Three Must-See Places in Guadeloupe
As the end of my stay in Guadeloupe nears, I’m starting to review my experiences here with nostalgia-tinted glasses. My frustrating arrival now seems like proof of my tenacity. The sweat-soaked days of late fall feel like a vitamin D balm against ashy-ness.
After eight months of living somewhere, it’s tempting to proclaim with confidence that I know a place. But, in all honesty, I am still not an expert on Guadeloupe. I’m just an expat, in love with the archipelago, sharing some of places in Guadeloupe that I enjoyed the most.
If you read about beaches in Guadeloupe, you’ll learn that the popular tourist hotspots lie along the southern coast of Grande Terre in Le Gosier, St. Anne, and St. Francois. They’ve got the white sand that people are always so excited to see. Perhaps it’s because I’m contrary by nature, perhaps because this beach was almost empty when I went, but the beach located in the small town of Bananier on Basse Terre blew me away.
Like the other beaches located close to the volcano, Bananier has black sand. It feels grainier against the skin, but still soft. The water was clear when I stood in it, even if the black sand darkened its shine when seen from the shore.
The water is a little rough, which is why it’s less popular with the seasonal crowds. Most beach bums want to lie back and chill in the water. I am not your average beach bum. In my opinion, jumping up into the crest of a wave, or swimming through it, is the most fun a person can have in the ocean without equipment.
This year, Mercer ranked Pointe-à-Pitre 72nd in the world in terms of quality of life. This isn’t why I like this city–just a fun fact. Like a hipster tourist, I liked Pointe-à-Pitre before the internet said it was cool.
With a population of around 16,000 people, Pointe-à-Pitre is not what I would normally consider a city. But it hums, moves, and swelters like a city.
Mostly, I hang around Place de la Victoire. It’s my home base. A lot of buses start and end there, making it an ideal spot to change lines. There’s the Marché de la Darse (Darse Market), with fruit and veggie venders. Next to them stand fishermen in jelly shoes, preparing fillets with a great stretch of sea behind them. Sometimes, I’ll buy a bokit (a Guadeloupian sandwich) from a van, sit on a bench, and watch people. Tourists bumble through, locals cut across, and a few just relax there.
Once I saw a man lying back in a hammock tied to a tree and a bench. A radio played, and he sang while drinking rum. It was surreal to see this man embody the image of Caribbean ease, while around him, the world spun.
Le Gosier Night Market
A few of the larger towns have markets on certain nights of the week. In the town of Le Gosier, this is Friday night.
For most of my time here, I wrote off the night market as something I wouldn’t be able to go to. I thought it started at five, which is also around the time the bus to my apartment stops running. So, while I could get into town, I’d have a long trek back in the dark.
I finally went during one of the rare times I rented a car. By then, I’d learned that the market actually opened at four. I got there early, and wandered along the beach, just waiting. At three in the afternoon, vendors began setting up their tables of locally grown fruits and vegetables. All this time, I had avoided the market for fear of not having a ride home, but it turned out that “night market” actually meant “late afternoon market.”
You know how the first time you experience something fantastic, you might overdo it a bit? I almost spent all of my cash there. Only 2€ per kilogram of plantains? Oh, and there were some of the most delicious mangos I’ve ever tasted. A few vendors also sell souvenirs–hand-crafted jewelry made from local stones, hand-woven bags with the shape of Guadeloupe sown on, and t-shirts that look like dashikis.
If you do have the pleasure of going to the Gosier Night Market, make a budget, and bring a few shopping bags.
Bottom photo credit: Luca Moglia