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Guadeloupe: The Caribbean Butterfly

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.

arc en ciel Guadeloupe

 

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.

grande terre 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.

underwater reserve Guadeloupe

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, paddle boarding, 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.

plage pres de pointe des chateaux Guadeloupe

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.

jardin botanique de deshaies Guadeloupe

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.

bains pres de la soufriere Guadeloupe

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.

coucher de soleil Guadeloupe
 
 
Laura Lawless
 
 

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 the 6 corners of the Hexagon, Laura moved to Guadeloupe in 2013.  You can find her through her website, on TwitterFacebookGoogle + and veggie food blog. 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 MartiniqueMayotteRéunionSt MartinFrench GuyanaFrench 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 ***

 

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GUADELOUPE

 
 
 
My Travel Monkey
 
 
 
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Comments

  • Guest
    Marek Monday, 04 April 2016

    I spend 2 hours reading about Guadeloupe and I can’t take a breath. The Island got me completely  I am just wondering whether it is worth to visit the Island during the Christmas as regards the weather. Maybe a stupid question but how it is with swimming in the see in December and January?

  • Guest
    Laura K. Lawless Tuesday, 05 April 2016

    It's fantastic! Warm water, warm weather, possibly some rain. But it's a great time of year to visit. There are, however, a lot of tourists at that time. The sea is warm year round, so really there's no bad time to visit. :-)

  • Guest
    Michael Monday, 21 March 2016

    Hello Laura,

    I just been redirected to this post from another blog and I am happy to find it since we are going to Guadeloupe in the middle of June. We just bought flight tickets and now looking for some accommodation, Airbnb seems to be fair enough, but can't decide which part of Guadeloupe choose.
    I am amazed by the volcano and treks and beaches around Deshaies, but I read somewhere it is not so good for snorkeling as it is the very east part of Grande Terre starting St. Francois and heading more east. Can you make some hint on this, please and help us to decide? We will stay there 10 days, from which two will be definitely dedicated to treks to volcano and jungle, also we want to visit chocolate and cocoa museum and maybe one day trip to Terre de Haut. Now I am starting to realize 10 days are not enough but what we can do =D.

    Thank you in advance, wish you a beautiful day,

    Michael / weare@meshommes.com
    http://www.meshommes.com

  • Guest
    Laura K. Lawless Tuesday, 22 March 2016

    Bonjour Michael,

    The snorkeling in Grande Terre is indeed very good, but it is also great in Malendure (about an hour south of Deshaies), off the coast of Sainte Rose (about 30 minutes north of Deshaies), and in les Saintes (Terre de Haut, so about 90 drive then ferry). The best, however, is at Petite Terre, which is a set of two tiny islands southeast of Saint François - you can take a daytrip, which I *highly* recommend.

    Guadeloupe is small enough that, unless you're really only interested in visiting one part the whole time, it doesn't really matter where you stay. Deshaies to Saint François is about 90 minutes, which is certainly doable once or twice.

    Since you want to go to various places all over the island, IMO, the more important consideration is the type of area you want to stay in. Deshaies is a small, charming, fairly traditional town, though there are growing numbers of tourists due to the BBC series "Death in Paradise." Saint François is a extremely touristed and "resorty." I've heard it called the Cannes of Guadeloupe.

    I hope this helps! Let me know if you have any other questions.

  • Guest
    Phoebe Monday, 21 March 2016

    Hi Michael I've alerted Laura to your question, I hope she can help you. It's great you came to Laura's post, would you mind telling me which blog sent you here? I'd love to know, thanks!

  • Guest
    Packing my Suitcase Wednesday, 16 September 2015

    What a wonderful story! I can totally understand why Laura decided to move... I would probably do the same too. Living in an warm island, near the ocean and in a wonderful place for diving, I wouldn't thing twice :D

    Thank you for joining #MondayEscapes

  • Ting at My Travel Monkey
    Ting at My Travel Monkey Tuesday, 15 September 2015

    It certainly looks like a caribbean butterfly to me! I can see why Laura wanted to move to Guadeloupe. I do, too! Kidding aside, what a great series. It's always interesting to read what drives individuals to move abroad and live a new life. I wish I was so brave! Thanks for linking up with #MondayEscapes

  • Guest
    Rosie @Eco-Gites of Lenault Monday, 14 September 2015

    Believe it or not I met a dog on Saturday who was born on Guadeloupe but now lives in Normandy ... you'll have to wait a while before I blog about her and her story though ;) #MondayEscapes

  • Guest
    jacqueline Thursday, 25 June 2015

    Yes! I'm also interested in the blog and anything else that has to do with French or France...Thank you.

  • Guest
    Helen @ WittyHoots Monday, 22 June 2015

    I love finding out about new places and this is a great write up!

  • Guest
    Corinne Sunday, 21 June 2015

    Phoebe, I'm loving this series. I have never been to any of the outlying French areas...and now I'm starting a list! Guadaloupe sounds amazing!

    Reply Cancel
  • Guest
    Phoebe Wednesday, 24 June 2015

    I'm pleased you're enjoying it Corinne, I've got 5 more in the pipeline so it's not over yet. Wouldn't it be fun to do a "world tour" without leaving France? Nth Atlantic (off Canada), Caribbean, Sth America, South Pacific, Indian Ocean and back to Europe, no passport needed, spending €...I want to do this trip!!

  • Guest
    Sarah Bailey Friday, 19 June 2015

    Wow what a stunning looking place, I haven't been lucky enough to see much of France.

    Reply Cancel
  • Guest
    Globalmouse Thursday, 18 June 2015

    Wow I absolutely love the look of Guadeloupe - I really hadn't heard much of it before and this just sounds so fascinating and beautiful too.

    Reply Cancel
  • Guest
    Phoebe Wednesday, 24 June 2015

    Laura certainly makes it sound lovely I agree. :)

  • Guest
    simplyfood Thursday, 18 June 2015

    Wow what an exciting life , I love the beaches and all the beautiful places you have visited.

    Reply Cancel
  • Guest
    Charly Dove Thursday, 18 June 2015

    Oh how wonderful, Guadeloupe sounds like such an amazing place to visit. We've been to the Caribbean before but not here. Would love to go :)

    Reply Cancel
  • Guest
    Phoebe Wednesday, 24 June 2015

    Guadeloupe is really not on the Anglo map, it's very well known for Frenchies however.

  • Guest
    lisa Thursday, 18 June 2015

    oh wow look at those views if only i could wake to see them each day

    Reply Cancel
  • Guest
    rebecca smith Wednesday, 17 June 2015

    Looks so lovely! Would love to be there

    Reply Cancel
  • Guest
    Erica Price Wednesday, 17 June 2015

    Sounds and looks amazing. I've been on a Caribbean cruise, but sadly we didn't visit Guadelope. One for another group.

    Reply Cancel
  • Guest
    Phoebe Wednesday, 24 June 2015

    You'll have to go on a Francophone cruise around "les Antilles" and then you'll get to visit Guadeloupe Erica!

  • Guest
    Sonya Cisco Wednesday, 17 June 2015

    What a beautiful place - and that sunset - stunning!! Really interesting read.

    Reply Cancel
  • Guest
    Kara Wednesday, 17 June 2015

    White sandy beaches, clear blue seas and stunning skies - what's not to love

    Reply Cancel
  • Guest
    Phoebe Wednesday, 24 June 2015

    I agree Kara!

  • Guest
    Nancie Tuesday, 16 June 2015

    What a beautiful piece of paradise!

    Reply Cancel
  • Guest
    Rachel Tuesday, 16 June 2015

    The beach and the sea look beyond beautiful, what amazing surroundings x

    Reply Cancel
  • Guest
    louise Monday, 15 June 2015

    wow this looks amazing, i love the crystal clear sea - paradise! x

    Reply Cancel
  • VaiChin @RamblingThroughParenthood
    VaiChin @RamblingThroughParenthood Monday, 15 June 2015

    This made for fascinating reading. Such beautiful photos too!

    Reply Cancel
  • Guest
    Mary Louise Monday, 15 June 2015

    Lovely post - great story behind Lauras decision to stay in that destination also.
    I would love to see more of France.

    Reply Cancel
  • Guest
    Michelle Monday, 15 June 2015

    Wow what a beautiful place, your photos are gorgeous! xx

    Reply Cancel
  • Guest
    Pinkoddy Monday, 15 June 2015

    How utterly gorgeous. I would love to live in France but my French is very poor. Seeing and reading this has also made me realize that I haven't actually ever been to a beach in France either!

    Reply Cancel
  • Guest
    Phoebe Wednesday, 24 June 2015

    There are plenty of lovely beaches in France a bit closer than these ones, to start you off with! We have plenty around Lou Messugo for a start!!

  • Guest
    Lucy Zelazowski Monday, 15 June 2015

    What great photos, it looks so romantic. One day I would love to go. Lovely post thank you for sharing with us.

    Reply Cancel
  • Guest
    Sonia Monday, 15 June 2015

    It looks dreamy! Oh to be sat on that beach with a cocktail right now ;)

    Reply Cancel
  • Guest
    Rhonda Albom Sunday, 14 June 2015

    What a charming island. I could be very happy spending some time on that beach!
    #wkendtravelinspiration

    Reply Cancel
  • Guest
    Sally@Toddlers on Tour Saturday, 13 June 2015

    What a beautiful spot you found to remind you of a favourite travel destination.

    Reply Cancel
  • Guest
    Jennifer Friday, 12 June 2015

    Gorgeous photos and what a nice story. I want to visit even more than I had before.

    Reply Cancel
  • Guest
    Muza-chan Friday, 12 June 2015

    Lovely photos...

    Reply Cancel
  • Guest
    Laura K. Lawless Friday, 12 June 2015

    Thanks! Nowhere near as good as the real thing, though. :-)

  • Guest
    Ruth Friday, 12 June 2015

    I have always been intrigued by Guadaloupe (and by Martinique too). Even in the Caribbean (I am from Puerto Rico) they are a mystery. As you know, not that many cruises stops on those islands (I guess that is good). So, when growing up, I used to hear about St. Lucia, St. Maarten, Dominica and Aruba but not a lot about the French Islands. Hope I can visit one day.

    Reply Cancel
  • Guest
    Laura K. Lawless Friday, 12 June 2015

    Bonjour Ruth,

    The cruise industry is picking up, as is tourist advertising geared toward Americans. Right now, the vast majority of tourists are French and British.

    I hope you can visit some day, and I hope to visit Puerto Rico too. We looked into it this past spring, but the flights were outrageously expensive. :-(

  • Guest
    clara Thursday, 11 June 2015

    That sunset looks very familiar from our time in St Lucia! I think island life really suits some more than others. I found St Lucia just that bit too small for me. I'm not sure how much larger Guedelope is but we really needed to get off the island fairly regularly in order to stay sane!

  • Guest
    Laura K. Lawless Friday, 12 June 2015

    Bonjour Clara - Saint Lucia is quite a bit smaller: 238 sq miles vs 629. In addition, we found that the roads in in SL are so bad (slow) that we spent most of our week there in the area around our lodging in the north. One drive to the south was enough, even though there were several other things we wanted to see and do down there. Other than our trip to SL, my husband and I haven't left Guadeloupe in 18 months and we feel just fine.

    Laura K. Lawless
    LawlessFrench.com

  • Guest
    Richard Thursday, 11 June 2015

    It certainly sounds lovely - for some. But what do the real Guadeloupers (mainly Afro-Caribbean and, I would guess, rather less well off than Laura) think? Are they content? Or would some or most of them prefer to be citizens of an independent state, like say Barbados or Jamaica or Aruba?

  • Guest
    Laura K. Lawless Friday, 12 June 2015

    Bonjour Richard - Obviously I can't speak for Guadeloupéens with any authority, but I can tell you that though unemployment is very high, the people are friendly and welcoming and the 2003 referendum on autonomy was rejected by 73% of voters. (A similar referendum held in Martinique in 2010 was rejected by 79% of voters.) So while life is far from perfect, from my perspective, the people seem fairly content.

    Laura K. Lawless
    LawlessFrench.com

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