I meant to write a bit from Guadeloupe this past week but relaxation took over. I did manage to fight through my sweet languor to scribble out two posts for the EuroCheapo blog: one on the Caribbean's French, Dutch, and British overseas territories and the other on Terre-de-Haut, where Matt and I just spent six glorious nights. Here are a few glimpses of Terre-de-Haut toward sunset.
The bay from between houses.
The bay with Guadeloupe's Basse-Terre in the background.
We're on Saba now, where I'm researching a story. More to come.
That's not news, of course, but what has been so striking—ha!—about Guadeloupe last night and today is how lush and well-tended everything seems. I haven't yet seen a sign of the strike that stopped action on the territory for six weeks. The unbelievably gorgeous airport is still a temple to Caribbean modernism, still shiny and bright and luminous. The highways are fast and without potholes. And there are no piles of trash or other signs of the tumult here just a few weeks ago.
Matt and I spent last night at An-Tikaz-La, a charming gîte in Trois-Rivières run by an enthusiastic woman named Mi-Marie. We stayed in a beautiful and simple cottage—think mosquito nets, not air-conditioning— for €49, and Mi-Marie drove us to a charming little restaurant for dinner, and then back again.
This morning we continued on to Terre-de-Haut by ferry. Now it's time for dinner. Images and more words to follow.
Today Matt and I fly off for ten nights. We'll spend most of our time on Terre-de-Haut, Guadeloupe. I'll be blogging on this and that while I'm on the gorgeous Terre-de-Haut, and will also write a few posts for EuroCheapo about the island as well.
Why the soft-boiled eggs with dark yolks? No reason, outside of the fact that I loved the photo I took of my breakfast on Tuesday.
I returned last night from Jordan to the February issue of Budget Travel in my mailbox. I'm growing accustomed to reacting schizophrenically to each issue of the magazine. This one has an absolutely fantastic feature on boutique hostels. Included are Mama Shelter in Paris (with rooms beginning at €79), Stay in Los Angeles (rooms beginning at $65), and Lub d in Bangkok (rooms with shared bathroom beginning at $30). All of the properties are beautiful and aesthetically interesting.
Less pleasing is the "Where Next" feature on various Caribbean destinations. The hotel rate range begins at $150 and proceeds up to $270 per night. I've just booked a room for $50 a night in an old sugar mill in the middle of high season on Nevis—a property surrounded by several acres of fruit trees just feet from a lovely pool, no less. In March Matt and I will spend a few nights on Terre-de-Haut off Guadeloupe, where our room at an exquisite little hotel will run, somewhat splurgily for me, €82. Perhaps, if I hadn't just made these reservations, I wouldn't find the inclusion of the above properties so annoying. But I have, and I am prompted to wonder, yet again, just how hotels at $270 per night belong in a budget travel magazine.
Today I received a call from a bookseller at New York's excellent McNally Jackson Bookstore with the exciting message that the third edition of the Rough Guide to the Caribbean was finally in stock. I'd been waiting for this call for weeks. I happened to be nearby and walked over to pick up my reserved copy.
I spent most of February in the Caribbean updating two chapters of the guide: the Montserrat chapter and the Guadeloupe and Martinique sections of the French West Indies chapter. It's exciting to be able to hold the book, and to see some of my new discoveries in print.
While I was on the subway reading through the guide, I noticed that half the car had been turned over to the current Aruba tourism campaign, which centers around the personality-driven tagline "90,000 Friends You Haven't Met Yet." The campaign features photographs of a number of Arubans. I looked up only to see an eye-level photo of Eddy Croes, an Aruban nature tour guide. Two years ago, I had the great experience of joining Eddy on an informative Aruba Nature Sensitive Hikers tour of the island.
I got back late last night from my Rough Guides research trip to the Caribbean. I'm now sorting through mountains of notes and brochures with some tight deadlines ahead of me.
I've come back with so many impressions and observations, but I thought I'd come up with a very top five list of exciting places and amazing things I encountered over my weeks in Martinique and Guadeloupe.
1. Best hideaway that doesn't involve a turbulent sea crossing. Presqu'île de la Caravelle, Martinique. This quiet peninsula is comprised of little seaside hamlets, agricultural land, and protected parkland. It's got beautiful littoral forests, good beaches, and few of the big chain hotels and package tourists found across the southern Caribbean-side coast of Martinique. In an ideal world I'd probably stay at the Hôtel la Caravelle in Tartane (€71/night for a small studio) and eat at the hotel's restaurant, the highly-regarded La Table de Mamy Nounou.
Check out one of the peninsula's glorious beaches in the late afternoon:
2. Best condiment ever. Guadeloupe's M'amour banana preserves by Guy Lesueur. Morning baguettes were never as delicious before my discovery of M'amour's banane confiture, and they'll never be more delicious hence. That said, M'amour's caramel-banana hybrid I chanced upon on my final morning on Guadeloupe was so tasty that my bread became a mere utensil.
3. Best Caribbean airport. Pointe-à-Pitre International Airport. Le Raizet Airport is perfectly constructed for Guadeloupe's tropical environment. It filters light into the airport's interior and appears to float in sharply angled modern precision. The airport puts its counterparts across the region—with very few exceptions—to shame. There was possibly no better reminder that Guadeloupe is an overseas department of France than this airport. Here it is at 7 a.m.
4. Best stretch of beach. A tough one, but the beaches north of Saint-Louis on Guadeloupe's offshore island Marie-Galante are picture-perfect and sparsely populated outside of weekends. My favorites were the beaches of Moustique and Anse Canot. Take a look:
5. Best restaurant visited. An even tougher call, but I'd have to go with Le Poisson d'Or in Anse-Mitan, Martinique (at 12 rue des Bouganvilliers). Open for lunch and dinner every day but Monday, Le Poisson d'Or serves exquisite creole cuisine, which include lovely accras (fritters) and a fish in coconut milk that made my eyes glaze over. Second-place would go to the restaurant at Auberge Les Petites Saints (open for dinner every night but Monday) on Terre-de-Haut, Guadeloupe, which served me a delicious soup of local fish and a superb Basque tasting plate.
I'm off in the morning on my Caribbean adventure, back on February 27. I'll be very focused on my job and posts will be infrequent between now and then, though I'll try to pop out some blasts of enthusiasm and amusement along the way.
Any suggestions and ideas for Guadeloupe, Martinique, Montserrat, and Antigua? Scribble 'em my way, kids.
I've tried to keep things hush-hush regarding my upcoming gig, telling only a few friends about it. I've now received word from my editor on the project that it's a-ok to divulge, so here goes...
Rough Guides has asked me to update some chapters of their Caribbean guide. I'll be spending most of this month running around Guadeloupe, Martinique, and Montserrat checking rates and prices, sussing out listings and museums and beaches and restaurants.
I'm especially excited because I've used the Rough Guide to the Caribbean more than any other regional guide. It's my favorite Caribbean guidebook for a whole litany of reasons, and I'm looking forward to being a part of it. Plus, this update will allow me to visit some tiny islands (La Désirade! Terre-de-Bas!) I've wanted to visit for a long time.
New York friends should place their souvenir orders soon. Most of those who fail to place orders will be receiving little bottles of rum from Marie-Galante. And please email me tips and advice. All will be appreciated.