Sunday, May 29, 2016

How to Spend a Week in Les Saintes

Laid low by a nasty cold that would just not release it's grip on George and myself, our two boats have been lying low in Les Saintes.  What better place is there to be when you just don't feel up to much, certainly don't want to sail any distances, but still have one healthy person per boat who wants to avoid as much contact as possible with their sailing partner to try to avoid cold bug contamination?

The archipelago of Les Iles des Saintes consists of five little islands two of which are inhabited, just a scant eight miles south of the main island of Guadeloupe.  These islands were originally settled by Bretony fishermen and have never had slaves, so the history revolves around fishing, possibly some smuggling and a defensive position for the French against the English back in the old days of naval warfare and the battle for trade supremacy in the sugar & spice islands.

Today, Les Saintes is a holiday weekend destination for Guadeloupians (?) and there are more tourist ferries regularly pulling up to the dock offload passengers than we have seen anywhere else.  The waters between the little islands is deep so big dependable mooring balls have been installed and for 10 Euros a night (7th night is free) you can tie up and save worry about dragging your anchor in the swirly winds that drift between the little hills and into the anchorage.
One of them most distinctive anchorage features - Bourg des Saintes has "The Doctor's House" that is built as the prow of a ship into the cliffside.

The main street at the north end skirts the beach, full of fishing and service boats.  Liming under the tree at the picnic table is enticing.

Saturday morning market time - this Saintois gentleman passed me in his bare feet heading up the concrete hill.

Ashore, the charming little village of Bourg des Saintes is chock-full of little restaurants, bars and boutiques - all incredibly charming and oh so French.

Nowhere else in the Caribbean do you find this European feature and a way of holding crumbling architecture together.

To get from the hardware store to the superette you can walk around the long way or you can take this little narrow shortcut, if your bags will fit through the gap at the bottom.

As in all the French villages, the RC church sits in a prominent spot at the centre of town.  Every morning at 6:30 the bells start ringing and on Sunday morning you can hear the faithful singing from the anchorage.

Almost daily, we visit the local market to pick up some fresh produce.

We came here a year ago and little has changed.  The islands ooze French quaintness, filled with tourists on scooters, and goats.  This time, in the company of Jan & George (Wildcat) who have been here many times, we have sampled and enjoyed most of the best of the French restaurants, visited and become friendly with the local market proprietress, and generally practiced our French on many an unsuspecting vendor.  Typically, the response comes back in English so our practice is not getting us anywhere fast.

The bright colours and pretty gingerbread trim of the houses line the street / pedestrian walkway.

The first of many delicious meals shared in the company of George & Jan.

Now that our colds have pretty much released their grip, we have started getting out once again for daily walks with George and in two mornings we have pretty much exhausted the main island of Terre-en-Haut.  We have picked up and dropped more moorings than we can count between the various anchorages, all dependent on the direction of wind and swell and have even completed a few little boat jobs to keep us going.  

Repairing the clew of our genoa sail, still totally in love with my Sailrite machine!
Pan de Sucre anchorage is tucked behind a little mini-piton with basalt towers.

Named for it's shape - Pain de Sucre (sugar-loaf).
Wildcat arrives in the anchorage all set to pick up a French mooring ball.
Reminiscent of a sunset on St. Lucia when a cruise ship sailed right in front of the sun and obliterated the green flash - not sure we can blame the island but the effect was the same.

On Ilet a Cabrit we hiked up to the fortifications for a sunset view, and just a teensy little green flash (too small to get on camera.)

Our backyard view - more goats!

The dock is just a little rough shape - we chose to beach the dinghy instead.

Late afternoon view from Ilet a Cabrit, looking back on Bourg des Saintes on Terre-en-Haut.

We weren't the only ones enjoying the sunset.  This little goat was taking it all in too.  To be honest the place is overrun with goats, over grazed, and everywhere you walk the air is ripe with goat droppings.

Golden hour light shining down on the little village below.

Another beautiful sunset in paradise.
After time at the Ilet a Cabrits anchorage we headed back over to the "main" island to visit a few more French restaurants.  Apparently Friday was Emancipation Day holiday and Sunday was French Mother's Day, so this was a final blow-out weekend for the tourist trade.  We navigated through the crowds thronging the narrow laneways and still managed to find quiet places off the beaten track.  Of course, as it typical we only had to wander 500 yards off the main street and there was not a tourist in sight!

Enjoying the view from Fort Caroline at the north eastern corner of Terre-en-Haut.

Sitting on top of this hill, Caitlin sent a text asking if we around for a Saturday morning chat.  Coverage was spotty and my photo wouldn't go through.  Caitlin - this one's for you!

Who knew there were French Rasta's?

George and his new friend - it was love at first stance :-)
Our time on Les Saintes is winding down and I'm not sure our waistlines can take much more of the fine French dining on this island.  We're now just waiting for the weather to clear so we can passage once again south to Dominica for a quick revisit.

Hey, it's Les Saintes and I said there were goats everywhere!