The present innkeeper, Maribel Vargas, has done wonders with renovating a dirty and deserted place and, after opening it again under the name of “Elixir d’Armagnac”, she reinvested the profit in order to make much needed additions, converting the inn into one of the best in Basse Terre.
The inn has intricately carved doors and an interior that is wide and open, built in a mix of French and Spanish styles, as the initial French style got, during the renovation, improved with Maribel’s ideas inspired from the place where she had grown up.
It has two floors, and in the present design it goes all around an interior patio. The roof is supported by slender columns across the front.
At the ground floor, there is a wide central hall with high ceiling rooms, two rear side cabinets used for storage, the kitchen in the back and four rooms where the barmaids live. There is a narrow porch opening onto the patio, functioning as sheltered passageway to the kitchen and store rooms. There is a wide cellar below.
On the first floor, a gallery goes around the two longer sides of the building, reached by a single flight of steps. It has fourteen rooms, ten of them with French doors opening onto the gallery. Most of the rooms are rented, but the innkeeper lives there too.
The inn got its name after the best brandy
in France, produced in Gascogne, in the Armagnac region. Armagnac
is described as a more rustic spirit distilled from wine, having a fuller, slightly more viscous texture than the wider known Cognac
, which tends to be lighter and more aromatic. And, faithful to its name, the tavern sells even this specific drink too, obtained from Port-de-Paix, from a merchant who imports it from the mother country. Its welcoming sign is hanging in front of the main door:
The tables in the main hall are located around the walls, and the bar is in a corner. In the middle of the hall, there is a place left free for dancing, either at the well known parties Belle throws, or when she or Minette are the ones singing and dancing to entertain the customers.
Unlike most taverns and inns of Tortuga, which practice one price for the local people and a tenfold or more higher price every time when it is heard that a pirate ship comes with a big loot, Belle has the same prices for everyone. They aren’t cheap at all, but neither spoliating. If the local people consider it an expensive place, they think the services are worth it. The smugglers and the medium to high successful pirates find here a home where they are well received, well fed and the assortment of liquors is on anyone’s taste.
Well, how much money one wants to leave at the gambling table or in the barmaids' cleavage, is up to each customer, but don't complain that the place is too expensive! (And no, the innkeeper is not for sale - who doesn't behave is put back to his place, eventually threatened with Gypsy curses). The inn is well run, well supplied, feeding, watering and sheltering anybody who behaves.
Belle doesn’t allow fights inside – the outside area is broad enough and doesn’t end with broken tables and chairs to be replaced. The skulls of those angry and drunk enough to brawl don’t need replacement, so they can take their conflicts elsewhere.
Some of the staff
Cathy Aubert, cook, 45, widow
Pierrot Aubert, 16, Cathy's son, kitchen/ tavern helper
Louie d'Angennes, 8, Minette's son