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Nothing wrong with joining the crowds at Maho Bay to stand about five feet under jumbo jets coming in for a landing (what could possibly go wrong?), but I have a new pet attraction in Dutch Sint Maarten: Parotte Ville. It's really three attractions, because it includes an immense walk-in aviary for parrots, a heritage museum, and a medicinal herb garden.
I was amused to learn that the visionary behind Parotte Ville is a man named George Parotte, but this shouldn't have surprised me. After all, don't I know a chiropractor named Dr. Pressman?
He Loved too Much
"I love birds," Parotte told me while ten parrots/parakeets snuggled on him. Gesturing at the dozens of parrot flying, pecking and perching all around us in a huge net tent, he added, "This is a hobby that just got a little out of hand."
Parotte explained that the birds are "parakeets," but the French word for "parrot" is not parotte, but perroquet, so something may be lost in translation. Fact is, they look too big to be parakeets. Which is not to say that parakeets can't dwarf the budgies sold in American pet shops. For example, Alexandrines, whose green feathers are splotched with crimson patches, often grow to be almost two feet long.
In any case, parrots and parakeets are all in the family, and Parotte has collected family members from Africa, Latin America, the Caribbean, and even India. Their feathers feature different Day-glo combinations of Kelly green, cherry red, lemon yellow, and/or French blue, and visitors get to see all this close up. Parotte takes you into the aviary and gives you a cup of seeds -- a guarantee that his gentle and beautiful pets will alight on your arms and shoulders.
Parotte also grows medicinal herbs in the aviary, and he's a true believer in herbal and homeopathic treatments. He describes the remedies provided by rosemary, thyme, cilantro, and other herbs, many familiar to North Americans who garden, cook or eat. I believe most of us would fall into at least one of those categories.
The biggest surprise at Parotte Ville takes up the least space: a single-room heritage museum in which every item is from Parotte's family, going way back to the 1800s. Parotte showed me dishware, cooking utensils, a cane-cutting machete, vintage photographs of his stoical forefathers, walking canes, ceramics, and other heirlooms.
Sometimes when he picked up an artifact he would caress it, telling me it was this great uncle's or that great-great aunt's. Then he revealed the key to some of these antiques, such as the launderer's iron that had a little chamber in it and a chimney so it could hold burning coals.
Parotte's forebears had lived in a different world, but he has succeeded in resurrecting it. So although my wish had been to see and touch his birds, I was also touched by Parotte's family.
https://www.facebook.com/Parotte-Ville-328103397525985/; firstname.lastname@example.org; (721) 580-8516.