Sunday, April 1, 2007

Drove the entire island of Guadeloupe. BEAUTIFUL!!!

April 1, 2007  Sunday
Pointe ‘a Pitre, Guadeloupe

We rented a car for the weekend.  The weather was dreary and drizzling all weekend so our photos don’t look so great.  But the gray dreariness was a blessing in disguise because it made the temperature more comfortable for our excursions both days.

Yesterday we drove completely around Grand Terre, the eastern half of Guadeloupe.  There are sugar cane fields everywhere, and I do mean literally everywhere!! They must grow enough sugar cane to supply all the sugar needed for all of France.  This is good because it is providing employment and also because it means that France is still using real sugar instead of that awful high fructose corn syrup that the USA uses and that causes diabetes.  And where there are not sugar cane fields then there are banana fields and cantaloupe fields or eggplant or tomatoes.  Guadeloupe has a very good agriculture base.

There was a Saturday morning market near the beach at St. Annes and those are always fun.  As typical for us, Bill chose coconut cake for his sidewalk vendor treat; and I chose a taste of homemade boudin.  Bill likes sweets and I like spices.  They had boudin chaud, boudin paison, and boudin rouge.  Since I had no idea what any of those meant, I chose chaud.  Have no idea what it was, but it tasted very good.  And they didn’t even charge me for my tasting sample.  The coconut cake that Bill chose was still warm from the oven; about $1.50 for a huge slice of delicious homemade cake that was too large for Bill to finish and more than satisfied his sweet tooth.  The woman also had pineapple upside down cake and had her kids cranking homemade coconut ice cream.  Just down the street were every kind of produce imaginable, all locally grown and excellent quality.  Then there were the fishermen selling their fresh catches of the day.  As well as the fresh spices and the normal tourist jewelry and tee-shirts and trinkets.  We would recommend the Saturday morning market at St. Annes if anyone is planning to visit Guadeloupe.  The anchorage also looked very nice, so cruisers don’t need to rent a car to visit here.

Then it was on to St. Francois, where we managed to get totally lost and eventually backtracked and found our way out of that little town.   Roads were not marked and the map provided by the car rental company was general in the extreme, no detail at all.  So navigating was mostly a guessing game.  Good thing we had no plans and were just winging it anyway.   Next stop was Le Moule, where the Atlantic Ocean breaks heavily against the shore.  I could have stayed there and watched the surf for hours.  Most definitely not a place to go in a boat.

Then westward through Morne A L’eau and northwards to Port-Louis and finally to the northernmost little town of Anse Bertrand.  Wanted to send a postcard to my sister whose married name is Bertrand but didn’t have her address with me.  We had a delightful light lunch in a small café called something Doudou.   Then down the center of the island and back through Morne A L’eau and Les Abymes and downtown Pointe ‘a Pitre.  Drove around Pointe ‘a Pitre for awhile and then found our way back to the marina without a hitch.  I must say that the locals are very, very heavy into tagging.  I don’t think there is one single building in Pointe ‘a Pitre that is not covered with gang tags and graffiti.  One would think that this is a very dangerous area, but we have not felt in the least danger anywhere on Guadeloupe; so I guess that all this tagging is just something that the locals like to do and not so much tied to gangs as we know it back home.

Today we explored the western half of Guadeloupe, the island of Basse Terre.  Left the marina and went back through downtown Pointe a’ Pitre and across the little river that separates the two islands.  Then we headed north on the main road that runs mostly along the coast all the way around the island.  When we reached the northernmost point of the island, we encountered a bicycle race.  Cars came first and cleared the road; made all traffic stop on the roadside.  The bikes came roaring through, accompanied by motorcycles and many cars with bike carriers on top.  Then there were a couple of Mercedes with the rear windows folded out with men sitting up on the back dashboards.  A strange sight.   At several points along the road there were gatherings of well-wishers and supporters of the racers.  After all the bicycle racers passed by, then we proceeded to a roadside rest stop just north of Deshaies.  It was up high on a mountainside with a great view.  While we were lounging around there, all the bicycle racers started coming back on the return leg of their race.  How French can you get!  They do love bicycle racing around the mountains – here as well as back in mainland France.

Stopped in Deshaies to walk around a bit, and then drove out to the Battery Point.  Nice park.  And there is a lovely restaurant there called Les Canon des Baie.  It was too early for lunch so we proceeded on southward on the only road.  There was a detour near Pointe Noire and we had to take a very steep one lane road down to the water’s edge and then back up again to the main road.  Meeting oncoming cars was a bit nerve wracking because there was no shoulder and the drop offs were impressive.  I felt like I was ready for a shot of vodka by the time that portion of our drive was finished, but since it wasn’t even noon yet that was out of the question.  But as soon as we were back on the main road the steep scary drive was quickly forgotten.

Instead of continuing on southward to the city of Basse-Terre, we took The Traverse across the mountaintops back to the eastern side of the island.  This was our favorite part of the weekend sightseeing road trip.  There are several parks in the mountaintops and all are gorgeous.  There are many hiking trails and the weather is cool because of the altitude so it is a great area to get some exercise.  It is like a rainforest in the mountaintops.  There were ferns everywhere you looked and huge philodendrons with leaves at least three feet long.

When we reached the eastern side of Basse Terre again, then we turned south this time.  Stopped for lunch and a bit of shopping in Goyave, and then drove down to Trois RivieresTrois Rivieres was our second favorite part of the weekend sightseeing road trip.  There were buildings that looked like they were 300 years old, but we did not have a guide book so we were not able to learn anything about the history of this area.  But we enjoyed it anyway. 

We decided that we had seen enough without going the additional 15 kilometers to the main city of Basse Terre, so we called it quits and backtracked to the marina.  Wanted to go to the supermarket while we had a car to buy a few heavy things like beer and diet cokes, but absolutely everything closes on Sunday afternoons on these French islands; so couldn’t do that.  We enjoyed having a car for these two days and doing something different than our usual boating activities.

BTW, while we have been docked at the marina all week I have taken this opportunity to utilize my sewing machine.  Thanks again, Theo, for lugging that heavy thing down here when you visited.  I had a number of clothing items that needed taking in and was able to get all that done this week.  I also made a duvet for our bedroom, stripes on one side and print on the reverse, to match the curtains and throw pillows.  First I had to cut down a white down-filled comforter to fit the bed (that was a chore with all that fuzzy down and little feathers to deal with!).  Then I made a duvet cover to fit the comforter.  Now the bedroom looks very nice, all co-ordinated.  And there is still enough fabric left to replace the curtains in the saloon when they get too faded.

The Amel guy is supposed to come paint the few scratches on the main mast tomorrow morning if the weather is clear.  The previous owner would store the dinghy on the bow of the boat rather than on the davits.  This caused several small scratches on the mast and we want these touched up if possible.  Not a big deal but just a little something that we would like put right.  As soon as that is done then we are checking out of this marina.  Plan is to spend tomorrow night at the nearby anchorage and then probably down to Ile des Saints for a few days.

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