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Friday, January 12, 2018

Return to paradise - Guadeloupe 2018

Deshaies jan 12 2018

A year after our first trip here, and a year, perhaps to the day, of the inaguration. We are in the same town, and just a few doors down, from our previous dwelling. Last year I watched the inauguration, in depression and fear, from our porch here. Loring preferred to go kayaking and ignore the real world. It is certainlly easier to do to that here. 

We have on and off internet here, probably not a bad thing.  We did get the “shithole” comment this morning, though.  I love the way the press explained and justified their use of the exact term. Ie, if the president uses it, it is important to quote verbatim.  I fully agree.

After a false start from Providence, due to a serious snowstorm about a week ago, we left the US three days later than planned, and extended our visit here by four, because Norwegian only flies twice a week.We did lose three days of our first booking, and will need to find a third place to stay, the second not a big deal, the first could well cost us hundreds of dollars as it wasn’t refundable. We are hoping the airiline will reimburse us, but are not at all confident that they will.

Well, we are here, and so I will try to not focus on or worry about that.
Our first stay, where were only able to stay three days of our week planned, was right on the beach in the town of Ste. Anne, on Grande Terre. We’d stayed on Basse Terre, here in Deshaies, last year. Our bungalow in Ste Anne was right on the beach, on the edge of town.  Ste Anne is bustling, a busy public beach, lots of shops and restaurnats and lots of traffic. It was fun to spend a day in, eating crepes on a beachfront restaurant, food truck actually, with a canopy and tables and chairs.  There was a market that was primarily spices, with some other foods and also  crafts.

Although we saw other cars and, a few times, people, in some of the bungalows, we rarely saw anyone there in four days, and only once had company on the beach. Just my kind of place, where you can walk out to the beach without shoes. The water was shallow and warm, the depth or lack thereof a little hard for Loring, heaven for me.

Our stove didn’t work. The first night we arrived at midnight, so didn’t even know. We thought it was some trick that couldn’t figure out. It turns out it was just plain broken. So Fritz, the owner, sent us out to dinner at a wonderful gourmet Caribbean/French place called Kote something, at the other end of town near the Club Med.  He had to talk them into fitting us in, they were all booked up. By the time we got back to our place, there was a new stove all installed!  Amazing service, especially in such a laid back environment.

Our booking was actually for  15 minutes before the restaurant opened, so that’s how they fit us in.  It was well worth not having a stove for a day.  Fritz did the right thing by treating us to dinner, but he certainlyl needn’t have sent us to what might have been the choicest location in town!  Several times, folks came in and were told the place was all booked up for the evening. One couple was American, the only native English speaking folks we’d yet come across.

  A couple of days later, I heard Americans in the market, a young couple deciding which beach to visit that day. That is the extent of the English I’ve heard spoken in the five days we’ve been here, aside from what’s been spoken to us. I havent’t heard any other languages at all beside French, it seems that, thus far, all the visitors have been French. And the locals are French, as well, since Guadeloupe is part of France.

We spent parts of our days driving around the nearby towns, scoping out other possibililties to stay.  Found a play on and went to check it out, having made a no deposit reservation. Only to find out that the listing was a mistake, the man had forgotten to remove the listing, he already had a booking.  Good thing we’d gone to check it out, or we would have driven back across the island for the last few days of our stay, to fnd out it wasn’t available.

So now we’re back in Deshaies “dayhay” the first time, I believe, that we’ve ever come back to the same place, or even the same country, two years in a row.

 Actually, having written that, I realize there’s an exception, Hummingbird Cay in the Bahamas, where we returned a number of years when we were in our 20s. But that was a special place and a special arrangement. Loring worked for the owner of the private island, doing maintenance, and he let us stay there a number of times after that. That was an experience we’d never be able to match, and for a time we were too spoiled by having been there to consider another beach trip where we didn’t have a whole island to ourselves!!

So, seeing that this is the only other time we’ve returned to a tropical island, or another other location, repeatedly, you can imagine how much we like it here!

What is so appealing, aside from the beach and the ocean and the weather is the so slow pace of life, at least for those on vacation.  I could easily spend the day on our porch here, with the only activities being reading, writing, getting a baguette from the bakery a few doors down, going in the water which involves a one or two minute walk to the little beach nearby.
There are plenty of activities around, water sports for those   interested, or even just watching the kite-surfers, excursions to various beautiful beaches, ruins, Museums of Rum, Chocolate, Coffee, Bananas, etc. We visited the Chocolate Museum last year, it was actually quite interesting. The others may or not be, and we may or may not find out.  Yesterday, we went to the very impressive looking Museum of Slavery in Pointe A Pitre, the capitol.  It was worth a visit, but not as interesting as I would have hoped. Perhaps part of the problem is making a museum about such a terrible subject. Then again, I’ve visited several Holocaust museums and found them very interesting and powerful.

 There was art incorporated into many parts of the exhibits, and that was the most interesting part.  There were also a number of fascinating sculptures outdoors on the grounds of the museum. They were not mostly related to slavery but seemed to be part of a project with an environmental theme. One was made of thousands of bottlecaps. Others were of plastic cups and tubes. One was a veritable plastic Chihuly garden.  I’ll try to post that one.

But what touches me most on this kind of trip is the slowing down, of all my activity and even thinking. I can do nothing for a long time and not be bored. I remember that feeling well from our times in the Bahamas, several months one trip for me, and others of several weeks. Loring spent a whole year there, coming back briefly to get me.

There is so little and so much to do. Time and experience seems to expand. A day or two ago I was mesmerized by merely some grains of sugar spilling out of a package and into my coffee. The sugar here is different, a light brown, between the colors of our white and brown sugars at home. And large granules,more the size of sea salt than regular table salt. I watched those granules tumble into and then dissolve into my black coffee, admiring their beauty.

So many other things reflect that intense experience in the usually normal, heightened by a different reality and pace of time.

Almost since we arrived here, there have been small birds flitting around our balcony/living room. I of course  encouraged them by putting out a dish of sesame seeds, fallen from our sesame crackers, and then some tiny chunks of melon rind with small amounts of melon still adhered.  I find their flitting around our chairs and heads endearing, Loring not as much.  So he took the seeds off the table and put it on the porch floor. I can live with that! The birds have pretty much settled in now, and perhaps they would have anyway. There are at least three different kinds, but the only ones I can identify are the bananaquits, small with yellow breasts.

On the beach, this morning, were several cats, very reticent, and a little later, some roosters strutting about.  And again, hardly any people. This, though, is a public beach in a town, and there were plenty of people strolling by, some stopping to try to attract the cats.  Also a couple of restaurants with porches right up to the beach, and a number of folks, some with coffee, some with beer, in the late morning.

One of the restaurants is the one featured in Death in Paradise, the British tv series filmed here. We didn’t find out about it until we rented our place here last year, but friends had watched it on pbs. It’s a  wacky murder mystery series with a death in each episode,  kind of a Murder She Wrote Caribbean style. So much fun to see places we recogize, including our house. They don’t film this time of year, but yesterday I saw a flier for a Death in Paradise festival  coming in July, with 48 hours straight of 48 episodes. And also some discussions and who knows what else. I hope the actors   and crew will be here.

I’ll end for now with a description of our current habitation.  It has a beautiful porch, which I saw last year and which partly led to our returning.  There are two ac bedrooms, with views of the ocean from bed.  The porch is the dominant part of the place, it is basically an outdoor living room with sofa, chairs, lounge chairs, table and chairs. The kitchen/bar is also open, a common part of Guadeloupe architecture.  So, as I said, I could easily just wile the day away here.  And aside from an hour’s excursion  downstairs and down a few yards to the beach, that is just what I’ve done thus far today.

My choices right now, either back to my book, a sad but absorbing account about a teenage Syrian refugee, or a nap, or, most likely, one followed by the other.

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