This week’s dream...A French twist on unwinding in the Caribbean
Guadeloupe offers visitors “some of the most appealing aspects of France,” yet it’s a “decidedly different” place, said Elizabeth Field in The New York Times. A butterfly-shaped pair of islands, Guadeloupe is inescapably Caribbean even though it’s a department of France, and it’s populated by a distinctive mélange of Asians, French-Guadeloupeans, and African- Guadeloupeans. French and Creole are the only languages spoken, so Guadeloupe isn’t a popular destination with Americans. But when I visited with my family more than 20 years ago, we got by with our conversational French. We hadn’t returned since, deterred by expensive, complicated flights. But when Norwegian Air introduced direct service from New York at an initial price of $49, we jumped at the offer.
Guadeloupeans have a passion for cuisine, and their food culture has gained wide recognition for its combination of French culi- nary techniques with local ingredients. “It is the reason I went there the first time, and it is why I returned.” At Jardin Malanga, our small hotel on the western island, Basse- Terre, breakfast included baguettes served with Normandy butter and guava preserves, and dinner brought spicy fish fritters, grilled lobster, and ratatouille with plantains. Eventually, we broke from our languorous routine of sipping rum punch on the veranda and swimming in the turquoise ocean to tour a 17th-century coffee plantation in Guadeloupe National Park. We also couldn’t miss the Jardin Botanique, where paths meandering through groves of jacaranda and baobab trees led us to a parrot aviary and a Creole restaurant overlooking a waterfall.
“We ended our vacation on a French note,” taking an overnight boat trip to Terre-de-Haut Island, part of a small archipelago off Basse-Terre. After a week of incredible dining, we had, by chance, saved the best for last. At Au Bon Vivre, we sipped white wine on a shady terrace, sampling tuna rillettes, smoked marlin, and raw mahi-mahi marinated in coconut milk, scallions, and chiles. Then came the roasted duck breast, glazed with passion fruit and balsamic vinegar. It was a meal to savor, “even as the reek of an after-lunch Gauloise cigarette wafted from the next table.” At Jardin Malanga (jardinmalanga.com), doubles start at $280.