Les Saintes, Guadeloupe.
Off the southern coast of Guadeloupe is a little set of islands known as Les Saintes. After a somewhat rocky three hour trip we dropped anchor in the bay at Bourg Les Saintes, hoping for a change from the disappointing Point a Pitre as previously mentioned. We were very pleasantly surprised.
The main island, Terre en Haut, is about half a mile wide and two long. It appears to depend on regular ferries from the Guadeloupe 'mainland' bringing in day tripping tourists at 9am and taking them away again at 5pm. Which means that the little town is heaving in the daytime, and you jostle for a lunch table, but at other times its a beautiful quiet place disturbed only by the occasional car, scooter, goat or chicken.
On our first day there, the kids and I woke up early so left Gesa to sleep and went in to get the bread, enjoying a gentle explore of the town and a secret pain au chocolat in the park. Later, we all walked all the way across the island to a beautiful bay on the eastern side. It was actually less than a mile, but included a lot of up and down, as this place is far from flat. We swam in the bay before strolling back for tea on board.
The next day, we all got up early and were ashore by 7:30, buying bread and pastries and readying ourselves for a big hike up to the old napoleonic fort. We almost literally dragged the kids up the steep hill and were there at 8:45 to find that it didn't open till nine, so we had the rest of our breakfast before going inside. This turned out to be another little french west indies wonder, for a few euros the fort is now a beautiful museum and botanical garden with amazing views of the surrounding islands and ocean. The gardens are full of palms, cacti and aloe vera plants, and in the trees lurk large iguanas. The british and french navies once fought a huge battle just off this coast, and the progress of the fight is laid out in a series of models inside the fort. It seems like the british sort of won, but in the way of such things, the wind and weather conspired to disperse the fleets before anything decisive had occurred, but I reckon it's England 3- France 1 which would do in any world cup qualifier. We had brought pens and paper with us so used the trip as the day's art lesson, with the kids doing some great drawings of the fort, trees and cannons. Issie impressed me with the speed with which she drew a really good and detailed picture of the fort, but then depressed us all with the way she lost focus a few minutes later and wouldn't colour it in or add any more detail. Bit like her Dad really, a completer/finisher she is not.
We had some fabulous ice cream when we got back down to the waterfront, and later had a good but rather pricey meal out, but it's nice to eat in a restaurant where the view is of your own boat/house.
Later we moved a half mile to a different bay behind Pain de Sucre, a small 'piton' of volcanic basalt columns that shelters a nice anchorage. The snorkeling was fabulous here, crystal clear water ten metres deep with lots of coral and all sorts of fish. Issie has gone from never wanting to use her snorkel to full mask/snorkel/flippers and then she saw a women diving deep then clearing the snorkel when she surfaced, and Issie decided to copy. So I taught her how to clear the snorkel and we have a little mermaid, kicking her way down a few metres to see the fish and drifting back to the surface. I didn't do that till I was almost thirty! Some kids don't know how lucky they are. Even Max has tried mask and snorkel in the shallow water and it won't be long before he's doing it too. He loves to swim with his lifejacket and goggles on, so he can float and look underwater between breaths.
In this bay we met a lovely dutch family, taking a year out to sail on a beautiful boat they built themselves. With kids almost the same ages, everyone got on really well and we enjoyed a nice bar-b-que together. Sadly they are going north whilst we are going south, but it's good for all of us to spend time with people other than the four crew of Ty Dewi.
Onwards today to Dominica, a thoroughly different experience and quite another story, or blog posting.....
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