Cameo Man Text by Tamy Emma Pepin
Italian-American artist carves out his dreams in a 'sea-side
castle' in Gravels Bay
island has won my heart for here I've built my castle where
in any man's heart is his home," says Franco. Today the
Castle is a landmark on Roatan and teaches the techniques
of carving to twelve local apprentices. "It does worry
me that this art can disappear," says Franco. "It
is an art that should continue and that gives a fine representation
of what men can do with the raw materials that Mother Nature
In the back of the Castle is where the mastermind works his
craft. Franco retreats behind the two large wooden doors facing
the main lobby, in his small and chaotic workplace, to keep
the dying tradition of cameo carving alive. The curtains are
shut and the room temperature kept no higher than 18 degrees
Centigrade. Franco works best when most of the island is asleep.
"Just to think, not even carve, to create
a tremendous amount of time," says Franco.
Clues of Franco's artistic influences are noticeable throughout
his workshop. Pictures of ships from the Queen Elizabeth II
to the Andrea Doria and to Franco's father Cammile, hang on
the walls; while scenes from Salvador Dali, Michelangelo and
Leonardo da Vinci and images of romantic art and neo-classism
are displayed among cameos in glass cases.
A variety of intricate tools lie on the table among colourful
gems, books, Italian biscuits and pictures of Franco's two
daughters. On another table, piles of wooden boxes carrying
hundreds of small cameos are adjacent to an improvised mini-bar.
Sitting in a corner of the room is the piece that won Franco
a place in the Museum of Metropolitan Art. "It is my
representation of the abduction of the Sabine women,"
Franco's main clientele is in Japan and his pieces are sold
worldwide. Despite the fact that he is a successful businessman,
Franco considers himself first and foremost an artist. "If
I saw myself as a businessman, I would approach things without
the love of perfecting the art," says Franco. "I'm
an artist, a realist, an honest man, a sculptor, an architect,
The love of perfection that Franco refers to is reflected
through his art. The details in the faces of the angels are
flawless and the captivating scenes of Roman history evoke
the Italian old school of art.
Covering an important part of the wall is a large painting
representing the Crossing of the Atlantic. "It represents
people crossing the ocean to come find a better life,"
says Franco. With the same goal, Franco came to the Americas
to share his passion for carving the marine canvas.
far back as Franco can remember he was immersed in ancient expressions
of art. "At the age of three, I used to sit on my grandfather's
lap when he was working. I would blow the dust off his carvings,"
says Franco Tammaro, Roatan's cameo carver.
Cameo carving originated in Ancient Greece and was brought by
the colonizing Greeks to Franco's hometown, Naples, in 79AD.
For the Tammaros, an Italian family of painters and sculptors,
cameo carving has been a tradition since 1851.
His father, also a gemologist and explorer, owned a vessel on
which Franco spent most of his free time as a young boy. Franco
was actually born during a trip to the Caribbean. "In 1960,
we were on the ship and we were passing the island [Roatan].
They say I was born in the waters of Roatan," says Franco.
"I decided to make it my home."
Franco grew up in Italy and travelled the world on his father's
ship. He later attended NYU where he studied architecture, which
he dropped to proceed with the creativity of art history and
Fifteen years ago, Franco moved to Rotan and seven years later
started conceptualizing his Stone Castle. In 1999, the Castle
was built, serving as Franco's home, workshop, teaching institute
born musician creates a soundtrack to a Roatan experience
As a young biology student he took a part in a 1960s European
wide study to find two identical grains of sand. It wasn't found,
but Hugo discovered something just as important: "grains
of sand can find a way to merging together more easily than
The Italian musician was born on Lace Como in Northern Italy.
When he was only six-years-old Hugo saw one of the first color
American movies "Captain of Castilla." That viewing
set his life of on a course of fascination with Americas' indigenous
culture and its music. "I still have goose bumps when I
think about this," says Hugo. As a twelve-year-old he was
given his first record, by coincidence, a collection of Andean
Music, that he listened four hours on end memorizing sounds,
rhythms and tunes.
His life philosophy has led him to meat and help many musicians
from South America. And that is how he learned his music sounds
and skills. In 1968 he contacted a group Bolivia Manta for whom
he organized a series of concerts. A few years later, with his
seven friends he started Apurimac, a musical group that lasted
for 20 years.
Retired, by coming to Roatan Hugo reinvented himself from being
known as biologist and an amateur musician to being on of the
most recognizable artists the island hosts. Since moving to
the island in 1996 he started a musical group "Puro Sol."
By playing several South American wooden flutes and mandolins
he fascinates his Caribbean audiences.
2001 he relised his so far only CD: Puro Sol, or Latin American
Fiesta! In a compilation of Hugo's original music, music by
Chris Goldman, and American standards he created a soundtrack
to Roatan: a mixture of Latin America, western influences and
South American sounds. The CD was recorded live and the instrumental-
Chocolate Bon Bon- is by far his favorite.
For the last two years his health has turn a turn downwards
and Hugo, now 69-years-old, doesn't play as much as he used
to. Hugo is more frail now and doesn't play a regular schedule
at Palmetto Bay. With a recognizable gray beard, a mustache,
and always present smile he spends more time at his home in
West End with his son Andrea and Honduran wife Reina.
Hugo does occasionally motivates himself to play a special venue
and his greatest satisfaction comes from knowing that his music
influenced people around Roatan.
'outside the box' provides an excuse to raise Bay Islands
two dozen developers are racing to build hundreds of condominiums
to Roatan, a local restaurant owner uses Styrofoam and concrete
to create an economical, postmodern answer to Roatan's shortage
of housing and storage: a igloo.
Behind the wooden structure of "Rottiseria Aleman"
in French Harbour, the three meter tall spherical structure
popped practically overnight on May 24. The eye popping, slightly
surreal stone igloo was completed in barely two weeks. "Styrofoam
is easy to work with, you can cut out that ever you want,"
said Kurt Neudecker, owner and mastermind behind the structure.
First a four inch slab was poured on site of the 'igloo' to
be. Then eight, white, four inch thick Styrofoam shells were
braced together with rope and large metal staplers secured each
of the shells to the next. The exterior was covered with stone
and concrete and the upper portion of the structure will be
sealed with a concrete sealer.
Formas Thermicas, of San Pedro Sula, manufactures the building
blocks and has helped in construction of 43 such igloos through
Honduras. The cost of the eight Styrofoam shells forming the
6 meter diameter semi sphere is $1,200.
the expense of making two aluminum windows and one door the
cost of the 300 square foot structure came out to $5,800 or
$19 per square foot. Currently there is no water, or electrical
installations in the structure.
Neudecker plans to use the igloo as a hurricane shelter but
currently his son Morritz had reserved the igloo as his first
Neudecker originally planned on constructing four igloos side
by side, but the municipal zoning department found the igloo
construction not in the spirit of the island architecture. "They
say that the rusted zinc sheets and unfinished concrete block
houses are more Caribbean than my igloo," said Neudecker,
who received a municipal building permit with many restrictions
discouraging him from perusing construction of additional 'igloos.'
carnival week filled around 85% of the island's 350 hotel
rooms. "We are still recovering from the two days when
UPCO was down during Semana Santa," said Patrick Flynn,
Utila businessman and President of the Carnival Committee.
Sue Ruttman, owner of the Mango Tree businesses saw a noticeable
spike in business. Ruttman's internet café saw a 20%
increase in business, while her ice-cream and tee-shirt shop
saw an increase of 50%.
Flynn, who took over the organization of the town's carnival
from Lilian Henderson, complained of the infighting amongst
the two politician parties during the putting together of
the event. "I've stood my ground with the red [liberal
party] and stood my ground with the blue [national party],"
said Flynn. "It is a shame that something that benefits
the entire community involved should suffer because of political
views." The carnival committee accepted around Lps. 50,000
from business and individual donations. Cerveceria Horndureña
and Congressman Jerry Hynds contributed Lps. 20,000 to the
Utila Carnival is not just a festival for tourists, it provides
an opportunity for Utilians living abroad to come back to
their island and reconnect with their families and friends.
"We always come for Easter and the Carnival. We've seen
six of them so far," said Randy Cardona, an Utilian temp
worker from Long Island who with his wife Wanda came to visit
his Cola de Mico family and home for the festivities.
last year, sunny weather allowed for the festival to run almost
all of its scheduled events. Sandy Bay, Cola de Mico, The
Point and Bando Beach all held their neighborhood carnivals,
with the Saturday offering the biggest festivities on three
stages located through the town. "We hope to use the
same concept as a springboard for the future carnivals.,"
Past in Utilas Present
his debut novel "And the Sea Shall Hide Them",
Mister William (Bill) Jackson has delivered an exciting
and well-written account of a horrific maritime tragedy
at sea in the western Caribbean near the small tropical
island of Utila. Bill Jackson's book falls under the
"non-fictive novel", in which
many (but not all) of the names of the novel's characters,
dates, and places are factual and accurate, and only
the colorful dialogue, thoughts, and the manner in which
the various characters interact have been fictionalized.
In the Author's note Jackson writes: "This is not
necessarily only a story of murder-of death. It is also,
more importantly, a story of the human will to live,
to fight on and survive when all seems hopeless.
Jackson, himself born on the island of Utila, had been fascinated
as a child by the exciting tale of the mysterious vanishing
of the island schooner Olympia, and what had happened to all
twelve people, both passengers and crew, on board. As a young
boy, Bill had often sat in the evenings in the semi-darkness
on the front porch of an elderly neighbor-the old man's features
lit by the soft, mellow glow of a kerosene lamp-and eagerly
listened while "Mister John" related the exciting
tale of murder and mayhem on the high seas. It was then, long
ago, that the author promised himself that someday he would
write down the tale for others. He now has kept this promise
and we his readers are his fortunate beneficiaries.
The spell-binding tale begins on the last of June, 1905, on
a balmy, dark night on Utila. With both skill and an obvious
love for the story itself, the author weaves a tight net that
snares his readers from the very beginning. Old Bay Island
names are sprinkled throughout, and the vanishing cultural
ways of the islands, common throughout most of the Caribbean
in those long-ago days of a century ago, along with dialogue
rich in Antillean expressions that one can still hear bits
of in the islands today, makes those of us familiar with The
Bay Islands feel as if we were there that dark night when
the schooner Olympia set sail on what was supposed to have
been a calm, uneventful voyage of but four hours to the larger,
nearby island of Roatán.
What happened on that fateful voyage is the focus of Bill's
wonderfully crafted novel, and will leave his readers feeling
both elated and sad at the same time. They will find themselves
enduring the horrors and miseries that befall Miss Elsie Morgan,
heroine of the story, as she struggles and prays to survive
long enough to tell her story. Above all, they will rejoice
at the final outcome of a young woman's determined "struggle
against impossible odds".
This is a small book that you, the reader, will be sad to
see end. It will hold you in its grip from page one through
its Epilogue and the author's Final Note. Read and enjoy.
David K. Evans
was a little scared when a friend of mine handed me
The Judas Bird by David K. Evans. After all, it weighs
over three pounds (I checked) and is almost 1,000 pages
long. But my friend promised me that it was a "roman
a clef" (actually she said no such thing but that's
what she would have called it if she was the kind of
person who liked to throw around fancy French phrases)
and that I'd find all sorts of real people, people who
I know, inside that 3 pound, 972 page novel.
There truly is something for everyone in this treasure
book: intrigue, action, pirates, romance, comedy, mystery,
history, anthropology, good guys, bad guys, even socio-economic
theory, not to mention all your favorite restaurants:
Gio's, Romeo's, Que Tal Café. If you are an Islander,
born and raised, you'll laugh at Evans' dead-on descriptions
of clueless tourists wandering around getting sunburned,
drinking margaritas and stumbling back to their cruise
ships at the end of the day. You'll also recognize,
and love, his beautiful word paintings of your Island.
Roatan's beaches, reefs, and sunsets, its curving mountain
roads, torrential rains and brilliant sun all come to
vivid life. You can decide for yourself how good a job
Evans does of duplicating the Island dialects - it sounds
pretty exact to me. He even duplicates the way many
of you switch back and forth from formal English to
dialect in what to all of us who speak only one, not
very colorful, English, seems truly amazing!
you're an Expat (from anywhere) living on one of The
Bay Islands, or on the mainland, you'll be tickled pink
by the familiarity of Evan's hero and heroine's experience
at the TACA counters and waiting rooms in Miami, and
you will watch, with growing amusement, their gradual
acceptance of the completely insane as completely normal.
Tell the truth!
How many trips to Honduras did it take before you started
playing "spot the missionaries, the honeymooners, the
con artists, the "mochilleros"? And how long was
it before all of the above became "foreigners" to
us too, the objects of some amusement.
is Evans' hero. He is a fairly young Gringo whose first encounter
with Roatan and its people came from a stint in the Peace
Corps several years ago. Now, he is returning to the Island
because he's bored with the work he's chosen for his career
and is trying to find some way to make it exciting again.
Colleen, the beautiful young heroine, comes from Scotland
and is on Roatan because she has inherited a lovely mountain
top estate on this far away island, a place she has never
heard of before. The bad guy is Charles Tegget, "a land
pirate" with a smile that charms anyone right out of
all common sense. That is, unless they catch a good look at
his eyes, "the eyes of a stray dog" with no warmth
or compassion, only cold calculation.
Todd and Colleen arrive on Roatan just in time to get caught
up in Tegget's latest scheme, an attempt to steal a beautiful
beach property from the family who has owned it for over 150
years. Of course, Todd must save the property, win Colleen's
love, find the treasure and thwart Tegget in such a way that
the truly evil pirate never dares to set foot on Roatan ever
again. He does so with the help of a band of his island friends,
Tony, Sharella, Miss Catherine, Tim, Miss Katy, and Francisco,
an old "Turtle Mon" who sees into the Island's distant
past. Readers will have a great time guessing the real identities
of these people and many others who come and go while Todd
and Company and the Evil Men try to outwit each other.
The Judas Bird is jam-packed with fascinating pieces of history,
island lore, odd vocabulary and all of Roatan in its idiosyncratic
glory! Do you know that "Yabba Ding Ding" is actually
"Yappa Ding Ding" and is an old Garifuna expression
meaning "something worth less than nothing"? Do
you know what "dolla come circle" means? I suppose
that everyone but me knew that Coxen Hole itself was most
probably named after an infamous pirate, John Coxon, who spent
many years living on Roatan. (Until I read the book, I was
under the impression that the name was a kind of off-color,
Island joke and I have to say I'm a little sad, letting that
In any case, the older people on Roatan won't ever have to
worry about its history and culture being forgotten. David
Evans has done a great job preserving it and serving it all
up to us on a really tempting platter. No matter how busy
you are you'll be glad you took the time to enjoy this book
- whether you gulp it down fast, or savor it slowly, a little
bit at a time.
Moragh Orr Montoya
local group produces a sophisaticated, eloquent CD
Kris Goldman, 30, was born in Delaware and early on
he begun to study music and guitar. He entered the North
Caroline School of the Arts where, during one of the
lectures he came into contact with Dr. Evans and the
idea of Roatan. Kris paid his dues and school fees,
playing to audiences at local restaurants until he ran
into Dr. Evans who told him of a far away Roatan. Kris
was intrigued and ready to find a way to discover his
Latin and Caribbean calling.
In 1998 Kris finally found an opportunity to come to
Roatan when Edgar Bodden proposed to him starting a
music school on the island. The project didn't develop
and Kris eventually started teaching students by himself
and over the last eight years taught over 200 Roatan
students. His latest CD is his third production following
"Kristofer y sus Amigos," produced with Puro
Sol, "Latin American Fiesta" launched in 2002.
Last year Kris set up a recording studio at his Sandy
Bay home where he recorded several CDs for his students
and his third -most professional to date- "Welcome
to Roatan" CD with his Cultura group.
Kris presents himself as a master of all trades composing
music, writing lyrics, mixing and producing the CD.
One exception to his lyric writing is an adaptation
of Edgar Allen Poe's poem 'El Dorado,' a story about
a conquistador's quest and fascination for riches. The
song's pensive, skillful and wonderful solo guitar composition
and lonesome, melancholic voice introduces the best
of Kris' talents. The song offers examples of the CD's
best, sophisticated, reflective, sensitive sound. The
CD fused some of the best local musical talent into
arrangement of guitar, voice, drums and harmonica. Eight
musicians were involved in the collaborative creation
of "Welcome to Roatan." "I would work
with them almost like a director directs a movie,"
said Kris. Marcos Aranda playing congas and percussion-
entices the listener with an exquisite, rhythmic performance.
wife, Naira, was a co-writer of "Dia Lindo" a song
fusing not only musical styles but languages: Spanish and
English- quite skillfully.
One of the other compilations is "Bad, bad whiskey".
"Bad, bad, bad whiskey is making me walk with the devil
again" sings Kris in a melody of a country waltz in a
southern drawl accented. The melancholic, reflective song
about a down day on a Caribbean island.
"Welcome to Roatan," tries to be many things to
many people- not an easy thing to accomplish. On one hand
it attempts to be simple, unsophisticated and a bit touristy
introduction to Roatan sounds and cultures, on the other,
it amazes with depth and elaboration for a listener much more
Rieman Unique Musical Contribution to Roatan
Bobby Rieman arrived on Roatan in 1973 with little more
than a harmonica in his pocket. He has always loved
music. For as long as Bobby can remember he has found
himself especially drawn to rhythm and blues. As a kid
he had some preliminary guitar lessons and he learned
to play a few chords and a few simple songs.
For a while, during high school and college, music took
a back seat to his new found talent on the football
field. It wasn't until he began his travels that music
reestablished its place in Bobby's life. "I always
traveled with a harmonica in my pocket. It kept me company
in a way."
At first he played as a way to keep busy in a new place,
but soon he was playing back-up for musicians and bands.
Bobby remembers feeling embarrassed before his musical
Bobby came to Roatan almost by accident, intending instead
to go to Brazil. He immediately liked the distinct foreign
rhythms of the island and as new as reggae sounds were
to Bobby, his "harp" was a new instrument
to the local music scene. His harmonica playing cleverly
incorporated the reggae influence. "What I really
like about the harmonica is that it can be played in
so many different musical situations."
returned to Roatan in 1981 with a harmonica holder, a guitar
and a newly discovered singing voice. He moved to French Harbour
and his trio joined the local music scene. He developed his
unique style by playing for "shrimpers," taking
requests and any opportunity to improvise. Bobby's music continued
to diversify and in 1996 he found himself in a situation neither
he nor his music had experienced before
Bringing his talents together with those of other people in
a more formal way was an exciting experience. "I saw
my solo songs really come to life with a band." After
four years Bobby and his band TUNU released their first album:
Six years later and after six months of detail-oriented work,
Bobby and the Compadres, as he fondly calls the 11 contributing
artists on his new album, released "Pulperia Leah,"
his second CD. Bobby explains that "each person has a
place on that album that really lets them show off their individual
The album's twelve songs tell stories of life on Roatan through
Bobby's mixture of bluesy harmonica and Caribbean reggae exhibiting
Bobby's soulful lyrics. Some of the songs, like "Leavin'
You Babe" are newly recorded versions of those that he
played for years. Others, such as "West End Stroll"
are witty tales of life on the island.
His stories are realistic and uncomplicated versions of life
on Roatan: what the island is and how it is changing. Bobby
describes his lyrics as transparent with "nothing hiding
behind dreamy language and cryptic words." He claims
that he's never been able to decide to sit and write a song,
but rather that he gets hit with inspiration: often while
driving to and from construction sites that he works on. In
fact, many a song has been written in the front seat of his
truck, pulled over to the side of the road just long enough
to jot down his thoughts.
Bobby looks forward to writing as an outlet and never really
considered himself to be a great writer. His writing, together
with the entirety of his musical style, reflects in his sparkling
personality and gentle demeanor. "Pulperia Leah"
is a step forward from "Roatanified," keeping in
with the first album's general style and feel. Pulperia's
songs successfully broaden the scope of the first album.
is the "Blackfoot" of the Roatan's musical
scene. Its sound can sometime be heard in the center
of Sandy Bay. It can sometime be seen at small cays
and plantations around the island. It's the unique,
six foot long, 100 pound marimba instrument.
35 note keys at the bottom and 26 keys at the top arranged
in a sequence of twos and threes. This "musical
machine" makes for a very complex, technically
challenging instrument with a wide range of tones and
octaves. If fact it is so complex, that it has to be
played by two, or even three people.
To the best of out knowledge, on Roatan there is only
one marimba. For the last seven years, two brothers
have been playing the instrument on the island while
living in Sandy Bay and supporting themselves not through
music, but throughy grass cutting and ad jobs.
"La Norteña," how the Muñoz brothers
call their marimba, was built in the valley of Santa Barbara
15 years ago. Leonardo Muñoz, 70, has been playing
the instrument since he was 17. His brother Manuel Muñoz,
52, started accompanying Leonardo 37 years ago. "I'm
base. I'm center. I always play the melody," says Manuel.
The drumsticks used to hit the keys are made from a tree called
"ule" and are covered in rubber-like coating. Each
musician uses up to six of the drumsticks at the same time.
In their controlled, sometimes jerky movements the brothers
are reminiscent of Balinese shadow puppets. "We can play
in the rhythm of merengue, bolero and sentimental music, "says
The sound beat is transferred from drumsticks to the rectangular
keys, to wooden square towers that hang below the instrument.
These are wood resonators that reverberate the sound into
four-five octaves. And the sound their instrument produces
is quite amazing.
Ismael Ramirez from San Pedro is considered by the musical
brothers to be one of the best marimba players and someone
to look up to. In fact, marimba came to Honduras from Guatemala
where it was brought by African slaves. Marimbas evolved into
diverse forms and were adopted into the Central American music
culture and through the world. The word "marimba"
is an African Bantu language describing a mallet-struck xylophone
with hollow resonators.
mountainous geography offers an opportunity to build houses
overlooking stunning vistas. One of the more spectacular places
to build is Cohoon Ridge, on the West Bay road. Few houses
have taken advantage of this opportunity as well as this recognizable
Euro Mesghez and Paolo Finzi were the builders of the house,
the first one built on Cohoon Ridge. Both were commercial
divers in Italy before coming to Roatan in 1991. Mesghez took
the idea of the octagonal island bungalow and repeated it
twice creating two towers. The south tower is one-story and
the north tower is three stories tall. The two hexagonal-footprint
towers are connected with a bridge - a bedroom space with
spectacular views towards Flowers Bay shore. Underneath the
bridge lies a patio and deck looking over Pirate's cove a
Rod and Jackie Merwin from Connecticut are the owners of the
house today. The 3,600 square-foot house has four bedrooms,
four bathrooms and a garage.
The interior is open, with few walls and rooms extending all
the way to the roof and the whole design gives an aura of
lightness and transparency. Still, it's not easy to build
a house with no corners. It can be even harder to find furniture
The site is surrounded by a very recognizable white-washed
property wall with a horizontal slit and horizontal wood bar.
The fast-sloping site offers limited opportunities for landscaping,
yet it has a meticulously laid out garden: a traveler palm
tree thrives here, growing to 30 feet and withstanding the
"When the trade winds are blowing, the island is covered
in a cloud of salt," said Mesghez. A cast concrete base
and the octagonal shape gives needed stability to the house,
which is subjected to tremendous wind forces year-round. "I
built it really strong: a lot of concrete, a lot of metal,"
economy of materials was the rule in constructing the structure:
pressure-treated pine for floors and deck, cement block walls,
painted rebar used for the main gate. The strong octagonal
design helped to efficiently tackle the 100-120 mph Hurricane
There are always at least a dozen birds taking advantage of
the lift created by the wind blowing onto the ridge. For hours,
they remain suspended, not even moving their wings, in balance
above the ridge.
elements unite in functionality to complement a masterfully
designed house on Roatan's North shore
where the owner gives an architect a free hand are the stuff
of legends. Frank Lloyd Wright's Kaufman house, or Frank Gary's
Long Island house for his mother are some of the best examples
of what can be achieved in such a collaborative, trusting
spirit. A new addition to a not-so-long list of such projects
can be made: Roatan's Todo Rojo.
The house, located in Roatan's Lawson Rock gated community
in Sandy Bay, is composed of four individual structures facing
a central patio garden and connected by a series of overlapping
roofs, screens and stone walkways. There is a low key axis
to the design, running North-South, just East of the carved
entry door through the patio, garden, the main living room
and out towards the view of green slopes and beach.
The house can remind of a Cretan home with red, simple columns
wrapped with vines around the base. The spaces are framed
with earth-toned walls: red, browns and olive. There are multiple
sources of indirect lighting and at sunset the house comes
alive as it is flooded with sun bursting through the horizontal
screens and openings.
This "Cretan design" constantly crosses into a South
East Asian feel: antique Chinese sliding doors, simple oriental
wood sconces, a Hindu statue at the entrance, materials such
as bamboo flooring and travertine marble. The patio itself
is reminiscent of a Shinto temple, with its scale, water bowl
and stone details.
Decorative elements are also functional. The fans are not
only useful, but decorative; the bamboo wall is not only pleasing
to the eye, but serves as a louver to the closet. The top
of the 30,000 gallon cistern serves as the flooring in the
center of the house. The 2,500 sq ft home has two bedrooms,
two baths, a home-office and an independent guest apartment.
shingles on the roof are a not-expensive, welcome variation
to the roof covering materials used on the Bay Islands. Not
a single nail penetrates the wood siding below. The workmanship
is craftsman like, done to the margins allowed by the materials.
Builder Nelson Abbott constructed the house in one year.
The siding is used horizontally outside, as well as "inside-out"
on the interior walls, to create a more uniform look, adding
to the blurring of traditional inside/outside spaces characteristic
of many of this architect's designs. Trimmings are minimal,
reduced to simple 1" by 4" moldings. With all the
transparency of the internal spaces, it was not easy to hide
the wiring of the fans, lamps.
Gutters are made out of wood and lined with fiberglass. They
end up looking and being strong, decorative and functional.
The downspout in the patio garden is a thick metal chain,
a detail originating with architect Frank Lloyd Wright.
Only a few owners are brave and intelligent enough to find
a good architect and confide in him/her to produce a building
that can reflect who they are and how they would like to live.
"The clients were fun to work with," said Hal Sorrenti,
the architect, of the Alreds. Sorrenti, who has practiced
his craft for 11 years on Roatan, considers the house one
of his two favorites.
Not unlike the master builder Dedalus' Labyrinth on the island
of Crete, Sorrenti produced its Caribbean version, full of
hidden space, functional niches and vistas.
Cave Like No Other
biggest cave of the Bay Islands is not in the waters
underneath Utila, or among the Guanaja Peaks: it has
been constructed in the hillside above West Bay.
stalagmites drip water through ½" PVC pipe
at 60 drops a minute. Sconces hide the light fixtures
and ventilation chimneys allow for air flow. In the
big room, jets move water around a three-dimensional
map of the Bay Islands. Tablets explaining the history
of the archipelago frame the 22' by 28' space. There
is even an air conditioning unit. As far as caves go,
you can't get a better cave than that.
In the corridor, a cannon overgrown with coral is displayed.
It was found in the waters "between la Mosquitia
and Guanaja." It is pretty much the only authentic
artifact among the cave's objects. The life-sized statue
of a pirate (named Coxen), guns and jewels were brought
in from a costume store in Miami.
"This will be a different cave. An educational
cave," said Marco Galindo, owner of the Gumba Limba
Park where the cave was constructed. "It's also
a perfect hurricane shelter." The 2,000 square
foot cave has three caverns and a series of narrow corridors.
Its winding 4' passages slope slightly and exit through
a concrete opening sculpted to resemble a fish head.
"This will be a different cave. An educational
cave," said Marco Galindo, owner of the Gumba Limba
Park where the cave was constructed. "It's also
a perfect hurricane shelter."
2,000 square foot cave has three caverns and a series of narrow
corridors. Its winding 4' passages slope slightly and exit through
a concrete opening sculpted to resemble a fish head. The cave
is a part of the multi-use tourist theme park built on the shores
of West Bay beach. A huge hole was excavated, then an 8"
slab was poured and 10' high concrete block walls were erected.
"Just like building a regular house," said Galindo.
Then, a concrete slab topped off the structure, the dirt was
brought back in and the work on the interior could begin. All
of this took about two months to construct.
"The hardest was coming up with the concept," said
Bartolo Miranda, 38, a Guatemalan artist specializing in concrete
work. With a team of ten people, he sculpted the inside and
outside of the cave leaving no wall even. Miranda has moved
to Honduras where he now dominates the concrete sculpture market.
He sculpted "Water Jungle Park" in La Ceiba, a huge
residential park in San Pedro Sula and a turtle nursery at Jerry
Hynds' Coral Cay marine park.
Working with re-bar, wire mesh and concrete, Miranda creates
surfaces that are hollow yet strong. The construction cost was
between $50-60,000 for the 2,000 square foot cave, amounting
to half the cost of a natural stone environment.
Now, Miranda is working on what he considers the most challenging
part of the project: a seven-foot tall pirate sculpture that
will be erected on top of the entrance to the cave. "This
is the difference between a normal and extraordinary person:
you create something that is unique," said Miranda.
When Columbus discovered Guanaja in 1502 he
already knew he didn't arrive at the shores of India. No chance
of getting a samosa anywhere
at least for the next five
centuries. Forward 503 years and a family run Ooloonthoo restaurant
in West End makes the dream of an Indian meal on Bay Islands
The Ooloonthoo menu offers a bit of everything. Diverse meats,
and vegetables from across Indian subcontinent. In an attempt
at Indian food anti-traditionalism Shrimp and Calamari dishes
cater to the Roatan public. Also the size of the portions matched
more Roatan appetites, than Indian tradition.
One could make a meal just from the six appetizers alone. First
on our table arrived- pappadums, crisp bread wafers, served
with side of delicate mint and cilantro chutney. Light, not
greasy, in a light brown color, they were irresistible to put
The other appetizer, the ginger pea soup with a swash of yogurt,
had a wonderful consistency. It's coriander aftertaste build
up, yet not overwhelmed in your mouth to create a staccato of
bliss. A feat especially impressive considering the green peas
are one of the only produce Ooloonthoo receives frozen, not
But the most original and inventive of the appetizers was an
Indian street side snack elevated to a culinary level: vegetable
Samosas served mango chatney, raisins and onions. The reinvention
of this dish made it our definite favorite.
The ambiance of the restaurant in uncomplicated, simple but
attentive to details that make a dining experience not just
dining. Silk saris serve as décor for the ceilings as
yellow, thick tablecloths are held by heavy silverware. Cut
banana leaves and folded heavy napkins decorated the side dishes
and Indian music sets the tone.
The restaurant building was originally designed as a home and
Ooloonthoo has worked with the existing space to create a home
like feel and offering a bit more privacy in the smaller rooms.
Paul and Soden James, Oolonthoo's owners are conscious of community
sensibilities and decided to stay closed on Saturday, a church
day observed by many people in their West End neighborhood.
opening their doors, over the last three months, the owners
spent time fine tuning their menu and décor. Chef Paul
James, a graduate of Canada's Stratford Chef School, changes
the menu to match the local seasons of fruits and vegetables.
The recipes are all original, compiled over time by Chef Paul
during his three year sojourn in India.
Josh, the crown jewel of the restaurant's menu and the "hottest
dish in India," is not for the faint hearted. The super
spicy leg of lamb's taste just builds and builds till you sweat.
Courtesy of made from scratch curries.
The rescue can come in the form of room temperature served;
white rice or naan- home, daily baked Indian bread. For the
Indian food novices, Soden is there to explain the intricacies
of every dish and steer them clear from spice overload.
Pork Vindaloo, a dish with Portuguese roots had a more subtle,
still lively sweet taste. Eggplant with tomato, onion and garlic
accompanied the main courses.
Indian dessert is especially difficult to prepare and can be
overwhelmingly sweet to most pallets. Kheer- rum pudding and
ice cream were too much for our indulging. We settled for a
la carte - chai masala.
The cost to product ratio is great. Including tax and service
our feast cost a reasonable Lps. 1,351, or $72. It is an authentic
Indian food. Ooloonthoo offers a real Indian cuisine experience
elevated by imagination and attention to detail.
and confident Vietnamese cuisine fuses Caribbean and South
East Asian tastes.
I always dread doing a review of restaurants
that are not as quite good as they perceive themselves to
be. It's a recipe for disappointment. This is not the case
with "Le Bistro," a recently launched Vietnamese
restaurant in West End.
Frank, the owner of the six table restaurant, is not hesitant
to wait on tables and pick up empty dishes. After many years
of managing Flying Fish, Frank is only fulfilling every Frenchman's
duty: "have a son, plant a tree, start a restaurant."
And Frank seems to have figured out the essence of why people
do start restaurants, not only "how they do it."
If you are going to do something, do something original, do
it right and do it the way you want
Roatan is connected to some interesting places around the
globe: Bali, Fiji and most recently Vietnam. "Le Bistro"
of Vietnamese cuisine? If you are confused about the name
here is your answer. Frank invited a Vietnamese Frenchman
from Marseille, Richard, to take charge of his kitchen and
a few months later it is hard to get a table.
The simple, not overbuilt menu with affordable prices attracts
a "mixao" clientele of Roatan residents and tourists.
Frankly, anyone with a taste for spice will feel right at
To start things off, a bowl of complementary appetizers "with
a punch" of fresh carrots, cauliflower and water chestnuts
could be snacked on with a toothpick. A good tool to use,
as the acidic spice can prove scorching hot.
Shrimp, grouper, pork, chicken or vegetarian can be the filling
for acras, egg rolls, spring rolls and wantans that form the
core of the menu. The result: transparent, super fresh spring
rolls are crunchy; the shrimp acras were fried just right,
retaining the elasticity of the meat. Three drops of the spicy
sauce are like
the "blood from the Alien movie," burning through
metal and flesh. Handle with caution. Sweet and sour
sauce is a better answer for most mortals.
one can have trouble committing to just
one. The answer to the dilemma is to order a Combo
Platter and with a bit of everything. (Lps. 200-245)
For the main courses, we decided to try Mixao- a sensory delight
(Lps. 190), and one of the menu's jewels. It's chicken and
shrimp are served in a spicy ginger sauce, perched on top
of a nest of deep fried noodles.
you are into a more hands-on cooking experience, Blau Blau,
or flaming hot pot of filet beef (Lps. 300 for two), should
be your choice.
The dish can be prepared for one person as well. The strips
of beef, zucchini, shallots, orange pepper and Chinese mushrooms
are presented and cooked to your satisfaction in a pot surrounded
with flames of rubbing alcohol.
The presentation of the dishes was simple, but tasteful. Plates,
silverware, even napkins are not exuberant, but certainly
not skimpy. The setting isn't too fancy. The restaurant is
nestled in between a dive shop and a souvenir store and the
dining experience is reminiscent of an outdoor market: casual
and funky. Batik tablecloths, space lit by candlelight and
metal frame cloth clad lamps.
we could add anything to the experience, it would be a bigger
wine menu, or even a couple Vietnamese fruit shake drinks.
We were told the espresso machine is on its way.
Desserts are not on the menu, but should not be missed. Flan,
crème caramel and pineapple slice flambé were
the evening's deserts. Even though we found the sliver of
flan a bit bubbly, the pineapple stole the show: super sweet
Most amazing of all
our bill was under 800 Lps., that's
including two drinks and coffee. "Danh t? s? nhi?u, Mr.
Richard." Or, should we just say "Merci?".
Meal With a View
When "The View" opened in March, it
was Carl Husband's third restaurant on Roatan. Since 1999, he
managed the Reggae Bar in West End, created the more urban Back
Room Restaurant in Coxen Hole and finally moved even further
East to Six Huts.
The wood, thatched-roof building sits on the side of the main
road next opposite to Parrot Tree road. The restaurant's large
deck overlooks the North Shore of Roatan. Other then a beautiful
vista, we came expecting Carl's consistency in culinary quality.
We weren't disappointed.
A friend's Shrimp Piña Cocktail (Lps. 74) arrived with
a selection of four jumbo shrimps. The crusty breaded fried
shrimps were decorated with fresh parsley and the cocktail sauce
had a pineapple twist to create a Bay Island original.
Just as original were the Tempura Drumsticks (Lps. 70). The
local island favorite- fried chicken, was treated to an innovative
oriental context. The made-from-scratch tempura batter was accompanied
by honey to create a salty-sweet tasting combination.
It was main course time and we saw duck. The last time we had
seen this migratory bird on the Bay Islands was when it was
flying over us, a very long time ago. The View could very well
have the only duck featured on a restaurant menu in the Bay
Islands. Chef Carl gets his duck meat from the US to create
a selection of "flying" appetizers and entrées.
Our Roasted ½ Duckling with Orange Tarragon Sauce (Lps.
270) came accompanied by piped mashed potatoes and a zesty salad.
smell of cinnamon surrounded the table as Cinnamon Beef Tacos
(Lps. 110) arrived at the table. The tacos were a more affordable
entrée choice offering just as much attention in presentation
and taste. The white flower tortilla was fresh and fluffy
and the cabbage topping gave the tacos a nice crunch.
Offering a nice touch of originality
in tableware, a stone yaba-ding-ding served as the napkin
weight on our table. Still, an upgrade in napkins would more
accurately match the quality and originality of the food.
All deserts were affordably priced at Lps. 40. Our Banana
Rum Cake with roasted peanuts was smooth and sweet. Two of
them would make you fail the Roatan police breathalyzer test.
The Island Lime Pie arrived decorated with honey and a slice
of lime. It was sweet and almost a bit tart, but coffee mellowed
the taste. The price for our feast for two came to a reasonable
Lps. 750, not including service.
Chef Carl never quite got used to the wisecracks made by some
cruise ship tourists about the restaurant's name. "The
'Even better View' restaurant could pop-out anytime,"
said Carl. Still, even the stunning view of Crawfish Rock
and North Shore below can't distract the visitor from the
originality and quality of the restaurant's cuisine.
A popular spot with a varied clientele, the restaurant can
be packed on a weekday lunch and filled to the brim on a Friday
night after-work. It is a varied, imaginative cuisine at an
Chef Hellen Thompson
lbs yucca, peeled and grated
4 cups sugar (or more or less to taste)
1 t salt
2 t vanilla
2 can coconut milk
1 can condensed milk
1/4 stick margarine
2 cups water
Mix together grated yucca and other ingredients, the thinner
the mixture the better the cake, bake at 450º for 1 hour
or until top is brown then slow oven to 350º and bake
for another 3 hours in a 14x10x2 in. Baking pan