Part I, The Good: the further south we go the better it gets

We just left Guadeloupe. We arrived on Dec 11th and left on the 21st. Lots of people told me I would hate it. One Englishman in particular looked at me incredulously when I said we were visiting and said “why on earth would do THAT!?” Having visited, I can only assume that was an English/French thing. Because we’ve loved it! (And I’m English BTW.) The French have done MUCH more for their islands than any of the other colonial powers. It is obvious from the infrastructure that the French have poured tons of French Francs followed by millions (billions?) more Euros into Guadeloupe. The infrastructure is flawless: everything works. Of course back in the day they killed off all the native Caribs, so now the populations’ ethnicity mirrors that of France: predominantly white with a rainbow of other colors – none of them local. And prices are just like Paris. When you ask someone why everything is so expensive, they all say exactly the same thing: “This is France!”. I guess taxes are probably through the roof to pay for everything.

But I don’t want to knock Guadeloupe at all as you really have to take your hat off to the French who have a much better respect for the good life than your average workaholic Anglo Saxon (me!). It seems that if you are in a territory owned by France, whether you are on the Champs Elysee or a remote postage stamp in the Atlantic Ocean, you have the right to:
• Fresh Baguettes and Croissants
• Great coffee
• Great wine at low low prices (I couldn’t drink the stuff under 5 Euros, but between 5-12 Euros there was lots and lots to choose from)
• Fine food, all fresh. They have two 747s a day that fly in whatever is not available locally.
• A good/wide selection of cheeses
• No overtime. Working hours seem to vary, but something like 8am-1pm and 3-6pm seems average. I love that everything shuts down in the middle of the day. Can you imagine New York doing that!!
• Good infrastructure
• Strikes (there was one when we were there, though it didn’t amount to much).

There was a referendum recently in Guadeloupe suggesting that the island become a separate autonomous region. And 80% of the voters said: “Hell No”. That wasn’t even a vote for independence – just for a little more local authority. Clearly, the island wants to be French.
Our favorite place was Iles-des-Saints: a tiny outcropping of islands of the southern tip of Guadeloupe. It is a sleepy little place where you can tuck away in a cove by yourself, or hang out in the town square and drink rum drinks while admiring the sunset. We had a marvelous time.

On the mainland, we hiked up the bottom part of a volcano for an hour to the most spectacular waterfall where we all went for a swim. The kids loved it, which is pretty impressive given that it was a rough one-hour hike in both directions. No problem when you’re a fit man, but Ronan (7) and Kailey (6) just loved the rainforest, the vegetation, the animals and the exoticism of it so much that they didn’t seem to notice that they were on a tough hike. And Paloma (10) became their “team leader”.

So if you are thinking of a vacation in the Caribbean with a European flair, great food, and 1st world services. Visit Guadeloupe! If you make the effort to speak French, they’ll love you for it.
Sponsored by the French Bureau for Tourism. (I wish.)

Oh yes: and in case you think everything is sweetness and light, read this.

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