Where You Can Hear the Sugarcane Grow
Guadeloupeans are understandably loath to divulge the destination of their weekend getaways. When hard pressed, they’ll admit they escape to the small offshore archipelago of lies des Saintes (also known as les Saintes) and the larger Marie Galante, whose innocent, rustic charm is reminiscent of St. Barts twenty years ago, with few cars and a rural character.
The pastoral allure of Marie Galante is unmatched in the Caribbean; scores of tended plantations, windmills, and oxcarts attest to the importance of sugarcane and rum (said to be the best in the Caribbean) on an island where tourism is given little heed.
The long, golden Petite Anse beach is a favorite weekend spot for picnics—bring your own or enjoy a deliciously simple meal at any of the handful of Creole shacks. Terre-de-Haut, the largest of the Saintes, is only slightly more tourist-oriented, with its pastel cottages and winding trails.
The charmingly kitschy inn L’Auberge des Petits Saints aux Anacardies is the most distinctive of the island’s small inns, eccentrically cluttered with antiques and curious souvenirs fancied by the world- trekking owners. It has an airy veranda, and the ocean-view restaurant offers a surprisingly sophisticated wine list and menu, considering its delightful middle-of-nowhere spirit.