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Guadeloupe!! What springs to mind? I imagined small islands, back to nature, remote villages and ‘the real Caribbean’ with a touch of French flair.
How wrong I was! “Touch” of French, not at all! I was in France! The official language is French, the currency is the Euro and it is a French overseas territory. I flew with Air France from Paris to the main island Grande Terre which is bustling and vibrant. Le Gosier, Sainte Anne, Le Moule and Saint Francois, all on Grande Terre, are busy cities. There are highways and traffic jams, industry, large residential areas, shops and restaurants galore … all in wonderful sunshine.
Guadeloupe consists of 5 Islands and Grande Terre and Basse Terre which are the main two are separated by the River Salee and are shaped like a butterfly.
And so, my “educational” began! I arrived in the evening so a shower and bed were the priorities. My stay was in the Hotel de la Vieille Tour, which was in the city centre, but also on the beach and it had a colonial feel to it. A beautiful veranda surrounded the main building, perfect for drinks, breakfast or dinner and was for residents as well as locals.
On my first day I visited the market at Sainte Anne (right on the beach), tasted rum at the famous distillery Damoiseau, inspected a very trendy hotel called Le Bwa Chik opposite the local golf course in Saint Francois and then had a great lunch at a beach restaurant, La Rhumerie du Pirate after being windswept at the wild easternmost tip of the island La Pointe des Chateaux – where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Caribbean Sea.
After all that activity, La Toubana Hotel and Spa was great to relax in it’s magnificent setting for the afternoon, in it’s magnificent setting.
Next on my agenda was Basse Terre the western island of the main two, and some very different scenery – mountains, rainforests, rivers and waterfalls in National Parks and of course with a coastline on the Caribbean Sea.
I hiked to and swam in a rock pool under a waterfall, walked in the Parc des Mamelles. The Park has some 85 species of animals – racoons, bats, iguanas to name a few. I walked on hanging bridges suspended between tree tops, 20 metres high. There is an area here called Deshaies where the BBC has filmed the series Death in Paradise – so an added ingredient to my tour was to meet the director watch some filming and meet Kris Marshall, the star of the current series!
That night I stayed at The Langley Resort Hotel Fort Royal. It has a gorgeous west facing setting, so the sunset bar was very popular! The hotel’s Cabanas and Lodges shared a lovely beach – this more than made up for some of its more primitive charms!
Never staying still I caught the ferry for a very wet ride (one can sit inside) over to Les Saintes island. Quite different again, lots of colourful little houses, scooters, small hotels, shops and restaurants and not many cars. I went to Fort Napoleon for the breathtaking views.
My night stop was La Creole Beach Hotel back on Grande Terre island. This is a good modern 4 star hotel with lovely grounds, a nice sweeping beach, good sized rooms and bathrooms, a Spa and entertainment at night for guests and locals alike.
I would recommend a visit to Pointe-a-Pitre while you’re here. It is filled with colourful markets, squares and busy shopping streets. Then find some time to visit Le Memorial ACTe, the first slave trade museum: a place of remembrance, of understanding and of reconciliation, paying tribute to the millions of human beings whose destinies and lives were shattered and changed forever. A multi million dollar complex between the town and the university and built on the waterfront where the slave ships came in, hypermodern in its structure it will host temporary and permanent exhibitions so that we will always remember and respect.
Time to shake off the melancholy and relax and enjoy these beautiful islands – sailing through the mangroves on a motorboat to the National Waterpark, I reached the Caribbean side of the island and snorkelled to a shipwreck. Then I lay out in the sun and lazily watched the pelicans dive in and out of the water! Delightful company!
Reading about my trip you will gather that I love adventure, nature, food, walking, swimming, scenery, wildlife and pampering! If you do too, then you will love the island group of Guadeloupe – call or email me to get you there!