By Liz Flemming
From pineapple to fuschia blossoms and sapphire pools, the butterfly island of Guadeloupe teases and heightens the senses.
Guadeloupe’s first tourist was Christopher Columbus, who dropped by the lush tropical island in search of fresh water on his second trip to the new world in 1493. He fell in love with a local fruit he named: piña de Indias, or pineapple. Guadeloupe still grows the world’s most delicious pineapples, just one of the many sensory pleasures on this lush star of the Caribbean. A visual treat for the senses is the spectacle of La Pointe des Chateaux, where conical boulders rise from the sea like the turrets of a massive sand castle and crashing waves cause huge explosions of froth and foam. The surf there is too wild for swimmers, so you could get lucky and find a romantic beach all to yourself. Stop at the Botanical Gardens in Deshaies for visual pleasure that will make you feel you're in a fairytale. There, tree branches laden with fuchsia blossoms droop sensuously towards the earth–too full to hold their heads up any longer. Brilliant green vines hang above sapphire ponds where graceful water birds strut. For intellectual stimulation further north at Basse-Terre’s national park, guides introduce guests to natural cures for the ailments of the outside world. For example, bay rum leaves fight fever and influenza, and the boiled bark of the Naked Indian tree makes a powerful aphrodisiac. Nature’s welcome is as warm as the one offered by the friendly Guadeloupians themselves.
But even without the aphrodisiac, you’re sure to fall in love with Guadeloupe’s cuisine, which rivals the best kitchens in Paris. It is no surprise that many of the island’s chefs have "escaped" their European kitchens to bring an international flavor to local seafood, fish and produce. Guadeloupe’s homegrown chefs add their own local flare, creating an impressive food scene. You certainly won't be stuck with any of the old fried-fish-and-plantain dishes common to some Caribbean islands. Pleasure is central to Guadeloupan lifestyle. The locals drink more champagne than the residents of any other French country - unofficial estimates suggest three bottles per person per year. Who wouldn’t celebrate? From the dramatic landscape of Western Basse-Terre, punctuated by La Soufrière volcano, to the rolling hills, flat lands and white sand beaches of eastern Grande-Terre, Guadeloupe is a butterfly island, blessed with two distinctly different wings. Its seductive symmetry is sure to draw you in.