It's crazy that you can get to Guadeloupe in less than 4 hours. Even though I would have taken another day or two to hang out and do very little while drinking local fruit juice (speaking of crazy. I'm wild like that), the cheap flights really do make it a tempting long-weekend trip.
I think the immediate label that struck me about Guadeloupe almost as soon as we landed was charming. And indeed it turned out to be a very charming spot. It's not a very challenging place to get around because the infrastructure is very well laid out and French. But the language is also entirely French, since until very recently there haven't been many non-European travelers to deal with. And now I feel bad that they have to deal with them because of the cheap flights, based purely on some of the cringe-inducing interactions I saw in the airport before our flight back. And I am not good at controlling my face. Can you not at least do a sheepish smile and point, people? It was actually pretty refreshing to have it assumed we could speak French fluently, even though they had to back it down pretty quick when they realized what they were dealing with. The only English we really heard was some teenage cool kids swearing and the rental car guy who apologized for the bird shit on the car. So, there's your theme. Your English swears will be understood, at least! That being said, there's very little to curse about.
Further charm points were gained because you really can't over-plan in advance. I like to have a good lay of the land before I get somewhere, even if it's just ideas of what I'd like to see and eat. Most of the roads on Guadeloupe don't show up or aren't named on google maps, so you can't really scope out what's where on a small scale. You can navigate just fine but you won't be finding lots of businesses you want to check out. Directions are given as follows: bakery (take a right and it's on the right) and chicken place (go into town on the N2, then turn back and you'll smell it). Kind of a forcible spontaneity!
I would normally never book an Airbnb on the same property where the owner lived, but I am so very glad that we did in this case. Fabienne, our host, went so far above and beyond. I may have casually mentioned my interest/obsession with fruits and she sadly told me only bananas and avocados were in season at the moment. The next day when we got back, there was a bowl of tiny, delicious bananas sitting on the table. I accidentally picked a place with an in-house fruit elf?! The next evening, after dropping off rum punch and fritters (!!), I mentioned to Fabienne that several people had mentioned a good chicken spot in town. She said yes, it's great, but it's best if you reserve it in advance, and before we could say anything she whipped out her phone and got us in on the next batch of chicken that would be coming out. This is one time you really wish the conversation had been on speaker because she made a couple funny faces and said 'yes, the girl is American'? 'Err, she speaks a little French'. Was the person saying 'goddammit Fabienne, don't send us any more of your linguistically challenged gringos'?? 'No chicken for you'?? But you get to the chicken place and none of it will matter because you will spend the whole time waiting with wide eyes and drooly mouths. A take-out only spot without a sign or a name, the men in charge have three grills going at different temps for perfectly cooking the chicken through and then getting the skin crispy. The operation is no joke. When you get to the window, they give you a look that says I hope you called in advance, and take your name, you get your chicken in a bag with sauce dumped in (a magic sauce - akin to white bbq sauce in the US - but French'd up with garlic and herbs) and if you ordered fries, you walk around the side of the building where a man is peeling potatoes and frying them. The entire menu is 1/2 chicken, 1/4 chicken, fries. And it is so. good. One of those foods that you know would be worth the flight for just that thing.
A brief overview of our too-short time: Our first day we drove and wandered about Basse Terre (the island where we stayed) and briefly on Grande Terre. Knowing how we like to tropical vacay, I knew we'd be better off on Basse Terre, the jungle-y, mountainous side of Guadeloupe, instead of Grande Terre, the more built-up side that does have the possibly-more-stunning beaches. Day two we woke up and drove to Trois-Rivieres where we were jumping on a ferry to Les Saintes, a small group of islands off of Basse Terre. As soon as I saw pictures of the colorful creole houses on Terre de Haut I knew I wanted to go, and turns out the snorkeling is also amazing, so Dan needed no convincing. There are also electric golf cart rentals (golfettes) so we tore around in one of those bad boys to make sure we got to see everything we wanted to before the return ferry. My must-dos were - see beach goats at La Pompierre, eat fish at a beachfront restaurant, and eat tourments d'amour from one of the ladies selling the pastries from their madras-lined baskets. It took me until the afternoon to find my pastry lady, but these things are all easily accomplished. With plenty of time for snorkeling and swimming and the types of things normal people want to do on an island. The last day we took a quick-ish trip up La Soufriere to check out the jungle scenery. I jokingly decided to get Dan a (disgusting) pre-hike carbonated black licorice drink but turns out he liked it. Damn you Dan!