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Author: timalmax

May13

Acomat’s Leap is one of the numerous and magnificent waterfalls of Guadeloupe.
It is situated at Black Point, at the place called ‘Les Plaines’ (The Plains) just before the Caribbean beach.
After taking the direction for Acomat, turn right at the small chapel and go down the road to park where the road forks.

Once you have left your vehicle, you have a short 15 minute walk before arriving at the river which you should cross and then follow to reach this famous waterfall and enjoy the sublime setting.

The water is a gorgeous emerald green colour!

Enjoy a swim in the pool hollowed out by nature in the stone!

Ensure you are well equipped and wear good hiking boots; the ground is quite steep in places with one particularly steep slope.
Picnics are authorised, although there is not an equipped picnic site, and it is a popular and friendly place for Guadeloupians to meet with friends or family for picnicking at weekends in the shade of the tropical forest.
You can swim here but diving is absolutely forbidden. Rockslides have created piles of rocks in the pool so diving is actually very dangerous here. Ensure you check the weather forecast before you visit this place. The river water level can rise rapidly when it rains and it is not recommended to visit this area in heavy rain as you may find yourself stranded.

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May13

Who is Ali Tur ?
Ali Georges Tur was born in Tunis in 1889. He was of French nationality (his father was a Cévenole polytechnician and his mother was from Alsace).  Passionate about the arts he studied at the School of Fine Arts but his studies were interrupted when he left to join the war in 1914. After serving four years and being awarded the War Cross, he resumed his studies in 1919. He then started to win various awards; two medals, the Nestor Prize and the Rougevin Foundation Grand Prize for Decoration. He then worked in Paris, opening an architectural agency and participating in the rebuilding of towns and their buildings after the First World War. In 1925 he was listed as one of the top ten architects by the Ministry of French Colonies.
So it was that in 1928, after a cyclone devastated Guadeloupe, with most of the public buildings destroyed, Governor Tellier called on his skills for the rebuilding of the archipelago. He arrived in Guadeloupe in 1929 and from that time an almost radical change came about in the architectural style of the houses and buildings constructed in Guadeloupe.

The legacy of Ali Tur in Guadeloupe

Between 1929 and 1937 he designed and rebuilt a number of private and public buildings. His style broke completely from the traditional architecture which favoured wood and stone. Ali Tur included a modern technique in his works: Reinforced concrete. Not only is the concrete stronger but it also enabled the fulfilment of the architect’s imagination. New types of buildings started to appear in the archipelago, with columns, beams, agglomerated building blocks and plaster board. Reborn from the ruins, Basse-Terre, like Grand-Terre, started to gleam again.
He started with the Governor’s Palace, the Prefecture, the Town Hall and the Courthouse in the main town of Basse-Terre. A little later, authorised to place orders, the parishes could then benefit from the talent of Ali Tur. As a result, Ali Georges Tur built the Town Halls at Pointe Noire, Anse Bertrand, Lamentin and Bailif. The churches at Sainte Anne and Baie Mahault and the post offices at Bouillante and Vieux Habitants also bear his signature. Other buildings that bear the mark of this remarkable architect are the Meat Hall at Port Louis and the Gendarmerie of Sainte Rose among others…

He designed a total of 120 buildings in Guadeloupe up to 1937.

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May13

The Salako is THE traditional hat of the Saintes archipelago; a splendid group of islands in Guadeloupe.

It was often worn by the Saintois fisherman aboard their traditional fishing boats called ‘Saintoises’ !

Of a highly particular shape, it is very different to the hats worn in numerous other islands of Guadeloupe, in fact it has a slightly… Asian look to it !

The Salako first appeared in the Saints in the 19th Century. Two theories co-exist concerning its origins:
– It was introduced by the French Naval officers who came from Asia. What is certain is that the French Naval infantry officers based in Tonkin in 1873 wore the ‘Salacco’ hat of which the shape is similar to that of the ‘Salako’ of the Saints.
– The other theory is that the Annamites of Cochin China, condemned for a rebellion, were sent to Guadeloupe, then the Saints, where they served their punishment for five years. Some of them then settled in the Saints, maybe introducing this hat at that time.

The Salako is still hand made by craftsmen on the Terre-de-Bas island in the Saints by the few remaining craftsmen who retain the skills necessary for its manufacture.

The major material used is bamboo. After being cut into fine strips, these are cut to a point and implanted into a light piece of wood for braiding. The crown of the head is worked in a way similar to that of the fish traps used by the island fishermen. To increase protection from the sun this is often covered by the fishermen with material (nowadays generally Madras).

So, wait no longer, come and visit the Saints archipelago on your next visit to Piton Bungalows !

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May13

It’s the greatest festival in the Caribbean !

The Carnival is a festive cultural event that takes place in Guadeloupe every year over around two months.

In Guadeloupe carnival has the particularity of being spread over the entire archipelago.

The festival programme is highlighted by a parade in all the parishes every weekend.

Carnival starts on the last Sunday of Epiphany with an explosion of fun and gaiety, and ends with the ‘death’ of Vaval, the King of Carnival, on Ash Wednesday. On that day, devils and she-devils dressed in black and white form processions in the streets of Basse Terre and Pointe-à-Pitre, dancing and singing the Beguine songs of the ‘Grand Vidé’ to the sound of the Tam-Tam drums. At the end of that day, the effigy of Vaval, called ‘Bois Bois’, is burned by the crowds and thrown into the sea accompanied by their cries and lamentations; ‘Vaval Mo, Vaval Mo’ (‘Carnival is dead, Carnival is dead’) and ‘Vaval pa quitté nou’ (‘Carnival, don’t leave us’). Carnival resurges briefly at mid-Lent with a grand parade through the streets by revellers dressed in red and black.
In Guadeloupe, Carnival is particularly celebrated on the ‘Fat’ days (Shrove Monday, Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesday). Shrove Monday is dedicated to the burlesque weddings. The disguised couples (with the men dressed as brides, and the women as grooms) and their entourages form a procession to meet the Mayor and the Priest.  Shrove Tuesday is the high point of Carnival and there are a maximum of processions. Numerous competitions are organised to elect the best group, best costume etc., Ash Wednesday is a day of mourning. Dressed in black and white, the crowd burns Vaval while they dance and sing.
In a certain way, it could be said that Carnival in Guadeloupe is used to exorcise death. In this way, the disguise is only a passage, a transformation or even a form of transcendence. Therefore, during the three days parades, we see lots of masks, costumes and disguises that parody death (skeletons, skulls, devils etc.,) As relating to Vaval, this is a character who symbolises all the problems and sorrows of the previous year. He is several metres high, made from cardboard, and is burned at the end of the festivities. The death of Vaval therefore marks the end of Carnival and the beginning of Lent.

The origins:
Carnival (‘kannaval’ in Creole) was introduced by colonists in the 17th Century as a form of festivities before the Lenten restrictions. In Guadeloupe, where only the colonists could celebrate the festival in the beginning, the African slaves thereafter added their own cultural touch to this festival that had its origins in its European roots with drums, masks, songs etc… The slaves seized upon this opportunity to unwind but as an occasion to ridicule their dominating masters through costumes and disguises.

The musical groups of Carnival

The Carnival groups are divided into three categories according to their type of music:

• The ‘skins’ groups (‘po’); these are the traditional independent groups. They play small drums covered with animal skins such as goat as well as other traditional musical instruments.
The ‘skins’ group is composed of several sub-groups:
– The whipping groups: Their members generally crack whips to represent the suffering endured by the slaves during the colonial times.
– The ‘gwo siwo’ groups: Their members cover their bodies in a strongly smelling black syrup.
– The parades on foot are the most common; they pay tribute to carnival in a traditional fashion with natural costumes and music that communicates a strong message to the people.
The ‘Po’ groups enable the population to renew their ties to their origins through song and dance and the costumes that are often linked to traditional costumes and myths but can also relate to current events that touch the population, generally in a derisive manner.

• The ‘Mass’ groups
Groups of this type such as we know today made their appearance around the millennium years. Despite their masks and stereotyped costumes they are still often quite innovative due to their choreography and their sense of humour.

The percussion groups; these use handmade or traditional instruments such as  snare drums, large plastic drums, conch shells…
Their costumes are highly varied and they are the only groups that use wind instruments which are highly expensive. They are easily recognisable due to their music and of course their costumes and floats or trucks.
Nowadays, synthesiser groups are also to be seen, originally from the Basse-Terre Carnival they use mobile sound systems with loudspeakers, generators and synthesisers on their floats followed by electric guitars and singers with microphones. But even so, the synthesiser groups are no less typically Guadeloupian and the rest of the musical section, as with those of the percussion groups, follows behind the truck or float. Concerning the music, these groups generally have a faster rhythm so often have the largest number of followers and therefore generate a dance type atmosphere. Although synthesiser groups tend to concentrate more on the instrumental side and less on the costumes and choreography, they still participate in the majority of the competitions.

Wait no longer, reserve now to enjoy the Carnival sights and atmosphere in Guadeloupe this year!

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May13

The ‘Saut de la Lézarde’…. A waterfall about ten metres high that falls into a pool of around 25 metres diameter !

Lizard’s Leap is one of the most beautiful sites of Guadeloupe !

Its name originates from the winding shape of the river through the tropical forest leading to the waterfall, like the shape of a lizard’s path. Lizard’s Leap is situated in the parish of Petit Bourg.

The waterfalls at the ‘Lézarde’ could be described as dreamlike, you have the feeling that you are in a film and that Indiana Jones could suddenly emerge at any time !

Apart from the muddy and slippery track, or ‘trace’ (a hiking path is called a ‘Trace’ in Guadeloupe), the walk itself is very pleasant. There is plenty to see along the path leading to the waterfall and its pool.

We only come upon the waterfall and its pool at the last moment, it suddenly comes into full view… the sight is truly breathtaking !

The waterfall pours into a magnificent pool in which it is highly recommended to bathe and refresh yourself before your return.

The deep green luxuriant vegetation surrounding and above the pool, and the little streams running here and there, further enhance the beauty of this location…

The beginning of the hike is from the car park of an abandoned restaurant (to get there take the ‘Route de la Traversée’ in the direction of Vernou, then follow the signs for ‘Hauteurs Lézarde’. At the crossing, turn right. Watch carefully for a wooden sign indicating the direction of the waterfall. Stop at number 11 and park your vehicle at the side of the road.)
From there a path leads down to the waterfall. Take care as this path is always muddy and slippery; ensure you are wearing strong hiking boots!
The path is not marked by signs but is still easy to follow due to all the footprints of previous visitors. It will take approximately a half hour to reach the waterfall, the path descends by around 80 metres overall.
The return is by the same path and takes less than a half hour.
The walk is fairly easy although the slope can be fairly steep at times.

It should be noted that access has been officially closed for years now… It is therefore extremely important that you take care and remain prudent, follow the track carefully !

On your return from the hike, why not take a few moments to relax in the hammock on your bungalow terrace at Piton Bungalows !

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May13

The Ti Punch is a true institution in the West Indies, and here is its true recipe !

For 1 glass:
– 1/4 of a lime
– 1/2 measure of cane syrup
– 4 measures of white rum
Place the cane syrup into the glass.
Cut the lime in quarters and crush it into the cane syrup.
Add the rum.
Mix with love.
It’s ready, drink and enjoy !

In the French West Indies, the rum is agricultural, meaning that it is produced from pure sugar cane juice, contrary to rums from other islands that are made from molasses.

The Distilleries in Guadeloupe
In 1939 there were 55 rum distilleries in Guadeloupe. In 1954 there were still 37 but since the beginning of the 70s we count only 9 that remain !
In Guadeloupe we distinguish between ‘smoking’ and ‘non-smoking’ distilleries.
A ‘smoking’ distillery is one that still operates its own distilling column each year thereby producing rum, sometimes for several different companies.
A ‘non-smoking’ distillery is an old distillery that is no longer active. The brand of rum is actually produced by another, ‘smoking’, distillery. Sometimes part of the distillery may be still active, for example it may continue to bottle its rum brand or age its rums on-site.

In Guadeloupe, 9 ‘smoking’ distilleries are still in productive activity, 3 of those in Marie Galante.

Here is a list of the agricultural distilleries still in activity in 2014 in Guadeloupe, and the different brands of Guadeloupe rum:
Bologne Distillery
The Bologne rum is an agricultural rum produced in Basse-Terre, Guadeloupe since 1930.
Damoiseau Distillery
Since 1942, the Damoiseau distillery has distilled its particular ‘Rhum Damoiseau au Moule’.
Carrere Distillery
The Carrere Distillery has produced its Montebello rum at Petit Bourg since 1930.
Esperance Distillery
The Esperance distillery, created in 1895 at Capesterre-Belle-Eau is the oldest in Guadeloupe that is still active. The Longueteau and Karukéra rums are produced at the same magnificent domain, that of the Marquisat de Sainte-Marie, at Capesterre-Belle-Eau.
Domaine de Severin distillery
The Severin rum has been produced in the parish of Sainte Rose since 1928.
Reimonenq distillery
The Reimanenq distillery, created in 1916, is located in the parish of Sainte Rose and produces the Coeur de Chauffe rum.
Bielle Distillery
The Bielle distillery was founded at the end of the 19th Century. Rhum Bielle is an agricultural rum produced at Grand-Bourg in Marie Galante.
Domaine de Bellevue
The Bellevue rum is produced at Capesterre in Marie Galante.
Grand Anse Distillery, ‘Poisson’ Distillery
The ‘Poisson’ Distillery produces the rum ‘du Père Labat’. This rum has the particularity of having an alcohol content of 59°. The ‘Rhum du Père Labat’ is an agricultural rum produced at Grand Bourg in Marie Galante since 1860.

It is important to note that at the beginning of every stay in a bungalow in the Piton Bungalows at Deshaies in Guadeloupe, a ‘Welcome’ Ti Punch is offered to greet you in a typically warm Guadeloupian manner!

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May13

Christopher Colombus ‘discovered’ Guadeloupe on the 4th November 1493 during his second voyage to the West Indies. That was the first time a European set foot on the Guadeloupian archipelago, but the islands had been inhabited for a long time before that…

Native American people (or Amerindians) from the coast of modern day Venezuela had reached the islands of the Lesser Antilles around 2,500 BC. They lived from hunting, fishing and gathering local fruit. As they were a nomadic people, sheltering in natural places such as caves, they have left almost no discernible traces of their time in Guadeloupe.

It wasn’t until another 2,000 years later that the first ‘Arawak’ Indians settled in the Guadeloupe archipelago. Originally from the Orinoco basin in Venezuela, they practised a shifting cultivation of small agricultural plots that were established in the heart of the forest where they grew mainly cassava, behind the villages where they lived on the coastline.
Over centuries, these Amerindian people colonised the Guadeloupe archipelago; the Arawaks were peaceful and wise and lived in perfect harmony with the nature surrounding them.  Although cassava was their main crop they also varied their food with beans, fruit, and the results of their hunting and fishing. They cultivated cotton with which they made the hammocks they slept in, and they also made fibre rope.
It was the latter who were responsible for the many petrographs (rock engravings) that can be seen mainly in the south of Basse-Terre, particularly in the area of Trois-Rivières which was probably a major cultural centre for the Amerindians living in this part of the world at that time. Of all the French West Indies, Guadeloupe has the most petrographs although this localised profusion of rock engravings has not yet been fully explained…

At the end of the 7th Century, another civilisation invaded the area; the Caribs.  It was the latter that called the island Caloucaera (Karukera), meaning ‘Island of beautiful waters’.
Originally migrants from the Orinoco as well, the Carib Indians (Caribs) or Kalinas were a formidable warrior race. They swept through the Antilles exterminating most of the people in their path, the original island inhabitants.
The warlike Caribs (who were said to have practiced cannibalism) therefore took the place of the Arawaks, inhabiting the islands they invaded although Columbus described them as naïve and easily ‘domesticated’…
According to legend, during their bloody raids on the Arawaks, the Caribs often spared the women. Not through gallantry but to keep them for personal use… Therefore, according to historical accounts, the Arawaks were exterminated as a separate race, the Caribs ate the men and kept the women, however studies have disproved this theory and tended to show that this was a simple cultural evolution.

The first colonists therefore had the surprise of hearing two different languages spoken by the same Indians; the Carib language by the men and the Arawak language by the women.
It was these people, the ‘Carib’ Indians that Christopher Columbus met in 1493.

This civilisation reached its end at the beginning of November 1493 when the 1,500 men of Christopher Columbus set foot in Guadeloupe which caused the Carib Indians to retreat from one island to the next finally retreating to the south of Dominica where there remains a population of around 3,000.

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May13

It is THE legendary knife of the French West Indies, for over 100 years!

Relatively unknown in Europe, the ‘Couteau Chien’ (or Dog Knife) is extremely popular in the West Indies.

The ‘dog knife’ takes its name from the small animal engraved on the blade.

Cooks from long ago (‘antan lontan’ in Creole; in olden times…) completed most culinary preparations using a quality steel knife. At the top of the blade near the handle, the manufacturer’s symbol, a watchdog (‘chien’), was stamped into it.

It was originally created by Sabatier Frère et Fils but then acquired by France Exportation, an old cutlery maker dating back to 1793. Thiers Issard continued its manufacture until 1980 when France Exportation closed. Since then this brand has been owned by Thiers Issard and is still entirely made in Thiers by Thiers-Issard, in mainland France.

This legendary knife came into being in 1880 and is highly prized in the French West Indies where it is said that every family should have this knife.

The Dog Knife is the ‘wedding knife’. It is very important to offer this symbolic knife as a gift for a wedding as it is used a lot in the kitchen for cutting herbs or eating.

There is even a local sauce that takes its name from this knife, the ‘Sauce Chien’. The herbs used in this sauce (spring onions, garlic and parsley) are prepared using this type of knife.

It was generally made with a metal handle but this was changed for convenience to a more modern material.

The most popular model sold nowadays is that with a black nylon handle that can be cleaned in a dishwasher.

So, everyone to their knives, let’s do some cooking!

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May13

The ‘Sauce Chien’ (Dog Sauce) is used in French West Indian cooking to add flavour to your dishes, particularly those using fish. There are various ways to prepare this sauce, depending on taste, some like it spicier than others for example. Simply modify the recipe to suit your taste but replicating the overall French West Indian recipe as much as possible.

Preparation: 5 minutes
Cooking time: 5 minutes

INGREDIENTS:
1 large onion
3 spring onions (or chives)
2 branches of parsley
2 cloves of garlic
1 tomato
1 lime
1 West Indian pimento
Olive oil
Salt, pepper
Water

THE RECIPE
Mix the ingredients in a salad bowl as follows: Grate the onion and the zest of half a lemon, finely chop the spring onion, the parsley, and the garlic cloves. Tear the fresh thyme into small pieces.
Remove the seeds of the tomato and the pimento and dice them both.
Add 3 table spoons of olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
Boil 50cl of water and sprinkle into the mixture. Finally add the juice of half a lemon and add extra seasoning to taste. Cover and leave to macerate until serving.

Enjoy at will with fish, lobster, chicken, grilled food…. It’s delicious !!

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