The Crazy Americans on Mainland Guadeloupe and Ile des Saintes, Guadeloupe

The Crazy Americans

We needed groceries. I really wanted a decent-sized grocery store to buy a bunch of things we had run out of since leaving North Carolina. When we arrived on the mainland Guadeloupe, we saw on a map that there was a large grocery store in Basse-Terre. We walked to the center of town to the Digicel store to get a SIM card for our MiFi and asked the young man working there how to get to the supermarket (Super Marque Casino). (He actually knew a bit of English; most people here do not speak ANY English).   Altogether, the grocery store was about a three-mile walk. We figured we would walk there and ask them to call us a cab to take us back to our dinghy in the marina. We had seen a bunch of cars with these signs on the top that said: “Auto Ecole.” They were everywhere—around the marina, the center of town, and there was even an office for “Auto Ecole” in the center of town. A few times earlier in the day, we had tried to flag one down but they always had a passenger already.

Well, we had a great shopping experience. I was in my heaven. The store was huge and had so many things, and at really great prices compared to what we had seen previously. They had French wines, champagnes, cheeses, smoked salmon, baguettes, fresh fruits and vegetables, Special K with berries, and you name it, they (almost certainly) had it. They had Boursin cheese for $2.99 Euro, and with the pretty fantastic exchange rate right now (1 Euro equals $1.09 U.S. Dollars) we managed to stock up on quite a bit of food for a little over $200. When it came time to pay and leave, Dan approached the security guards to ask them to call a cab but only one guard (who was from Dominica) spoke English. At first, she conferred with her colleagues and said there were no taxi companies in Basse-Terre—but then someone knew of one. I thought that was very strange given all the cabs we had seen over the last few days, but whatever. Our car service arrived and it was obviously a different company because it had no sign, but the car was brand new and really nice. Ryan pointed out that he hadn’t been in a car since we left the States over a month ago and with the great air conditioning, we were happy. It was an expensive cab ride, but there is absolutely no way we would have been able to make it all the way back to the marina with our four computers in backpacks (we had from earlier) and all of our groceries.

Now, at this point in the story, if you know some French, you want to scream and tell us that we’re idiots. Auto Ecole is NOT a taxi service. Ecole means school, which days later, I found out by putting two and two together reading a sign and seeing a school. Apparently, we were the crazy Americans walking around Basse-Terre trying to hail rides from students learning to drive! At least that explains why they always had a passenger…

This is the sign that made me realize ecole was school…

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Ile Des Saintes, Guadeloupe

Fast forward a few days and we are now in Ile des Saintes, which are islands south of mainland Guadeloupe that are still part of Guadeloupe. It was only about 2 hours to get here (upwind again so we motored with just the jib), which was FANTASTIC in my book.  This place is absolutely breathtaking. I hope the photos capture how quaint and picturesque it really is.

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The church on the left and the doctor’s office on the right!

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Ariana’s photo:

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On the second day here, we rented two Mopeds for 24 hours and cruised around all of Terre-de-Haut with the kids—driving on pretty much every road they have here on this island. I had actually never driven a Moped before so that was a first, with Ryan as my (initially nervous) co-pilot. I don’t blame him. He asked me if I had ever driven one and I said: “nope, never.” It didn’t help that some of the roads on the island are very steep and the roads have “reverse curbs.” That is my own terminology. Instead of having elevated curbs on the side of the road, the roads had about a foot drop into a gutter (for rain water, I presume—or possibly to try to take down the tourists who can’t drive Mopeds). Initially, I had a difficult time with tight turns, but since I didn’t kill us or injure anyone else on the roads (okay, I did have ONE close call with a woman), I guess that makes my first Moped experience a success!  Oh, and one other important tidbit of information is that Mopeds are only allowed on the main road at certain times of the day, but there was really no other way around to the other side.  So, we got yelled at (or “educated” about the rules) a few times by some of the shop owners.  Beware!

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Something was on our camera lens in this one but at least we’re all in it!

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We packed a pasta salad and baguette lunch and ate in on a shaded picnic table at the beach.

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The next morning we took the Moped back up the large hill to Fort Napoleon. It has beautiful views and a museum inside that turned out to be quite nice.

Fort Napoleon:

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If you look closely, you will see that this man is the “gabier” for “Le Patriarche.”  Coincidentally, a gabier is a sailor who works on the rigging on a boat.  So very fitting for Dan…

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Part of the museum inside the fort:

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Dan and I also managed to have a date night. We are on a mooring here in The Saintes (rather than at anchor) so we don’t have to worry that our boat will drift away with our kids onboard! We went out for dinner on Saturday night and I had a poisson augratin followed by a whole spiny lobster with mixed mashed varieties of potatoes and root vegetables, and a chilled crème brulee. I also had a mixed drink that is made here that is essentially a coconut punch. We then went down the street to an indoor/outdoor bar that was packed, had a beer, and danced a little bit before heading back to our dinghy. It was a nice night!

Today, we Christmas-shopped while the kids did their school (it is challenging to shop here; this is definitely NOT the U.S.) and in the afternoon, we kayaked for a while before having some dinner. It was a fairly uneventful day. Tomorrow, I think we are going to dinghy over to the other habited island in the Saintes and see what it is like. Plus, I need to once again hit a grocery store and make sure I have enough French wine to get us through our time in Dominica! 😉

On Thursday morning, we leave for Portsmouth, Dominica where we will meet up with Bill, Tinka and Cora Talbert (on Proud Mary) from our home town in New Bern. That will be a lot of fun!

More photos from Ile Des Saintes, Guadeloupe:

Christmas in the Islands:

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We got the last small fake Christmas tree at the hardware store and spent part of the afternoon making decorations for our new Charlie Brown Christmas tree.  The lights are 240 volts (with a European plug) so we had to convert them to work for our boat.

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The cemetery:

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Typical Ile des Saintes houses:

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A field of goats and two “wild” bunnies and a chicken in the junkyard.  It’s like Easter!

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Carved wooden house detail and street/house scene:

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A woman working on her house and a political rally on the island.  Election time!  

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The recycling here is fantastic.  They have recycling bins throughout the island and they actually do something with it…

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