/07/adrianna-henderson-on-the-national-dress-of-dominica

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The best costumes are awarded in a special ceremony called Wob Dwiyet. Next day, the winners take part in a street parade; a dazzling display of vibrancy and color. My favorite part of the whole costume was a headdress, a creative combination of a hat and a head wrap worn in a fantastic number of shapes; each one a unique showpiece creation.
Check the link to this interesting article, if you wish to know more.

CreoleParadeAndFYH2014small-0277We end this story with a bunch of colorful photos from the streets of Roseau and from Fort Young Hotel, where during lunch time we also enjoyed watching a dance group performing to traditional Jing Ping music.

Stay tuned, if you like it – share, and FOLLOW to be notified about next posts! Thank you!

Margaret

All photos copyright Derek Galon. Story by Margaret Gajek. Please respect our copyright. No usage without authorization, please. We are now available in Dominica for photography and publishing. Contact us for more info.

Creole Fest decorations at Fort Young Hotel brought to mind decorations we see in North America for the Thanksgiving Day.

Creole Fest decorations at Fort Young Hotel brought to mind decorations we see in North America for the Thanksgiving Day.

 

 

 

Lots of tasty Creole food at the Fort Young Hotel.

Lots of tasty Creole food at the Fort Young Hotel.

Traditional Jing Ping band performed along with a dance group at Fort Young Hotel.

Traditional Jing Ping band performed along with a dance group at Fort Young Hotel.

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Independence Day Celebrations – Dominica 2014

So, we are in Dominica, organizing our things and awaiting arrival of our container from Canada.

Main stage of the concerts in the Stadium, opening night.

Main stage of the concerts in the Stadium, opening night.

We arrived in Dominica just in time for Independence Day celebrations: over two weeks of music festivals, parades, national dress contests and all sorts of lively events. Dominica gained independence only 36 years ago, and Dominicans are very passionate about it. Many of them living abroad come to the island on this special occasion to join in all festivities.WMCF2014small-0928

Music festivals attract also large crowd from French speaking neighboring islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique as well as Spanish and English speaking regions. WMCF2014small-9867They share love for the Caribbean rhythms of reggae, soca, zouk and bouyon performed at the World Creole Music Festival- three long nights of pulsating, electrifying music.

The World Music Creole Festival concerts were well organized by Discover Dominica, and there were enough bands to offer something to everybody. Surely, we all have different tastes and expectations and some bands were not as good as others – but that can be said about practically every festival, and we were impressed with professional organization, sound system, and visual presentation of it all.

Smiling Drummers gave a performance full of rhythms and flair

Smiling Drummers gave a performance full of rhythms and flair

Concerts started soon after sunset and lasted until morning hours – quite a marathon! Then, during day time there were many other attractions worth considering (we will share a story about this in our next post).

The biggest star this year and a crowd’s favorite was Jamaican reggae sensation Jah Cure. We quickly became fans of Dominica’s own bouyon group Triple Kay Band, after their energetic and groovy performance. Not only their playing was clearly at a high skill level, but the songs were full of surprises, cleverly composed and uplifting.

Triple K performing in the park

Triple Kay performing in the park

We quickly agreed with a paraphrase of a popular song they created: “When Triple Kay plays – nobody can say -No!” We will be following career of this fine local band and we hope to see them spread wings far behind Dominica.

Traditional performances took place in the park.

Traditional performances took place in the park.

Triple Kay also took part in the Creole in the Park- four days of music performances on the grounds of Botanic Gardens. We immensely enjoyed not only the music but also a more relaxed, casual atmosphere and the strongly present sense of togetherness of all performers and audience. CreoleInPark2014small-1427This event is a magnet for people of all age groups including families with children who are having a great fun together.

We hope you enjoy our photos from these events.CreoleInPark2014small-03924

In next post we will share our experience from other festivities, such as colorful parade, dress contests, and fantastic food offered during the celebrations. Stay tuned, share if you like it, and FOLLOW to be notified about it!
Thank you!

Margaret
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All photos copyright Derek Galon. Story by Margaret Gajek. Please respect our copyright. No usage without authorization, please.

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