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Nothing wrong with joining the crowds that gather at Maho Bay to stand four feet under the jumbo jets coming in for a landing (what could possibly go wrong?), but I have a new favorite attraction in Dutch Sint Maarten: Parotte Ville. It's really three attractions, because it includes an immense walk-in aviary full of parrots, a Heritage museum, and a medicinal herb garden.

I was surprised to learn that the visionary behind Parotte Ville is a man from the French side named George Parotte, but I shouldn't have been. 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. "Birds are my passion." Gesturing at the high, long, and wide net tent and the dozens of rare parrots, he added, "This is a hobby that got a little out of hand."

Parotte told me the birds are "parakeets," but the French word for "parrot" is not parotte, but perroquet, so Parotte's translation from French may be a bit sketchy. Besides, 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, can be almost two feet long.

Birds of Many Feathers Flock...

In any case, parrots and parakeets are members of the same family, and Parotte has collected varieties from Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean. The feathers of these species feature different Day-glo combinations of Kelly green, cherry red, lemon yellow, and/or French blue, and he lets visitors see all this close up. When you enter the aviary, Parotte gives you a cup of seeds, and that's a guarantee that his gentle and beautiful pets will alight on your arms and shoulders.

Parotte also nurtures medicinal herbs in and outside the aviary, including Mediterranean herbs that have adapted to the Caribbean. Parotte describes to visitors the homeopathic remedies provided by rosemary, thyme, cilantro, and other herbs, many familiar to North Americans who garden, cook or eat. I do all three, so I was fascinated.

The biggest surprise at Parotte Ville takes up the least space: a single-room heritage museum in which every item on display is from Parotte's family, going way back to the 1800s. Parotte showed me dishware, cookware, a cane-cutting machete, old photographs of stoic ancestors, walking canes, ceramics, and other heirlooms.

He picked up several artifacts and caressed them, telling me they were this great uncle's or that great-great aunt's. Then he explained how things worked, such as a launderer's iron that had little chambers and chimneys so it could hold burning coals.

Parotte's forebears had lived in a different world, a world that he had resurrected. So although my goal had been to see and touch his birds, I was also touched by Parotte's family.

Contact information;; (721) 580-8516.


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