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30 decembre 2019

Le Torgileo in Bellefontaine

A boat like no other in a fishing village


A beautiful boat in Bellefontaine

Bellefontaine is Martinique’s smallest city. It’s name hails from a the French settler Guillaume Michel known by the name of Bellefontaine. The national electric utility company EDF is located here. The power plant provides most of the island with electricity. It also houses a hospitality school highly coveted since 2005. Over 300 students attend eager to learn about different types of cuisine,baking and customer service dedicated to the hotel industry. Bellefontaine shelters a treasure of sorts. It is a houseboat conceptualized by an architectural engineer with the sole purpose of it being intended for the his wife and son. 


Torgelio: Tor stands for Victor the designer, Ge stands for Virgina his wife and muse, Leo stands for Leo their beloved son.

By 1946 Victor Dubois and his family owned a land property on top of a cliff facing the sea located on the corner of a cross section of Joseph Lagrosilliere and Felix Eboué streets. Victor’s original plan for building his home was to place it on stilts however Virginia wasn’t too fond of that idea. While Mr.and Mrs.Dubois tried to work out a suitable blueprint for building their “dream home” their son would often spend time with the fishermen of the town. It was due to this connection that Leo was able to see hidden treasures from the ocean’s bottom such as a torpedoed cargo ship “Presidente Trujillo” from the Dominican Republic. It was torpedoed by the Germans during the Second World War right off the shores of Bellefontaine. Aware of Victor’s plan to construct a home the fishermen informed Leo of this find. A boat transformed into a home what a novel idea! Bring the boat back to life by converting it into a shelter that becomes a home!  This idea was quite pleasing to the family. 


Construction took two years employing dozens of Bellefontanians during this time. Because of this many people took pride in this home construction considering it to be the prized jewel of the town.The hull is painted in ultramarine blue with a broad white band all around which helps to shade the rooms of the house when the sun is blazing. The name Torgelio is painted in blue. Due to his planning and logistical abilities Victor foresaw that the construction of a road under the boathouse was preferable. Leaving nothing to chance and avantgarde before his time he used bamboo instead of irons which was rare at the time. This was done as the area is prone to earthquakes and hurricanes. The choice of using bamboo was for the aspects of it being light and flexible as well a resistant and solid. All good elements to have in a zone that can be affected by natural phenomena. To this day, over 70 years later it still stands the test of time. 


In 1948, the family officially moves into the boat house. The family became accustomed to the chirping and “ribbits” of the frogs while overlooking the horizon every night. They become accustomed to the horns of boats moving through the transatlantic at night. Leo became accustomed to stolling on the beach at night letting his eyes use the moonlight as a guide. 


The boathouse is like a watch tower. Surveying everything insight. Keeping a watchful eye out on the sea as well as below in towns square. Twenty-six years later Leo opened up a restaurant known as the Torgileo Gourmands. He offered warm hospitality along with creole cuisine using fish caught by the fishermen’s sons and grandsons who first pointed him to the direction of the torpedoed boat. Tourists and locals alike come eager to discover and experience this magical place. Diners on deck enjoyed the scenic view of the ocean while others danced below to the musical sounds of Luigi’s steel band the creation of the son and grandson of the Dubois family. 


As with everything, life moves on and Luigi went on to become one of the best Caribbean steel pan players of all time. The restaurant closed down. However, one thing remains it is, the ultramarine houseboat still overlooking the sea. So, if you travel through the city of Bellefontaine look up on your right, as you are sure to see the blue Torgelio boathouse still a symbol of dreams and eventful history.