Caribbean Butterfly . . .
Guadeloupe is an island of contrast, France meets the Caribbean here, and visitors will find an eclectic mix of culture, cuisine, music and dance . . .
When Christopher Columbus sailed to this beautiful island in 1493, he only stayed long enough to name it before moving on. Today, it offers those on vacation a much more rewarding break. There is almost too much to enjoy. In Guadeloupe’s people you will find a centuries-old fusion of Creole and French reflected in an elegant culture, clothes and faces.
This butterfly-shaped paradise, the French Caribbean Island, is a fusion of two landscapes. The mainly flat and dry Grande-Terre has the commercial capital, the main port and is where many of the most fabulous beaches are found. On Grand-Terre you can enjoy the classic Caribbean beach holiday on white coral sands. Luxury resorts offer water sports and there’s a great choice of restaurants and bars. Basse-Terre has the administrative capital and is a vast, fertile nature reserve. On Basse-Terre you find yourself in a green dreamland, with its mountainous terrain, green hills, rain-forests, rivers and waterfalls it’s a natural wonderland. The 74,000 acre (30,000 square hectares) Parc Naturel on Basse-Terre contains the Soufriere volcano – the eastern Caribbean’s highest summit, the beautiful 350ft (107m) Carbet Falls and marked nature trails with information centres through the island’s magnificent tropical rain-forest. You can enjoy a good day’s walking and be rewarded by spectacular views of the landscape at the end of your climb and take a dip in the many rock pools, some containing water warmed by the volcanic activity. You can also see some of the earliest evidence of man on the island, rock carvings made by the Arawaks.
On Grand-Terre’s beautiful beaches you can enjoy cafÈ society and join in or watch the windsurfing, water-skiing and other water sports. Many people sunbathe topless, particularly on the secluded beach, Ilet de Gosier, au naturel. Guadeloupe has several outer islands. Les Saintes, La Desirade and Marie Gallante are easily accessible from Guadeloupe. They offer visitors a glimpse of a rural French Caribbean that has changed little over time. But if you don’t feel comfortable speaking conversational French, head for on of the bigger hotels, where English is spoken.
Guadeloupe offers a variety of exciting festivals. The Festivals of the Women Cooks is a unique celebration that takes place in mid-August. More than 200 of the island’s female restaurateurs, homemakers and lovers of fine food gather in costume at Pointe-a-Pitre’s cathedral to present their culinary specialities on the high altar, the group proceeds in a colourful parade, through the streets to a schoolyard, where the entire afternoon is spent celebrating. Carnival hits town in February and March, with costumes parades, dancing, music and other festivities. The Creole Blues Festival takes place in May and June – a wonderful week of World and Creole Music held in Marie Galante. For the more active, don’t miss Tour Cycliste de la Guadeloupe, the 10 day international cycle race.
Gran-Terre has 650 acres (260sq hectares) of mangrove swamp and a marine park where you can see birds such as pelicans and doves. Don’t miss the Muse Saint-John Peres – dedicated to the 1960 Nobel Prize winner poet, who was born in Guadeloupe. The Guadeloupe National Park stretches over almost 12,000 acres in the mountainous Basse-Terre region. Walking trails to suit all levels snake across the rain-forest, past rivers and waterfalls. You may even see the indigenous hummingbird or woodpecker. Pointe a Pitre on Grande Terre is the island’s commercial centre and an intriguing mix of French and Caribbean. Few historical buildings remain, but the museums are interesting and the markets, selling spices, fruits, vegetables and tropical flowers are wonderful. You can see some of the earliest evidence of man in the Caribbean at the Parc Arceologique des Roches Graves. Rock carvings by the Arawak Indians, including the head of a Carib Chief are believed to date back to AD 300-400. The islands Marie Galante, Desirade, Les saints and the charming Terre-de-haut, are easily reached by ferry from Guadeloupe.
Terre-de-haut is full of attractive Breton architecture and fringed by lovely white sand beaches. Take a day trip or even stay overnight to experience true peace and relaxation. Soufriere is still active and the fairly strenuous one and half hours it takes to climb to the top means breathing in air full of sulphur. However, there is a fascinating trail and marvellous views from the top. La Griveliere is an old coffee plantation in Vieux-Habitants, regular exhibitions and events are held here. The Aquarium de la Guadeloupe is a kid pleaser, with open turtle and shark aquariums. The nearby remains of Fort Fleur-d’ Epee, a seventeenth-century Vauban-style military base, have commanding views of Grande-Terre and the sea, but little remaining infrastructure.
Wine & Dine
Vacations here may begin with Bonjour, but what gives them that special flavour are the words ‘bon appÈtit’. Guadeloupe offers a vast choice of restaurants and cafÈs- 700 at the last count- including Vietnamese and Lebanese. You will find an excellent cuisine heavily influenced by Gallic flavours and you can dance it all off to the lively and loud sounds of zouk and ragga in the clubs. You eat very well in Guadeloupe. The top restaurants and hotels offer elegant meals prepared in the classic French manner – served impeccably and accommodated by excellent wines. The Creole restaurants are required visiting too, with over 200 on the island it won’t be difficult finding one.
Le Tam-Tam, tel: + 0590 84 07 08; Popular with the locals, serves up Boudin Creole, fricassee, and ribs frites (E10 -13) along with ti-punch and planteur (a punch made with rum and tropical fruit juice).
La Pailotte, Plage Marigot, has the hallmarks of wood oven fired fish and chicken, this is a popular seaside terrace eatery; zouk nights are fun here.
Auberge les Petits Saints, tel: 0590 99 50 99; is the place to splurge, decadent seafood rix-fixe menu offers dishes like tarte la langouste (lobster pie) and filet de dorade aux fruits de la passion (Dorado with passion fruit) and is served in an antique furnished terrace. What more could you want?
Where to Stay
Auberge da la Vieille Tour, tel: +0590 84 23 23; is classy Sofitel property with English speaking staff, two tennis courts and 180 spacious, stylish rooms with mini-bar and satellite TV.
Creole Beach, tel: +0590 90 46 46; is probably the finest in Le Gosier, Guadaloupe’s premier resort area. There are over 150 comfortable. Well equipped doubles with sea or garden views, there’s also a private beach and a three tiered swimming pool.
Auberge des Petits Saints, tel: +0590 99 50 99; an inn near Grande Anse, is full of antiques, which are for sale. Its dozen tastefully decorated doubles have balconies with views of the pool and sea. From US$130-160
Le Saintoise, tel: +0590 99 52 50; on Rue B- Cassin has ten simple doubles with private bath and air conditioning and can be found right in the centre of Le Bourg.
The Caribbean awaits you ~ Book a Dream Rental Property in Guadeloupe and ‘Live Like a Local’