11.4 Visitor's RoseauThe node of Roseau's tourist district is the tourist information office between cruise ship berth and Old Market Square. Especially cruise ship tourists gather around there, and souvenir vendors fill the square and the inner side of Mary Eugenia Charles Boulevard (the Bay Front) northwards from it always when there is a cruise ship in port. Two largest hotels of the city, Garraway and Fort Young, are side by side in the southern end of the boulevard, the latter of them being lately extended (see Fig. 48).
Shopping and restaurant district continues via King George V Street and Kennedy Avenue to Old Street and Great George Street, but not much more further except via King George V Street, which leads to the Botanical Gardens. Visitor's Roseau is not any larger than this, as there are not many hotels, restaurants, or tourist-oriented shops outside this district. Proposed pedestrian link between the Bay Front and the Botanical Gardens will widen the district if realized (see Chapter 13).
Cameron and Box (1993: 520) say that 'Roseau is small, ramshackle and friendly'. Visitors seem to have substantially same kind of image about the city even though some of them find it also dirty. This is a feature that causes a disagreement between the guidebooks authors and the visitors. Bendure and Friary (1994: 175), for instance, say: 'While Roseau is one of the region's poorer capitals, it's not one of the grimmer ones. Shopkeepers wash down the sidewalks every morning, police walk their beats with a rhytmic stride and most people are quite friendly.' Fermor (1950: 102) says: 'It [Roseau] appeared enchanting in the early light [--]. It was pretty, simple and innocent, and utterly different in feeling from the sultry, broody, rather wicked atmosphere that hangs over Fort-de-France.'
On the other hand, Roseau is found also as a busy centre of commercial activity. If Roseau is compared with larger cities overseas, it may seem quite relaxed indeed. If compared with Dominican countryside, Roseau is a hub of activity. One visitor describes the city: 'Lots of car horns, barking dogs, music and general hustle-bustle' (sex and home country unknown).
Typical characteristics of Roseau are most often found from its architectural appearance. Doyle (1995: 403), for instance, writes that "[i]t [Roseau] is a picturesque city with many quaint wooden buildings in traditional Caribbean-Creole style with balconies and overhangs. It has that well lived in, slightly seedy atmosphere, which perfectly suits its architecture." Honychurch (1991: 47), as a historian, gives reader a profound introduction to Roseau's architecture and its history. One part of it follows here:
Dominica was never a wealthy colony and this is reflected in her architecture. The capital claims distinction for its quaint wood and stone townhouses, most of which date from the Victorian period. These can be recognised by their overhanging verandahs decorated with fretwork, their jalousie louvres and heavy wooden shutters.
Lawrence Millman's (1988: 230) view of Roseau's architecture is slightly different: 'Roseau is a place of trellised gables, low-slung shingle houses, hilly terraces and poor drain off. Its charm lies in its resolute lack of charm.' According to one visitor, 'what made it [Roseau] typical was the size and character of buildings. Small, sometimes quaint' (female, US).
The buildings in Roseau are small and wooden. Some people do appreciate it, some do not. It is also possible that they do not have the same buildings in their mind. But the physical setting of the city (Fig. 49) is appreciated by everyone. 'Like: [--] the waterfront and the streets around it from which you can get the views of the green mountain ranges rising inland above the mists of the Roseau valley [--]' (male, UK), or 'The mountains behind Roseau give it a unique setting" (male, UK). The recent guidebook authors, on the other hand, do not give much attention to the setting (but see an earlier description by Fermor (1950) in Chapter 7.1).
Roseau is not seen as a reason to come to Dominica. This point was particularly voiced by visitors. It was quite expected since the survey was made to people who had visited the Boiling Lake--the people who probably prefer natural to urban environments when on holiday. Thirteen (41%) of the visitors mentioned nature or some kind of nature exercise as a reason to come to Dominica (see Appendix 3). On the other hand, Roseau is seen as a place from where to go to the other districts of the island (e.g. Doyle 1995: 403; Destination 1999: 70), One visitor said: 'It [Roseau] is primarily a stopping point, point of embarkation, supply area, and so forth for the better places on the island' (male, US).
According to Philippe Violier (1995: 394), the small towns should offer the tourism infrastructure of hotels, shops and restaurants for countryside. This seems to be also the role of Roseau. Larger cities may offer the same infrastructure and usually even more but because of their size they have also much more interesting sights to offer by themselves. Therefore the tourists tend to remain in the city. Hence, large cities do not serve the countryside touristically as well as the small ones.
Roseau still has some charm of its own. Its French Quarter is even proposed to become a Unesco World Heritage Site (Shillingford 1999). The reason for its charm is summarised by one visitor: 'It seems that the city is for the people who live there' (male, Sweden). To know if this is so is subject of the next chapter.