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The French overseas territory of Guadeloupe is composed of a small group of enchanting and fascinating islands in the Caribbean, where French tradition meets Creole culture in surroundings of absolutely stunning natural beauty. The main island, charmingly shaped like a butterfly, is divided into two parts: Basse-Terre, where the Grand Soufrière volcano towers over the Guadeloupe National Park, and Grande-Terre, home to idyllic beaches and the major urban settlement of Pointe-a-Pitre. With a history dating back to the mid 1600's, Pointe-a-Pitre encompasses the cultural blend that characterizes Guadeloupe, with 19th-century architecture, interesting museums, bustling markets and the sounds, colours and flavours of a vibrant Creole society. The downtown area, just to the south of the airport and right next to the cruise port terminal, is home to Place de la Victoire, the main square and heart of urban life, as well as the city's best shopping in the covered spice market and its surrounding commercial streets. To the south lies the district of Le Gosier, which bubbles with life in the many restaurants, cafes and bars that surround the marina. Guadeloupe's smaller islands are all easily accessible from Pointe-a-Pitre by air and sea, and are well worth exploring, boasting mezmerizing beauty both in lush tropical landscapes and picture-perfect beaches.
Pointe-a-Pitre is compact and easily navigable, offering nicely-preserved 19th-century architecture, vibrant marketplaces, excellent museums and the lively Place de la Victoire, the central square around which much of urban life revolves. The city also serves as a great home base for exploring the nearby natural beauty of the islands, with easy access to the imposing volcano La Grande Soufrière, the Guadeloupe National Park on Basse-Terre, and the other idyllic islands that make up Guadeloupe.
Guadeloupian cuisine, like much of the island's culture, is the result of a mix of influences. Creole specialities have strong French characteristics and use local spices and flavours to give dishes their unique character. Seafood features heavily on most menus, but local specialities are diverse, including things like goat and many exotic fruits. Many of the city's best restaurants are located around the Marina at Le Gosier, offering expertly prepared dishes and stunning harbour views.
Guadeloupe has one of the oldest coffee-growing traditions in America, producing delicious beans as far back as the 1720's. Guadeloupe boasts many patisseries and cafés that serve excellent local coffee, as well as traditional French pastries with a Creole twist. Many cafes boast great, breezy locations by the water, including many at the Gosier Marina.
Guadeloupian nightlife moves to the beats of Biguine, a unique type of music and dance that blends typical French ballroom dancing with infectious African rhythms (although the exact origin of Biguine is disputed, in Guadeloupians will emphatically claim that it is theirs, and NOT Martinique's), while Zouk and jazz are also very popular on the island. The Marina at Le Gosier is the place to be after dark, with tons of bars, lounges, restaurants and cafes offering cold drinks, good vibes and great views of the harbour.
Visitors to Guadeloupe can find many imported French luxury items, including fashion, perfumes, jewellery and delicatessen, like cheese and liquor. But the most rewarding shopping comes from supporting local industry, which offers wonderful handicrafts, rum and typical clothes and accessories, among others. Markets are a particular pleasure, filled as they are with the colours, sounds and aromas of the islands, and the numerous speciality boutiques carry some unique gifts and mementos.
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