A great afternoon
By Sarah Greaves-Gabbadon
CJ Travel Editor
It seemed like a good idea at the time.
Our ship, Windstar Cruises’ Windsurf, had dropped anchor just offshore from Terre De Haut, one of the islands in Guadeloupe’s archipelago. Passengers were excited to go ashore and explore the islet’s bourg (town), charmed, even from a distance, by its scalloped bay backed by undulating hillsides punctuated with red-roofed homes. Most people intended simply to stroll the main street; perhaps buy a bag of the sweet local tarts known as tourment d’amour; or paddle at one of the small beaches near the dock.
But I had my sights set on another sandy spot: the plage at Bois Joli. This was my second visit to the largest of the island group known as Les Saintes, so I figured I’d depart from the normal tourist path and bypass more popular (and closer) beaches and venture to a further flung strand, also known as Anse a Cointe.
The madame in the tourist office had raised her eyebrows and warned me that it’d be a 45-minute walk. But I was undeterred. We’d be in port until late afternoon so I had plenty of time for what I imagined would be an easy stroll along the flat coast road.
I was wrong.
Ten minutes out of town, I came to a fork in the seaside road where the sign for Bois Joli pointed not straight ahead but left and uphill. I started up the incline, enjoying the sun and sea breeze. But now, minutes later, what had first seemed like a gentle grade had turned into a slog up a very steep hill under the full strength of the blazing Caribbean sun. Sweat glistened on my arms, my breathing labored, and my Fitbit confirmed my efforts, registering my heart rate at 120 bpm. My steps slowed as I continued my ascent past colorful homes trimmed in white wooden fretwork; grazing goats and the occasional intrepid Euro tourist, laden back and front with bulging backpacks. Locals, I noted, zipped by in electric golf carts, minivans and motor scooters. Perhaps I should have l listened to the warnings of the lady in the tourist office.
Every few minutes I’d pause to snap a photo of the bay sprawled below me, its waters populated with fishermen’s skiffs, sleek yachts and small cruise ships. But the photo opps were really just an excuse to catch my rapidly quickening breath. Where is this stupid beach, anyway?!
Happily, not too far away. Cresting the hill I saw a sign for Pain Du Sucre on the right. I was tempted to follow the downward track to the popular beach but pressed on, and just around the corner was the sign for Hotel Bois Joli. After almost an hour of sweating skin and burning quads, the gates of heaven wouldn’t have been a more welcome sight.
I practically skipped towards the hotel’s reception desk, where the clerk confirmed that oui, non-guests were welcome to use the beach and oui, I could have dejeuner at the waterfront restaurant. Fantastique!
And now here I am, sprawled on a chaise on a curving brown sugar-cove. Breezes cool my sun-scorched skin and carry the salty scent of the sea. Here, on this beach I have literally all to myself, the past hour’s labor is swiftly forgotten. Maybe that same sea breeze has spirited the memory away. Or perhaps the rum-laced planteur in my hand has something to do with it. Regardless, of one thing I’m sure:
This was a good idea.