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I live in Brooklyn, NY and I love it here.  I came here for my career in 2009 and haven't once looked back. 

Monday, February 22, 2016

Guadeloupe...

It's the first morning of the year where the sun is far enough north in the morning to pierce my office windows.  Spring is coming. It feels good. It was ridiculously mild this weekend too. I mean, I was walking around with my jacket unzipped for crying out loud.

Even though this winter has been milder than most up here I've still reached that point where a tropical vacation is looking pretty good (Let's face it, that's been happening since I got back from Nica last March). So, I've been planning one. You know I have.

This one: Guadeloupe. In the Caribbean, not Mexico...the Mexico one is not even spelled the same. Just focus. Here's where it is on Google maps in case you have no idea. Why Guadeloupe? Several reasons. I've never been to the Caribbean before and have wanted to go for as long as I can remember...though I've never been interested in the typical Caribbean vacation: cruises, resorts, touristy shit. Nope. Not for me. So, then, Guadeloupe happens to be the easiest one to get to that is off the beaten path and not covered in resorts. No, in fact, there are rain forests, volcanoes, deserted beaches (some of them all nude), rum distilleries, hiking, organic tropical fruits, world class diving, an underwater nature reserve, probably monkeys and French and Creole speaking people. Yes, Guadeloupe is a French overseas department still so I'll get to use my French a little, if not a lot. Excited? You bet I am.

It all started with landing on articles like this, this and this while searching for seclusion and adventure in the Caribbean. I had originally zeroed in on Dominica for a destination.  It had everything. Beaches, jungles, volcanoes, wildlife, history, French speaking people, and it was off the beaten path for sure. But it was too off the beaten path. Flying into the place took two to three connections on most itineraries that were popping up and, in some cases, overnight stays on another island. That had me initially considering going ahead and making this a two or three island visit. I even considered making the second leg of the trip a ferry ride instead of a flight as there is a pretty extensive network of ferries that go between many of the islands.  The method became, find a direct flight from NYC to one of these islands and then take a roughly two hour ferry ride over to Dominica.

So this is how I landed on Guadeloupe (Gwada as the locals affectionately call it). There were flights to Barbados, Montserrat and Puerto Rico that were direct and I figured I could fly from any of these over but Montserrat and Guadeloupe were close enough to ferry and Guadeloupe seemed like it had enough going on that we could justify staying a few days there. There were even several smaller islands that are all a part of Guadeloupe, reachable by the same ferry system.  In fact, people usually consider Guadeloupe an archipelago of five islands and that's if you don't consider all the smaller atolls and sand spits surrounding it but I digress. I started to really discover Guadeloupe and become intrigued by it...and I also discovered that the ferries are shit. No one anywhere on the web had anything good to say about them and where they did, it was only generic reviews. The worst ones went from detailing the all too common delays and cancellations and the difficulty in getting a refund in the case of delays, all the way to people vomiting in bags due to rough seas.  No thanks.

So back to Guadeloupe itself, I also became intrigued by Soufriére. the semi active volcano on the jungle side of Guadeloupe, the larger island called Basse Terre. Easier to hike than Concepción in Nicaragua and featuring countless fumaroles and mud pits and hot springs and waterfalls. I was sold. I might make this a thing, hiking active volcanoes.

The next phase of planning had us scanning Airbnb's on the island. I ultimately decided we should split our stay between opposite sides of the island just for the sake of not having to drive an hour to get to and from the airport but also so that we wouldn't have to drive an hour to get to the trailhead for the volcano hike.  We settled on staying in Le Gosier, just outside the town where the airport is located, for the first few days, exploring the flatter eastern island of Grand Terre. Then we will move to Basse Terre to a little town called Saint Claude on the flanks of the mountainous region where we will explore Basse Terre, its national park area, the zoological park, the rum distilleries and the mountains and waterfalls. And of course, hike the volcano.

I can't believe it's happening in ten days. I'm already doing packing dry runs and seeing what I can fit in one bag, since we're taking a direct from JFK to Point-à-Pitre and I don't want to check anything if I can help it. Among the things I will be cramming in my bag? Camera equipment. A few months ago, I was walking with a friend outside the Barclays Center and stumbled on a GoPro Hero 3 camera on a monopod laying on the ground. It had obviously fallen out of the bag of some hapless tourist. I immediately swiped it up because I figured this person probably just got right on a train and could potentially have not even realized where and when he dropped it. So naturally, someone was probably going to pick it up long before he could get back there and it might as well be me. Knowing how much that would suck to lose a pricey camera like that along with all the photos and videos on it, I tried my best to figure out if there was any way to get in touch with this person. All I could determine was that this person was most likely French and had done a mud race in Lyon months prior and had come to New York, seen the sights and then dropped his camera right in my path. I tried Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter but I ultimately gave up...and then purchased a pack of GoPro accessories to have fun with while we're on vacation.

So expect not just pictures but HD underwater video. We leave on March 2nd and return on the 11th. Hopefully by then, I'll be getting even more sun through my office window.

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