On the weekend I was looking through my collection of photos when I realised that I haven’t yet shared with you my Carribean trip. Have you ever heard of Guadeloupe? I must say I haven’t until I met The French for whom this little butterfly like shaped island is almost a second home.
When he asked me if I wanted to go there I jumped at the chance. French Carbbean here I come! A stone throw from St Lucia, the flight from Paris was supposed to be about eight hours long.
Does it sound sad when I say I was looking forward to the long haul flight? In the period leading up to our holiday we were both so busy that I couldn’t wait to have The French to myself for over eight hours, with no possibility of him barricading himself in front of a computer or a flight simulator. He was stuck with me for the whole day.
We arrived in the evening and when we got off the plane there was no passport control. Since Guadeloupe is part of French territory (and thus part of EU), flight over the Atlantic was a domestic one. I got a message from my mobile provider saying “Welcome to France”.
My vision of the Caribbean consisted largely of Jamaican food from Brixton and an old advert of Bounty featuring white sand beaches and turquoise blue waters. But Guadeloupe turned out to be much more than that.
We stayed in Grande Terre part of the Island from the side of the Atlantic (Basse-Terre, the other part of the island has the Caribbean Sea to West). White sand? Check. Blue crystal clear water? Check. General feeling of being in paradise? Check check check.
An added beauty of Guadeloupe is that it’s not massively known with tourist industry so its beaches weren’t crowded. Just before 1pm they would empty completely and the whole of population of the island could be found in local bakeries, either queuing up to get their lunchtime baguette of going home with one, nicely tucked under the arm. Guadeloupe, as much exotic as it could be is also integral part of France. Super U chain shops, famous French pharmacies stocked with Caudalie products and bakeries full of pastries I saw all over France are everywhere on the island.
And so our routine was set. Morning on the beach, lunch of terrific spiced seafood or chicken and afternoons on the beach again, strolling through St Anne or St Francois, checking out local markets, having a drink of rum (or two or errr…three). The locals drink it with just a little bit of lime and sugar and I can attest it’s indeed the best way.
But how long can one stay on the beach? There were only so many bikinis I took with me and I was itching to explore the rest of the island- the north with angry looking Atlantic, Grande- Terre with its volcano and lush greenery and the beaches of Caribbean sea to the West. Besides, there were family friends to visit so off we went every morning looking for new adventures.
Guadeloupe is an island of contrasts. Looking out from the terraces of sprawling villas of with an ocean view it was easy to forget that there is also crippling poverty there, houses made out of sticks and fabric for a roof I saw scattered around the place. You can sometimes catch a glimpse of the island’s terrible past, empty rails on former sugar plantations, sometimes a derelict colonial villa.
But Guadeloupe for all its imperfections (or maybe because of them) is beautiful and charming. I loved black sand beach on the Caribbean Sea, flowers and lush plants an the foot of the volcano (we have attempted to claim the volcano but very soon realised that if we wanted to get out of there alive we needed proper shoes, jumpers and food), charming little towns and turquoise waters. There is no twilight, the night in the Caribbean falls quickly and is pitch dark. Nights are balmy, people are happy and the rum is strong- what else does one need?