The fourth post in my series on far-flung France is about Guadeloupe. My guest writer today is Laura K. Lawless, an American Francophile who has combined her love of heat and the tropics with her love of France by moving to live permanently on an island in the Caribbean, in France. Here she tells us about moving to the French department of Guadeloupe, the Caribbean butterfly.
Guest post by Laura K. Lawless at LawlessFrench.com
I fell in love with France during my first trip at 15, and visited a half dozen times before my dream of living there finally came true in 2008. My husband and I moved first to Hyères (Var), mainly because we had a good friend there. After 2½ years, we were tired of the Mistral and cold more often than not, so we decided to live in Menton (Alpes-Maritimes). We were there for three years, but it turned out that even Menton’s famed microclimate wasn’t enough to overcome my frileuse tendencies, and so we settled in Guadeloupe.
We’d first visited the Caribbean in December 2011, when we came into a bit of money and decided to spend a month there: a fabulous week-long catamaran cruise and 12 days each in Martinique and Guadeloupe. We stayed in a total of four rentals, one on each side of each island, so that we could fully explore the two French départements and find the very best spot – or at least that was my plan. My husband didn’t know yet that I was seriously thinking about moving, but he was happy to visit, driving all over the place and enjoying the sights.
During our exploration, we decided that our favorite place in all of Martinique and Guadeloupe was the western coast of the latter, along Jacques Cousteau’s Underwater Reserve. The main access point is the tourist village of Malendure, which includes a lovely stretch of beach and a view of the Îlets de Pigeon. Visitors can tour the marine park in a glass-bottom boat, explore the islets, and enjoy any number of water sports: swimming, snorkeling, scuba diving, paddleboarding, kayaking… everything you need is available to rent and there are several restaurants as well as ample lodging in the area. Or, if you stay somewhere else, you can just drive over for the day. Distances are very reasonable; from the easternmost point of the mainland (Pointe des Châteaux, home to spectacular views and a gorgeous beach) to Malendure is 90 kilometers and takes about two hours, depending on traffic.
Guadeloupe is an archipelago. The main part, nicknamed le Papillon (Butterfly), is two islands connected by bridges. The mountainous west wing is, ironically, called Basse Terre (Low Land) and was created by la Soufrière, a still-active volcano. Basse Terre is home to fantastic mountain hiking trails, rainforests, waterfalls, and the capital city, also called Basse Terre. The east wing of the butterfly, called Grande Terre (High Land), includes the largest city, Pointe-à-Pitre, and is the more touristed part of Guadeloupe, thanks to white sand beaches, resorts, and cute seaside towns. The archipelago also includes the smaller islands of La Désirade to the east, Marie-Galante to the southeast, and Les Saintes to the south.
We moved in October 2013 and concentrated our real estate search on the 42-kilometer stretch of coast to the north and south of Malendure, from Deshaies to Vieux Habitants. Eight months later, we completed our purchase of a piece of land in Bouillante (Boiling), named for the natural hot baths in the area. We are currently building a villa for ourselves, and when that’s finished we’ll add three vacation rentals.
Grande Terre towns like Sainte-Anne and Saint-François are full of tourists—I’ve heard the latter referred to as the Cannes of Guadeloupe—while the main draws in Basse Terre are just Malendure and, to some extent, the town of Deshaies, where the BBC series Death in Paradise is filmed. Elsewhere in Basse Terre, life is very peaceful, a place to enjoy tropical weather, warm water, and glorious sunsets.
Laura K. Lawless is a writer and virtual French teacher at LawlessFrench.com. After living in the south of France for 5 years and visiting 6 corners of the Hexagon, Laura moved to Guadeloupe in 2013. You can find her through her website and Twitter. All photos are provided by Laura.
If you enjoyed reading this you’ll probably like the other posts in the series on French DOM-TOMs about Martinique, Mayotte, Réunion, St Martin, French Guyana, French Polynesia and another one on Guadeloupe.
*** I am looking for bloggers who have visited or lived in any of the French DOM-TOMS and who would like to contribute to this series. Please leave a comment below or get in touch through the contact page ***