Sunday, April 26, 2009

Guadeloupe and Iles des Saintes 2006 and 2007

In May 2006 we visited the island of Guadeloupe in the French West Indies of the Caribbean. It was a brisk sail down the windward side of Montserrat and over to the northwestern tip of Guadeloupe. We anchored at 16.18.362N 61.47.983W in the lovely French fishing village of Deshaies. Almost no one spoke a word of English, and neither of us speaks a word of French, but we managed just fine during our time in Deshaies. We were able to clear customs, which was extremely lucky for us because the customs office is only open one hour per weekday -- and they won't tell anyone which hour that might be each day. We found an ATM and obtained Euros, which would be needed both here and again in Martinique as we sailed farther south. In Deshaies we found a well-stocked small supermarket; great cheeses and wines and the obligatory baguettes that Bill will never tire of eating.

Our next stop was Terre den Haut at Iles des Saintes at 15.52.052N 61.35.251W. We were on a mission to get down to 10.40.00N before hurricane season started July 1 as required by our insurance policy. But we just had to stop here for a few days. Iles des Saintes is our second-favorite place in the Caribbean. It is totally French and a beautiful, clean little place. A perfect spot of Brittany in the Caribbean. The little town had grown a good bit during the 20 years since we first visited here on a Windjammer cruise. They even have a ferry dock now, with daily tourist high-speed shuttles from Guadeloupe.

For the previous 4 days, we had heard a woman on the VHF radio every half hour, all day long. She was speaking in French, so we did not understand a word of what she was saying.

This is what it sounded like:
“A bel a tush; a bel a tush; a bel a tush. (something, something Guadeloupe) Cosine; cosine; cosine. (something, something, croissant, something)” ---- sometimes it sounded like “coside” instead of cosine.

It sounded for all the world like she was saying “beautiful butt, beautiful butt, beautiful butt. Come to Guadeloupe. Angles, angles, angles. Come to the café and eat a croissant.”

Of course, she was probably saying something about an advice to mariners but we did not understand and could not find our French-English translation book. Even if we had found the translation book it wouldn't have helped because we wouldn't have been able to look up the words since French is never spelled remotely like it is pronounced. BTW, when I asked a clerk in a store in Guadeloupe where to find an ATM, the clerk looked me straight in the eye and said in plain English: “Madame, you must speak French.” And that is all she would say in English. If you don’t speak French around here, you are just on your own. We managed with everything okay, except for that woman on the VHF radio.

One day for lunch at Sole Mio I had a fabulous smoked fish salad. It was paper thin slices of smoked wahoo, tuna and kingfish; served with a tiny dish of herbed creme fraiche. Cream on fish sounds rather odd, but it was delicious, especially the wahoo. We had a lovely dinner at Eduoard's La Saladeria with a beautiful view of the bay. Then we continued on our way south to wait out the 2006 hurricane season.

In late March/ early April of 2007 we again visited Guadeloupe and Ile des Saintes. This time we stayed in the marina at Pointe-a-Pitre and had a few routine maintenance items addressed by the Amel service facility located there. We rented a car for and drove completely around both main islands of Guadeloupe. Discovered small towns along the southern coast on the eastern island that we want to visit again in the future via boat. We were positively shocked by the vast amounts of sugar cane grown on Guadeloupe. Looked like enough to supply France with sugar for years. Supposedly, much of this sugar cane is grown to make rum instead of sugar.

The main islands of Guadeloupe are shaped like a butterfly, with a narrow river separating the two islands. The eastern island is very flat. The western island is very mountainous. There is an active volcano on the southwestern tip of the western island. This volcano has not erupted in many, many years; but it is not dormant. There is a road that cuts across the middle of the western island that is at mountaintop level. This is part of a very large park and is really beautiful. We stopped and walked along a cool mountaintop creek surrounded by over-sized ferns and tropical vegetation. We liked this area a lot.

We again anchored at Terre den Haute in Ile des Saintes. Seems to be our favorite anchorage in this area. We walked up the steep hills to Fort Napolean and checked it out. I really needed that exercise. Next time we visit Ile des Saintes we must force ourselves to check out a different anchorage. Looking forward to the next visit, probably in 2012 or later.

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