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.

Posts tagged ‘vacation’

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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Thanks!

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

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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!

Photographing the Isle of Skye, Scotland (part 2)

If you missed our first part of Skye experience, read it here.

Sunrise and first frost on Skye. View from Dunyre Cottage. (see previous post)

Cut trees in Storr area

The Old Man of Storr is a magical place. The hike starts at the highway, but sadly its first 30 minutes lead you via an extensive forest clear-cut. Whatever the reason behind this massive operation, it looks sad and ugly, bringing to our minds the terrible, indiscriminate clear-cuts here on Vancouver Island, in Canada. Skye is voted one of the10 most beautiful islands in the world – and such operations should not be allowed – at least in such extensive form. Yet, driving around Skye, you will not fail to notice old stumps of cleared forest, extensive wastelands clashing with the natural beauty of this island.

The Storr formation

Once you are higher, the view becomes wide, beautiful, and you can enjoy the beauty of Skye once again. Sheep graze in the most remote and steep parts of the high hills, and the rocky Storr formation stands magnificently right above your head. At the top plateau, where the path ends – once again you feel you are in photographers’ paradise. The pinnacle called the Old Man stands magnificent right in front of you, a panoramic view of Skye and surrounding islands opens wide, the air is crisp and fresh. You are on top of things.

Our next stop is famous Lighthouse on the west coast of Skye.  The west coast presents the most hostile environment on the island. Battered by strong winds, spectacular high cliffs reach right up to the headlands. On one of them stands Neist Point lighthouse, impressive in this truly dramatic setting. It was built in 1909 by David and Charles Stevenson, who belonged to the long and distinguished dynasty that constructed almost one hundred major lighthouses in Scotland.

Old Man of Storr

It looks across the water to South Uist, an island in the Outer Hebrides and its lighthouse in Ushenish, built by Thomas Stevenson, the founder of the pioneering dynasty of Scottish engineers. He was greatly disappointed when his son Robert Louis Stevenson did not want to follow the family’s tradition choosing to pursue a literary career instead. A steep path leads to the lighthouse, but not many people know that in mid-way, already on the lower level – if you are not afraid of heights – you can step out of the known path, go to the right, traverse a meadow neatly trimmed by sheep, and enjoy a totally different view at the lighthouse.

The Lighthouse

Be careful though – you can see it only when you are just a few meters from the sharp, unprotected cliff. On a windy, rainy day, it can be really hazardous. We were lucky to have perfect weather, allowing me to set up my tripod and take some nice photographs. Thank you for stopping by.

Please stay tuned for more from Skye – coming soon!

On the way to Lighthouse


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Previous parts:  Train trip     Part 1

Commentary: Margaret Gajek and Derek Galon
Photographs: Derek Galon (please respect copyright)

Abkhazi Garden – The Garden of Love. (Victoria, Canada)


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When we arrived at the entrance to Abkhazi Garden, we both stopped for a moment as if afraid to open the gate. The reason for our hesitation was clear enough for us: we wondered – is this garden still as beautiful as we remembered? Or perhaps it is now totally changed, or has fallen  into neglect? We had visited Abkhazi garden several times after it was saved from the developers. Our humble donation was only a tiny drop in an immensely successful and quite heroic public fund-raising campaign in 2000, which led to the acquisition of the garden by The Land Conservancy.

Unique benches look like they always been there as an important part of this garden.


Slowly, we stepped into the garden leaving the city street behind us. We found ourselves in a woodland, under towering old rhododendrons and native Garry Oaks underplanted with lush ferns and hostas. As we were slowly walking a winding path through the garden, all our fears completely disappeared. We noticed how splendid the garden looks, cared for not only with expertise and knowledge but also with love.

Beautifully created, this spot brings to mind large vase full of freshly cut flowers.

Love and passion are ever-present here, making it quite a magical place. It is “the garden that love built,” love between its creators: Peggy and Nickolas Abkhazi who shared the same passion for their new piece of paradise, a safe haven in their rather dramatic lives. After their death, it seems like that love was carried on by all the people whose hard work and dedication enable the garden to flourish.  One of the first were Christopher and Pamela Ball who continued to keep up this world-class garden for the next 10 years.

Fine bird bath at the first wide vista near entrance instantly adds to happy feel of the place.

When the land was submitted for rezoning, Cyril Hume, a garden historian led the fund-raising campaign and the garden restoration. All the head gardeners who came after him shared the same passion and devotion to the project. Today, the garden is in the capable hands of Jeff de Jong and a group of impressively skillful  volunteers. As a result, Abkhazi Garden is resplendently beautiful.

Jeff de Jong talks about the garden

“For me, gardening is a work of joy,” says Jeff. “What you love doing – it’s not work. It is for me a privilege and honour to take care of Abkhazi garden. Peggy and Nickolas are always on my mind. I ask myself: is it something that they would approve of? I recently planted Magnolia grandiflora knowing that Peggy loved it and had it in this garden. In order to honour the Abkhazis I thought it was the important plant to have. In this garden the challenge for me is to preserve its sense of history, and yet still progress and move forward.”

Ponds look like colorful jewels mounted in greenery of the garden.

We finished our garden tour inside Abkhazi house, built by John Wade in the style of simple modernism. Broad glass windows offer spectacular views of the Olympic Mountains, while connecting the interior to the exterior spaces. Perhaps the most striking feature of the house is that organic flow with the surrounding landscape, perfected in architectural designs of the tropics. 

While working on our book ”Tropical Homes of the Eastern Caribbean”, we were often fascinated by architects who mastered this skill of seamless integration of outside and inside spaces, like Oliver Messel, or Lane Pettigrew. Standing on a stone-paved patio, we marvelled at the brilliant layout of the garden complementing the natural landscape.

Peggy’s wish was that the garden was going to be seen by the next generation” comments  Jeff.  “Thanks to the Land Conservancy, it’s going to be seen by even more generations to come.”

Story by Margaret Gajek
Photography by Derek Galon

Another view at the ponds, where on a sunny day you can spot sun bathing turtles…

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Until next time, cheers!

 

Charles Rennie Mackintosh – The House For An Art Lover, Glasgow, Scotland

While visiting Scotland last May, we wanted to see the newest jewel of architecture designed by legendary architect and designer, Charles Rennie Mackintosh.  Margaret, being an art historian with decades of fascination with Mackintosh’ works, did put it high on our priority list for our trip. As many of you know, we are interested not only in gardens, but also in fine architecture. Our award-winning book Tropical Homes of the Eastern Caribbean  can be the best proof of that. In our book we concentrated on tropical styles, but our interests in architecture go far behind that, and include works by the master of  Arts and Crafts period – Charles Rennie Mackintosh.


Several amazing projects created in Glasgow and area by Charles Rennie Mackintosh are well known to visitors from all around the world. The House For an Art lover, however, is a rather new addition to his landmarks’ collection. In 1901 the design of House for an Art Lover won an international award for a modern architecture concept. Oddly enough, this fine design spent almost hundred years in the drawer, until it was put to life by dedicated Mackintosh experts just in recent decades. It was not only built using original plans, but parts of the design had to be actually created and added, as many details were not complete on the winning draft.

The work done on this house rings true to Mackintosh masterpieces and it was fantastic to see it. It is set in a beautiful park and garden. Every detail is made with real consideration to the Mackintosh’ style, and it is hard to imagine it was built recently and not by Mackintosh’ own team. Perhaps the decorative gesso panels in dining room stand out as slightly less authentic looking, perhaps done by a heavier hand. But it would be really difficult to design and create them with the same masterly perfection as amazing gesso works by Mackintosh or his wife, Margaret MacDonald. All in all, this is an amazing place to visit and to enjoy yet another Mackintosh masterpiece.
There is lots of info about the property on-line, therefore I will not repeat what is already known and said. I just would like to share with you a few photographs I took. I hope you enjoy. And – thank you to all dedicated people behind this project for making it happen. Let this precious jewel sparkle for many, many years to come.
Visit the House on-line for more info:  http://www.houseforanartlover.co.uk
And, as always – if you like this post, please share it with your friends.
Thank you, stay tuned!
Derek


All photographs copyright Derek Galon, Ozone Zone Books.
No usage without written authorization.
Text by Margaret Gajek and Derek Galon, 

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