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Originally this “Island of beautiful waters” was called Karukera but Christopher Columbus renamed it in 1493 for Santa Maria de Guadalupe de Estremadura, just before he was driven from the island.
Guadalupe comprises of two large islands, Basse Terre and Grande Terre, and several smaller ones, of which St Martin is shared with the Dutch kingdom. In 1763 the isles came under French rule and they still occupy the island, now mainly as tourists. Pack a French dictionary if you plan a trip here for it’s a part of France (like Hawai for the Usa). The people and culture is a harmonious blend of European, African and East Indian origin.
Guadeloupe is well known for its spectacular beaches, most of which are well sheltered and wonderful for swimming and seaside fun. The natural beaches range from the surf-brushed dark sands of western Basse-Terre to the long shiny white stretches encircling Grande-Terre. The two islands, separated by the narrow bridged strait of the Rivière Salée, are often seen as the wings of a butterfly, resting on the Caribbean. They’re actually a poor lesson in French for Grand Terre to the east is the smaller of the two, while Basse Terre has the great La Soufrière volcano.
Basse-terre on Basse-Terre is the administrative capital of Guadeloupe and the department. There are some very pretty and authentic old buildings of the colonial period in the city. There is an 17th-century cathedral and the ruins of Fort Louis Delgrès. Here you’ll also find Saint-Claude, a wealthy suburb and summer resort, surrounded by coffee trees and the most beautiful tropical gardens. Matouba, north of Saint-Claude, is an East Indian village known for its waterfalls and springs. There are hot springs and a bottling plant for the local mineral water, a bottle of which makes an excellent souvenir.
Pointe-a-pitre on Grande-Terre is the commercial centre of Guadeloupe near both the airport and shipping port. It is a quite compact and functional city. Its early colonial buildings were largely destroyed by an earthquake in 1843 and have been replaced with all kinds of new buildings. Also, the Hurricane Hugo did a lot of damage, especially to the trees in the city. This makes the city less coherent ensemble as Basse-Terre is, but it’s all the livelier. The central Place de la Victoire was once the site of the guillotine. It’s the oldest part of town, which is reasonably intact, and it contains the oldest buildings.