Top River Pearl - Review Page 1
Top River Pearl is the loving creation of German landscape gardener, Rainer Tichai. The name of the property is derived from the little steam that runs behind the house. The “pearl” is Rainer’s Caribbean dream. This is no opportunist attempt to profit from tourism, but a sincere and genuine attempt to create something worthwhile – a “family” guesthouse, with the emphasis on “guest”.
It is eleven years since Rainer purchased the two plots of land on which the guesthouse and café stand. He has designed every aspect of the property personally and supervised much of its creation and management. No easy task as Rainer lives and works in Germany and only visits Tobago once or twice a year. Top River Pearl has been open since 1999, but Rainer still considers his dream to be in the early stages of maturity.
This interesting small guesthouse offers a choice of a single two-bedroom apartment, or four double-occupancy studio apartments. It has to be said that two of the studio apartments are still under construction. One will possibly be completed by the time this review is published. The other may take a little longer. However, the work is largely internal fitting-out, so prospective guests need have no fear of noise or disruption while the work is completed.
Charlotteville is a small, remote, fishing village located in beautiful Man O’ War Bay on the north-eastern tip of Tobago. Although technically on the Caribbean coast, the Caribbean Sea and Atlantic Ocean merge just off Man O’ War Bay. The bay is a safe and protected natural harbour and must have been a Godsend to many a sailor.
The village consists of around 600 properties housing a total population of about 2,000. There is absolutely no industry in the area and most of the population eke out a living from fishing and subsistence farming. Although tourism is increasingly playing a role in the local economy, it is very low key and the village can still be considered ‘undeveloped’.
Although I had thought that the journey from the airport to Charlotteville would take over two hours, it actually took us just 75 minutes. I hadn’t been looking forward to this journey, after a 9-hour flight from London. My concern was wasted. The staggeringly dramatic Atlantic-coast scenery soon shook us out of the lethargy induced by the long flight. Both Jill and I felt surprisingly lively on arrival in Charlotteville. After a quick shower and change we were ready for a meal, a long chat and a few beers.
Top River Pearl is located at the upper end of Spring Street in the centre of Charlotteville. This little street is appropriately named and easily identified by the constant trickle of water originating from the natural spring that surfaces just behind the guesthouse and constantly runs down the gutters on each side of the street. Mind you, as there are only four streets off the main road, it would hardly be difficult to find Spring Street under any circumstances.
When considering holiday accommodation, choosing between a beachside location or property on higher ground can be a dilemma. We have decided that as far as Tobago goes, our definitive preferred choice is for property on higher ground, with great sea views and easy access to the beach. A beachside location tends to be the obvious choice, but properties on low ground can lose out on the views and miss the lovely cool night breezes, forcing the use of air conditioning with all its associated noise – and that assumes that air-conditioning is available. When I visit Tobago, the first thing I do is to get rid of all remote controls, whether they be for television or air-conditioning. Mind you, the constant noise of an air conditioner can sometimes hide the early morning racket of cockerels and Chachalaca (cocricos) – a serious problem with some accommodation (but not Top River).
In terms of location, Top River Pearl scored reasonably. The property is situated just 200 metres from the seafront – a mere two-minute walk down a gentle hill, maybe three on the return. However, the property is high enough to provide each apartment with lovely views over Charlotteville and Man O’ War Bay and to catch the cooling sea breezes.
Rainer has designed almost every aspect of Top River Pearl himself, showing talents obviously derived from his profession as a landscape gardener. He has done a grand job.
The property consists of a two-storey building with two wings set at an angle of approximately 40° and connected by a large covered deck. The white finish of the buildings is offset by rich mahogany balconies and window shutters and counter-pointed by a blue-green roof. Set amongst the mixed architecture of the village, the building is highly distinctive, but not out-of-character. When you view Charlotteville from the opposite side of the bay, you soon appreciate that Top River Pearl is one of the largest buildings in the village.
The ground floor of one wing houses the offices and kitchen of the Cappuccino Bar. A large single-story covered wooden deck attached to the building accommodates the café seating area. The entire upper storey of this wing is allocated to the main two-bedroom apartment.
The second wing houses the four studio apartments. Rainer has shown consideration for his guests by staggering the frontage of each apartment so that the balconies have optimum privacy whilst retaining the lovely views across the bay.
Top River is set into the hillside, with steep ground immediately behind. In fact, ground level at the rear of the property is higher than the floor level of the upper apartments. This means that all levels of the property offer excellent views over the surrounding village and out to the bay. The property is also well above street level. The gradient of the hill from the seafront is gentle and hardly noticeable, but the twenty-odd steps from the street to the ground floor could present a problem to those with walking difficulties. The property is not suitable for wheelchair access.
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