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Published: December 28th 2017
Guadeloupe comprises a collection of nine separate inhabited islands plus a myriad of smaller uninhabited ones, situated at the southern end of the Leeward Islands chain, north of Dominica and south of Antigua. The two largest islands, which somewhat resemble a butterfly in shape and are just separated by a river, are Grande-Terre and Basse-Terre, while the Iles des Saintes are a collection of smaller islands further south. The country has a population of almost 500,000 and exhibits a blend of French and African influences, which go right to the heart of the Caribbean's Creole culture. As well known for its sugar and rum as for its beaches and resorts, the archipelago comprises a full mix of modern cities, rural hamlets, rainforests and secluded beaches. We had two separate visits to Guadeloupe - an unscheduled visit to Deshaies to replace the planned visit to Dominica, which was ravaged by Hurricane Maria and not reopened yet to visitors, and later in the week a planned visit to the Iles des Saintes.
When we arrived, we had never even heard of this place, since we had no chance to research it, given it wasn't on the original schedule, and
we didn't even know where it lay within Guadeloupe. But we found out later that it is situated on the far north-western coast of the main island, Basse-Terre. Being unscheduled, there were no excursions offered, but this was of little concern to us as we were by then tiring a little of the crowded minibus tours, and looking this week to do more independent sightseeing.
The township of Deshaies comprises little more than a short shingle beach and a couple of streets of shops and cafes, backed by a few residential houses. We took a stroll around, just taking in the atmosphere francais, without identifying any particular ‘must sees’. The Eglise de Saint Peter et Saint Paul was an attractive old edifice, built in 1840, but they had locked the doors, so there was no internal viewing and no prayers said. The other main interest was the ‘dead centre’ of town, La Cimetiere, which comprised a multitude of family vaults of all shapes, sizes and colours, the like of which I have not seen before except for the Italian section of the cemetery in Ingham, North Queensland.
Iles des Saintes:
This destination comprised two separate locations - a visit
to the town of Le Bourg, the major town on one of the two main islands in this group, Terre de Haut, or a visit to the beach, Anse sous le Vent, on the nearby deserted island of Cabrit. Having found the beaches over the last few days somewhat underwhelming (bearing in mind we live right on a sandy surfing beach in Sydney), we opted initially for the former. Le Bourg is yet another picturesque seaside village, with narrow roadways, attractive multi-coloured traditional Creole houses with interesting frescoes, the mandatory bars and tourist shops, and an all-stone church, Notre Dame de l'Assomption, right in the middle of the town. One very popular shop amongst all the tourists was a shop selling high quality clothing, but virtually only in blue. Terre de Haut is a land of fishermen, artists and craftsmen, and each of these was in evidence as we strolled around.
In the afternoon, we took the tender over to the small island on Cabrit, but on sighting its very narrow grey sand beach, we immediately voted it the least appealing beach we had seen on the whole cruise and returned to the ship on the same tender! We
were staggered to yet again see over a dozen luxury yachts at anchor just off the beach, similar to what we have seen at every Caribbean stop to date, and can only assume that they set the bar on the quality of their beach visits much lower than us fortunate Sydneysiders.
Our next stop travelling north will be at the rich man's paradise of Antigua.
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