Guadeloupe Days 1-8: Beaches and Road Trips

Guadeloupe Days 1-8: Beaches and Road Trips

What, Mary? EIGHT days in ONE blog?? That’s just too much. Oh, no….it really isn’t. Welcome to my “vacation” when a) Brian leaves and b) I have to catch up on a crap ton of work.

We packed up and left the treehouse in Martinique at 8am. It was a really rainy morning. Got to the airport and sat there together. Brian was flying to Barbados, then Miami, then Los Angeles. I was flying out an hour and a half later directly to Guadeloupe for my 3 week housesit.

Arrived in Guadeloupe and it was pouring rain. Great. I hate driving as it is, now I have to drive and navigate a foreign country in the rain! Picked up my rental car and hit the road toward Port Louis. The rain stopped just outside of town, and it was an easy and pleasant drive to Port Louis- my home away from home for the next 3 weeks. Like Martinique, Guadeloupe is France. That means good roads and drivers who don’t think trying to run tourists off the road is sport. I pulled up to a large, gated “compound” of sorts, and was greeted by the homeowner, Julie. The home is massive, but is split into different apartments- maybe 5 or so of them. Julie introduced me to the 2 kitties I’d be caring for, and we spent the rest of the afternoon talking about all sorts of things! She is French, but speaks excellent English. Also, she and her boyfriend are both marine biologists! And Julie actually works for a NGO that goes into schools and educates children about the ocean! If you know me, you know I am a serious francophile and even teach a French history course I shot on location in France. Julie took me on a quick driving tour of the little town and the GORGEOUS beach! There are tons of walking paths, one through the mangroves and one all the way to the next town over, Anse Bertrand. I’ll definitely be back here!

Julie started making dinner, a homemade quiche, and her boyfriend came home from work. We sat down, ate a fabulous meal, and talked about marine biology, french history, politics, and more. Seriously, it was like a dream evening!!

Julie works from home, so she worked while I tried to get caught up on my own work. My tailbone wasn’t keen on the patio chair, so I literally went back and forth all day every two hours between the chair and bed. But I got a ton of work done! That night they made coconut chicken in a tomato sauce for dinner that was wonderful! And that ended Day 2. See? Exciting, huh? 😀

Day 3 was departure day for the homeowners. I offered to drive them to the airport, plus I needed to do some shopping as well. They pointed out a Monoprix near the airport. Like Carrefour in Martinique, I know Monoprix from France proper! And it has been known to produce a Dr. Pepper or two!! After I dropped them off, I went back to Monoprix. The parking was ATROCIOUS. So many people, not enough spaces. I drove round and round several times before I got lucky. Went into Monoprix. How do I describe it? Like Whole Foods- lots of the same kinds of things are in different places in the store, you don’t know what the heck 90% of it is, and it’s EXPENSIVE. A roasted chicken that cost $9 in Martinique at Carrefour cost $17 here!! Ok, if they didn’t have Dr. Pepper, I was just going to go find some other place to shop. Went directly to the soda aisle, and heard the angels singing!! Well, only 2 angels. There were 2  bottles on the shelf. $4.50 each. Expensive, but oh so worth it…
So here’s what I ended up with:
2 Dr. Peppers
1 Caramel Chocolate Bar
2 bags of chips
1 bag of rice
1 bag of pasta
1 jar of pasta sauce
2 packs of instant soup
6 bananas
1 bag of frozen green beans
1 pack of butter
1 pack of cheddar cheese
1 stupid expensive deli container of scalloped potatoes that looked so warm and cheesy I couldn’t resist ($8!!!)
24 eggs
1 onion
1 frozen pizza
1 roasted chicken

Grand total? $80!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! And I bought store brand, not imports. Ouchy. Came back to the house and worked and blogged the rest of the day. And that ended Day 3.

Day 4 was declared a day of “no sitting in chairs or cars”. I’m over this damn tailbone situation. It’s been a week and half since the accident and I’m still hurting. So I literally laid in bed all day, blogged, caught up on 80% of my work (yay!), and hung out with the cats. And that ended Day 4.

Day 5, I needed to get OUT!! I didn’t want to do a major excursion yet. I still want to take it super easy on my tailbone and give it a chance to finally heal without having pressure on it all the time. So I took the car down to the local beach and hiked around. I started by parking at the entrance to the mangrove boardwalk. I knew it was the entrance because fortunately mangrove is the same word in French and English! There was a GORGEOUS boardwalk through the dense mangrove forest, which then opened up into a lovely little path. That path then wound around to a beautiful mudflat. So many little habitats in one small area! So delicate. Best part? There wasn’t a single other soul back there.

A zillion air plants!!

Beautiful mud flat

I snap any wildlife I can. It’s few and far between!

The path eventually put me back out on to the road. I continued walking up it to the end, where there is another path that will take you all the way along the coast to the next town- Anse Bertrand. GORGEOUS empty beaches!! STUNNING tide pools! I really had a blast just wandering along and exploring it all! When the trail wasn’t right on the beach, it was on a wonderful little shaded path. I went a total of 1.5 miles from the car, then turned around and went back. I might get the motivation to walk all the way to Anse Bertrand (about 6 miles roundtrip) one of these days….

Blue Crab (I love this shot!)

STUNNING purple coral, just living in a tide pool!!


Cool fish

Another cool fish (took forever to get this shot!)

MASSIVE sea urchin tests!

I ❤ these tide pools!

Day 6, tailbone is actually feeling a little better!! I knew giving it a break would help! However, new problem is that I’m not sleeping very well. My room doesn’t really have any windows to the outside, and it is really hot and stuffy. Even with a fan 3 feet away from me, I’m still uncomfortable at night and it wakes me up a lot. So Day 6 was spent blogging and working (sound familiar??), and following YouTube rabbit holes- in other words, RELAXING! And that ended Day 6.

At home, I am a hermit. A seriously introverted hermit. I live in my house with it’s high ceilings in the living room and huge window that looks out on to my courtyard garden on my 1/3 acre spread surrounded by 6-10 foot high solid hedges, walls and fences (that sounds SO much fancier than it really is. We’ve been in the midst of a massive remodel for 2 years and trust me, nothing is fancy!). No one can see in and I can’t see out and I used to go and teach live classes 1 day a week but the drive is just too much for me (because I’m ridiculous and don’t want to leave home, not because it’s that far!). I’ll go to Lowes to get plants for my yard and to the grocery store once every 2 weeks. Other than that, you need heavy equipment and a major dose of manipulation/convincing to get me out of the house. Crazy that I am also the same girl that travels the world solo!! And when I’m on a long sit and have a lot of work to do, I can easily slip into that mode if there aren’t a lot of really interesting things to do around me. And here’s a good place to have a discussion about my relationship with the Caribbean islands. Caribbean, it’s not you, it’s me. See, I’m not the girl that wants to just hang out on a beach all day. You are great, and you’ll have no problem finding someone to love you! Someone who appreciates that your main offering is sitting on a beach all day. But I need lots of terrestrial wildlife and/or lots of history. And you aren’t meeting my needs. That said, I sat inside and worked all day.

This is officially declared to be “Don’t be a hermit day”!! ROAD TRIP!!! I decided to explore the part of the island called Basse Terre- the mountainous part. Specifically, the southern route. I sat down and plotted out a few things (seriously, it’s hard to find anything that isn’t a beach 😕) that looked interesting and hit the road! I was gone pretty much all day. Found 5 stations on the radio that play 80s American music fairly often, interspersed with French stuff, so at least I could sing along. The best part though was hearing a song that was brand new to me!! It was a rap song- ABOUT KING LOUIS XVI AND THE FRENCH REVOLUTION!! WHAT?!!! Some of the history was off, but I forgave it. Came home and researched, and it’s actually a Mel Brooks song from 1981!! LOL!! So fun! Here it is on YouTube. Who knew??

So I’m heading out on my road trip and hit a MEGA traffic jam. Two lane road, and cars backed up as far as I could see at a dead stand still. I sat there for about 15 minutes before I decided there had to be a better way. Turned around and google maps showed me a different route. I swear to god, Google Maps is on a mission to kill me in every country!! It took me off down some crazy dirt road where there was nothing and no one and the grass was so high in the road you knew it was rarely traveled. Of course, then it started to rain. I ended up at a DEAD END. Frustration is an understatement. Somehow managed to turn around and find my way back to another paved road and got back on track. Next time, I’ll sit in traffic.

Dear Google Maps, Just because there are places for car tires to fit does NOT make it a feasible “alternate route”. Love, Mary.

First stop was something that looked cool on the map. Le Parc Archéologique des Roches Gravées. Basically Archaeological Park of Carved Rocks. Who did said carvings? The Arawaks (indigenous people of these islands). When? I dunno. From what I can figure out, around the year 400 or so? What do they represent? I dunno. Why am I so clueless? Well, EVERYTHING was in French. Le sigh. I pulled in, parked, went inside, the guy spoke enough English to tell me to join the tour that had already started. Apparently you can’t just wander through the park alone- you have to have a guide. Bonus score- no entrance fee. The grounds are gorgeous. Seriously. But I stood there kind of smiling and nodding while the very animated guide who everyone thought was hilarious and very knowledgeable based on their reactions did his thing. He pointed at rocks and talked about them. The thing that struck me is that they’re just out here in the open, exposed to the elements!! What the hell, France?! Even Malta has enough sense to put their good shit under huge coverings to protect it. #disappointed

After looking at some rocks, we went on to learning about ancient plants the Arawaks used. I can’t tell you a damn thing about any of it. Le sigh.

If you smash these red seeds in this plant, you can paint your face.

These things were HUGE! Like bigger than my hand. No idea what it is. But I did eat some of it when it was passed around. Tasted kind of nutty.

Back in the car, more driving, made it to the next stop. It was in a guidebook that I have that’s in French. Basically, some kind of lighthouse with cannons. Pointe du Vieux Fort. So….it was a lighthouse….with some cannons….and a nice view.

See the boy in the blue shirt? He’s a jumper. #shudder

Next stop, MONOPRIX!! From what I can gather, there are only 2 on the island. I took the last 2 Dr. Peppers from the one by the airport. I was praying this one would have like 10 or so. Three. Sold. At any price at this point…. And some snacks for the road.

Back on the road to the next point on the map. Anse a la Barque. I can’t remember if I’ve mentioned it before, but Anse means cove. And everything to see or do here starts with Anse…. Granted, it was very pretty. But what do you DO here??

My little car 🙂

Next pinpoint was supposed to be some kind of hot pools. Ravine Thomas Bain Chaude. Parked and followed the signs. The pool was full of locals, I stuck out like a sore thumb, I wasn’t about to take pictures of them to get a picture of the pool, so I turned around and walked back. Woo. Hoo.

Brian, I’ve found our next remodel. Oceanfront.

It was time to turn from the coast and head inland over the mountains. It was pretty, but not Dominica pretty. And I know there’s no wildlife, so it’s not like a jungle in Costa Rica that I can stare at and imagine what kinds of things might be out there!! Last dot on the map was for Cascade Aux Ecrevisses. Basically, a waterfall. It was JAM PACKED. No parking in the lot, and cars parked up and down both sides of the road. I found a spot and walked to the falls. Pretty spot, too crowded, turned around and went back to the car. Le sigh.
And that was it. Drove back to the house just before it got dark. I was out for about 8 hours and this is all I did. It felt more like a checklist and enjoying myself. Tailbone was thrilled to be out of the car. At least the cats were happy to see me!

Guadeloupe Days 9-16 : Finally! Wildlife! And I’m French Royalty. :)

Guadeloupe Days 9-16 : Finally! Wildlife! And I’m French Royalty. :)

If day 8 meant I was out and about, you can bet your knickers that Day 9 meant my ass wasn’t leaving this apartment all day! And sure enough, that was the case. However, I did manage to find something of interest- a full day snorkeling tour to Petit Terre island. But I didn’t want to go alone. All day with everyone speaking French and me having zero clue and being trapped on an island didn’t sound fun. So I posted on all the female solo traveler facebook groups that if anyone wanted to tag along on a trip with me, hit me up. I couldn’t believe it, but I got a response! An Australian girl who lived in Paris for a couple of years so speaks French. She called and booked our trip for us. That means tomorrow=adventure!

DAY 10
Today is day trip day!! I was supposed to meet fellow solo traveler, Naomi, at 7am at the dock in Sainte Francois. I was there a little ahead of schedule #ocd and checked in at the office of Uhaina. The front desk guy spoke pretty good English. I told him I was waiting on my friend. He said go to the dock, boat would be leaving at 7:30. Took the ticket down the dock with me and 3 guys were there. One sorta spoke English. He asked if I spoke French. Um, nope, but pequito espanol… And wa-la (as they say in France CONSTANTLY!!), one of the other guys speaks Spanish!! I’m saved! I explained that my friend was coming. He seemed a little confused that she wasn’t with me. Anyway, he waved me on to the boat where I nervously sat at the back waiting for her. It was going to super suck if she didn’t show…

By the time 7:20 rolled around, I had given up hope. Then, I see a blond girl heading my way! Yay, Naomi!! She boarded and we found a place up front to sit. I was super nervous for 1.5 hours on my tail bone and no cushion…  Having lived in Paris, she could translate all of the details the guy was giving the group. He talked for like 10 minutes. Translation? Puke at the front of the boat, not in the bathroom. Got it. I have a feeling I missed some serious safety details in there somewhere…. We headed out on our catamaran for Petit Terre! We chatted a bit on the way out, about how we both love to travel, etc… Nice to be able to say something other than “Bon jour” or “Merci”!

It was a long, long, LONG ride out. Too long for my tastes. We did get visited by a dolphin though that raced us! That was fun. And every once in a while the Spanish speaking crew guy would come over and say something to me. Finally, we  made it to Petit Terre! We had a choice of putting our things in the dingy and swimming to the beach or putting ourselves in the dingy with our things and boating to the beach. We chose the latter! The beach and water was stunning! And the coconut grove where we could relax and our lunch would be served was just so…Caribbean!

So yeah, I have a degree in marine biology and teach it online blah, blah, blah… That does not mean that snorkeling is my favorite past time. Honestly, my most favorite travel hobby is taking pictures of wildlife- especially in the jungle. And that’s the main reason I booked this trip. Yes, there was snorkeling involved, but there was something else….wildlife!! Now, this is the Caribbean so don’t get too exciting thinking about monkeys and sloths and poison dart frogs. There is, however, an endemic species of iguana on Petit Terre. It’s known as the Lesser Antilles Iguana, and it’s scientific name is Iguana delicatissima. It’s on the ICUN critically endangered list. And I wanted to see it! As soon as we got off the boat, walked to our little area of the coconut grove, and put our things on a table, one of the guides said the walking tour of the island would be leaving in 10 minutes. YAY! I gathered around with the group. He asked Naomi to be my translator, which meant everything was going to be in French. Le sigh. I wasn’t going to learn anything. Even worse, how can I be the Hermoine of the group if everything is in French and I get the questions later than everyone else!! The horror!! The vast majority of my self worth and validation comes from going on tours and being the first to answer every question (Brian can attest to this)! I mean, why do you think I travel so much?? Being a know it all is my calling!!

I think poor Naomi was a little overwhelmed with the idea of having to translate everything. I don’t blame her. I resigned myself to the fact that I was going to have no clue about anything. First stop was on the beach. The guide picked up a piece of coral and started talking about it in French. I was DYING inside!!! Coral is my specialty!! I knew I could answer any question he threw out there. 😭 He started asking questions, and no one could answer them. So in his very broken English he would translate them to me (I’m sure he could see that I was laser focused on what he was saying because I was really trying to figure it out!). And bam!! Hermoine was back! I answered question after question!! Why is some sand black and some sand white (black is volcanic, white comes from coral), what makes white sand (parrotfish), and the one that he has probably never had anyone answer- what is this pink stuff on this piece of dead coral. CORALLINE ALGAE!!! DUH PEOPLE, DUH!!!! So coralline is the same word in English and French apparently, so he knew I knew what I was talking about. Of course, he argued with me that it was a bacteria, not an algae (that’s pretty much the same word, too), but I didn’t have enough words to set him straight. I was pleased with myself, and that’s all that matters!!

We headed up the trail and were immediately met by iguanas!! There was a lighthouse up here, and we stopped for a very long lecture in French about something. I was trying so hard to pick out any word I knew and at least follow along kind of. A man walked over to me and in perfect English asked if I’d like him to translate. Yes, please!! He sat next to me on the steps of the lighthouse and told me everything the guide was saying about the history of the lighthouse, the flora on the island (it’s very desert/scrubby), and of course the iguanas!! So here’s the deal with the iguanas. There are 2 species found in Guadeloupe- the ones on Petit Terre (they call them the blacks) and the ones on the mainland (the greens that everyone is familiar with). The greens were brought here in boats back in the forever agos. Why? Because they could go a long time without water, which made them a great food source for long boat trips. Interesting! We started to walk to the next stop, but I had a question, and asked my new translator friend to ask, “Can the blacks and greens interbreed?”. The guide got all excited and said that was such a good question. Imagine me glowing and hovering about 3 inches off the ground to understand my reaction to the accolades. Apparently, the answer to that question is practically the whole story of the iguanas!! That’s why the damned Lesser Antilles iguanas are so endangered in the first place! They have bred with the introduced greens on the mainland, creating a hybrid species that has basically wiped out the native blacks!! However, here on Petit Terre (one of only 2 isolated islands in Guadeloupe where you can find the blacks), there are no green iguanas which keeps the species pure! Fascinating! I seriously live for this stuff….

Wook at that wittle dinosaur face!!!

So translator friend hung with me. He’s from Belgium, so he speaks pretty much every western European language because they start learning from such a young age. Dear United States, We suck. I know, because I can only say “We suck” in one language. Love, Mary. Next stop was on a cliff, and literally a 15 minute diatribe about reef safe sunscreen. Way, way, WAY too long. I’m not out here for a sunscreen lecture. Yes, mention it, definitely! Hell, don’t even let anyone on board with the bad kind. I don’t even use it, I use a UPF long sleeve rash guard in the water and a hat on the land. But teach me about what’s OUT here!!! Flora, fauna, history. Not sunscreen. #endrant I felt sorry for the poor Belgian guy trying to translate all of that, but didn’t have the heart to tell him I’d heard enough. After that, we walked back to the coconut grove along a lovely trail.
Back at the grove, the Spanish speaking guide was grilling lunch. He walked up to me and said something about Princess. Ok, yes I know I’m “all that” and everything, but some dude walking up and calling me a princess, as shocking as it may sound, is not an everyday occurrence. So I’m all like, “Que?” He reiterated that yes, indeed, I am a princess. I always KNEW I was French royalty!!! Confirmed by a Frenchman! Never one to take a compliment without making some joke, I slid my hand across my throat and make the “kkkkkkeeeee” noise- the universal sign for cutting off someone’s head. Hey, if I can get a French history joke in there, I’m not going to miss the chance!! He laughed and said no, no! He told me in Spanish that after lunch he would personally take Naomi and I snorkeling. Perfecto. For two reasons: a) It was a big area. I wanted to see the “good stuff”, and the explanations about where that was had all been in French  b) I’m not comfortable snorkeling basically by myself (Naomi had expressed she’s not the world’s best snorkeler either), so having someone along to save me if necessary is always welcome (it’s why I bring Brian with me!!)

If I ever want that EU passport I so desire, I know who to call!

The company served rum punch and a couple of types of fruit juice. I had juice, of course. And if you sat your glass down for one minute, it would be  COVERED in little birds!! They were so cute!! Research says Coereba flaveola, a fruit and nectar eating bird (I knew they were nectar feeders because I could see their little tongues!)

Soon, lunch was served! Huge piece of fish (kind of tuna-esque and really good), rice, cous-cous, salad- all super tasty!! After everyone ate, Prince Charming (He told me his name, but I suck at names and have forgotten it!) told me in Spanish that he had to clean everything up, and for us to meet him at the end of the beach in 15 minutes. We all got into the water. Now, Brian knows the first thing I say when we go snorkeling is “Hold my hand!!” #scaredycatmarinebiologist  Prince Charming immediately reached out his hand. I grabbed on to it, Naomi grabbed his other one, and we all snorkeled for over an hour and a half. He knew right where to go!! It was our own private guided tour!! We saw SO MANY green turtles- I literally lost count after 10. We saw fish of every shape and size solo and in big schools, corals, sponges, stingrays, a barracuda, some kind of huge fish that hangs out under the boats, it was GREAT!! After we got out, I said Naomi still needed to see a shark. Well, apparently when we were on the big reef there was a 6 foot shark Caribbean reef shark that they saw but I missed. Baby Jesus knows it’s best that I not see such things… I did, however, see a lemon shark when I was on the beach! Naomi took a ton of GoPro pics. I hope she’ll send me some.

Baby Lemon Shark!!

I thanked Prince Charming profusely in Spanish. It was time to gather our things and head back. I had already scoped out the hammock thing on the catamaran and had plans to grab a spot on it (only 3 people were allowed) and nap on the way back (and the cushion is good for the tailbone). Mission accomplished! I woke up just as the boat was pulling in to Sainte Francois. Naomi and I said our goodbyes, I again thanked Prince Charming, and that was the end. All in all, it was a really good day and I’m so glad I found Naomi online and went!

DAY 11
I worked.

DAY 12 
See Day 11

DAY 13
After 2 solid days of being in the house, another adventure was in order! It was Tuesday, and I had read that Sainte Francois (the same city the snorkel trip had left from) had a big night market on Tuesday that started at 5. It gets dark here about 6:45, it was about an hour drive, so I figured that if I got there right at 5 that would be perfect. But I wanted to see other things on the way! So I plotted out an itinerary. Brian actually found a museum online that looked cool, so that went on the list, along with a view point at the very southeastern tip of the island called Pointes des Colibris. First stop, Edgar Clerc Caribbean Heritage Museum. It holds a collection of indigenous peoples artifacts that have been excavated on Guadeloupe. The majority of the signage was in English! For a museum that was literally just in the middle of no where, it was really well done with nice modern signs and lighted displays. I was way more impressed than I expected. And it was free!

This was my favorite piece. A figure carved out of CORAL! Super unique!

Next stop, Pointes des Colibris. The drive to it was really nice! There was a heavily treed area between the road and the beach, with cars parked along it here and there. And every once in a while you’d get a glimpse of a beautiful beach and blue waters through the trees! Looked like a great place for a picnic. I’m not the solo picnic type though, so I continued on. Got to the end of the road and it was PACKED!! Took me a couple of turns around the roundabout thingy to find a place to park. There were some souvenir stands and a lady selling something called coco sorbet for 2 euros, that I put on my “to try” list before I left! I decided to do the hike first. Let me preface this by saying that my idiot self who did not learn her lesson after passing out in Malaysia not once but TWICE (and on the plane from Singapore to Greece) due to dehydration left home with no water. Ask me about corals. I’ll tell you about them ALL. DAY. LONG. Obscure and amazing facts. Ask me if I brought water for a hike in 90 degree 100% humidity weather, and you’ll get a blank stare… Oy. First, I passed by some beautiful coastline. Nice, flat trail. But I saw what was ahead. A massive hill. With a massive cross on it. Rational Mary was thinking, “I have not had a drink of water in like 3 hours, it’s really hot, I’m already sweating, climbing a hill is probably not a good idea. Let’s turn around, grab a coco sorbet, and head toward the night market.” Rational Mary had just about convinced me of her plan, when WADD Mary (that’s wildlife attention deficit disorder) looked up. And saw the biggest freaking bird I’ve ever seen in my life!!! I was at the bottom of a huge hill. This bird was soaring high above it. And it’s wingspan was still MASSIVE! First thought? Pterodactyl!! Second thought? Shut up, Rational Mary! WADD Mary, get moving and get the camera mega zoom ready!!

If you really look, you can see the bird just above and to the left of the cross. With my bare eye it was MUCH bigger!

Up, up, up I went. The last part ended up being stairs and no shade. Halfway up, Rational Mary was pitching a fit for me to cease this nonsense at once. WADD Mary was having a hard time getting the bird in the frame (because it was constantly moving and it was so high I had to do mega zoom) and figured the best vantage point was the top of the hill. By the time I got close to the top, I could feel it. That icky fatigue/nausea/dizzy feeling of dehydration. I was literally about 20 steps from the top. I knew I could not go any further up. So I steadied myself, kept my eye on this unbelievable bird soaring so effortlessly above me, and starting snapping. I’d say risking death was worth it!

Super Zoom

Super MEGA zoom! I love my jungle camera!

Once I saw it up close, I was convinced it must be an albatross! I posted it in the Wild Caribbean facebook group and found out that it’s actually a Magnificent Frigate Bird- Fregata magnificens. The largest of all frigate birds, it reaches a length of up to 4 feet and a wingspan of…get this…8 feet!! I knew I needed to go slowly and carefully on the descent. The only thing keeping me going was hope of a coco sorbet, and I didn’t even really know what it was other than coconut something! Got back to the parking area, and I was completely out of steam. There was a juice bar right at the end of the trail, no more than 100 feet from coco sorbet lady. But I needed liquid NOW. Ordered a pineapple juice for 3.50 euros that was super watered down, but at least on ice. Sat down and drank it slowly. Had a mermaid sighting. Felt better.
Passed by the coco sorbet lady on my way out, and almost got one, but really just wanted to get into the car and turn on the ac. So did that. Drove back down the beach road until I got to Sainte Francois, and followed google maps to the night market. As I approached, the first thing that hit me was the smell. Heavenly spices of all kinds combining into a very unique olfactory experience! First booth I went to was a spice booth- dozens of bags filled with spice! The woman only spoke French, but she had me try a few different ones. One of them was REALLY good!! I wanted to walk around though before I bought anything, so I made a circular gesture with my hand (the market is round) so she’d know I’d come back around. I didn’t bring the big camera in here- it seemed a little too local for that and I already stick out enough as it is, so I didn’t take a lot of pictures. There were more spice booths. Junky trinket booths. Local artist and craftsmen booths. I walked slowly and looked at things for about 15 minutes and BAM! There was the spice lady again!! That was fast! I talked her into giving me less spice for 3 euros instead of the 5 euro bag and she agreed. I’ve been seasoning potatoes and rice with it. Mmmmmmm.

I bought Espices Tiamo. No clue what that means or what’s in it, but it’s good!

Headed back home. Stopped off at Carrefour on the way home- no Dr. Pepper, but I did pick up some more groceries WAY cheaper than Monoprix the other day! Not a super full day, but a day out none the less!

DAY 14-16
See Days 11 and 12. I know, I know…I really should be the poster girl for international travel and adventure….🙄

Guadeloupe Days 17-24: The Final Days and Caribbean Wrap Up (Annie Update!!)

Guadeloupe Days 17-24: The Final Days and Caribbean Wrap Up (Annie Update!!)

DAY 17
Work (This is starting to sound like a broken record, I know….)

DAY 18
I woke up with every intention of working, but was feeling a little cabin feverish so decided to see if I could find SOMETHING to do. The only part of the island I hadn’t explored yet was Northern Basse Terre, so decided to do that. Looked up what to do and….you guessed it. Beach, beach, beach, oh! And there was a beach. 😕 But the Cousteau (yes, THAT Cousteau) reserve was over there, and they had 2 hour/3 stop snorkeling trips for 35 euros. Booked with Caraibe Kayak. Well, tried to book online with them, but my card kept getting declined over and over. Facebooked them and told them to put me on the list, I’d be there at 2 for the 2:30 trip! It was about a 1.5 hour drive from Port Louis, and I wanted to treat myself to lunch out, so I left at 10 to give myself extra time for a) unexpected traffic jams  b) unexpected sightseeing c) expected super long wait to get the bill after lunch! I researched restaurants ahead of time and decided on Le Reflet at Plage Caraibe. Popped it into google maps and headed out.

Along the way I saw a sign for a view point so I pulled over. Did a little hike down to the beach, only one family down there and this was a Saturday.
Back on the road and headed to La Reflet. Cute little restaurant right on the beach. It’s always super awkward for me to eat alone, and add the language barrier in and…..well, it’s a miracle I decided to go at all! I sat at a table and the waitress came over. She didn’t speak English, so we were trying to communicate the best we could. A woman at the next table spoke up and asked if I needed help. YES! The lady helped me get everything ordered (a mixed fruit juice and grilled fish plate), and sat back down at her table. She was with a man, but she and I continued to talk across the tables for a while. Come to find out, they are from Luxembourg. Hey, I’ve been there! I told her how much Brian and I love it and we want to go back when we have more time to explore. That we’d only driven through on a whim as we were traveling from Lille to Reims because I was filming for my French History class. Come to find out, we’re both history teachers!! WHAT?! And we both LOVE French History!! Double what?!! And I love Reims where the kings were crowned! And SHE loves Reims where the kings were crowned! And I asked her if she’d been to St. Denis Cathedral (my favorite place in Paris- where all the kings were buried) and she SQUEALED!!! EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEK!!!!!!! I DON’T KNOW ANYONE OTHER THAN ME THAT SQUEALS ABOUT FRENCH KINGS!!!!!!!!! And then, she asked me the question that almost made me just propose marriage to her on the spot….Who’s your favorite king?! Seriously, people, you do NOT understand. I have 3 favorite kings. It is a BIG DEAL. (Ask Brian, he’ll tell you.). When I said Henry IV, she squealed again!!!! OMG! I have never met another human being who knows Reims, St. Denis, AND the importance of Henry IV!!!!!! Let me tell you, I was in Heaven!!!!! The poor guy she was with probably thought we were both crazy…. We immediately became facebook friends, and she said that when we get back to Luxembourg to give her a shout out and she’d show us a bunch of history!!!!! With that, my food came. Delicious food, great conversation….I was a happy girl!

Short drive to the snorkel place, but oh my god it was PACKED! There was seriously no parking anywhere. I got there a little before 2, trip was supposed to leave at 2:30. I drove around for TWENTY MINUTES freaking out thinking I was just going to have to turn around and drive back home. Finally a family started walking out and I just slowly car stalked them and then sat there until they pulled out. I seriously would have cut someone if they had tried to take that place…. People at the booth spoke English, which was super helpful! Got a life jacket and headed to the boat with the family of 4 that was going along as well. First stop, Japanese Gardens. And it was only like 5 minutes from the dock!! Woo-hoo!! We had 25 minutes. I saw a cool black trigger and a super colorful filefish (Cantherhines macrocerus) that I fell in love with. Other than that, it wasn’t all that great. Got back in the boat for the next stop- Pigeon Islands. Another quick 5 minute boat ride. Now THIS was snorkeling!! Gorgeous corals, tons of fish, a lot of variety- plus the water was a lot clearer than it had been at the last stop, so I was more comfortable. I could have stayed there longer and explored! But 25 minutes flew by and it was time for the next stop. This was a sea grass bed for turtles. I got out, found 2 turtles and a huge starfish within like the first 15 minutes, and came back to the boat early. There was nothing else but seagrass, and I’ve seen plenty of turtles this trip. Pictures are all taken through my phone dry bag thing. Seriously, I’m pretty damn pleased with that thing!

Back in the car, with every intention of hitting up Monoprix on the way home to get Dr. Pepper. The problem is that the Monoprix by the airport is not listed in google maps, so I have to remember the exit. Well, I passed it, got off at the next exit, had no idea how to get back around to Monoprix, so ended up going to Carrefour inside of a HUGE mall in my still damp swim shorts. This Carrefour was MASSIVE!!!! Like holy hell, as big as the massive one in Paris!! No Dr. Pepper (although, in Lille, France it was in the “International” aisle, not the soda aisle, but this store was too damn big for me to try to find the international section.) Prices were good so I grabbed some more grub for the next few days. Headed home and got in right before dark.

DAYS 19 & 20
Work and work. Honestly, I’m as caught up as I can be at this point, but there just isn’t enough stuff to do on this island to warrant me getting out more often! However, there was a post on one of the house sitting facebook groups I’m on about something and I posted that I was in Guadeloupe. Well, another sitter responded that she is too! Back over on the other side of the island- north Basse Terre. We have a play date. 😀

DAY 21
Play date today with fellow house sitter, Juliet! We decided to meet at the Deshaies Botanical Garden– about 1.5 hours from me and in the same town where Juliet is sitting. I don’t mind driving, as much as I stay cooped up it’s a welcome escape to have SOMEWHERE to go! And speaking English is just icing on the day trip cake! We met at 10am at the gardens, and immediately starting walking and talking! The gardens are lovely- like way better than I expected- and I really enjoyed talking to Julie about her house sitting experiences.
As we were leaving, a rather large and lethargic Cane Toad (Rhinella marina) was on the sidewalk. I wanted to help him get off the sidewalk, but I knew he was toxic, so I didn’t. Well, I didn’t notice until I looked at the pictures that he had white secretions on his body- THAT’S THE BUFOTOXIN!! They usually do that when they are stressed. He was gone when we walked back by, so I hope he was ok.

After the garden, we decided to go to town and find some lunch. Practically everything was closed (it was 11:20). We finally found one place and sat down. One look at the menu and we got back up. $25+ for lunch? Yeah, no thanks. Found a little cafe and got a sandwich for like $5. Much better! 🙂 After that, we walked out on to the pier to get a better view of the cove. It’s a really beautiful one, for sure! The water was clear and there were a lot of fish! Managed to get a selfie, too!



As we looked across the cove, I noticed a cemetery. It was all the way on the other side of town where we had just come from, but we thought it would be interesting to check it out. Walked all the way over there and it was locked. A bummer, because I really wanted to look around. The cemeteries here have an unusual design.
And that was it! We said our goodbyes and I drove back to the house, stopping along the way at Monoprix which had stocked up on Dr. Pepper since I was last there. Got 3 bottles to get me through the end of the trip.

DAY 22 
Was up early and started working. A little after 6, the bed kind of shook hard. I thought it must be the cat jumping on the bed, then I realized a) There’s no cat in here and b) The cat is NOT that big! Looked to my right and the desk chair on wheels was bouncing around. Earthquake!! I started hitting refresh like crazy on the USGS live earthquake site (“live” means about 15 minutes after it happens!). Sure enough, a 4.7 southeast of here in the ocean. So that’s one earthquake in El Salvador and one in Guadeloupe. I feel like I need some kind of “Earthquake passport” that I can stamp with the country and magnitude! That was the entirety of my excitement for the day…

DAY 23
Seriously considered doing the walk to Anse Bertrand. Talked myself out of it and spent the day being lazy and watching my new favorite YouTube channel- the Lion Whisperer!

DAY 24
D-Day! As in DEPARTURE!! Got up, cleaned, did laundry, packed, and headed out the door at 11am. Easy breezy returning the car, easy breezy through security. Flight to Miami was on a smaller plane with no screens, so I amused myself by watching our progress on google maps on my phone, and taking pictures of the different islands! And because I was flying American, and that’s just like America, they had…..DIET DR PEPPER!!!!!!!! We skirted a major thunderstorm coming into Miami- it was gorgeous!


St Kitts & Nevis

Puerto Rico


This shot of Bermuda is my favorite! You can’t tell where the water ends and the sky begins!

Hey! The ocean looks just like my thighs! #stretchmarks

Mega storm over Miami

Landed in Miami and had a 5 hour layover. I used Mobile Passport, but apparently everyone has caught on to it now, so the line was just as long as the regular one for passport control. Sigh. Then the lines for reentry to connecting flights were just STUPID. From the time we landed until the time I actually got into the terminal for my connection was 2 hours! Insanity! That left me with 3 hours, and I was going to spend that time eating! Found a burger joint (The Counter) and had the nicest waitress ever. Killed some time talking to Brian and blogging. At 8:30pm, I took 2 Zzzquils so I would sleep on the plane (I had a middle seat. Kill me.). That gave me one hour until the flight left at 9:30. Boarded and sat. And sat. And sat. My zzzquil was kicking in and I literally could not keep my eyes open! Last I knew it was 10pm and the pilot was saying something about the bags from the last flight hadn’t been removed yet, then they had to load ours (theirs, I don’t check bags). After that, I zonked out. Apparently, we sat there for over an hour!! Which meant we got to LAX after 1am. I felt so bad for poor Brian. And my poor tailbone. It hated sitting for that long…. But all’s well that ends well, and I made it back home.

This summer was all about experimenting with Workaway. So, what are the results? Would I do it again? The short answer is FUCK NO.

The workaway in Puerto Rico that I had lined up for the last leg of my trip flaked. Strike one.

The Antigua leg was not a good experience due to it being completely disorganized, there was too much unnecessary drama, and I couldn’t trust anything she said. Which is a damn shame because this should have been an amazing and productive effort for both of us. I didn’t detail all of the instances of it in the blog because I was there while I was blogging. Now that I’m not there anymore, I can be more candid. Let’s break down the fouls.
Completely disorganized: From day 1, after she picked me up and I realized she had no clue who I was and that I was the volunteer who was a marine biologist and educator, my alarms went off. Both of those things are major assets to her organization and don’t come around often (if ever). How the hell does that detail just slip your mind? It was a foreshadowing of just how disorganized she is… That was followed up with her not having ANYTHING prepared for me to do. I literally spent the first week pulling weeds and raking. Great if you’re doing workaway just to get free lodging. Not so great if you are there to share your skills and actually do what you agreed to do when you signed up… Once she did get around to being ready to work on her website, again she had nothing ready. No content, but not even access! It took DAYS just to be able to get the access information from the 14 year old girl who had done her previous “work”. Frustration doesn’t even begin to cover it. Once we had access, she had zero content ready. Instead of me being able to just come in, do some design work and drop in the content, I was starting literally from scratch. I worked my ASS OFF to try to get the site at least ready enough to go live with a good start of content before I left. She didn’t want to go live until the whole thing was done. It’s just ridiculous. Especially because that meant “you can just finish it after you leave”. Um, no. This is workaway, not workfromhome. I already have a job at home, thank you very much. She even offered to pay. No thanks.

Unnecessary drama: She put me in someone else’s house, and I don’t think she had the proper permission (she manages their property). They saw my blog, and she called me to tell me they were upset because I was staying there for free. Um, first of all, THAT’S THE WHOLE REASON I’M HERE. I work in exchange for FREE lodging. Seriously, when she told me that, I started crying. I was already fed up with the antics, and this was a breaking point. I felt so uncomfortable being somewhere I wasn’t supposed to be. Then she starts reassuring me its fine and she’ll handle it. How about you handle YOUR messy business on your end in the first place and leave me the fuck out of it??
There were lots of other little things like that. But when she told me she got worms from Annie PEEING on the floor… Oh for fucks sake that’s not even POSSIBLE. Do you even science, lady? She insisted that she read it, but couldn’t send me the link. Uh, huh. Drama.

Trust: You may remember the dog gauntlet I had to walk through to get anywhere. I only crossed it once, and knew that one brown dog was one false move away from biting me. Before I went, I messaged her about the dogs. Was she sure they were OK with me walking by? Of course, she says! I messaged her when I got back from almost being bit. She informed me that yes, that brown one has bitten TWO PEOPLE! You crazy ass bitch… You purposefully kept that from me. I could have gotten really hurt. I was alone with no transportation and no cell signal. That pisses me off so much. Zero care for my welfare. She did the same damn thing with the PIT BULL at the other house that I had to walk by to get anywhere. It was really aggressive toward her dog. It was behind a fence and I asked if it was ever out. Oh, no! She’s never seen it out! Literally every other time we drove by, that dog was loose, even attacking her dog once! Again, what the hell! You can’t endanger people like that! I was literally trapped at both houses because of aggressive dogs. This was never disclosed to me before I came.

Basically, everything was an unorganized, unprepared, massive waste of my time and resources. Only good thing that came out of it was going boating with Nick who is super passionate about marine life, and fostering my little Annie girl. Antigua workaway, strike two.

Last but not least, Guadeloupe workaway. This was a housesit, but on the workaway platform so it counts. The people were lovely, the cats were cool, but the house was a cluttered mess and kind of dirty. It was an multiplex house, and the neighbors literally sounded like they were in the room with you. And then, the landlady came over and bitched at me one day for having the air conditioner on. Of course, she speaks ZERO English and couldn’t even use hand signals to communicate- just increasing volumes of French- so I had no idea what she was even saying. She went and got the Italian lady who speaks a little Spanish and a little English and between that I was able to figure out that I needed to turn the air off. Christ almighty. Strike three.

So I guess I should never say never. Might there be a circumstance where I would do workaway again? Possibly. But it would have to be EXTREMELY clearly defined before I ever even left home. Part of my aggravation is that overall, I’m just not a fan of the Caribbean. I don’t like islands. Too confining. There’s no terrestrial wildlife. I’m not the “go to the beach with a book” every day girl. And I’m sure all of that played a role in how I felt while I was there as well. I think this sign in Guadeloupe says it all- I should have had more of this going in to the summer!!

Now, to the good stuff….ANNIE!! Look, a LOT went on with this little pup, and I’m not going to get into all of the nitty gritty details. Just hit the highlights. She was flown to New York on July 12. She went to the Bidawee shelter in Manhattan. I was beside myself, because I had not wanted her to go into a cage. But I had zero control over any of it. She did get to fly in the passenger cabin with a lovely family who volunteered to take her. Then she rode in the car to the shelter. There was a video of her with her head out the window barking like crazy. She saw a CHALK DRAWING on a wall of a dog, and was determined to make friends!! LOL  However, that video was lost in a required “drama purge” of correspondence. The levels of crazy this entire thing went to- well, you wouldn’t believe it if I wrote it. Hell, I was living it and could barely even believe it…
Anyway, a celebrity had the honor of meeting my little star!! Bidawee was doing an adoption promo, and Kelly Clarkson was there. Here’s Annie on the left of Kelly. I had another picture of Annie playing with the dog Kelly was holding, again, lost in the purge.
So all of this was going on while I was in Guadeloupe. Brian was calling Bidawee to stay updated on her status. Because if she didn’t get adopted, I was going to fly and get her. The thought of her in a cage was just too heartbreaking. The Saturday I was to fly home, I was willing to change my ticket and fly to New York from Miami instead of going to LA. But the shelter said they had a big adoption event that day and she’d probably get adopted. I got home, we called Sunday- still there. So at that point I had to start making plans. Spoke to the shelter and decided to give her one more week. If she wasn’t adopted over the next weekend, then I would fly over and get her. They were kind enough to agree to put a hold on her as soon as I got a plane ticket. Every morning and every evening I would check the website. Her little picture was still there. The uncertainty and confusion in her eyes was killing me.
Then, on July 30, I check the website. Her picture was there in the morning, but GONE in the afternoon!! I called on July 31, and sure enough, Annie has a home!!! A woman in Westchester (a suburb area north of NYC) adopted her. Annie is going into training to be a service dog! I couldn’t be more excited for her and her new life. That little pup stole my heart. I have shed countless tears over her- from fear, heartbreak, and now joy! I’ll never see her again, but I know I gave her the best of me that I could, and I gave her the gift of love and trust. She’ll carry that with her always, and I’ll always carry the memory of my little Annie girl- she was the best thing to come out of this entire trip, and those 2 weeks I spent with her were worth all the subsequent aggravation!