Top River Pearl - Review Introduction

Reviewed by Steve & Jill Wooler in January 2004

Top River Pearl, Charlotteville

Let us be under no misapprehensions. Charlotteville does not offer the accommodation options of Crown Point or other more populated areas of Tobago. Those looking for 5* luxury should forget Charlotteville. This small fishing village offers little but a small collection of basic, but comfortable, self-catering guesthouses. No resort, no hotels. And long may it continue so.

I sit here on the shaded deck of Top River Pearl’s Cappuccino Bar, enjoying the wonderful views over Man O’ War Bay and the surrounding lush green hills. Hermitage Beach is in the far distance. The vibrant red flowers of the dwarf immortelle trees are starting to come into bloom, setting the hillsides alight. Around two dozen small fishing pirogues bob in the protected bay. It is now nearly ten on a Sunday morning. The fishermen have long returned from their labour and are no doubt ‘liming’ along the seafront, their voluble arguments initially somewhat intimidating until you appreciate how good-natured they are. Above the chirping of the birds I can hear the choir in the adjacent Methodist church. To my right, a ruby topaz hummingbird feeds on the hibiscus flowers. To my left, another mug of Top River Pearl’s wonderful cappuccino coffee. If this isn’t paradise, then I don’t know where is.

I first visited Charlotteville in the mid-1950s. I hasten to add that I was a mere lad. It was then that I fell in love with Tobago. A love that led to this website. A love shared by my wife, Jill, who first visited the island less than ten years ago.

I cannot visit Tobago without travelling to Charlotteville; visits of immense affection and respectful memories for our hosts of days gone by, the late Mr & Mrs Turpin. Their plantation includes most of the land around Charlotteville and the village itself.

I have refrained from returning to the Man ‘O War Bay Cottages where we stayed during those early visits. The original cottages still exist, but they have been modernised and upgraded. They have also been joined by at least another dozen cottages along the beachfront. The cottages will have electricity and running water now; a big change from our early visits. The location of the cottages is still great, but they are fenced and hedged and very different from the simple structures set among the palms on the beach that I recall. Sometimes it is better to preserve fond memories and I strongly suspect that a re-visit would do the cottages and my lovely memories no favours.

Forty-five years have passed since my last stay in Charlotteville. My heart begged me to return. We decided to take the plunge and started our 2004 annual pilgrimage to Tobago with four days at Top River Pearl, a small apartment guesthouse at the top of the Charlotteville accommodation market.

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