Exploring France, no, not THAT France!
Before I am accused of doing the typical black thing (going on holiday and then slowly releasing your photos at a rate of one or two per month so that it looks like you are always on holiday), let me get this 6 months old blog out of the way. Now I understand what Mirva meant when she said she was often running 3 countries behind on her travel blogs. In 2018 January I started French lessons at Alliance Française Gaborone and learnt about this little piece of heaven called Guadeloupe, affectionately known as the Butterfly Island owing to its butterfly-like shape. This is a French Overseas Department in the Caribbean Sea. I will do a blog about other French overseas districts in another blog soon. Our French teacher Naomi asked us what we thought of when she mentioned ‘France’ and in unison, we all screamed ‘Paris.’ She chuckled and informed us that the response was the same each time. She went on to give us a lesson on French history and culture because learning a language isn’t just about the grammar. The name Guadeloupe stuck to my head and as I read up on it a bit more, I wanted to challenge myself to a week of throwing myself into French culture to practice the language. Since I had already booked a trip to Grenada for September 2018, I extended my holiday by a week to Guadeloupe.
Guadeloupe was depressing the first two days. I struggled with French more than I had actually anticipated. Speaking French to English speaking people in Gaborone is a whole different situation to speaking French to native speakers. I could hardly hear what they were saying. They speak fast! After two days I collapsed on the bed with discouragement but soon reminded myself that I had paid a lot of money for this experience and that I had a goal I was working towards. Not just to sound cute, but to actually professionally operate with the language. So, with that, I got my “non-African” bum off the bed and walked to the nearby Bas-du-Fort beach where I chatted a bit with the locals and so my (mis)adventure began. 14th country ✅, 181 to go.
The country Guadeloupe is an archipelago made out of 12 islands and islets with five being the most popular; Grande-Terre, Basse-Terre, Marie Galante, Les Saintes, Petite-Terre and La Désirade. Apparently its original name (before colonisation) was Karukera which means land of beautiful waters. People here are French and not Guadeloupean. I stayed at an Air BnB on the Grande-Terre part of the island which was right on the beach which made the time during the Tropical Storm a little interesting. Traveling by public transport wasn’t very easy especially given the language challenges I had. Plus I had made the cardinal mistake of not getting a local sim – please don’t do that. Please do not do what I did. Get a local sim wherever you go!
MEMORABLE PLACES IN GUADA
Here are some of the things I got up to during my week’s holiday.
This office was my saving grace most of the time before I met Mirva who became my local GPS. The officers speak both English and French and shared invaluable tips. One of the tips I was given was that I shouldn’t try to make out full sentences but should rather use words and demonstrate with my hands and this advice was helpful since I didn’t have to figure out a whole sentence construction which was impacting my communication.
La Jacquerie Boulangerie is stationed en-route to Bas-du-Fort and just outside the gate of my accommodation was the cliché epitome of the French lifestyle. Freshly baked piping hot bread and croissants every morning was a treat. Bakeries such as this one are found all over Guadeloupe and sell delicious pastries. Weight watch was not on the agenda while travelling, naturally.
Fort Fleur d’Epée
This fort which was the battlefield between the French and the English in the 18th century and is apparently named after one of the soldiers. It has free access and a free tour guide. You are welcome to give a donation if you wish. I easily spent an hour and a half here because my tour guide had a lot to share. There’s a lot to see and the views of the Grand Bay are stunning. Definitely a great function venue.
This Caribbean Centre of Expressions and Memory of the Slave trade and Slavery has such a stunning building. It is located in Pointe-à-Pitre harbour was opened to preserve the memory of the victim’s suffering while working towards a better society. I was so disappointed I couldn’t view it inside and take a tour of the Memorial since they were closed for their annual maintenance.
Meeting my French man at Café Karissima
So here I met Pascal who tried unsuccessfully to get me to “Jolie dame, reste avec moi en Guadeloupe.” Now you guys know why I am still single. I turn down generous invitations from French men. The pistachio ice cream was phenomenal.
Aquarium de la Guadeloupe
It cost €14 to get into the aquarium where I met Yaelle with whom I still chat to this day. She is learning English and I wanted someone to practice French with so it was a match made in heaven.
Gosier Night Market
Getting here was quite an experience. Read about it here… This Friday night market is the place to be on a Friday night in Guadeloupe. Here you can buy the local food, craft beer and different types of souvenirs. I met up with a group that congregates here each Friday to practice their English.
Shacks in France
Oh yeah! Who would have thought?
There are a LOT of eateries at the Marina. It is a lively place overlooking the yatchs of the rich and famous.
BEACHES IN GUADELOUPE
There are many beaches in Guadeloupe, but my absolute favourite remains Sainte Anne.
My favourite beach in the world (so far). This beach is like a gigantic swimming pool. Flat for a fair distance into the sea with the clearest waters you can dream of. Things Caribbean vacations are made of. There are a lot of snacks stalls in the area to keep you munching, basically a daily market with food, souvenirs and clothing. I loved this beach and spent many lazy days here. I am now officially on a journey to finding beautiful beaches. BoraBora here we come…
This was the closest beach to my accommodation and I spent one afternoon here. Since it was close to my accommodation and I had a beach as my backyard, I opted to just sit on my porch if I was not at St. Anne.
La Datcha Beach
This is a lovely lovely beach in downtown Gosier. What makes it an ideal family beach is that it has a swimming pool right on the beach where parents can watch over their children while the parents soak in the sea. It is one of the most, if not the most popular beach in Guada so it is usually crowded by both tourists and locals alike. I spent a Sunday with Pierrette at this beach overlooking the small islet just a short boat ride away. As with all beaches around Guada, there are local stalls selling yummy food and drinks.
Black sand beach
Mirva loves visiting this beach. This beach is on Basse-Terre side of the Island, an area I didn’t get to explore much of. This is a different beach experience, not the typical white sand shores but one worth a visit.