On the taste and scent trail of the Caribbean island immortalised by the Celtic-Creole novelist
There’s a Caribbean paradise that we all know about: coconut palms; sand soft as white silk; blue seas veiling a coral underworld. And then there’s Dominica. It’s one of the slender necklace of green and mountainous islands – Guadeloupe, Martinique, St Lucia – that bewitched the young travel writer Patrick Leigh Fermor when he visited them in the 1950s. Named by Columbus because it was on a Sunday that the Portuguese mariner spotted the tiny island’s rearing cliffs, Dominica’s enchantment lies in a combination of unspoilt beauty – hikers adore its hidden lakes, cascading rivers and almost impenetrable forest trails – and a sense of having stepped back in time.
I came to Dominica in search of Jean Rhys, the celebrated Celtic-Creole novelist who was born here in 1890. I fell in love with her childhood Eden from the moment the local aeroplane from Antigua – no major companies yet fly there direct – touched down in the majestic shadow of Morne Diablotins. Awaiting me was the island’s most erudite tour guide. Affectionately known as “the Oracle”, Dr Lennox Honychurch had volunteered to show me the Dominica immortalised in Rhys’s novels.