Travel narrative about my experience in Guadeloupe, the best kept secret in the Caribbean!
Death in Paradise
British tourists come to vacation on this beautiful island with murderous intent. Maybe because murder is so ugly, they want to do it in a beautiful place? Who understands the mind of a murderer? Well, the detectives of Death in Paradise do, of course! In each episode, we are presented with only half the facts, so we can’t possibly figure out who did it, and then, toward the end of the show, the detective has something similar to an aneurism, says he knows who did it, how they did it or why they did it, but he won’t tell his team, who he’s been working closely with all along. No, not until he can do the logical cha-cha, aka “the reveal”, in front of all the potential suspects will his team find out what he knows. It’s formulaic, but we keep watching. Why? Because Guadeloupe is a truly gorgeous island, a perfect place to work out a whodunnit.
Real chocolate is to die for!
If I told you, that most of the chocolate you eat isn’t authentic, you’d say pish-posh, but that is actually the case. Real chocolate has three ingredients: cocoa powder, cocoa butter and sugar. Cocoa butter is really expensive, due to its extraction process, so it’s a luxury ingredient. Most of the chocolate we get in the stores is adulterated with other, cheaper, fats and oils.
At La Maison du Cocoa, I enjoyed the pure taste of chocolate in varying degrees of sweetness. It was chocolate to die for!
Pick your poison!
Rum distilleries litter this little island, and most are still functioning in some capacity. Here is an excerpt from The Rum Auctioneer:
“In Basse-Terre Island you will find:
- Bologne distillery – The oldest distillery in Guadeloupe, the rum is distilled on two copper column stills between the months of November and August, and is unique in that it is distilled only to around 55-60% ABV, allowing more of the natural cane flavour to be present in the spirit. Their white rum is the predominant ingredient across the island in Ti’Punch, the local aperitif. The distillery began laying down casks to produce aged rum for the first time in 2008.
- Esperance distillery – The Esperance distillery was built by Louis-Philippe Henry Longueteau in Capesterre Belle Eau Township. Esperance became known as the single farm distillery in Guadeloupe producing both the Longueteau and Karukera brands.
- Carrere distillery – More commonly referred to as Montebello after its flagship rum brand, the Carrere distillery is located in Petit Bourg. Carrere operates a two-column copper still, and its spirit runs at around 85% ABV, unusually high for the production of agricole in the region.
- Reimonenq distillery – The Reimonenq distillery is located in Sainte-Rose and was established in 1916 by brothers, Joseph and Fernand. Often referred to as the Musee Du Rhum due to the on-site museum, opened in 1989 and dedicated to the history of sugar and rum production. The modern distillery, built in 1969 operates a stainless steel column still with a thermal heat exchanger, and produces the traditional agricole style rum of Guadeloupe using sugarcane juice produced from an electric mill, unlike the steam-powered machinery more commonly used elsewhere in the region.
In Grande-Terre Island you will find:
- Damoiseau distillery – Originally known as the Bellevue au Moule distillery, Damoiseau is located in the Bellevue estate in Grande-Terre, and was established in the 19th century by the Rimbaud family of Martinique. It was bought by Roger Damoiseau in 1942, who converted it into a rum agricole distillery, which is today run by his grandson, Herve. Damoiseau is one of the largest Guadeloupe distilleries, accounting for close to half of its overall production.
In Marie-Galante Island you will find:
- Bellevue distillery – Not to be confused with the Damoiseau distillery in the Bellevue estate of Grande-Terre, the Bellevue distillery is located at the heart of the largest sugarcane plantation on Marie Galante. It was established in 1821 and today produces white and aged rhum agricole on its continuous column still.
- Bielle distillery – Bielle was founded at the end of the 19th century and today is run by Dominique Thiery who has built a reputation for Bielle as the island’s top producer. Bielle produces around 320,000 litres of agricole rum on its column still every year. It also houses a bespoke Muller pot still, designed by Italian grappa maker Vittorio Capovilla for his Rhum collaboration with Luca Gargano of Velier.
- Poission distillery – Also known as the Père Labat distillery, it’s origins trace back to 1863 when Catherine Poisson decided to open a sugar factory on the estate which she had purchased a few years prior. The profitability of sugar dwindled towards the end of the century though, and the estate was sold to Edoard Rameaux who built the Poisson distillery. Distilling was originally on a Barbados pot still, however, this was replaced in 1955 by Creole column still which is still in operation. Rameaux named his rum after Jean-Baptiste Labat, a 17th century French clergyman known as Pere Labat, well-remembered on Guadeloupe for introducing pioneering methods in sugar production. ” Source
After tasting all the great rums, it may be hard to name your poison!
Something smells fishy…
Cuisine in Guadeloupe is very seafood centric. The basic dish is fish, rice and vegetables. Cod fritters are on every menu, sometimes paired with a really spicy dip. Many a British detective has been tricked into tasting some island dish, that is so spiced up that the poor man appears red and sweaty, desperate for relief using water, milk, or beer. In the end, no remedy takes the heat down. (Hint: what does work is to use bread to sponge off the hot oil from your tongue and throat. You’re welcome.)
Poisoning food and drink is a favorite method of murder on the show. Knocking off their longtime friends or wives, before they change their will or before the divorce is final, happens a lot. Murder is always about money or love!
Luring someone on a hike in the rainforest is a great way to cause an “accident”. Many “accidents” happen on the show either in the rainforest during group outings, archaeological digs or while surveying weather on the volcano. Luckily for us, unlike the fictional island, Guadeloupe is really peaceful and nature walks are lovely, often ending in beautiful waterfalls like this one.
Even though murder was the subplot here, rest assured, there are very few real murders on Guadeloupe. I checked. See here.