Tiniest “Everything” in Tortola
Whereas other travel destinations are famous for the tallest building, the highest mountain, etc. I have found in Roadtown, capital of the Caribbean island of Tortola (BVI) four attractions which are the tiniest of their kind I have ever come across. Small they maybe, but they are full of charm and reflect the laid back island character perfectly.
The first is the O’Neil Botanical Garden, about a 20 minute walk along Waterfront Drive, Fleming Road and slightly uphill past the Recreation Ground. If it weren’t for a brass plaque on the corner, you would walk straight past. A nice lady at the entrance will take your admission fee of $1 and leave you to roam the tiny paradise at your pleasure. You can tour the botanical garden in about 10 minutes, but they have a great variety of tropical plants, marked with signs (some of them handwritten), so you know what you are looking at.
What strikes the visitor is how beautifully this tiny vegetation haven is kept. A little hut shelters the visitors’ book and, if nature calls, you can answer in the most picturesque rest-rooms I have ever seen, an entire wall adorned with a mural of island life and plants.
The second is what’s grandly called Main Street. It’s extremely narrow, twisting and turning off Fleming Street and then leading parallel to Waterfront Drive towards the cruise ship terminal. Hardly two cars can pass and there is no real sidewalk, so that a pedestrian is forced to quickly jump into a shop entrance if a car comes barreling around a corner.
It’s great fun however, because Main Street is lined with many shops and art galleries, among them what to me is the tiniest bookshop I have ever been in, aptly called “Books”. The shop is located in a brightly painted wooden house just as many houses bordering Main Street are made of wood. I entered “Books” and had a hard time to remember that I had to leave eventually, as otherwise I would have, literally, missed the boat. I got carried away, leafing through books on island history and listening to the owner who was only too pleased to tell me anecdotes about local celebrities, past and present.
I dragged myself away eventually, because I had another destination in mind: the Folklore Museum, also located on Main Street. It takes keen eyes to find the entrance to that tiny stone building, set back from the street and up rather steep stone steps. The museum features all of two tiny rooms, crammed with a collection of local craft, dolls and sepia photographs from times gone by. Everybody I met in Tortola is happy to talk to you and if you express an interest, they will tell you their life story.
After all these “tiny” things, I did however have the biggest and best fruit smoothie I have ever tasted at a stall near the harbor. I don’t know how many different, exotic fresh fruit went into it, together with coconut milk, cinnamon and crushed ice. It was so thick I could hardly suck it through my straw and as I had to rush to get back to the ship in time, a top up was poured into another cup for me take with me and enjoy later. Tiny island, big on fun!
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Inka Piegsa-Quischotte is a freelance travel writer based in Miami and Istanbul. She has written for Gonomad, suite101, literary traveler and the "My Home Town" section of the Smithsonian magazine. Inka also maintains a travel blog called The Single Woman Traveler.