deliciously sculpted breads and pastries are the creations of H. Lavity
Stoutt Community College students, working under tutelage of New England
Culinary Institute’s teachers at the 44 acre Paraquita Bay campus a few
miles away. The College’s white buildings serve hundreds of students, granting
degrees in business, computers, the arts, and marine studies. Culinary
trainees receive hands-on training in cooking, hospitality, and catering
through placements at the Fort Burt Hotel. It seems as if the complex,
built on an historic site which overlooks the harbor, inspires creativity.
The restaurant’s distinctive gold roof announces the quality of healthy
local and continental cuisine. You might wonder if the nearby West Indian
house aromatic with the herbs and spices of Sunny Caribbee provides some
of the zest for this cuisine.
The range and
strength of sauces bottled in containers with Caribbee straw ‘hats’, the
pungent seasonings, and the fruit teas mirror island culinary art.
Ready for export, along with West Indian artisanry, they capture the Tortola
lifestyle: colorful, flavorful, natural. You might see a small green or
brown lizard while you relax in the courtyard with your mango tea and notecards.
People pass you, smiling a Mornin’, the typical greeting; darlin’ is a
variation for diverse times of day and circumstance. Residents are authentically
friendly, trying to involve others in the lifestyle. Those on cruise ships
accustomed to dining and entertaining themselves onboard would do well
to invest energy exploring the island’s charm first-hand.
hibiscus, passion flower, aloe, golden flowers - no, you’re not in the
spice shop but at the J.R. O’Neal Botanic Gardens. Although this park is
in the middle of Town, near recreation areas and schools, it evokes the
tropics. I walked an uphill circuit to it from my balconied condo on Waterfront
Drive, beyond the Red Cross administration and thrift shop, past children
in blue school uniforms catching a ride in a pickup truck, past legions
of kids in wine-colored uniforms rallying for school. I heard the chorus
of young singers inside the high school. I kept walking, purchasing a ‘ting’
grapefruit drink at a variety store, and arrived at the police station,
a practical landmark across the street from this mystical garden.
refreshed by a short rest on a bench by the fountain within the gates,
I cruise through the exotic fauna. I’ve only known the calabash as
a gourd to hold water. Here I see the hard shell which is transformed into
a dipper. One of the educational signs found in each grove informs me that
the bell-shaped flowers are pollinated by bats who locate them by echo!
The fifty-foot tall mango trees and the smaller papaya plants are burgeoning.
of the park invites contemplation from benches discretely placed throughout
the groves. Each time I stop and think I have seen some of everything,
I find a new treasure: medicinal plants, breadfruit trees, red-legged tortoises.
This is truly paradise in Tortola, “the land of turtle doves”.
I anticipate returning to my apartment and telling my neighbor’s green
parrots - with their three-foot wingspan - about the peach-faced Love Birds
I saw frolicking here.
amplify the message of paradise found. I discovered Cane Garden Bay first;
it’s close to Road Town, a steep, jeep ride over the mountain to the north
shore, to a spectacular soft beach with turquoise waters. If you have no
vehicle, catch a ride on a local taxi van which transport throughout the
island. There are many lookout points, ridges where you can jump out and
shoot fantastic vistas. A word to the wise: the red ants are on the march.
Watch for their hills in the sandy turn-offs, or you will suffer biting
and acute, burning pain!
Bar on the beach still is Cane Garden’s hallmark: the towering palm with
its rope hanging longingly in memory of the tire which freely swung there
by the bay….before Hurricane Georges …commemorated forever in countless
photos and artwork.
with its bar and grill pavilions nestled in lush greenery, is the spot
to refuel between treks. Conch chowder and fritters, pepper-pot soup, mahi-mahi,
rice and peas - all the local food done right, accompanied by exotic drinks.
If you want to metabolize those calories, stroll down the sands to Quito
Rhymer’s Gazebo, a jumpin’ place to dance to his band, The Edge, in reggae
style. He is also a talented visual artist: you can find island life
and characters memorialized in his contribution to the community mural
on Ridge Road which cuts through the mountain. This “Wall” celebrates culture,
local heroes, and active heritage in myriad forms: a Funjie Band plays
local “scratch” music; Bamboshay dancers twirl in native costume; people
work cutting cane in the fields, labor in coal pit or mill; there’s crabbing
and fishing, relaxing with music at day’s end. The wall also serves a practical
purpose; intermittent drainage holes reveal its protective nature as a
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