In the latter half of the eighteenth century, the Island of Dominica was caught in a struggle between British and French control. Against a political backdrop of the French and American Revolutions, control of the Island alternated between the French and the British fourteen times. Ever growing numbers of escaped slaves called “maroons” lived among the hidden valleys and impassable mountain heights of the inland ranges.
In 1805, Pascal Laudat was granted land at the head of the Roseau Valley, a reward for safely leading British soldiers across the Fresh Water Lake passage to the Cabrits. The successful British defense of the Cabrits marked the last French invasion of Dominica.
Laudat’s slaves were emancipated some years later, and were sent by their master to “the furthest reaches of his land” to settle. Two of these freed slaves, called Pappi and Alliot, made their homestead in the foothills below Morne Macaque. The 14-acre area then became known as PAPIOTTE. An occasional shard of pottery from this rural community can still be found on the grounds.
As a descendant of Pascal Laudat, Howard Rolle acquired the land in the early 1930’s. He raised a large family and farmed his garden of dasheen, tannia, cassava, coffee, citrus, watercress, breadfruit, cows and pigs.
In 1961, on a six month exploratory trip to Dominica, Anne and Burl Grey became enchanted by the beautiful Roseau Valley and met Howard Rolle, who encouraged her to buy a half acre of land from him. Over the next five years she made frequent visits to Dominica from her home in Florida. In 1967, she moved to Dominica and gradually acquired more of the original estate. Papiotte became Papillote and entered its new phase of development with the building of a snack-bar to serve the rare tourist hiking to Trafalgar waterfalls. The snackbar evolved into a restaurant and night club called L’aye Ca Fete and under the tutelage of Cuthbert Jno. Baptiste and Anne Grey meals were prepared for tourists during the day and live music was presented several nights a week. Bands such as “De Boys and Dem,” “Swinging Stars,” “The Jewels,” and “The Gaylord’s Power Union” developed. During the difficult transition years of the early 70’s L’aye Ca Fete closed and Anne and Cuthbert ventured into the development of local craft. Cuthbert created extraordinary candles and Anne developed an innovative line of calabash, vertiver, wood and bamboo craft.
Over the next eight years prior to independence, Papillote evolved into a small retreat consisting of an Inn, craft center and restaurant in training. In November, 1978, Dominica became independent. The following month, Anne Grey and Cuthbert Jno Baptiste married. Eight months later in August, 1979, Hurricane David passed and blew away everything in the Roseau Valley. The hurricane, gusting at 2OOmph, overturned and shattered the huge canopy of ancient trees covering the mountains, carved away the contour of the Roseau Valley, leaving bare cliffs, landslid roads and rubble. Buildings were demolished, soil blown away, food crops, fruit trees and bananas….. GONE WITH THE WIND! For the next six months, the Island would have hovered on the edge of famine, but for the intervention of the international community.
Six months later, electricity was returned to the valley and two years later the telephone lines were rebuilt. Seizing the opportunity to restructure a barren terrain, Anne and Cuthbert began to put the pieces back together. How best to play our part in the development of Dominica? The hurricane left the southern half of Dominica without schools and without a product to support the community. Anne and Cuthbert designed an integrated, all-encompassing plan and pursued it with fervor. A skills training project proposal was submitted to the IAF (Inter American Foundation) accepted and funded. Together with a group of German friends skilled in construction, the re-development program was begun. They taught building trade skills to the young people of Trafalgar while helping to reconstruct the buildings of Papillote. Living quarters and water systems were restored. Over the ensuing thirty-five years, Papillote has been put back together, gently interfacing with the environment and the community, supplying jobs for the hurricane children of Trafalgar.
The stone statuary were created by Lindee Climo in 1985. The new restaurant was opened in October 1994. Cuthbert took charge, developing a menu of delicious island dishes and bountiful fresh picked fruits, vegetables and herbal teas. Eggs from Papillote chickens for morning omelets were served in the open air surrounded by sprays of orchids, gingers and tree ferns.
Intent upon creating an ecologically sensitive foreign exchange generator Anne focused on the concept of a retreat within botanical gardens. There are collections of indigenous bromeliads, aroids, begonias, gingers and ferns. Papillote’s gardens are among the best in the Caribbean and have been featured in over forty articles in magazines, newspapers and travel books including The Royal Horticultural Society Magazine, The Garden, Garden Design, Wildflower, Audubon and Caribbean Travel and Life.
In 1994, Papillote won an Ecotourism award from Islands Magazine. In 1996, it was featured in a number of international articles including National Geographic Traveler Magazine. In 2003 it was included in 1000 Places To See Before You Die, by Patricia Schultz, and in 2006, BBC Wildlife Magazine called Papillote “the epitome of a mountain retreat.”
Today, Papillote Tropical Gardens remains one of the top attractions in Dominica, earning rave reviews from visitors and continuing to lead the way as a model of sustainable ecotourism.