Saturday, November 10, 2018

Guadeloupe: France in the Caribbean

France has always been my favorite country to visit.  We've been to Paris a number of times and traveled through the country in a camper with our teenage sons, where we stumbled upon Rocamadour, a pilgrim site set in a gorge.  Pilgrims used to climb 216 steps up to the four churches on the top.

We fell in love with St. Tropez on the coast of the Mediterranean.  Walking the streets in the evening light we stopped in a shop once owned by Brigitte Bardot and had chocolate crepes freshly made and topped with Cointreau from a shop window.  Some years later we discovered that Georg had relatives in Arcachon, near Bordeaux and we had the pleasure of visiting them.  They were incredibly hospitable to us with sumptuous meals night after night.

For that reason it was natural for me to seek out other French enclaves, especially in my exploration of Caribbean islands. Georg and I rented a house on St. Barts, after which he could forever brag about having a French maid. Last year,  I heard about Guadeloupe, a region of France located in the Leeward Islands, near Martinique.  Coincidentally, Norwegian Airlines began direct flights there from New York for an incredibly cheap round-trip price.  Since I lost my husband I was now a solo traveler, and I booked my flight and a great vacation rental, Blue Haven Villas.

I was telling my niece, Jessica and her husband Lee about the upcoming trip.  They expressed an interest in perhaps joining me.  I couldn't think of anything better.  They are starting a new chapter in their lives, so possibly this was a once in a life opportunity to spend time together in a unique way.  Truth be told, I had a little trepidation going as a single woman to a foreign mountainous island and I didn't speak much French.  I did have some in high school to fall back on and a quickie Rosetta Stone course.  In retrospect, I believe it was meant to be for them to join me.

We spent a day and night in New York before our flight and enjoyed some good meals as well as a unique presentation of the Broadway musical, "Sweeney Todd".

The next day, because we had a late flight, we landed on the island when it was getting dark and the drive from he airport to the vacation rental was across the island, on mountainous, dark and sometimes foggy roads.  I was relieved that Lee was there and eventually ended up driving the rental car most of the time on the vacation.

We were greeted at the villa by a strikingly beautiful woman, the owner Jo Bennett. an American ex-pat and French model.  Jo was very gracious in talking with us and explaining what we needed to know about the rental and the island.  We were so impressed by her clever design and decor, not to mention the cleanliness of the rental.  I have rented many houses on vacation and this surpassed them all.  We were even more impressed in the morning when we saw the ocean view.  My favorite part was the outdoor kitchen and living area.  Previously, I had worried a bit about mosquitoes, since my niece is childbearing age, and the Zika scare, but there was not one problem with bugs, inside or out, on this trip.


By the time we got settled in that night we were hungry but most nearby restaurants were closed.  The only place we could find was an outdoor local barbeque with live music.  No one spoke English, but we managed to place our orders for barbequed chicken and rice and settled in among the locals. We got an instant indoctrination to the culture of Guadeloupe and it was a great beginning to our week.

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