The French islands of Guadeloupe are close to Antigua so we decided to spend a weekend in Iles des Saintes. Les Saintes, as they are affectionately called, are a group of tiny islands to the south of the main islands of Guadeloupe. We didn’t have time to visit the rest of Guadeloupe, but this little taste leaves us wanting more from this region.
The French know style and good looks and the beauty on display in Îles des Saintes certainly proves that.
Every view, from the beautiful islands in the anchorage, to the well- appointed flowerboxes on the homes in town, makes this a lovely place to visit.
Charming French burg
I haven’t been to France in close to twenty years, but the moment we set foot in Bourg des Saintes, the only town in Les Saintes, I felt transported.
We anchored in a bay off the island of Terre De-Haut and enjoyed our surroundings. It was a 70+ mile trip from English Harbour, but these islands are worlds apart!
This town is straight from your fantasies of France only it’s on the Caribbean with palm trees and beaches.
Charming describes Bourg de Saintes perfectly. The entire island is home to approximately 2000 people and you can feel the friendly and relaxed small town vibe.
The narrow winding streets are perfect for pedestrians, scooters and e-bikes, and some only permit foot traffic. Homes and businesses are brightly colored with windowframes and boxes.
The town is inviting and the people are warm, saying “bonjour” to you as you stroll along, and chatting with each other while window shopping and buying baguettes and ice cream.
A ferry ride away
The Saintes are a quick ferry ride away from the main island of Guadeloupe, so ferries were coming and going all the time. These high speed boats passed by the anchorage frequently and made it a little uncomfortable for those of us in the harbor.
The ferries do however bring an influx of life to the Saintes, and maybe more than usual because of the Monday holiday. Some of the visitors were from other parts of Guadeloupe, plus French and non-French speaking tourists.
Les Saintes offer beautiful beaches and old forts.
The beaches are mostly difficult to reach, with cliffs to climb and descend, but when spending a weekend in Les Saintes, a beach is a must visit.
On our first day, after checking in via the customs computer at the dock, we hiked the hill to the main tourist attraction, the beautiful old Fort Napoleon. The 17th century fort is only open in the morning and you can drive there, but after sitting on the boat all day, stretching our legs was nice.
The grounds are immaculate with a little garden, the buildings are in good repair, and inside is an extensive museum. Some rooms contain art from the islands, some artifacts from marine animals, and others offer nautical history. One could spend a few hours soaking it in, and it only costs $5 to visit.
Scooter through the hills
Our friend Chuck from S/V Virtual Reality rented a scooter and loaned it to us for a few hours. We saw more of the island from the scooter seat, and rode up and down the hillside outside of the main metropolis.
We took in some gorgeous views, saw lots of goats, the ruins of another fort and some cool beaches. On Sunday, the beaches are crowded.
As I mentioned, none of the beaches are easy to reach. Many require climbs down rocky paths and the beaches themselves are quite small. The payoff, at least on the lee side of the island where Pain de Sucre beach is, is calm clear seas perfect for swimming and wading.
French food in the Caribbean; of course it’s good.
The boulangerie is crowded everytime we pass, but finally on Sunday morning we line up with the locals and purchase café au lait, croissants, and baguettes.
I don’t know if it’s the Sunday norm or because Monday was a holiday, but the locals buy multiple baguettes, and true to the stereotype, they carry them in shoulder bags, under their arms and on their scooters. Maybe they don’t want to wait in line anymore than we do!
We dined out a couple times during the brief 3 days we spent in The Saintes, and enjoyed the bread, locally made tarts, fresh fish, and ice cream.
What to Eat and Drink in a Weekend in Iles des Saintes
There are lots of restaurants on the island and all are tempting. French food is a treat after so long!
The croissants and baguettes are already gone. We will buy more when we get to Martinique. And they will go fast.
This is the local rum drink. It’s a bit stronger and less fruity than typical rum punch. Make ti punch using rhum, sugar and lime juice. One was plenty for me! We had ours in the front patio at Le Citrus, a great bar with good wifi near the dinghy dock. This place filled up with drinkers on Saturday night.
We don’t get a lot of ice cream on Sava, so when we see a quality gelateria, we can’t help ourselves. We got two scoops each!
Les Pieds Dans l’Eau is the happening seafront spot where we ate lunch. We had a tasty seafood terrine on excellent bread and the local cod fritters. Everything looked good here, and the service and view can’t be beat.
The local pastry
All over the streets are ladies (always ladies) selling miniature pastries. We found out what they were and had to buy them for ourselves. Called Tourment d’Amour, or Love’s Torment, they are tiny little pies with a layer of fruit custard on the bottom. Options include passion fruit, coconut, pineapple, guava and more. We got a 4 pack from a nice older woman selling them out of her home – assorted so we wouldn’t miss any of the flavors. Recommend!
After sampling a bit of Guadeloupe life with a weekend in Iles des Saintes, next season we will have to explore more of this charming French territory!