The first week of October always brings a new adventure for my wife and me. We celebrate both of our birthdays and our anniversary – which this year was the big 29! (Your guess if that is our birthday ages or years of marriage – maybe both!)
Guadeloupe, FWI was chosen as our destination this year because we had never been there, it was off the beaten tourist trail (especially for USA dwellers), and lastly the island offered more than just another day in paradise. Guadeloupe was all of those things and more. When we return home from any trip we always ask ourselves – would we go back? Both of us without hesitation said yes… no absolutely! Our normal trip planning has us doing lots of homework before we depart, but as we began our search we found that there was very little information (especially in English) or past trip reports on line to aide in preparation. So we made a conscious decision to just be swept up in the moment of the day and just roll into new adventures.
Guadeloupe, shaped like a butterfly is in fact two totally different worlds separated by a very narrow waterway. Grande-Terre, the blue wing, is fairly flat with white sand beaches and the blue waters one thinks about and has come to love in the Caribbean. Basse-Terre, the green wing, is lush, mountainous, rural, and gives one the feeling of being separated on a remote corner of the world. So since this was our first visit to Guadeloupe we decided we would bounce back and forth between both worlds. This strategy worked, but it did cause us to have more car time than we would have preferred. On our certain second visit, my wife and I will probably have to arm wrestle to decide if it will be a blue or green experience.
I think this is going to be a long one so pour a glass of wine (French of Course) and slice some cheese – Life is Good!
Immediately upon arrival one realizes two things quickly… inglés no hablado aquí and unlike many islands in the Antilles everything is very efficient. Do not be scared of the language barrier. With a smile, a small dictionary with phrases, and a little patience goes a very long way in getting the most out your visit. We found everyone helpful and communication is completed one way or another. If you truly have a language phobia - Guadeloupe may not be the island for you, but it will be your loss. We grabbed our bags, made it through customs, and the only thing left was to contact the rent-a-car agency by phone for the shuttle to their offsite location. We were not successful in locating a phone in the terminal, but found a cab driver out front that called for us. Here again in sign language and smiles this was accomplished.
Do not consider going to Guadeloupe unless you are willing to get a rent-a-car. There is too much to see and do other than sit at the Club Med beach and fry your brains or other chosen body parts. Tom & Kathleen on TTOL had done some web surfing and found a small offsite agency called PRO-rent. The price offered was better than the big onsite agencies and everything was accomplished ( http://www.pro-rent.com ) online. It is about a 20 minute ride from the airport to PRO-rent office, and you will swear you will never find the place again – but you will - the office is right of the main highway in Z.I. Jarry.
Part of the price was the minimum insurance which leaves the renter with a liability of 450 euros. For 6 euros a day (above the online price quote) one can lower the liability to 150 euros. There is no zero liability option in Guadeloupe. The car was far from new, but was reliable and got us where we wanted to go. If fuel cost is a consideration, while we were on island the cost was ~1.70 euro a liter. Only once did I wish the vehicle was bigger with higher clearance and that was the day we hiked to the chutes (waterfalls) on Basse-Terre. If Basse-Terre is your prime destination you may want to consider a larger vehicle (power/clearance). The only other item of note is that part of the contract is that you bring the car back CLEAN and the normal full gas tank.
We used an RCI trade to the Green Blue Houses in St. François. The timeshare is in the heart of the marina. The living spaces was more than adequate, with a bedroom downstairs and the master bedroom upstairs. There was only one bathroom, and it was upstairs. The bathroom was very large, but no shower guys!
There was construction ongoing in the harbor, but we did not find it distracting; in fact both of us were fascinated by the work being done. There is no doubt when the improvements are done, St François marina will be a mecca for Caribbean sailors.
I would not give a 5 star rating to the Green Blue Houses, but they were clean, they had everything we needed, and was in a great location. The later being the most important.
Knocks against Green Blue Houses
- The Air Condition was marginal (during season one would probably not have to turn on AC)
- The elevator was one scary ride…
- If you are avid news junky – better brush up on your French – No CNN
Strong Points of Green Blue Houses
- Location… Blue – Location… Blue - Location…Blue
- Walking distance to great restaurants and nightlife
- Comfortable Living Space with great views from the deck
- Minutes from some of the best beaches on the island
We would definitely return to the Green Blue Houses as a timeshare trade; however it would be when we were returning for a Guadeloupe Blue Experience. If your goal is a Guadeloupe Green Experience, St François may just be a little too far for the daily commute to Basse-Terre. Traffic on the island can be quite heavy, and although the roads are very good it still sucks sitting in traffic – even paradise. The rough driving time is 40 to 50 minutes to transit approximately 23 miles from St François to Pointe a Pitre. Of course that is depending on time of day.
St François and Evenings:
Without a doubt St François was our home base. It is a lovely fishing town where Europe and the Caribbean fuse into something special. Like most European towns the Church and square in the center of all activity, with the market and shopping close by. All of our evening meals were taken in and around the town because of the quantity of wonderful restaurants all within walking distance. Some of our favorite dining spots, in no particular order, were:
Les pieds sous la table – classic french cooking with and won the atmosphere award hands down. The restaurant is nestled on a hill overlooking the town. We did drive to this restaurant.
La Cuisine – in downtown St François, was recommended highly by other chefs. It did not fail to please with a beef dish for two and accompanied by a mature Bordeaux the evening was definitely my favorite.
Bahia Lounge Café – had wonderful meals, and introduced us to the Le Menu (not to be confused what we call a menu). Le menu are preset meals comprising of multiple courses, and are very reasonably priced. I would get one of the options off the Le Menu selection and my wife the opposite one. We basically turn a 3 course dinner into 6 course feast. Hands down the friendliest place in town (more on that latter)! Also if you are into Rugby, a crowd meets at 9 am on Saturday morning for satellite matches.
La Terrasse – is where we celebrated my sweetie’s birthday, and I can tell you the Grand Marnier Crème Brûlée with a sparkler finished a lovely dinning experience. We have the dessert winner.
There is also a casino and nighttime entertainment, but we did not participate in these activities. We tended to eat slow meals followed by stroll back to the Green Blue houses so would be rested for the next day adventures.
One thing I would definitely recommend is an early morning walk along the town pier (not marina) watching all the activities surrounding the return of the fisherman. Mending traps, preparing the fish, as well as bidding on the catch of the day. Maybe even buy a couple lobsters to be enjoyed for dinner.
Ok the boring stuff is out of the way – Part II will be beaches, day trips, and tips…
“Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not.” - Emerson