Ça va? 10 Things To Explore In Guadeloupe
Some say if you’ve seen one island in the Caribbean, you’ve seen them all. And while the similarities between some countries may make that sentiment true, I can say for sure Guadeloupe is not like the rest.
Governed by President François Hollande, Guadeloupe is a part of the French republic, though located in the Lesser Antilles in the Caribbean. As such, your French better be superb if you’re considering a voyage to the small island which, by the way, has become easier now thanks to direct flights on Norwegian airlines. (FYI, you won’t get any free snacks or beverages –not even water- on the low-cost European line, but their free WiFi during my four-hour flight worked better than any connection I’ve paid for on an American airline).
Coming across someone who spoke English during my recent 5-night stay at Le Créole Beach Resort and Spa, be it hotel and restaurant staff or strangers on the street, was a true treat — and rarity. I could tell by the number of French Europeans on holiday at the resort that that fact adds to the island’s allure. You’ll also need to check your dollars at the door. Only Euros are good here.
Despite those “inconveniences,” as some might call them, which make Guadeloupe a Caribbean destination that requires a bit more pre-planning than say a quick escape to Jamaica, the island also has a host of offerings you won’t find anywhere else in the middle of the Atlantic. Here are just a few that might make you want to put Guadeloupe on your next travel vision board. But, as one local woman advised regarding my journalistic assignment to entice Americans to visit Guadeloupe: “Tell them they can come, but they need to leave it like it is.”
On May 10 2015, the doors to Memorial ACTe were opened in the city of Pointe a Pitre in Guadeloupe. Located at the site of a previous sugar factory, the cultural center is dedicated to the history and memory of the slave trade, documenting its beginnings and present-day repercussions via storytelling, artifacts, artwork from a number of global artisans, reenactments, and various forms of multimedia. It’s an emotional but necessary experience to have while in the land where noteworthy slave revolts took place.
This little sandwich right here known as Bokit was my favorite meal in Guadeloupe by far. Bokit is made with deep-fried, naan-like bread that you fill with your favorite sandwich toppings, from chicken, tuna, ham, or bacon, to lettuce, tomato, egg, onions, ketchup, mayonnaise, and more. The key is to not make the sandwich to greasy and the Bokit I had outside the market in Pointe a Pitre was spot on.
Marché Saint-Antoine is where you can participate in one of my all-time favorite activities: shopping.
The market located in Pointe a Pitre has vendors selling everything you could possibly need from fresh fish, lobsters, and crabs, to fruits and vegetables, spices, rum, clothing, handmade jewelry and soaps.
Though it’s open every day, on Saturday mornings the market comes alive with people picking up their goods against the backdrop of singing, dancing, and drum playing. You might even be lucky enough like I was to catch the island’s famous band Akiyo.
On the island of Grande-Terre sits La Pointe des Chateaux, a peninsula that extends into the Atlantic ocean and boasts amazing views that make the 20-minute climb to the top totally worth it.
Seated at the bottom of the pointe is the worship site of the indigenous inhabitants of Guadeloupe and at the top the pointe of Christian settlers. Many local Guadeloupeans and tourist make it a point to see this site and you should too.
Désirs du Palais
Support Black female entrepreneurship while abroad by purchasing a scoop of ice cream or two at the famous Désirs du Palais ice cream parlor of Fabienne Youyoutte. If ice cream isn’t your thing, Fabienne has plenty of other handmade sweet treats to choose from.
If you’re up for a challenge, visit the national park which is the site of the La Soufriére Volcano in Basse-Terre. There are 246 miles of hiking trails that are not for the faint of heart — or breath. Be sure to have your hiking boots, walking sticks, a bottle of water, and a poncho for this excursion. Reward yourself at the end with a dip in the park’s therapeutic Yellow Baths.
Les Saintes is just a 20-minute ferry ride from Trois Riviéres and is a must-see wonder of nature. Formed by nine unspoiled islands, two of which are uninhabited, the bay at Le Saintes is the third most beautiful in the world.
Fort Napolean overlooks the stunning bay and is worth a visit to hear the history of Guadeloupe’s establishment as well as its customs, including the origin of the popular Tourment d’Amour.
The tart was made by the wives of Les Saintes sailors to welcome their husbands when they returned from being out to sea and is a mix of textures with a crisp outside, soft middle and filling of your choice from coconut to guava. After your visit to the Fort, take a stroll down the bistro-lined streets of Terre de Haut for a little shopping.
Soup may not be the first thing you think of eating when visiting a tropical island, but you don’t want to miss the creations by Jean-Claude Magnat at An Chodyè La. Magnat turned his grandmother’s house where he grew up into the soup restaurant which has a variety of options Magnat was kind enough to let me sample. My vote is for the fish soup (bottom left).
Coquille de Poisson
My second favorite dish in Guadeloupe was Coquille de Poisson, a pureed fish casserole served at the Kanaoa Hotel in Les Saintes with a breadcrumb topping. If traditional fish dishes are more your thing, opt for the grilled fillet below at Rhumerie du Pirate.
Wherever you eat, make sure you choose the traditional Creole tapas for your first course. You’ll love Accras, the Guadeloupean version of cod fritters. My favorite were at Le Rivage Restaurant in Les Bananiers Beach.
You haven’t had hot chocolate until you’ve tasted the chocolat at Renée’s. M. Bangou, Pointe-à-Pitre’s mayor, treated us to a cup at this cafe started in 1963 when Renée Reynaud started selling her pastries out of a basket in the streets of Pointe-à-Pitre. The cafe opened in 1970, with five more locations that followed.