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Thursday, January 18, 2018

last days in paradise!

uary 16 or is it 17th?

We are nearing the end of our Guadeloupian sojourn. We are in our third and last location of the trip, in Trois Rivieres. All of our locations have been wonderful. We did a lot of research, but it’s always somewhat of a crap shoot. The photos and descriptions are sometimes misleading, they may show water views but not indicate that they aren’t from the house, etc. And here, becausse the descriptions are in French, it’s of course an additional challenge.

We stayed first at place called Be on the Beach, funny name, especially since virtually no one staying there is a primary English speaker. I guess it has the same kind of cache as some French phrases do to us Americans, like chez whatever, or Maison de …..

As I said in a previous post, it was right on a small beach that we had pretty much entirely to ourselves,  and walkable to the slightly honky tonk but charming town.

Next stop, Deshaies, where we stayed last year, in another apartment right on the water, just a block down, and at the other end of town, from where we stayed before. Like many places here, it is pretty much open air, open living room, kitchen, etc.  We didn’t tour around as much as last year, because we had checked out so many areas and beaches then. I was content staying long hours on the porch, just perusing the sailboats in the harbor, the horizon, and yacht people coming back and forth in their dinghies to get baguettes or come in for dinner in town.

Our little beach there was just a few doors down and past one of the cafes. Water warm and calm.  Loring captioned a photo of me “exercising”  after asking me what I call what I do when in the water.  I was really just floating around listening to Elvis and Shakira and Springsteen etc thru my waterproof MP3 player, one of the bests gifts I ever got.

Because of the supersnowstorm up north, we’d had to delay our trip three days, and so also extended four days on this end. Norwegian only flies here twice a week. Hence we had to find a third location, and did that from here.  That was almost a disaster.  Our credit card company apparently cancelled our credit cards, probably because we hadn’t notified them that we were going away. This isn’t the first time that’s happened, but usually they put it on hold and check to make sure that the card hasn’t been stolen. Not this time.  So we spent hours trying to find the right place followed by hours trying to reach the credit card company after we submitted the reservation several times and had it rejected.

It all worked out in the end, as things seem to do.  The place here is as wonderful as the first two, though quite different, and a nice counterbalance to the others. We chose the town of Trois Rivieres because it was on a part of the island we hadn’t seen before.  It is perched on a hill above the town,  with wonderful views of the sea and also the “Saintes,” small islands that are part of Guadeloupe along with Marie Galante, another island that we spent time on last year. On a very clear day you can also see Dominica, an English speaking island (country?)  a bit further off. Dominica was hit pretty hard by hurricane Maria, but Guadeloupe missed the brunt of it.

The place we are at now is called Ilots des Fleurs, and is indeed covered with all kinds of flowers. It consists of 4 cabins, or gites, plus the larger villa that the managers live in. They are Canadian, and friends of the owners, who are also Canadian. They are a delightful couple, and work hard maintaining the gardens and lawn. The cabins are, like the other places w’'ve stayed, largely open. This one has no ac, but it isn’t a problem.  It is entirely “off the grid.”  There is gas for the stove,  hot water and electricity are solar.  The couple have been running the place for a few months, and will be here another month or two, then back home and will be replaced by another Canadian couple.  I guess the owners spend some time here too.)

Al and  Rachel are welcoming and invited us for a drink which turned into cheese, crackers, watermelon from the garden, and an invitation to dinner, which we declined. But we spent an hour or more chatting with them and their guests, her brother and her best friend from childhood.
There’s no beach here, one has to drive about 20 minutes to the nearest one. If this was my only stay here, I’d definitely choose beach.  But it’s nice to have different experiences.  The beach here, Grande Anse,  has black sand, also a nice contrast to our other beach experiences. In addition to being black, it is very smooth and fine, a nice feel.

There is a pool here, which was a surprise to us, since it wasn’t in the description. I have always wanted to sit it a pool overlooking the ocean. But the water is colder than the ocean, or at least I haven’t warmed up enough in the sun here to be tempted. Tomorrow is our last day here. I guess I’m going to have  to go in at least briefly, if just for the experience and the photo!
There are all kinds of little museums around the island, The Musee de Cacao, Musee du CafĂ©, etc, And a number of distilleries. There’s a Musee des Bananes just up the road, and we tried to visit this morning. But a sign said it was only open this afternoon, so we’ll try again tomorrow.

Sometimes these little museums are just tourist traps, a way to sell products. But the Musee de Cacao, near Deshaies, which we visited last year, was quite interesting. And we were told by our hosts here that other guests visited the Banana Museum and found it interesting.

Soufrieres, the volcano that provides the black sands, is a major tourist destination. It’s a  one and a half hour hike, which I hadn’t planned to do, but thought Loring would. We drove up the winding mountain dirt road. Wonder if we were even going the right way. Then, suddenly, came upon dozens, maybe more than a hundred, cars parked along the side of the road. The parking lot at the top was entirely full. But as I suspected, before long people left and we were able to find a spot. Many were hiking up to the volcano, but others were sitting in the warm springs at the head of the trail, which was really where I wanted to go. Loring decided not to hike up, and we just floated in the spring pool for a while. As everywhere here, the visitors are almost entirely French, but we did run into a couple of women from New York in the springs.


And now, last day, the 18th

Spent a couple of hours on the porch this am, reading our books, emails, and the Boston Globe. First stop, the Banana Museum. It was open this morning. We waited a while, saw and heard no one, figured out how to start the tv, and watched 4 short videos about bananas. While we were watching, a woman came in, who I recognized from the first video, giving a tour of the banana harvesting operation.  She led us upstairs to a series of rooms with exhibits about the banana industry. All mildly interesting, worth a visit, but certainly not worth the 8 euros per person. But she was so friendly, gave us each a banana to try. When I asked if she’d been the person who made the dresses and hats out of banana leaves in one part of the exhibit, she said yes, and led us into the gift shop, which was nearly as large as the exhibit. I was surprised at the quality, most if not all made locally, and tried a number of very fashionable couture banana leaf hats. I loved them all, but have no room on my walls to hang more hats, and also doubted very much that I could get them past customs.  So I settled for a small banana leaf hairclip which I certainly will wear, and hopefully will not get noticed by customs.

We were disappointed in the museum, and especially that we didn’t get to see any of the actual banana fields, much less any of the harvesting process. She did s
how us a little of the clothing and hat design process, because I’d asked. And showed us the parts of a costume she was making for some kind of presentation, consisting of a banana leaf bustier and part of a skirt. Quite classy! 

We headed back to our beloved black sand beach, called Grande Anse. Anse means cove, and there are Grand and Petit anses all over the islands here.
This is the one with the volcanic black sand that we’ve spent several hours at each of the last few days. Unfortunately, the weather was gray and we were clearly in for some rain, more than the brief showers that have cropped up pretty much every day. We spent a brief few minutes on the beach, then went across the street for a lunch of accras (fish fritters,) chicken, and various veggies we weren’t familiar with.  Loring went for a swim, but it was clear more rain was coming. So we abandoned our plan of beach time and headed back to town. The town here is in several valleys separated by rivers (Trois Rivieres)and you need to drive up and down numerous hills on winding roads to get anywhere.  We made a stop for our last baguette and pastry at one of the bakeries, drove up and down the same road at least three times trying to find some slave related site we’d seen signs for, and finally did located it, a ruin of a small stone cell where slaves had been been imprisoned on what had once been a sugar plantation.  The sign said there were other ruins of the plantation in the area, but on privately owned land.

Now we are back at our gite, the beautiful little cabin with a porch facing the ocean and the Saintes, smaller islands about ½ hour away from the main island here. And it’s a wonderful place to be. I’m not even sorry that we had to curtail our beach time today. I just hope I get warmed up enough to venture into the pool here, the last thing I feel that I need to do before heading home.  The sun’s come out again, and if I bask in it for a while, I just may be able to do it. Even a brief dip will suffice.

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