For the nineth post in the series on far-flung France we’re going back to Guadeloupe, to take another look at this beautiful island, this time from a visitor’s point of view. Our visitor is Rachel, a writer who likes to “take the road less travelled by” on her blog Rachel’s Ruminations.
Guest post by Rachel Heller at Rachel’s Ruminations
There’s something very odd about how the France and the Caribbean come together in Martinique and Guadeloupe, both of which are “DOM-TOMs,” short for départements et territoires d’outre-mer, or overseas departments and territories.They are officially part of France itself.
If you’ve spent any time in France and then visit a DOM-TOM, you’ll see what I mean. The road signs, for example, are exactly like the ones in France, probably produced by the same sign-making office as all the road signs in France. The post office, the government buildings, the whole government bureaucracy: they’re all the same as in France.
The names of places are French. You’ll spot the same chain stores you know from France. The boulangerie sells exactly the same amazing French bread and croissants as the place you frequented on your last holiday in France. The bakery prices are even exactly the same, and you pay with the euro, just like in France.
So it’s France. But, wait. These quintessentially French things seem completely out of place: a roadside stand right outside the boulangerie sells tropical fruits you’d have trouble finding in France. The vacant lot nearby is overgrown with bougainvillea and banana trees. That field over there? Sugar cane.
I spent about ten days in Guadeloupe recently, and also a few days in Martinique. This sense of surprise hit me often: in some ways it was so French, and in other ways, so wonderfully Caribbean, that sometimes I had trouble connecting the two to one place.
Every person I met and spoke to in Guadeloupe was friendly in a manner I’ve only ever experienced in the Caribbean. Maybe it’s the climate, but the stereotype of relaxed openness really exists. It surprised me to hear many speak French with a standard French accent; I’d expected some sort of Creole accent. I did notice, though, some code-switching going on: people speaking Creole to each other and French to me and other whites. In any case, they were far friendlier to this average English-speaking tourist than I’ve generally experienced in France (especially Paris).
It also struck me that that characteristic friendliness seemed to rub off on the visiting French tourists. As I climbed Mt. Soufrière, I heard “Bonjour,” accompanied by a quick smile, from more French people than I’d ever hear on a hike in France!
Eating is a delight there as well. I love French food, but these islands improve on the standards by adding Caribbean flavors and ingredients. Especially the use of tropical fruit like pineapple and mango instead of European fruit like strawberries or currants … yum!
I think the reason I fell so completely in love with Guadeloupe is exactly because of this strange juxtaposition between France and the Caribbean. With the best from both places—the fresh tropical fruitiness of the Caribbean and the perfect croissant-iness of France—Guadeloupe seemed the best combination of both worlds.
Rachel, originally from Connecticut USA, lives in the Netherlands where she writes, blogs and teaches. Her blog Rachel’s Ruminations is a travel blog focused on personal responses to what she sees and experiences as she wanders the paths of life. You can find Rachel through her blog, on Twitter and Facebook. All photos are provided by her.
Don’t forget you can read the other posts in the series on the French DOM-TOM (about Martinique, Mayotte, Réunion, Guadeloupe, St Martin, French Guyana and French Polynesia) if you haven’t already done so and please do get in touch if you have a story to tell about far-flung France.
*** I am still looking for bloggers who have visited or lived in any of the French DOM-TOMS PARTICULARLY NEW CALEDONIA, ST PIERRE & MIQUELON and ST BARTS. If you’ve been to any of these places and who would like to contribute to this series please leave a comment below or get in touch through the contact page ***
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We had two Caribbean territories linked up with Faraway Files last week – love seeing the compare contrast between the French influence and the Latin influence. Guadeloupe looks lovely so lovely. Thanks for introducing us to Rachel! Hej from Copenhagen, Erin
I think the French brought a little je ne sais quoi wherever they laid their colonial hat. Pineapples and croissants – yummy! A tropical flavoured French escape is so tempting isnt it. Thanks for sharing on #farawayfiles
I’d really like to visit a Caribbean island with a French flavour, Phoebe. Thoroughly enjoyed re-reading for #FarawayFiles
Ooh thanks for introducing me to somewhere new! I’d love to explore more of the Caribbean, and it’s interesting to learn there are still signs of the island’s French connection! #FarawayFiles
It sounds like the best of France and the Caribbean all in one neat little package! I really must go one day. Lovely to read about it. Thank you. #mondayescapes
I like the idea of the combination of France and the Caribbean, I can only imagine how delicious might be the food! I hope visit Guadeloupe someday!! 😀
Thank you for joining #MondayEscapes 😀
Hey Christine, I love Death in Paradise and yes it’s possible to watch it in France. I watch the current series direct from the BBC but it’s also dubbed into French (and called Meutres au paradis) on a local channel just a few series behind. My kids love it too!
Guadeloupe and Martinique have always fascinated me (along with Reunion) – I remember at school learning about the departements and really wanting to visit those three. They’re still on my list but I love the sound of this mix of cultures. #mondayescapes
I’ve had a yearning to visit Guadeloupe ever since I realised that Death in Paradise was filmed there. I’m not sure if you get to watch this series in France but it’s a formulaic detective series, the island appears to have a huge murder rate 🙂 I always watch it though as I love the location it’s filmed in.
That’s fascinating to hear there’s Nordic architecture, I had no idea the Swedes had colonised the Caribbean too. Are you sure you couldn’t write about this for me Richard?
It sounds and looks like a gorgeous place to visit. I’d happily go there any day!
Oh wow how fantastic, Guadeloupe sounds amazing. It’s one of the places we’ve not got to as yet and we’d absolutely love to visit. My bucket list seems to be getting longer and longer! I must join your Linky too, so sorry we’re swamped at the moment and I keep forgetting. I’m going to keep this page open though so I don’t forget 🙂
What a beautiful fascinating place – I would love an opportunity to explore the region, this has really got me wanting to visit!
We went to St Bart’s once, but not for long enough to respond more than very superficially to the appeal at the end of this blog. It was – and presumably still is – absurdly pretty (like Guadeloupe and, less so, Martinique), and its prices lived up to its reputation as the Caribbean St Trop. The blokes (only two of us) took refuge in a convenient bar while the ladies eyed up the retail therapy potential – which they concluded was beyond them! St B’s owes part of its prettiness to its surprisingly Nordic architecture, a relic of its past history as the centre of the Swedish West Indies. (The Swedes rather cannily sold it to the French, much as the Danes sold their bit of the Caribbean to the Americans, where it survives as the US Virgin Islands.)
St Bart’s is also famous, or maybe infamous, for having one of the Caribbean’s scarier airports, with the runway ending at the top of a cliff. We didn’t sample it, having arrived by yacht. But it looked almost as alarming as the one in Dominica, carved along a mountainside a few hundred feet above the beach, which unfortunately we often had to experience (with our eyes shut!).
It does look pretty fabulous 🙂
I am so desperate to explore the world and now have new places added to my bucket list…….need the kids to grow up first though as cannot afford to travel with them all in tow
This place looks absolutely gorgeous, so many new places I want to visit x
Wow what an amazing sounding place, it looks absolutely stunning. x
These two islands sound like fascinating places to visit and this is very interesting to read.
It sounds wonderful, it’s exactly the he kind of place I hope to visit one day and see all for myself, thank you for sharing.
What a stunning and beautiful place.I would love to visit there.
Love this mix of cultures, makes for a very unique place. Somewhere I would love to go.
That sounds like an amazing place to visit – the mixture of cultures must be really interesting.
Another place to add to the must visit list x
Such a well written travel post, one of the best I have ever read, you can almost feel the breeze and smell the croissants!
The measures your article mentions must be having an effect. I don’t think I saw a single stray dog when I was there!
I just fell in love with the place. I’m in talks with my husband about retiring there! :p It really is lovely!
Catherine, click through to the link Rosie left on her comment and all will be revealed about pot cake dogs! She wrote a post about dogs from Guadeloupe and I guess hoped there might be one in one of the photos in this post.
Ok what are “pot cake dogs”?
Guadeloupe seems such a wonderful combination of two cultures. Amaxing.
Wow, what an amazing destination. I have pinned to my travel board. x
It’s lovely to read about Guadeloupe as it is somewhere I’ve never been. It looks beautiful there… may be one day!
I studied French for years and lived in Paris for a while, but have never been to one of the DOM-TOMS. The way you describe it is really striking — a combination of 2 cultures. Wonderful
I would love to go to Guadeloupe just to see this French-Caribbean mix. I am also searching the photos for Potcake dogs but I cannot see any … http://eco-gites.blogspot.fr/2015/10/from-guadeloupe-to-normandy-tale-of.html