are an irresistible group of islands with idyllic Gallic charm.
They are small, dry, and steep, with red and brown cliffs.
Mountains climb to over 1000 feet and white beaches abound.
After a hard day’s sail, it is bound to be love at first sight.
The only small town, Bourg des Saintes, is on the largest
island, Terre D’en Haut. The Saintes have been French since
shortly after they were colonized, and have long supported a
small community that used to rely almost entirely on fishing.
There is a strong link to the north of France, especially
Brittany, and some years ago you could see beautiful Breton
style fishing boats all along the waterfront. Boats are now
designed to take the larger outboards. Since the islands were
never agricultural, no slaves were imported, and the handful of
inhabitants that are of African descent have arrived fairly
Bourg des Saintes
is an adorable seaside town, sparkling clean and picturesque,
with red roofs and a handful of those older Caribbean buildings
that are all balconies and gingerbread. Flowers grow in
abundance around the houses and no one is in a hurry. Local
boats are anchored all along the waterfront.
In the last two decades, tourism has become a major industry.
Many ferries arrive each day from Pointe à Pitre, bringing an
influx of day-trippers. There is a sort of rush hour when they
arrive at 0900 and another when they leave at 1700. Locals make
their living renting scooters, selling t-shirts, and feeding
them. Terre D’en Haut is much quieter before they arrive and
after they have gone. From a yachting point of view, the Saintes
offer delightful choices: you can enjoy the restaurants, shops
and life in Bourg des Saintes, and then, when you want real
peace, you can migrate to Ilet à Cabrit or Terre d’en Bas.
built 1867, stands on a hill to the north of town, with a
commanding view of the harbor. It is only open 0900 to noon, and
there is an entry charge (about 4 Eu), which goes toward the
upkeep of the fort. The fort has been magnificently restored.
The whole of the top half is a well-tended garden of cactuses
and succulents, which are labeled so you can identify all those
plants that have been stabbing you. When the aloes bloom, they
attract a horde of hummingbirds. Iguanas, fat from tourist
scraps, will come right up to you. As you look down on town
through your camera viewfinder, every shot will look like a
picture postcard. Inside, the museum has early furniture and a
section on the famous battle of the Saintes, when England’s
Admiral Rodney demolished the French fleet under De Grasse in
1782. You will also find some lovely examples of the old
Saintoise fishing boats, which are becoming very rare. It is not
hard to walk up to the fort. Even gravitationally-challenged
cruise ship passengers do it.
On the other hand,
you do need to be reasonably fit to make it to the island’s most
spectacular view from Le Chameau, by the old Napoleonic lookout
tower. The road is closed to traffic and you have to walk up. It
is about 1,000 feet in elevation, and quite steep. Check out the
rickety ladders in the tower, and if you think they will support
you, climb them for a spectacular 360° view. You see over town,
round to Ilet à Cabrit, and to the south. This is the highest
point on the island, and from a photographic standpoint, much
like being in an airplane. For photographing town, you will want
the afternoon light. When the garbage dump is smoking, it
detracts from this walk.
You can find a beach to
suit your mood. One of
the nicest is Baie de Pompierre, which we write up in a separate
section. If you like pounding waves, surfing, or body surfing,
take the airport road and keep going on to Grand Anse. This long
straight beach has rugged cliffs at both ends and is totally
exposed to easterly swells. Swimming can be dangerous in rough
conditions. If you walk to the south end of the beach, you will
come to another road. Follow it south to another small, secluded
beach, where you can snorkel around the rocks.
There are many fabulous
walks along marked trails
on the hills between Marigot and Baie de Pompierre. Start in
Marigot behind Le Paillotte restaurant and follow the marked
trails to Fort Caroline. Fort Caroline is just an old ruin, but
there are lots of great views and you are likely to see iguanas.
Le Paillotte makes a convenient place for lunch afterwards.
For the really adventurous, Caraibes Escalade, has a beginners
rock climbing ascent in Baie de Marigot, which is safe in as
much as you are roped onto a series of fixed points. The climb
affords spectacular views .
since July 05
Auberge Les Petits
Pharmacie de Saintes