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Return to Guadeloupe - 2018

Guadeloupe Introduction
Marie Galante    Sainte François    le Moule     Sainte Rose     Deshaies

Marie Galante


It is Thursday already and it seemed that this would be a good time to write because as the sun rose over the ravine behind our place a big cloud intervened and began to dump a downpour on our house. Of course, by the time I got myself and the IPad arranged properly the cloud passed and the sun is out. It is the tropics and the weather comes in bunches and everyone just stands under a tree or huddles in a doorway until the rain stops.

Before I start, I want to mention that our lives are slowly becoming more influenced by our stay at Plum Village last fall. Our path has become more about our behavior than about thinking and concepts. Maybe one concept, that life is good, magical and beautiful, and that everything we do has those qualities. We may be looking for a gas station because the right rear tire seems a little flat or being caught in the rain on a seafont hike or watching a beautiful sunset; the magic of our existence remains the same. As we experience this for ourselves we can learn to expand it to everyone we come in contact with. Everyone should get a smile from us and also the care they deserve.
Okay, enough of that.

How We Got Here

stephen Dawn:
We thought our travels to get here were kind of long and complicated. On Sunday, we took a Lyft to the Hyde Park commuter rail station to catch the train to Providence and then another Lyft to the TF Green airport for our flight to Guadeloupe. Then Charles picked us up and drove us to his house for an overnight stay; then he took us to the ferry station and we boarded a four hundred passanger ferry for a one hour ride to the island of Marie Galante where we were greeted by the Magaloc car person who rented us car while standing in the parking lot. A ten minute drive up the hill brought us to the house of Pierre and Camille where we are staying the week.

But the couple from Montreal that we met at Charles's, planned to take a bus from there to Providence to take advantageof the low fares, but the bus was cancelled because of weather, so they bussed to NYC and rented a car one-way and loaded his surf board into it and drove to the Providence airport. The next day they would continue by Bus to Port Louis to meet their friends on a boat.

Excerpt of our Review of Charles's Place.

It all went smoothly and was totally stress free. After we arrived at his place we all relaxed with a Ti Punch and some accras. Charles and his wife Catherine greeted us so warmly. We had only been there one other overnight stay, that time with dinner, but they treated us as old friends. In the last year, they built a beautiful bar/kitchen area with a long table and comfy chairs under shelter. Above it are some lovely new accommodations. Last year we stayed the night before we had to catch our 8 AM flight back to Boston. At that time, he picked us up at our car rental place the day before and drove us to the airport at 6 AM to catch our flight. Dawn speaks French which certainly helps with communication, but this couple is so outgoing, I think you would be fine with a few words and sign language!

The Studio itself is plain but very well equipped. The shower worked great and the bed was comfortable. Charles sent us a text in the morning inviting us up for a good coffee. The place itself is a country refuge at the edge of the city. Some people stay here for a week to ten days because it has a good central location.


Charles is the epitome of Island warmth, greeting us with a big hug and a kiss on each cheek. We had a fascinating conversation over morning coffee. I had asked what the huge, fruit-laden tree was, and it turns out to be a breadfruit tree. He said they call it l’arbre de Dieu...only I heard “l’ab de Dieu” and wondered if God had good abs. I had forgotten that Creole accented French, at least in Guadeloupe, is a bit like Boston accented English, i.e. the “r” tends to disappear. So it is the Tree of God because during the time of slavery here, that tree always provided food for poor folks. The tradition continues now of sharing the copious fruits with one’s neighbors. I said it sounds like l’arbre de la générosité. He agreed.

Back to Marie Galante

sunset Stephen:
Marie Galante has been described as Guadeloupe thirty years ago and we feel that is completely possible. There is one National Highway that connects the three towns, some state roads and then lots of local roads. There are few cars on any of them. Coming out of beach parking lot, we never have to wait for traffic, there is none. We can drive minutes before a car passes us in the other direction. There are bars and restaurants but we find them one at a time. They are not crowded one against the other. The ones we have entered are different from each other, but share a general design of starting with a small house in front with a bar, followed by a covered terrace and then some tables in the sand. They all have young attractive waitstaffs. Here's a photo of a sunset.

We had dinner here, and I took charge of getting us a table in good light because after the sunset the restaurant turned on the lights, some more flattering than others. I told our waitress who was at the bar what table I wanted and also ordered a beer. Later after dinner, we had a conversation about the addition on the bill not being correct. I am now channelling Dawn when I tell you that she complimented me on my French. I don't think was my pronunciation, but that I had spoken in French, not going to English and had gotten my thoughts across. It was encouraging.

What do we do all day?

hot tub Stephen:
We eat three meals, a small breakfast at home, maybe a sandwich for lunch and then dinner out maybe once or twice a week, the other times some simple vegetarian dish with a bit of sliced ham on the side. We try to eat mindfully, taking the thirty chews a bite. We sit for a half an hour, although today we may do a walking meditation in the garden down below us that we haven't been to yet. Dawn does yoga every other day.

I want to go to the beach every day, I want to take a walk every day. These take some research time. I would like to write everyday. Also, we are making another video to be shown at the Reach Program Fund Raiser in April. Last year we talked about waves, this year we are beginning to think and shoot about connections. With Pierre and Camille, we have our own hot tub which feels good after a hike/walk.

We food shop. We try to find time to read. Sometimes we meet people in bars and learn about their lives. On Mondays, at least for awhile, we change our location. This coming Monday, we return our car, take the ferry back and rent another car and find our new place. An opportunity to practice calmness. We have been constantly pumping air into the right rear tire as it has developed a slow but accelerating leak.

Speaking of copious fruit, these Caribbean Islands are raucous with growth. Everything is so green, so overgrown, with huge flowers of intense colors and mega fruits.

My hair and skin are much happier here with the humidity than with the dry winter air and interior heating of Boston. One change we noticed from last year is the paucity of bananas in the markets. Apparently the banana trees were the one thing that suffered severe damage during the hurricanes. That is unfortunate because bananas are a staple crop here.

flowers red

Yesterday was a long drive over challenging back roads, a hike in and out of forest, pasture, sand, seaside rocks, rain, and sun, with a dip and snorkel for Stephen, then a walking exploration of Saint Louis in some more rain, a couple of errands, and a drink at Chez Henri (Isn’t there a Chez Henri in every Francophone town in the world, and plenty of American ones too?)

Stephen: On the walk on the rocks, we took a video of the “Kissing Rocks” and also of a wave nearby that nearly drenched the camera operator. The wave video is to say goodbye to the waves of last year's Reach Video and the rocks are to introduce connection. kissing rocks

So this afternoon we are embracing our laziness. Well yes, we did do a walking and sitting meditation this morning, and I did my one hour yoga warmup, but now I am enjoying the New York Times crossword puzzle in the hammock in a shady spot with a breeze, overlooking the trees to the sea beyond. Gratitude? Indeed.

Stephen: We didn't stay there all afternoon, managing to return to the beach at petit anse for a swim and some snorkeling.

Wherever we stay, I find an outdoor spot to do yoga. I have to judge the timing of my practice in relation to keeping the bright sun out of my eyes and having flat terrain for my yoga mat. Usually it is a terrace. Here at Pierre’s place, I was doing my five breaths in Warrior Two position when a hummingbird hummed it’s wings an inch from my nose and then took off. view

Another time, we were doing sitting meditation just inside an open window, and a little finch flew in and hovered in front of Stephen’s face before flying out the other window. In Guadeloupe, Nature in all forms is a strong presence. In our next entry, I will publish a little poem I wrote, inspired by “la vache qui cri,” the cow that was mooing in the pasture near the house.


bird on vane

We are up early today, with the dawn in order to exchange our rental car here, even though we have only one more day on Marie Galante. We have had to fill our rear tires once or twice a day for the last few days in order to keep rolling so finally we went to the rental “office”-a temporary umbrella at the back of a car at the ferry landing- to see what could be done about it. After much back and forth, it was agreed that they will give us another vehicle, mais “demain à 9:00 h.”

When we got to our parked car at 8:50 to drive it down for the exchange, the tire was so completely flat that we could not drive it. Even Paradise is not perfect! Stephen managed to jack the car up, but the wrench included in the car did not fit the bolts. So I called one of the six numbers on our contract and actually reached a human being. After much difficulty explaining exactly where we were, he said he would come up “après le bateau.” Since the ferry was due at 9:15, we figured he might be here by 10:00 or so. We left the trunk door open with visible jack and wrench and a business card asking him to call my number since I am the French speaker. I walked up to the car at 9:45 and nothing had changed. Then I walked up again at 10:00 to find the trunk door shut, the business card gone, the tools packed away, and a new tire on the car! Vive le miracle! Such grateful relief.

Our review of Pierre and Camille Place

We love light and this place had lots of it. The master bedroom had two large windows and the kitchen had a great view of our garden and the distant sea. The bed was super comfortable. We love airiness and the screened louvers at the top of the windows let in a gentle breeze that was amazingly insect free. The bathroom was beautifully tiled with plenty of space for our stuff. The shower was spacious enough for two of us and was operated with one handle so it was very easy to use. the towels were large and thick.

We watched the sun come up from the patio and had some dinners there at night. The kitchen was very well equipped. The whole place felt spacious. The hot tub was an essential part of our end of day ritual after hiking or swimming. We stayed here a week and it felt too short. Pierre and Camille were very welcoming and were perfect hosts. Pierre was full of information about the island which was useful as this was our first visit. We found Sun7 perfect for a punch with which to watch the sunset and enjoyed the dinner later. Chez Henri in St. Louis was good for a drink in the rain and Dantanas in Capesterre served us a couple of cold beers after a day at the beach.

If you read French, there are plenty of books in the glassed in bookcase. The place is a short drive from Grand Bourg but it feels like it is in the country. Using the inland roads you can reach all the beaches and the other two towns quickly and easily. In short, we loved this apartment in its own garden and are already thinking about coming back next year for a longer time.


Saint François

Travel Day

our kaz Stephen:
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 going to return the car in order to 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 kaz from the diagonal 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

high view Stephen:
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.

high view

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.

restaurant in the 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 could 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.
tribord full face mask

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.
palm tree


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
     “Wake up!”
     “Wake up!”
What will I do for the rest of life?
What will I do to help
To solace this worldwide cry?
These cries of beings


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

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.

p'tit paradise 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 of 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.

petit paradise

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.

beach bois jolan Stephen:
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.

Moving On

First, from our Airbnb review in French 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. Veronika et Dawn 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 sucirc;r 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 translated by Stephen
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”.
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.


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.

le Moule

Travel Day

pool Today should be an easy one. Half our stuff is already in the car and once we get the rest in, it is a twenty minute drive to Le Moule. We are meeting Shani at Le Spot, a restaurant that overlooks the prime surfing place in Guadeloupe. . . .She came right on time and guided us back to their compound which consists of a building with two duplex apartments, one of which is ours for the week, a small swimming pool, her family's house and her grandmother's house, which is mostly an covered dining terrace for twenty or more people which they fill some Sundays with her family. In my imagination I see her son asking what kind of house he should build her and she responds that all she needs is a place where she can have her whole family together.

Hiking and Beaching

graffiti Dawn wanted a hike today so I picked one from the internet that would take us from just east of town to the “Gates of Hell” of le Moule. It would be a 10 kilometre round trip affair, mostly along the shoreline. We didn't take any pictures so I grabbed this grafitti photo from the internet to represent what looks like the bombed out building covered with graffiti behind our starting point which was a beach having its facilities rebuilt so it was mostly a construction site. porte d'enfer

Within five minutes we are on a wild and rugged shore on a beautiful trail that first swings out onto the rocks near the water and then back under the trees. Soon it arrives at some fields which we cross, before it climbs two hundred feet or so through the forest to a view above the ocean. Then it leads us down to an overlook of the cove. We sat for awhile admiring the ferocity of the waves formed by a week of wind coming from the east or northeast. I did take pictures here but they were inadequate except the one you see. The trail had a last joke to play on us when it took us past a recently dead goat. On our return to the car, we soaked our feet in the small surf. before heading back to our place. lunch at the baie de pelicain

The next day we drove forty minutes to plage de St. Felix to swim on a south facing beach, avoiding the the large waves around east facing le Moule. After our swim, we had lunch at the Baie de Pelicain. We had been here a year ago for a sunset drink. It is a nice spot on a small bluff overlooking a little harbor with its aforementioned pelicans. Last year there were four and this year, four again. we don't know if they are the same birds but I think so because a fifth appeared and somehow got the signal that it wasn't welcome, and so it flew off out to sea even though the fishing is really good here. Best practially under our feet.because they dove successfully time after time a few feet from where our bluff met the water. pool I must admit that I can give in to the tropical fantasy of coming out of the water for a nice lunch with a good chilled rosé, but the selfie shows that my Panama fedora has morphed into peasant head gear and I am not the suave elgant man of my dreams.

The sun is on the pool in the morning and Dawn is taking advantage to take a dip and I am taking advantage to get a photo of the beautiful woman that I have loved for more than half my life. Sometime you just have to shout these things out in sheer joy.

map We took a hike today where we needed to have one or two of the machetes that Michel showed us this morning. The trail called the Ravine de Audoine was on the outskirts of town but civilization was invisible from it. On the map, we started at the red circle and moved clockwise on the green trail and then took the red shortcut back to the car. You can see how close we were to the houses but we felt we were in the middle of the Amazon. We have not talked about the hurricane that came by last fall, but it has damaged some of the boats and the flora of the island. Many places have been repaired but this trail through a mangrove swamp has escaped attention. It was a little like we were dragging the African Queen as we worked our way around newly fallen trees and over downed branches. For myself, it has been awhile that I have hiked a trail where I wasn't sure that we could keep following it. It would peter out only to reappear some yards away. This can be disconcerting especially when it stops at the water's edge. mangrove This trail is mostly used by locals who bring in their crab traps to capture the animals that will be eaten at traditional meals. The traps are made from recycled construction site material. The photo shows the basic design with the blue stripe showing who owns it. After the crab is caught it needs to be kept and fed for awhile before you can eat it, both to improve to taste and more importantly to remove any poison in the crab from its eating the fruit of the manchineel tree. Eating the crab could be fatal if it has recently eaten the apples of this tree. trap

Drinks, Talk and Learning

two men Dawn:
n We invited our hosts over for a drink Friday. In the morning, we agreed on them coming over “ce soir,” but we didn’t mention a specific time in the evening. I figured we should be ready any time after 5:00 since the sun sets around 6:00. Michel was working on the grounds around 5:30, and we exchanged “Bonsoirs.” We figured he had some work he wanted to finish up so maybe they would come by around 6:15 or 6:30. By 7:00 or so, I figured that either they forgot or we misunderstood and they were going to drop by the next evening. So we made a salad and were just about to sit down and eat it when they showed up! We were happy to see them and quickly switched gears to Ti Punch and wine and appetizers. It was a good conversation for a couple of hours. As often happens, the subject went to politics, and they couldn’t understand how Trump won when all Americans that they meet here did not vote for or support him. women

Sunday morning, we met Michel for what he said was going to be a garden tour. It turned out to be a three-hour lesson in the geological, biological and human history of Gwada and its flora, fauna, music and customs. It was totally fascinating, partly in French and partly in English as he used to be an English teacher. He loves his country and believes it is important for descendants of slaves as well as descendants of European colonists to know the history of this country that they either inhabit or visit. sawing He showed us a tambour made from a barrel (slaves had been forbidden to cut trees for drums since the European settlers wanted all the wood they could get for building their houses and furniture.) He also showed us a smaller drum with heads at both ends and said that there are seven rhythms native to Gwada, (Gwo ka) and only one of them, the mendé, came from elsewhere, the Congo, and would be recognized in other African countries. Near the end of our history lesson, Michel’s wife, Yvelle, brought out fruit punch and two bottles of rum (that I did not imbibe at 11:30 a.m.) and some boudin, à spicy, salty blood sausage.

digging out We got some photos to remember them by, including ones of Stephen helping Michel saw apart, then clean out a calabash. The calabash needs to dry out for a couple of days in the sun, then we will sand them smooth inside and then they can be used for many purposes. They are often finely incised with designs and sometimes made into lovely lamps. When we get home, we will decide what to do with the two Michel gave us.

It was raining when we said good-bye to Michel and left Le Moule. He said, “the weather is sad because you are leaving.” Interesting that the phrase for “It is raining” (Il pleut) and “He is crying” (Il pleure) are quite similar. When I was studying French in high school, I used to get them mixed up. His other parting words were “Please vote Trump out of office. We are scared.” I said “We are scared too.” Stephen thinks we should go to Pennsylvania for a few weeks before the next presidential election to work for the Democratic candidate. It is a swing state, and maybe we could stay with his brother there and try to swing some votes. He was raised there.

More Talk and Laughter

the girls

Saturday night, the girls face-timed us and we had a great time. They were trying to edit Dawn's Wikipedia page and we were trying to figure out how they might pop over from a family vacation in Miami to visit us in Deshaies. We don't really have beds for them but who knows. They seem to be in good spirits and it was fun to hang out with them digitally.

Last Day, Rain, Superbowl

morning porch

It might be a pitter patter, but today the rain seems a little pushier. Here is a photo from the click clack (convertible sofa) that I took in between the rain episodes. It shows what is our porch, dinner room and yoga studio in morning light. The car is not far away but I brought our rain coats inside from the car in case we want to leave while it's raining. Today we have an hour drive.

I listened to the Superbowl last night and even though the Patriots are my team, I was okay with the loss. The team demonstrated its strengths and at the same time had its weaknesses exposed. Also, rooting for a team that is too successful is boring. Remember the Yankees.


Sainte Rose

A night time view of the beautiful B & B where we are staying this week. I think Dawn is making us Ti Punches at the bar.

Meditating with Hammers

The sound of a hammer hitting a nail is a message. It is not the message of music, not even the message of the African drum, rather a picture of the person who has hit the nail, their experience, their skill, even their mood. It is the rhythm of work. In my life I have mostly heard the sound of workers framing houses and putting on roofs. A good carpenter sets the nail with a tap and then drives it with three or four blows. There is a pause as another nail is gotten out of the nail pouch and the rhythm is repeated. It is a solid sound, the hammer stays in contact with the nail as it is driven nearly an inch with each blow. The pitch goes up as the nail shortens and the last sound is different as the hammer finishes at the surface of the wood. A good carpenter will not hit it again. It is done and he moves on. There would be a crew working on the house so the sound would gain in complexity. In the summer, the noise of house building would blend in with listening to baseball outdoors on a transitor radio during a lazy day in the back yard.

There are other jobs that employ hammers. I have been listening to men build forms in order to pour a foundation for a wall that our hosts' neighbors are building. We can't see them because they are just down the hill behind some bushes. Here the sounds portray a different picture. First of all they are masons. I think their hearts are in the water, sand and cement with which they make their walls. Their wood construction is only a temporary thing to shape the final work. The wood goes up and then it comes down and then up again in a different place until the wall is finished. Maybe they reuse the nails. The might be rusty by now. Although they chat when they first come to work, there is little talk once they start hammering. But these guys’ sounds are much more like the sounds that I make when I build or repair something around the house. A glancing blow adds a tinny sound and then the thud of the hammer hitting the wood, followed by the taps that you need to straighten out the nail. Then there is the ringing bell sound when I drive a spike into a piece of hard wood with a hammer that is too light. The nail doesn't move, the hammer bounces back which frees the nail to vibrate back and forth, ringing like a bell. Once it makes this sound it almost never works to just keep hitting it harder like I do. You just have to go find a sledge hammer and whack it in with that.

I think their sounds are a result of building next to a flood canal and having to improvise bracing so they end up nailing where they have no good place for their feet. Hanging over a railing to hammer a nail is very different from a framer's or roofer's solid stance. At the end of today, I heard someone nailing with a beautiful managed rhythm. I imagine the forms are up and he is going back to reinforce them before the concrete is poured.

Mostly this listening has been while we have been meditating and the rest while sitting by the pool and writing this section. My meditation practice converted the guys' banging, which should have been unbearable, into images and allowed my mind to try to see who they were. My writing practice made me dig deeper into the details, but we did head to the beach before I or they finished. We are not crazy.

Plage de Clugny

Clugny Dawn:
Plage de Clugny is a lovely beach. However it is also the place where a 17-year-old body boarder disappeared over a week ago when the surf was dangerously rough. I grew up loving the ocean. My parents, brother and I spent weekends riding the waves at Jones Beach on Long Island, NY and some July vacations on Martha’s Vineyard. As a youngster, I was fearless. I did have a scary incident at South Beach on the Vineyard that perhaps contributed to my becoming more timid about the waves as I got older. So last week, Stephen dove in, but I didn’t feel comfortable doing so. In the last couple of days, the sea has calmed down a bit, and I have really enjoyed being in the waves, today even being inspired by a couple of young men with body boards to body surf myself. It was great fun! So many memories of my own childhood as well as my children’s childhood on Cape Cod.

Clugny big wave Stephen:
We learned anout the death on French TV. On TV. I seem to remember that the boy was bodyboarding. In the newspapers they just said he was swept out to sea. The second picture came from the news article. I don't know if it is a stock photo or if someone went out to the beach and shot it. This event, combined with some other things, has caused me to start writing a murder mystery about what might have happened. Yesterday, while playing in much smaller waves, I got caught inside and was roughed up pretty good. It is the first time that I can remember that my back was arched by a wave. It also held me down for a while longer than I am used to. It all worked out, but it was enough for me for the day.

Trois-Cornes Hike

waterfall with Stephen

Not the hike, but the rock at the top of the falls that was the destination of the trail. It was shaped like a tri-cornered hat. Dawn saved the day twice, both by choosing to take this loop trail in the direction that was suggested and after talking to two girls who had just come off the trail, she decided we should pick up a couple of hiking sticks from a pile at the beginning of trail. Both were good ideas.

I have always been snooty about hiking sticks. I am proud of my balance and my leg power and feel that adding a weaker limb, my arm, to the equation and then needing to find a place to put the stick would slow me down and make me less stable. Within minutes of the start of the walk, the stick had found its rhythm. When not needed it would just tap along, but this was not the case in ninety percent of the time.


I took this photo deliberately from a distance because I feel that it shows a human being, in this case Stephen, at an appropriate scale with the rest of nature. We humans are but a small part of the natural world. Our attempts to dominate nature have surely brought some benefits to our own species, but our hubristic shaping of the environment is also wreaking havoc on all species, our own included. Will we wake up in time?

(I bet Zak is going to make fun of this paragraph!)

The trail went up or down, mostly down as we worked our way from the ridge top where we parked the car to the river bed where the falls were. The stick placed forward on the trail coming down on mud did the same thing as a good pole plant in downhill skiing. It kept your weight over your feet. If your weight is back toward the hill, your skis or feet tend to shoot out from under you in a very unpleasant way. And this trail was muddy, as advertised. And slippery because of the clay.

We had been here before. Last year, when Thierry and Catherine had come over to visit us, spending the day the Botannical Gardens in Deshais, we drove over here with the intention of hiking this trail. But it had been raining for a couple of days so it was impassable. I think Thierry collected a couple of plant samples and I inspected the sulphur baths. It would have been nice to hike with them, the trail's slow pace in the middle of a tropical forest would have been amicable to conversation..

Dawn's arms

But now we are hiking down the side of the ravine, one long switchback takes all the way back to the return trail for a confusing moment but we hike on. We reached an intersection that was mysterious at best. One sign pointed left and said parking, the other one pointed the other way and said nothing. I forgot to take a picture of the map at the top of the trail so we mulled and very soon a pair of hikers appeared and said yes the falls are that way. As we got closer to the river crossing that would lead us upstream to the falls we met more couples hiking toward us with differing opinions about whether one could cross. Dawn on the trail

The French couple said “non” but the English couple said “We did it and I'm kind of wobbly”. Encouraged, we went on, crossed the river, found the falls, took a light-struck, interesting picture, ate lunch, snapped a picure over Dawn's shoulder of peeling a clementine. There were fish in a pool just below the falls where we had lunch looking at some fish that we couldn't identify. Photos were useless, but I did get a video of them darting about. After a rest, we re-crossed the river and slogged our way straight up the side of the muddy ravine through a couple of hundred feet of elevation back to the car. It took about three days to get our shoes semi-cleaned and they are still not clean and are not brought into civilized company.

Death on a Beach

Hey Dawn,

I like your paragraph, even though I know you didn't decide to make Stephen small. It was just where you were having lunch. But good, you ran with it. Hubristic is a great mouthful. I love it. Yes, there is some wreaking by humans going on in the world, but don't underestimate the power of the world to wreak back. You didn't even talk about the oneness of creation, in which I know you believe, but it is really hard to talk or write about, because when you do you assume the existence of the other.

(signed) Zak

Hey Zak,

Butt out, you are not in the travelogue. You belong in “Death on Clugny Beach”. Since we started writing “Death”, you have become part of our travels, but keep your writing over there. While we are at it, please be nice to Dawn. She is sensitive and doesn't like to be made fun of. I don't either, but I know a couple of things about you and might just blurt some out if you are not careful.

(signed) Stephen


Zak is a spirit who has hooked on to us. Together, we are writing a mystery about the death of a seventeen year old boy who was swept away from Clugny Beach at the end of January. Don't pay any attention to him he is not supposed to be writing here. Dawn evoked him. I am sure that he has a crush on her.

Another Palm Tree and the Spirits of the Terrace.

another Palm Tree

Another palm tree. Not as big as the first one, but friendlier. I think its spirit reflects our hosts who are gracious and kind. But the tree watches over us in our place for the week, a lovely covered terrace with their house on one end and our room at the other.

Drapery spirits

If I am on the terrace and the wind is blowing, I have guests, the drapes. They move in such a gentle human fashion that I find myself turning about to greet them, but it is just the drapes. They are like young brides, their hair cinched in back simply and their their straight slim dresses extend to the floor. Perhaps they are waiting for their bridegrooms. But maybe they have turned away from all that and are simply the virgins of the terrace who turn on the temple lights each evening. I had thought it was some mechanical timing device.

Terrasse du Port (Connecting the Dots)

dots DJK Stephen:
Back in high school I was a photographer. I worked for the school newspaper and yearbook. I don't think I have to say that it was all film then, and mostly black and white. I mention this because when I put these photos on the website, they reminded me of my battle with dust in the darkroom. They can strike whether you are developing negatives or printing photos. They can take any shape and can ruin a lot of work. Dawn is in charge of writing this section, so I won't say any more...

The restaurant we wanted to go to was closed, so our hosts suggested we try this one. We got there at 7:30, early for the French, and there was only one other couple seated. The sort of Spanish-looking man behind the bar said we could pick any table and took our drink order. Most places we have gone to in Gwada have been quite casual, but here were tablecloths and cloth napkins and little devices that projected moving spots of light all over the room. By the time we were finishing our drinks, the place had filled up with both tourists and locals. It was a place to eat fish, which we did quite enjoyably. The service was fairly slow, but what’s the hurry? Stephen insisted on taking a couple of short videos of the moving lights that looked particularly vibrant on my white shirt. We tried to figure out how these dots of light could connect to our video theme for Reach. Hmm, our concept is about connecting so how about “connect the dots?” dots Stephen

After dinner, I went to the toilette (twalet in Creole) and stopped by the kitchen to thank the cook. The host, bartender, server was feverishly scraping dishes while a wiry Creole woman at least my age was cooking. She had done an excellent job with the fish and appreciated my telling her so. As we were paying the bill at the bar, I said to the all-purpose man how lucky he was to have such a good cook. He told me that she was his wife and they owned and ran the place together. There have been so many wonderful examples of interracial marriages and families in Guadeloupe. Although during Carnaval season, the history of slavery is evoked, there seems to be a pretty relaxed racial atmosphere here

Well. I will say a little more. It was the weirdest thing I have ever seen to have these bits of light crawling arounds Dawn's face. We were seated in a corner. Dawn had her back to the main lighting in the room, so the dots were much stronger on her than on me.

Miller Time at Les Bieres de Lézarde

beer time with Dawn I can count on one finger the times that Dawn has said to me “Hey, let's go out and drink some beer”, but it did happen when she was feeling a little house bound by a day of my writing and photo manipulation. She found a craft beer place on the internet and it was only a half hour away. “Let's go girl” and we were off. Maybe a little less enthusiam and more finding out more precisely where is this place would have made the trip go smoother, but after a stop or two and a desperate call to google maps, (who answers when she has mothing better to do, and then when she gets bored, flips us a “GPS lost” and goes off with somebody else), brought us to Les Bières de Lézarde, a gorgeous brasserie, that sits atop a hanging tropical garden over a river bed. The meat of the matter were in all the vats and tanks that were making the beer that we were about to drink. Actually not that much, two for me, a dark and a white, and a hibiscus flavored one for Dawn. They were all pretty good, but aimed at the French market who wouldn't know what to do with an IPA if they saw one.

beer time with Stephen But for the Americans, it was like someone hung out a sign for free beer. The foursome that we talked to were from Washington, D.C. They were goverment workers hanging out in the Caribbean while the government shut down, then started up, then shut down again or didn't. Amazed that the government could do anything while they were away, they sighed and ordered another beer. They were two IT people and a doctor at Walter Reed and a guy from the IRS. The doctor was showing off a black eye from an encounter with a wave. We have been both looking at and swimming in pretty large waves. It is not the size of the wave that matters but the shape and placement. A lot of these waves break right at the shore, throw you down on the sand and then dump a lot of water on you. Imagine someone holding a three car garage full of water up over you and then opening the doors to dump its contents. You have to pick your waves and be ready for the consequences.

We took a couple of pictues. The place is in the highlands, the sea is faraway. We are in the core of the island. It reminded me of Costa Rica. (Dawn)

A hike to Plage Tillet and back

hike to Tillet

This photo is from the trail that at times hugs the top of the cliff. It wasn't long but it behaved like a stairmaster, always up or down. It goes down to the beach west of Clugny, passing the nudiste beach, which kept itself hidden. It starts and returns to the end of Clugny where we think the boy might have been killed on the rocks, so it hike had its solemn moments. The picture celebrates the diversity of shorelines that Guadaloupe has.

Photos of Our Deck


We are finishing a wonderful week in a real bnb where we are given a great breakfast everyday. We have just a room with private bath, but have our own fridge where we can keep our stuff for our light dinners. Tomorrow we go to MangoPlaya in Deshaies where we will be for three weeks. We were there last year. It is our first housing rental repeat for more than just a night. fish We had a lot of rain this week and I can't imagine a better place to hang out with the rain. On the terrace, we were dry, but could celebrate the waves of tropical storms that would sweep over us dumping torrential rain all around and then sweep out bringing back the sun.


We should have spent a day photographing the terace and the things in it, and the lighting at night. It was the most beautifully decorated room that I can remember being in. She knew how add things and add things and then right at the correct moment, stop. It was a pleasure to come out of our room in the morning and see it in early light. Dawn doing yoga

Later in the day, after out swim, we would watch the turn of the earth suck the light of the landscape only to be replaced by lots of carefully placed lighting fixtures both out and indoors. The Buddha was more than twice life sized. The hanging fish she painted herself. The blue painting on the wall behind Dawn's yoga uses broken mirrore as mosaic pieces. The wooden heads are all about connection.

Our Review of Nicole and Claudio

I am writing this review in English to encourage more Anglophone visitors to stay with Nicole and Claudio. Although I communicated with them mostly in French, Nicole’s English is excellent which was great for Stephen as his French is a bit limited. Claudio even indulged me in practicing some Italian. They were lovely hosts, very welcoming and open. Nicole has created a beautifully artistic home, filled with color, shapes, great lighting, and unusual objects some of which she made herself. This is a true B & B, that is we live in a beautiful room with private bath, but share our hosts’ home. She made wonderful, copious breakfasts (that obviated the need for lunch for us) and we shared the kitchen when making dinner. They even give guests their own refrigerator. Don’t miss the table d’hôte as Nicole is an excellent cook, and it is enjoyable to share the meal together. They also have an adorable dog, beautiful, black “India,” and a pure white cat, “Coco.” Their pets are very “chill” and reflect the relaxed atmosphere of their home. I happen to be allergic to some cats but had absolutely no problem here as the living area is exposed to fresh air on both sides, and Coco never came into our bedroom. We highly recommend Nicole’s lovely B & B in Sainte Rose.

Return to Mangoplaya

night table

Travel Day

Dinner on our first night. The lighting here needs work so we are using our citronella candles to produce a romantic glow.

An easy day. In fact, we won't need to change supermarkets. In Deshaies we will use the same SuperU as in Sainte Rose. It is near the border of the two towns. We stopped in to pick up some staples: rum, raw sugar, limes, (these go together as the ingredients of Ti Punch), rosé wine, bread, cheese, chocolate, coffee, fruit juice. The fruits and veggies we can get from the vendors in town

We have learned something about Ti Punch on this trip. Very often, when you order it in a bar or reataurant, they bring you the ingredients and you make it yourself, or a glass with the lime and sugar already in it, and you pour the rum yourself. When we had our hosts over for a drink in le Moule, we learned to do the same thing but add “Kill yourself”. That is the tradition. Everyone gets to choose how much rum to put in their drink. Good idea, since the punch is really straight alcohol.

madras dawn We stopped at Plage de Perle, one of the best beaches on the island, either to find a carbet (a little shelter) on the beach to have our snack, or have lunch at Madras 2. We have been here before, walking over along the shore from our studio, Mangoplaya. No carbets were available so we had lunch which took care of most of the four hours between Airbnbs. It was just slow, but we had a table on the sand, in light shade. The rains lasted 45 seconds or so and the food was good, my dorade better than Dawn's swordfish. The rosé was better than we have been buying. Samy's group

We were headed into town, past Mangoplaya and the main entrance to Plage de la Grande Anse, and then I took an abrupt right onto a dirt road at a sign that might have said “Plage” and/or “Samis”. From our last visit, we had a sense the road might lead to a shack that might be a restaurant. It was a first-gear road, it went around and through holes filled with water, which hid their depth, until finally we got to the end where a few cars were parked.

There was the shack with a fire going and one group of tourists at a table drinking beers. It was after lunch time so we had no idea if these had been the only customers for the day.

Samy's We have returned since, seeking shelter there during a morning downpour. We met the guy who comes in to start the fire and cooks the wood down to charcoal. Sami and the rest of the guys showed up in a pickup and unloaded the supplies for today's meal. They were all friendly and there were many handshakes and smiles. The rain stopped and we left and we promised to return. And we'd better. (But we didn’t)

Samy's A few more steps lead us to the far end of Plage Grande Anse. By eleven o'clock, its main parking is always full, so if we don't mind driving at a snail's pace, we could park, especially if we wanted to drive into town afterwards. Normally, we just walk down to the beach and then home. But now, our four hours are up, and we head to Mangoplaya, where Daniel lets us through the gate at the foot of the drive, watches us mount the road in first gear, gives us keys to our home for the next three weeks and waves good-bye in his cheerful manner. Ray, the owner, is in France attending to family matters.

The Last Palm Tree

last palm tree
Hi readers, (from Zak again)
Don't tell Stephen and Dawn, but I am living in another beautiful palm tree at the end of their latest pool, but the tree already had a guest, so after the sun comes up over the hill, I live in the shadow of the tree. I love the first hours, when I lie in the water. If I said you could do something like this, you would scoff, so I'm not going to. I won't even tell you where I live at night.

You know, down there in Petite Anse, he did a cute thing. He meditated as if he were me. He thinks of me as nothing and he wanted to reach emptiness by starting with my nothingness. Stephen, I am everything, start there. Still, other things went well. He returned to the present many times, remembering to smile, even though he let one fantasy go on a little long. Buddhists have this thing with the breath that drives me crazy. It keeps them way too connected with life. Another thing, can we not meditate in the front seat of the car? Bye bye Yes, I know it was raining, but still.

(signed) Zak

No Time Like the Present

Every time I look up at the kitchenette wall expecting to see a clock, I see a blank, slightly convex circle with a couple of nondescript designs around the edge. It is devoid of clock hands; it is blank; it says nothing. It silently reminds me that there is no time like the present, that in fact, all we have is the present. The past is gone, and the future is not yet here, so Be Here Now, as Baba Ram Dass reminded us in his classic book from the 70’s. Being here now is very much what we do on these trips, but don’t laugh, it does take practice.

I am conditioned to feel that being creative, useful, producing or achieving something is vastly important. So part of the reason I write is to feel like I am making some creative shape out of our travel experiences. Yes, I hope that those of you who read our ramblings will find something thoughtful or just entertaining in our writing, but I believe I do it out of a personal need to remember, shape, even validate our experiences “on the road.”

Still, the kitchenette clock that is not a clock but actually a lighting fixture, does remind me of what a Buddhist friend, Arawana, said to me years ago, “Productivity is overrated.”

Drama in the Cove

yellowtail snapper
We got up early, did not stop to meditate and were headed for Petite Anse to snorkel when it started to rain and the carpenter showed up. The carpenter was easy to deal with. Not-our-job. Here was here to finish the storm doors and put a small roof over our doorway which will give us a small space to sit in the afternoon with some shade. We were warned Monday evening that he might come Tuesday morning and that it might be a little noisy. Today is Friday. He got a lot done, the cantilevered frame of the roof is up, but he is finished for the weekend.

The rain was predicted, but they have been wrong so many times that I ignored the forecast. It didn't rain for very long and stopped as we drove, Once we were on the beach, the grey clouds came in over the hills and it began to rain again more seriously. We headed back to the car and meditated in the front seats for twenty-five minutes. When we were done, the rain was gone (mostly) and the sun had returned. yellowtail snapper

On my second snorkeling swim of the day, I headed for the left side of the cove which meant swimming over a largish patch of sand with a few rocks scattered about. I swam over a group of yellowtail snapper grouped around some rocks with their noses all dug into the crevices. I stopped. All of a sudden a small octopus zipped about three feet into another hiding place. Half the group went with it but were a touch too late to catch it. The other half missed the escape and were still trying to find it at its old home. In a minute they all lost interest. When they left, I lost track of his hiding place and I too moved on.

Langley Hotel Resort Fort Royal Guadeloupe

langley resort

This is a big place, a destination resort just up the road. It used to be a Club Med until they were bought out by the Langley people. It is a big ugly thing that juts out on a spit of land into the sea with some beach bungalows that they added on.

We went to see how the other half lives. I am not going to write a review here, but I will say that it seems more like a camp than a Caribbean resort. It has to do with all the Americans and all their children. The hotel may not have enough money to landscape their extensive grounds, although the hurricane could have swept away some of it. The beach was thin, but this was true in a lot of places. langley resort

All the staff that we met were nice. Well, I guess just one and that would be our bartender, Fanny. We asked if non-guests could drink here and she assured us that she could certainly sell us a drink with which to watch the sunset. The drinks were good, reasonably priced, the sunset was okay and I think the green flash was pretty good also. Fanny had an I.D. tag that indicated she spoke French and English, and very nicely spoke French to me.

langley resort

We walked on the boardwalk to return to our car, and were forced to go through the boutique, not unlike an exit from a touring show in any museum today. We both felt as we left that we didn’t need to come back, but I think we should remember that we were invaders here. The guests hopefully were developing a social life; their kids were meeting other kids. Parents were hopefully getting time with their kids and without. I say, good luck to all of us so we can find the vacation that refreshes us.

It is not the greatest picture of Dawn’s foot, but it does show the well used condition of the chairs.

Un-Named Beach (Betty and Didier)

We grabbed our snorkel gear and stuck it into our red bag, (another great lightweight bag curtesy of Patrick H.) and hiked on the trail to Plage de la Perle. We were hoping to find a place to snorkel within a walk of our house. In fact, we made it shorter by taking a semi-legal cut through the property of Taino Lodge that was indicated by Google Maps. Almost all hiking trails on Google Maps are semi-legal. I don't know where they get their info. I think they just guess.

It was a sand and pebble beach in a cove where it can be hard to get into the water, and harder to get out. On the way in, the braver you are about diving in the sooner the water takes your weight off your feet. Once in, it was pretty good. Off to the right again. The prevailing wind and waves on this coast make the right side of all the coves the preferred snorkeling spot. Nothing dramatic this time, but more of the big yellow-tailed snappers. When I was searching for photos of them online I found a lot of recipes for them. It gave me pause. I guess that all these fish are somebody's dinner.

While we were standing on the beach drying off, we met a woman who wanted to practice her English with us. We had a great talk diving back and forth between the two languages and Dawn sometimes going off into Italian. Her name turned out to be Betty which we finally learned two days later when we met Didier, her husband in a pizzeria. He was picking up dinner for the two of them, their son and wife, their three children, and her son's business partner and wife, who had just descended on them from France. Good idea not to cook. We also learned that they will be here for a week so that the invitation they had extended us to visit their bungalow needed to be postponed. We said fine. That will be our last week.
view view

Nature Imitates Art

We have surely published several pictures of our lovely Caribbean Sea view...in sunlight, at dusk, with the crescent moon in the sky. Lately we have had some intense downpours when the entire sky turns grey, water falls as if buckets were being emptied on our heads, and the horizon line disappears.

Here we are suddenly witnessing a beautiful Japanese silkscreen for our view, all soft, grey and white and subtle. A few minutes later, everything snaps back into view, the dromedary hump of Gros Morne, the rocky point, the crashing waves, the detailed tropical foliage against turquoise sea, the horizon line. From Hokusai to Gaugin, perhaps. Nothing ever stays the same.

Night brings only color and silhouettes. Name your painter. view

Schumann and Brahms

I saw a poster for a classical music concert program and took a picture of it. There was one near us and I gave the link to Dawn.

concert program Dawn:
While we don’t come to Guadeloupe for culture, we nevertheless miss it when we are here for so long. The Boston area is full of choices for music, dance, theater, and art of all kinds. At this time of year in Gwada, it is mostly Carnaval season. While we went for a live Carnaval celebration last year, we don’t feel we have to go again. So when Stephen saw the sign for Nuits Caraïbes, we investigated. It is a series of evenings of live classical music and jazz. We got to a performance of Schumann and Brahms quintets, with Pavane for Dead Princess by Maurice Ravel as an encore. The Debussy Quartet and Yves Henry on piano were a wonderful, seasoned combination of artists. The Schumann was particularly engaging with gorgeous solos and duets for cello and viola in the first movement. Often it seems that the first violin is the lead instrument in much classical quartet writing, but here they all had their special voices and moments. They played with ease and delicacy. Since the performance was in a movie theater, a fairly “dry” environment acoustically, we were glad to be close so we could hear the subtlety of their quiet moments. For those of you familiar with Boston-based musicians, Stephen mentioned that they played with the kind of idiosyncrasy of Russell Sherman.


banana plant Dawn:

We had heard that the banana crop here was badly hurt by Hurricane Maria. When we had our Gwada history lesson with Michel in Le Moule, he told us that the banana plant is really a grass, not a tree. Hence their shallow roots make them easily susceptible to being blown down and uprooted. Here are a couple of photos. One is a banana “plant” next to the terrace of our hosts in Deshaies. old tree

The other is the base of an amazing old tree that we pass daily on our walk to the beach. I do not know what kind of tree it is, but the trunk alone is complex and fascinating and appears to be quite old. I can hear Thich Nhat Hanh’s voice saying “There is nothing more beautiful than a tree.” When I do my yoga outdoors, my “tree” pose sometimes reflects the solidity of that strong old tree and sometimes wavers in the wind like the wide-leafed banana “grass.” Yes, sometimes I am tree and proud to be so, with deep roots and reaching branches.

Dos d’Ane (Donkey’s Back)

The plan was to hike to the top of this hill which looks out over Deshaies. I was thinking of using it as a location in “Death in a Travelogue” so I wanted to look at it. Also, Dawn wanted to take a new and different hike. I found a description on a website and decided to follow it backwards to keep it short. So the hike started at the steles comemorating an airplane crash that we had never heard of. In 1962, an Air France Boeing 707 trying to land in a thunderstorm, flew into this hill, a few miles from the airport, killing 113 people. Everyday, we watched big jets fly over our house, bank left, and fly over the same hill.

Memorial two

We missed our turn right away and hiked slightly down and away from the hill. After sidehilling on a trail that was like bushwacking for a while we found a trail that went straight uphill which led us after an hour back to where we started. But not quite. We were on a different trail, maybe 50 feet above the monuments. Here, we discovered a piece of the fuselage with its two windows. It looked like a mask without a mouth looking up at us after fifty-six years. The paint was still faintly visible.

Next to it sits a memorial stone. The plane’s engineer is remembered in the top one. The engines were fine, but he must have known that they were lost and it’s bad to be lost in the mountains at night.

Those windows must have held frightened faces looking out into the night trying to see airport landing lights. Maybe one of them contained the faces of the brother and sister, Stéphane and Edmée Scrocco, 18 and 13, whose parents came here to help set up this plaque.

On a Lighter Note

sunset Stephen:
We were shopping in town. I remember toilet paper being on the list. Beer, wine and olive oil also. Afterwards, we headed to Madras, our favorite sunset watching place in town. It is a little less hip than Mahina or Cafe Paradis which we also like. Going up onto the deck I see this tall, clear drink with mint, limes and ice cubes sitting in front of a guy at one of the tables. “Qu’est-que c’est?”, I ask. “A mojito”, he responds. So when the waitress crosses the street and asks what we want, we say, “Deux Mojitos, s’il vous plâit.”

They really hit the spot and there is plenty to do with them as we wait for the sunset. You can stir, muddle and rattle. The spoon in the glass has a tamper on the end to really muddle the mint. Soon, a group comes in and sits next to us. Later four mojitos show up on their table. Pretty good for a drink that is not even on the menu. Dawn was worried about having a drink without knowing the price and I think rightly so as they were either 8 or 9 Euros a piece depending on whether my beer was 3 or 5. (I can only fiddle around with a drink for so long. I had to get a beer.) The sunset was good, giving us a green flash through the rigging of a sail boats. Home for dinner next.

The Café Paradis, Another Sunset and Bar

Cafe Paradis Stephen:
I know, I know. Too many pictures of bars and sunsets, but we relearned a lesson about traveling. If you like a restaurant, go back. You will get to know them and they, you. The first night we went in, the cook recognizd us from last year. The second night was for dinner when all the help wandered by our table to say hello. On this last night, as we came in we ordered two rosés and he pointed out a table. We picked a bench with a better view and he found us with a laugh. We were only there for drinks and a sunset, before going next door for a creole dinner. Cafe Paradis$

We picked up a new idea about restaurants in Deshaies. If the first seating is at seven o'clock and they say 6:45-7:00, then come on the early side so you can walk into a nearly empty restaurant and get your order in before the restaurant is full at 7:00. Restaurants in France don’t over-employ servers, so it can take awhile to get everyone’s order. I ordered the Menu, which in France mean an appetizer, main course and dessert combo and at this restaurant a rum punch. The main course was giant fresh water shrimp. As we came in we saw a guy cooking them over a small charcoal fire about the size of a mini weber. The dish included four so I think that’s how many he would cook at a time. It is not the fast way to do it, but everyone one of them can be cooked just right. The sad part about it is that the shrimp are raised in farms or imported from Malaysia, because catching the shrimp from the streams is illegal. (See the section on Polution.)

Our Garden



We have looked down into this hillside garden from the deck next to the pool, but this is the first time we have ventured down. It is a ravine garden, or half a ravine garden. Ray’s property ends at the bottom of the ravine, so the opposite side is wild tropical forest while his side is a controlled tropical forest. Can I say, two hands in prayer? Except upside down. They complement each other.

Trip Wrap Up

Wow! The seven weeks are almost gone. We didn’t do some things that we thought we were going to do, but we stumbled into some things that surprised us. We are looking forward to being home, though the New England scenery will be a shock. I became a little more knowledgable about the contamination of the soil and water by the banana growers from 1973 to 1993.

Poisoning by the Pesticide Kepone in the French Antilles

The French island of Martinique is heavily contaminated with kepone, following years of its unrestricted use on banana plantations. Despite a 1990 ban of the substance by France, the economically powerful planter community lobbied intensively to gain the power to continue using kepone until 1993. They had argued that no alternative pesticide was available, which has since been disputed. Similarly, the nearby island of Guadeloupe is also contaminated, but to a lesser extent. Since 2003, local authorities have restricted cultivation of crops because the soil has been seriously contaminated by kepone. Martinique and Guadeloupe have some of the highest prostate cancer diagnosis rates in the world. (Wikipedia)

Country Age-Standardised Rate per 100,000 (World) Prostate Cancer
1 France, Martinique 227.2
2 Norway 129.7
3 France (metropolitan) 127.3
4 Trinidad and Tobago 123.9
5 Barbados 123.1
6 Sweden 119.0
7 Australia 115.2
8 New Caledonia 114.9
9 French Polynesia 114.6
10 Ireland 114.2
11 Switzerland 107.2
12 Iceland 106.6
13 France, Guadeloupe 105.2
14 United States of America 98.2

So any plans that we may have had about trying Martinique are shelved for now and we will look more closely on how to deal with this problem if we return here.

Thanks for reading.

Last night we spent a lovely couple of hours over drinks with our hosts, Ray and Co, and their neighbor Daniel who greeted us here when the owners were back in France. They are a well-traveled, interesting bunch. Daniel, at 77, is training to do the entire pilgrimage route from Switzerland to Compostela by himself this spring. We already knew that he bikes something like 100k on an outing, but now he is doing tons of walking, including some of our favorite trails, but much farther than we do. We heard about so many experiences from them, from Katmandu to altitude sickness in Peru (but go anyway, they say.)

Today, our last Saturday here, was a wonderful surprise. The forecast predicted a rainy day, but the sun emerged after a few showers, and I did yoga before we headed to the beach. We did our usual walk to the end of the long Plage de la Grande Anse and took a couple of delightful swims in waves big enough to be exciting but not so fast and furious to feel overwhelming. Tomorrow we actually reserved at one of the nicest restaurant in Deshaies for the Sunday “repas du midi.” It specializes in French cooking rather than Creole which should be interesting. It is a spot we haven’t been to yet but thought it might be a nice way to close out our time here.

Bye bye We will hit the road at 6:00 a.m. on Monday to make sure we have time to return the car and deal with traffic through the big commercial area on the way to the airport. Am looking forward to being home for awhile and catching up with family and friends. We hope that all of you New Englanders have gotten through this current big storm unscathed.

As always, we feel deep gratitude for the lucky lives that we lead.

Death in a Travelogue

(from Zak) Link to a totally different travelogue

Well not really. It is a work of fiction IN PROGRESS, we are just starting it, something Stephen and I are writing, and we couldn’t be doing it without Dawn. If you want to read it, then follow the above link. Stephen loves comments, myself, not so much. The link won’t be there too much longer. The writing is going to need to get away from html code as it gets longer and we need to find better software to write with.

Who am I?

Bye bye I am a spirit that came from India. I am what is. I listen, people listen to me. Stephen thinks I can control things. He is in for a surprise. Anyway, read it. Tell him what you think. I am the only one in the mystery who is having any fun. Everyone else is having a problem, (Writing 101).

(signed) Zak

Guadeloupe Introduction
Marie Galante    St. François    le Moule     Sainte Rose     Deshaies
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