The Long Road In
I was just about to lose my patience, as I watched in horror as the meter in my taxi from the airport to the hotel surpassed the $100 mark. I’d been in this damn car for an hour and couldn’t take another roundabout. Just when I thought “we must be here now”—as we cruised through another little town—we’d drive right out the other end and back into the scrub. I only had one night in Guadeloupe and so far I’d spent most of my time in a car. But we finally arrived at my quarters for the night in the town called Deshaies and the moment I stepped inside the confines of the Hotel Le Rayon Vert and caught a glimpse of that gorgeous infinity pool whose water seemed to connect with the sea’s, all was suddenly right and forgiven.
I should make this clear now: Le Rayon Vert did not pay me for this write up, nor offer me anything complimentary. I usually stay in modest properties, just wanting somewhere clean and safe to sleep. But now and then a hotel actually adds to the overall quality and experience of a visit to a country, and such was the case here in Guadeloupe. I’d already forgot about the long drive in, as my mouth hung wide open at the sight of a magnificent open-air restaurant leading out to a pool that belonged on the front page of Condé Nast. The water of the pool seemed to touch the ocean’s water, with jungle on each side. Next to the reception desk, Rosie, a big, beautiful pink bird greeted me. She let me rub her head and neck through her cage’s bars, like she was a cat. She’d be the first of a few animal-friends I’d meet during my stay here.
I was shown to my room, which, like the pool and restaurant, had a spectacular view of the sea and surrounding lush greenery. Though I love solo travel, this was a moment I wished I’d brought company. Either way, I knew I’d have a lovely stay.
Talking with the nice lady who checked me in, it was apparent that my choice of activities would be limited. She mentioned that most of the excursions available nearby required a minimum 48-hour advance notice. Online I discovered that two of the best things to do on the island were hiking the volcano and visiting the national park—I figured both weren’t close enough to do before dark today, nor before my 1:45pm flight the next day. I’d be delegated to the pool for the remainder of the day, and that was okay by me.
I watched the sunset over the waters of Guadeloupe while enjoying that wonderful pool for about an hour. Then, I enjoyed an exquisite (albeit expensive) fancy French dinner: a giant platter of fresh fish served over greens and vegetables. Truth be told, I couldn’t read the menu for the life of me, so I asked my server to recommend something. Why didn’t I pay attention in eighth grade French class? I was the thirteen-year-old clown making it known to the class that “I would never need this bullsh*t.” Well, I’ve indeed needed “this bullsh*t” countless times during my travel, so the joke’s on moi. Anyway, the meal was delicious. I drank two virgin piña coladas like the wild man I am.
The property was also home to the biggest cat I’ve seen in my life. She must be part linx; her head, nose and paws were huge. I slipped her a couple slices of fish under the table and she became my best friend.
Oh, we must talk about the frogs. I gotta find out the name of them, but I loooooove them. I mean, I don’t really “see” them—but I hear them. Everybody hears them, and they make a sound like I’ve never heard an animal make before. These frogs make an actual “beep.” Like a robot. More like a high-pitched “bleep.” It’s absolutely beautiful and this country was full of them. I first found these guys in Guyana. The sound is unmistakable, and I was glad to hear them again. Check it out:
It was off to bed for an early morning the next day; I had to squeeze as much as I could out of Guadeloupe with the limited time I allocated for it.My flight the next day was at 1:30PM, so I’d only have the morning hours if I wanted to do anything. I was really wishing I had more time.
I had a nice breakfast at the poolside restaurant and contemplated just relaxing by the pool again. But Guadeloupe’s botanical garden was too close not to visit.
RAMBLIN’ TIP: In hindsight, Guadeloupe is a country where I should’ve rented a car. Taking into account that the airport-hotel transfers set me back $100+ each way, and I had to wait for 30+ minutes for a cab to the gardens (which was only two miles away), Guadeloupe quickly struck me as a country where you should have a car. It’s not like other places where taxis are cheap and plentiful. Plus, there’s just so much of the island I wanted to explore, and things were definitely spread around, all over the place. While I didn’t price car rentals, it’s definitely something to look into if you’re headed that way.
In The Garden
What man gets excited about a botanical garden? Honestly, I didn’t expect much at all; maybe just a nice tranquil place to walk, reflect and maybe learn about some flora. But the Jardin Botanique completely exceeded all my expectations. This place was actually absolutely stunning in so many ways. From the twisting trails that passed by waterfalls and over creeks, to the beautifully manicured trees, plants and flowers, this place was so well designed. But what I liked best were the gorgeous animals and your ability to interact with them.
There were small, coin-operated machines that sold food for guests to feed the animal residents. I started with the koi. Hundreds all at once would nearly jump out of the water to get a treat. I tried my best to spread my bounty evenly, but I knew there were too many fish to all get a bite of the small cup of food I purchased. I made sure I purposely tossed food near the little guys so they’d have a chance. I fed the goats too. They were sweethearts and now I’m totally gonna have to lie on that US immigration card—the one that asks, “Have you been around livestock?” Oopsie.
Everybody Knows About The Word…
But my absolute favorite part of my time at Jardin Botanique was entering the giant cage of tropical birds and getting to feed them. They’d eat food out of each hand, while others waited in lines on my arm and even one on my head! And these weren’t pigeons. These were the most colorful and beautiful birds I’ve ever seen, with bright reds and greens and cute little “Toucan Sam” beaks. I could’ve stayed in the birdhouse for hours feeding these guys; it was so fun! But the clock was ticking, so I had to move on.
My taxi picked me up at the garden, we headed back to the hotel to checkout, and then off to the airport. Sometimes it’s hard to “count” a country when you’re just there for an overnight, but I’m happy to say that I was really satisfied with this visit, and packed in some great quality time during my quick stop here. From the chill pool-time at the sexy Le Rayon Vert, to a special French dinner, hearing my favorite frogs again and that wonderful garden; my short time in Guadeloupe was packed full of meaningful experiences. I even learned some great Guadeloupe history from my driver on the way to the airport.
There aren’t too many Caribbean islands that I have the overwhelming urge to revisit, but Guadeloupe is one of them. This island seemed like the perfect mix of relaxation and exploration, with cozy mountainside lodging and neat activities to plan for day trips. Guadeloupe could very well be my favorite Caribbean island.
Oh, and if you’re wondering what number country this is for me…actually Guadeloupe belongs to France, and isn’t part of the UN’s 193 recognized countries. But that didn’t stop me from visiting, nor should it you.
At the time of this publication you can get some great airfare deals, making Guadeloupe a very attractive destination.
And now, the REST of the (Insta)Story…
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