We are now installed in Kaz a Kouz, our small but lovely cabin in the heights above St. François. You can see Dawn's feet in her shavassana pose. Yesterday was our most complicated travel day. We had to return our car, catch the ferry, meet Hubert at the port back on Guadeloupe, get a car from him and then arrange how we were to return the car and catch our flight in March. Then drive to this place, meet our new host, buy food and wine. Trés compliqué!
We arrived at the terminal at 11 AM as instructed but no one was there except a couple of other renters who were following the same instruction. We took the opportunity to check out a couple of shops, one of which sold jewelry made from dyed cows’ horns. Very beautiful, large but lightweight. Back at the parking lot the Magaloc guy appeared. it was the same guy that we talked with about tire and the same guy who changed it. We knew his name, Olivier, so we went first. He looked at the car, checked the mileage, said “Yes” and that was that. We took our stuff to the Ornata and I had a drink while we waited to board. It was going to be a draft Stelle Artois, but I only had 3 euros in change, so I got a glass of Rose for 1.40 instead. He said something about installer so I sat down with Dawn and waited for my drink. It came quickly and was a beautiful color and a good wine. Soon it was time to board and we knew what stairway to go up since it was the same boat. As we left and sailed by the island, we could recognize the beaches where we had swum and the town of Saint Louis.
After following the crowd out to the front of the terminal, we found Hubert waiting for us. He is the same guy that we rented from last year in fact we recognized the car he drove as the same one as last year (it has a small Canada sticker on the back bumper), or at least the second car. The pay machine for the parking was malfunctioning so we contributed the 2.40 euros in coins to get the ticket validated. Back at his office, he asked us what we paid last year, we said 25 per day so the deal was made. We hadn’t discussed money up to this point. We showed licences, I signed and we were off. The electric window switch is still a little temperamental but the car has four NEW TIRES along with its 80,000 kilometres.
I know this is getting to be a little boring. No drama. It continued this way. We had some traffic, but it dissolved in front of us. I had a guy tailgating me but I pulled over to let him pass. This year we found the cut-off that took us north of the town and we easily found our new home for this week.
Our host, Veronika, came out to greet us. Later, I was careful not to make any comment until Dawn did and what she said to me in private was that she is a really beautiful woman. And I must agree. She has movie star looks and she flashed a beautiful smile. She took us to our cabin which is on her and her husband’s property. His name is Sylvain and not surprisingly, he is also handsome. So with the exception of our hosts’ good looks, we had no surprises on a day when I had prepared myself to accept lots. I did notice that when not preparing myself for some hypothetical disaster ahead I could notice what was going on in front of me. For instance, this year, Hubert was not just the car rental guy but a nice human being with a caring face who was thoughtful about his own life and the world around him.
Return to Point des Chateaux
The last time we were here at the point we had hiked for over two hours so we didn't climb this hill. It was pretty easy because they mortared in a beautiful set of steps all the way up. We did find a natural trail down another side so we felt ok about the steps. Any one who has read about a couple of our trips already knows what is being clearer to us now, that we can be terrible snobs. If a place has mass appeal or popularity we can easily turn up our noses. Most of the times this distain is unwarranted. The view, as you can see is gorgeous and we have to remember that we are all part of the mass and we don't ever make ourselves special by lowering everyone else. We all know this, but sometimes we forget.
One of the reason we came out here is because we had a request to get more pictures of the restaurant in the water. So as we came around the corner we were disappointed to see that all the tables were now on the shore. As we walked by we both made a mental note to come back after our swim for some beer and get the full story of the restaurant that no longer has tables in the water.
To explain the photos: in the first one you can see the main, curved beach where people are strongly encouraged not to swim because it is too dangerous. Beyond is the second, straight beach where you can swim because the beach is protected by the reef where you can see the waves breaking. Off in the hazy distance somewhere is the beach de la gourde where we swam yesterday and started the hike last year. The photo of the four rocks with the beginning of the hill that we climbed on the right. It was taken from the end of the main beach
Pretty much since we have been down here we have had an Easterly wind so the waves are pretty big and there is a current along the beach. We are learning to find an entrance upcurrent and then drift down keeping an eye out for the coral reefs that are too shallow to drift over. I have used Dawn's new mask once or twice and next year I am getting one myself. It is like having your own glass-bottomed boat. After she first tried it she handed it to me and the back head straps were not even wet. After I use my mask with my facial hair interfering with a good seal, every sinus cavity has been thoroughly flushed out with sea water.
To the left is the photo from last year. It was very charming. After our swim we returned to this restaurant without a name and sat down at a table on some sand and before we should go up to the truck to order a beer, a handsome young man come up and took our order. We drank our Caribes as they began to quietly dismantle the tables and stack the chairs. At some some point we got the story. Yes, the authorities had come down on their tables and chairs in the water. You could still take a drink and an appetizer and stand or sit in the water, just no tables or chairs. He thought that they did really good fish and we are planning to return in two days to find out.
Stephen and I exchange very few Christmas presents with each other lately. However, he really wanted to imptove my snorkel experience this trip so he bought me a full face mask that allows me to breathe almost normally through my nose. He also got me a wet suit vest since I tend to get cold after about five minutes snorkeling in spite of the warm water temperature here. Vive la différence! Yesterday the water was so clear and the light filtering through it so beautiful that it was quite an experience. I saw several colorful species, butterfly fish, angel fish, many I cannot name, a long fish with a teal blue stripe down the middle or one with a yellow stripe on top and schools of fast little silver fish. Yesterday, I swam for some time with one particular fish, although he led me into lots of seaweed. Stephen saw a small barracuda. All this is pretty close to shore, although you can certainly swim to reefs farther out and perhaps see more. Although I know our oceans are suffering and our human species has overfished worldwide, seeing these fish here gives me the illusion that our seas are all right.
Out and About
Our little encounters with Nature on our decks continued as we watched a couple of geckos trying to gain dominance over each other while we sipped our morning coffee. The choreography was stunning, with erratic changes of direction, sudden stops, moments of mirror image, and a fascinating use of the space, which was the railing on our terrace. If I could have captured a video of this pair, it would have been a perfect instructional tool about unpredictability to show dance composition students.😉
We are surely part of the horde that invades the Caribbean at this time of year to avoid winters elsewhere. At the big market, Leader-Price, it is always jam-packed with long checkout lines. Yesterday they were restocking shelves madly as many products were gone. I wondered how the folks who live here year-round feel about this “invasion.” More traffic, more crowds, well of course also more valuable income from tourists. I had been looking for lettuce in vain. They grow tender, sweet lettuce here. The Creole man in front of me popped a bag of that lettuce on to the checkout counter, and I asked him where he found it. He graciously pointed and told me the directions, but when I waited there for Stephen to return so I could send him after the lettuce, the man bolted out of line and ran to get me a bag, then continued his checkout. “Mais vous êtes formidable. Merci beaucoup! » That is all I could say...yet another surprising example of island generosity.
Stephen passed it forward the next day when an island woman had her arms full of last minute necessities at the checkout and couldn’t carry the eight-pack of milk. First he gestured that she should go ahead and then just put the milk in the front end of our cart and finally put it on the counter when she checked out.
Looking at this palm tree from our doorway, I feel that it is a guardian of some kind. It exudes strength by its size. Its gently swaying palm fronds are either waving away spirits or beckoning me to approach. Whatever it is, it does seem to be standing at the other end of the garden watching me with its skewed coconut eyes. I guess I like being watched over.
You don't have to believe in animism, you just have to allow yourself to feel whatever you are feeling. You hardly have to believe in anything. You love, you are loved. There's never any proof, nor needs to be. The tree is now swaying seductively, cheering on a life that starts just now, hopefully with a smile.
Here is the short poem that I promised last week.
La Vache Qui Cri (ou Les Cris du Monde)
Chaque jour j’entends les cris des vaches
Mais ce matin c’est différent
Un cri pénible
Un cri souffrant
Peut-être son heure d’accouchement
Dans ce cri
Ce cri si long
J’entends les cris du monde
J’entends les cris des êtres conscients
Les êtres qui souffrent partout
C’est un cri mondiale
« Réveillez - vous! »
« Réveillez - vous! »
Qu’est-ce que je ferai pour la reste de la vie?
Qu’est-ce que je ferai pour améliorer
Pour soulager ce cri mondiale?
Ces cris des êtres
The Crying Cow (or The Cries of the World)
Each day I hear the cries of the cows
But this morning it’s different
A painful cry
A suffering cry
Maybe her time to give birth
In this cry
This cry so long
I hear the cries of the world
I hear the cries of sentient beings
Beings who suffer everywhere
It’s a worldwide cry
What will I do for the rest of life?
What will I do to help
To solace this worldwide cry?
These cries of beings
N.B. It sounds a lot better in French. Also, the title in French is a bit of a word play on “La Vache Qui Rit » which is the name of a commercial, processed cheese. (The Laughing Cow)
- Dawn Kramer, January, 2018
Return to the Restaurant in the Water
Le Petit Paradise
After a morning swim at the town beach of St. François, la plage raisin claire, we showered quickly and headed out to taste the food at the restaurant with the tables in the water. We know more about it now. It is named Le Petit Paradise and is the number ninth rated restaurant in St. François out of about 100. We drove toward the point and when we saw the truck we pulled off the side of the road and walked through the rocks to their tables.
We chose the yellow table with an orange unbrella and sat down and relaxed. Dawn started with a planteur punch while I had a ti punch. Dawn ate the filet of dorade which almost always from the island od Desirade which we could see from our seats across the water. Dawn convinced me to have just a glass of Rose instead of the bottle I was planning on. It was a good choice. An espresso for me and some ice cream for Dawn finished the meal.
Cows, Chains and Whips
Speaking of cows, Stephen and I did a hike in an area called le Bois Jolan. The trail goes through seacoast, woods, above cliffs and meadows. On the way back, we decided to do a little walking meditation, moving slowly and being mindful of each step. Just as we began, I noticed a very large cow with big horns approaching us on this wooded part of the trail. We stepped aside to watch maybe twenty cows pass us and wander out into next pasture. I associate horns with bulls, but these cows had horns and of course udders. They were dragging long chains behind them, that made a mournful sound. We are in Carnaval season here, so the memory of slavery abounds, and I couldn’t help but associate these dragging chains with slavery. At the back of the herd was a large, strong, shirtless island man with a machete tucked under his arm. I said, “Bonjour monsieur,” and he nodded his head. There was something slightly intimidating about this scene that felt like it came out of another century. The chains are used to stake the cows to a spot in the pasture, especially if they are near roads, to protect both animals and motorists, I imagine. Later I mentioned this experience to our hosts, and Veronika told me that in the spring when the cows have their calves, you really have to watch out for them on the trails because they can be aggressively protective of their young. We mothers certainly understand that, nevertheless I would not want to meet one of these large, powerful moms on the trail. Veronika also mentioned that lthe cows often roam with no human beings herding them.
One of the things that you see in Guadeloupe as part of Carnaval are long lines of men filing down the street dragging long whips behind them. Intermittantly they stop and using their whole bodies to swing it into position they crack the whip with the sound of a gunshot. It is solemn and intimidating. This parade of cows was similar. They were big, they had horns and they were the ultimate chain gang with the sound of the chains ringing out their imprisonment. As we move toward better treatment of the animals we use for food, we must remember that still they are enslaved.
The rain that came at the end of our hike cleared the beach and here is a picture afterwards before the bathers returned. Another round of rain sent us home.
First, from our Airbnb review from Dawn:
Veronika et Sylvain sont vraiment « super hosts. » il nous ont prêté les palmes et chaussures pour nager et ont laissé du café , thé, miel, rhum, fruits, etc. dans la petite Kaz. La Kaz à Kous elle-même est charmante, une petite maison dans le vrai style Caraïbe. Si on doit avoir un télévision ou la climatisation, ce n’est pas le lieu pour vous. Si un veut être en pleine Nature, dans un beau jardin, avec une belle terrasse pour vivre en dehors, c’est parfait. Évidemment les américains ne restent pas souvent ici, donc nos hôtes s’intéressaient à bavarder avec nous, Ils nous ont invité pour une galette des rois délicieuse et pour prendre un verre. C’était une très bonne conversation. On a parlé français, mais je suis sûr que les gens qui ne parlent pas beaucoup de français seraient confortable ici. En plus, leur tortue Fifi a décidé de se promener dans le jardin pour nous dire « au revoir. » C’est un aimable et bel animal, exactement comme ses « parents! » - Dawn in French
Veronique and Sylvain are truly “Super Hosts”, (a category in Airbnb land). They lent us flippers and water shoes and provided some coffee, tea, honey, rum, fruits, etc. in our house. La Kaz à Kouz itself is charming, a small cabin in a true Caribbean style. If you need television and air conditioning, this is not the place for you. If you love to be in the middle of nature in a beautiful garden with a beautiful porch to live outside, it is perfect. Evidently, Americans don't stay here often, so they were interested in chatting with us. They invited us for some delicious king's cake with a glass of wine and we had a very good conversation. We spoke in French but I am sure that people who don't speak much French will still be comfortable here. In addition, their tortoise “Fifi” came out to say good bye to us. It is a friendly and beautiful animal, just like his “parents”. -Dawn translated by Stephen.
This is a great place. We stayed a week, and it was too short. It is easy to get to and has easy access to the road to the Pointes des Châteaux with its beaches and restaurants. The lighting is very nice, especially on the front porch where we ate dinner, and then the natural light in the morning coming into the kaz from the garden was very beautiful. It is small, but there is a place for everything so it is very comfortable. The way the two houses are set up gives you a lot of privacy. As Dawn said above in French, Veronika and Sylvain are super hosts. Fifi the tortoise giving me a kiss on both big toes (French style) as we left has been the highlight of my trip. Do not hesitate another moment, but come and stay here. - Stephen
In a “King's Cake” there is a prize baked into it and whoever finds the prize in his mouth gets to wear the crown. Yea, me. I think there was some rum punch involved also. I am not sure but I may be obligated to come back next year and do the baking. We said good night and good bye to Sylvain who was off early the next day and said good bye to Veronika as we were getting ready to leave. We will return in a week to give back a book that Sylvain gave to Dawn. Once we saw that the book was enscribed to him by the author we knew we couldn't keep it.
A short hop to le Moule