We are riding in Terre de Haut

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I cannot sing the praises of Terre de Haut enough. Spending a day in Terre de Haut, a small island in the island chain Les Iles des Saintes that is part of the French territory of Guadeloupe was a real treat. It was completely different from all of the other islands that we visited.  First of all, the island is small, only a little over two miles in length.  So it was the perfect size for exploring in a day. It wasn’t crowded at all. It did not feel overly touristy. It was not hectic but a perfectly relaxing day. I heard one person say that Terre de Haut is like St. Barth used to be before it was ruined by the moneyed set.  I don’t know if that is true or not, but I know that I infinitely prefered this tiny island and its non-pretentious inhabitants.  It is the kind of place you feel like you actually can relax.

To aid in our exploration, we heeded the wise words of an alleged juvenile delinquent in the Bronx (one of my favorite Bronx Family Court quotations of all time), “It’s the summertime, why can’t I ride?” So, we rented a moped.

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In that kid from the Bronx’s case the reason that he couldn’t ride was 1. The mini-motorbike was stolen 2. It is illegal to ride a motorized bike on a sidewalk and 3. He was thirteen and too young to have a license to operate a motorized vehicle. Luckily, none of the above applied in our case and we rode.  Not being expert moped drivers was just fine because there are hardly any vehicles on the road because of the size of the island, and the roads really feel more like sidewalk. Navigating the hills was a challenge for us novice moped drivers, but it turned out to be quite fun.

We first visted Fort Napoleon, perched on one of the island’s tallest hills/mountains.

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The view from the Fort was beautiful in all directions.

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(That is our cruise ship in the distance. The port was so small that even for our small cruise ship we had to take tenders into port. It was lovely to have no other cruise ships there, though. Really lovely).

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That is a beautiful view of the island’s only village, Bourg des Saintes.

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Behind me is the larger, primary island of Guadeloupe.

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The island doesn’t get much rain, so the gardens at Ft. Napoleon had many varieties of cacti and other desert plans.  I loved this bird perched at the top of this tree.

We then drove all around the island visiting its different beaches. They were all pretty great. We enjoyed some pretty perfect swimming in crystal clear waters with the perfect water temperature of about 78 degrees Farenheit.  It was so perfect that it was hard to get out of the water.  The sand at some of the beaches was quite hot because it was darker sand, due to the volcanic nature of the islands.  So I was more content to stay in the water to keep my feet nice and cool.

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The picture above is the perfect swimming beach.  The sand was crazy hot, but the water was so completely perfect.

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The beach closest to the village had good shade, but the water wasn’t as pretty as the more remote beaches on the island.

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This island was definitely David’s favorite.  Visiting this island made me feel like I was in the South of France. But not the hip and expensive parts like St. Tropez. It felt like the South of France where real people actually live. Aside from the people on our boat, the only other people  visiting the island were French-speaking. The natives of the island are mostly descendants of early settlers from Breton who established a small fishing colony on the island. No sugarcane was grown here because of the steepness of the island and its poor rainfall.

Also, can I mention the goats? These islanders love their goats. There were goats everywhere. If you don’t enjoy sharing a beach with goats, you may not like this island, but I happen to love it. There are chickens everywhere too, which I imagine means that everyone wakes up pretty early.

The main village is so charming and laid back.

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I should mention too, we ate a delicious lunch in the village. Not surprisingly, where ever there are French-speaking people, there is delicious food. Everything was fresh and local.

I am adding this island to the list of places where I could potentially retire.  That list just is growing and growing.  However, when I am ready to retire, Terre de Haut might be the place I select if I desire to finally perfect my French language abilities, take up with goats, and enjoy the laid back benefits of living on a beautiful small island with fewer than 2,000 people living there.  It is where I will choose to live if I want to be a granny on a moped with tanned, saggy skin. Oh, and enjoy a perfect swim every single day.

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