Goodbye Guadeloupe it’s Martinique on Monday!

Pointe des Châteaux

I can safely say that I now know the island of Guadeloupe pretty well. I’ve been to Basse Terre, Grande Terre, through the middle, flown over Les Saintes, been up part of the Soufrière volcano, snorkeled around the Réserve Cousteau, hung out of the beaches of Sainte Anne, Bananier, Bouillante, seen the carnivals in Sainte Rose, Pointe à Pitre and Gosier, visited a coffee museum, tasted many rums, eaten various fishes, bokits and coconut sorbets, swam the Atlantic and Caribbean oceans that hug the island’s coasts, been to the Marinas in Pointe à Pitre and Saint François, been to Pointe des Châteaux, the island’s narrowest tip and spoken with locals of all ages.

In terms of musical endeavors, I have seen several spontaneous jam sessions full of percussion and singing, have watched a floury of musical groups parade by during the carnival festivities, have been to a few créole concerts and discussed the topic of Guadeloupian music with residents as well as tourists. Gwo ka, zouk and dancehall are the dominant and popular genres of music here, and they represent Caribbean island culture so well.

It is fascinating how one can become so adapted and used to a place after a few weeks of exploration and discovery. I know my way around the island, I feel somewhat adapted to its culture, I have been to most of the hot spots and also frequented areas hidden from tourists. I feel not like I have visited Guadeloupe but that I have lived here.

The best part of traveling for a month in each island has been the learning. Once I feel like I’ve settled down, I leave and explore a new environment. Many may not see the appeal in this but I love the thrill, the fast pace, and learning how to adapt quickly and open-mindedly to everything which is exposed to me in each and every discovery. I enjoy the fact that I have just started to settle down in Guadeloupe and that I am leaving on Monday to Martinique. Four weeks will be my time limit to consume as much of this last island as I possibly can, before writing my final Tropicalove articles…

Leaving to another island..

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Carried away by music

Cameroonian band and owners of Le Massai restaurant

Yesterday at 1PM I was invited to play some music in an African restaurant called Le Massai, a 5 mins walk from my hotel residence. When I showed up with my guitar in hand, a band of Cameroonian musicians were sitting round a table waiting to have a short jam session. The friendly owners of the restaurant introduced me to them, and told me to sit between them and, music maestro! I felt a little overwhelmed as I wasn’t at all sure what we were going to play together, but after 2 or 3 mins of tinkering around, we found some common ground and improvised harmoniously all together. It was great fun, entrancing, pleasing, different, exotic for me, and seemed to please the clients and the owners too, who requested ”more!” as soon as we finished our first song.

The owners of the restaurant had seen me with my guitar the previous evening – I had met Rachel and Grace there for dinner at Le Massai before going to Rachel’s house for a BBQ party. They were instantly very enthused by my apparent musicianship and immediately invited me to come to the restaurant the following day to play for them. After the jam with the musicians, I chatted quite a while the two owners who were very pleased with the performance, they offered me a drink, and I was even told come to the restaurant whenever to hang out or eat for free. I spent the earlier part of the afternoon with them, helping them close for lunch and speaking about all sorts of things, such as the benefits of travel, the release music can offer people, etc…

The band also were very enthused by this different sort of jam session, gave me one of their CDs, and insisted on having photos taken of us all together. They were a trio – two percussionists, and one guy played what I can best describe as a hand made mini steel guitar. It made a fantastic sound – unfortunately I do not remember the name of the instrument as it was very difficult to pronounce! Anyway, what a great afternoon full of new discoveries and musical treats!

Goziéval, the carnival in Gosier

I went back to the room to put my guitar down, and could here the drumming and energy of the Goziéval, Gosier’s very own carnival beginning to sound from the town’s streets. I headed out there late afternoon, watched the parades, followed some, went up and down the town’s center… The West Indies carnivals are full of stands which sell sweets, bon-bons, popcorn, candy-floss, lollipops, sodas, beers, and these special cold treats which consist of crushed ice and colorful flavored syrups served in plastic cups. And of course, there are the famous snack stands, which sell Agoulous, regular sandwiches and the infamous Bokits – very filling and delicious sandwiches made with deep fried bread. All these stands sell their treats at incredibly low prices, and people munch on the snacks as the groups parade by. I have never in my life been to something so unique.

The groups that parade by are always full to the brim with energy, rhythm, sound, percussion, lively dancing, incredible costumes. One large group which I followed with much enthusiasm boasted recycled costumes – hats made with plastic bottles, belts made with bottle caps. I thought this was very representative of island culture. If the beat of a particular group really gets you going, you can decide to follow it and let yourself be carried away by the music.

BBQ party

These past days I have met Rachel’s housemates and fellow ERASMUS friends – all doing really interesting things like medical studies, english teaching jobs, being part of travel associations… It is really nice to meet fellow keen travelers and hear their takes on cultural differences, political observations, fun tips and advice on what to visit, who to meet, what to do with your spare time. It is also heart-warming to see all different types of cultural backgrounds and nationalities blend together so well – this is one of the things I appreciate so much about our generation: the eagerness a lot of us have to travel, communicate, understand and learn about each other.

I have another week left in Guadeloupe – next Monday I fly to Martinique, the final destination of my incredible tropical journey…

Mele Kaliki Maka!

Time is flying by and these are my last days in Hawaii. Whether it be in Maui or in Oahu, I have been made to feel at home since day one and for that I will miss Hawaii very much. Of course, it is certainly easy to get used to being here on these beautiful and bountiful islands.

I am making the most of my last days by soaking in the sun, walking across the shoreline daily, swimming alongside the tropical fish, sipping fruit juices, meeting people and listening to ukuleles. I try as much as possible to practice the Aloha Spirit. I am very fond of this culture and will take this state of mind with me wherever I go now.

Hawaii has taught me to be happier person. Perhaps because I have taken the time to travel and discover what I love – music music music – but both Maui and Oahu have added so many surprisingly heart warming things to my travels so far: brave, genuine people, places rich with beauty and grace, tranquility, healthy lifestyles and much talent.

Both islands are heaving with rich creativity whether it be in music or other forms of art. What a discovery… Every concert I have been too has woken up some inspiration in me. Granted some were more skilled than others, but all musicians I have come across have demonstrated passion and originality which I didn’t know was going to be so prevalent before arriving.

At home, we have the habit of seeing our usual street buskers, listening to our favorites, sharing music with friends perhaps, going to concerts hosted by familiar artists or genres and styles we are used to – it is rare that we venture off in unknown musical territory purposely, and even less so in different countries or geographical regions. And honestly, when you do, it opens your musical mind and it is truly worth it. I recommend paying more attention to foreign art forms when traveling, this will definitely enhance anyone’s stay.

I can’t wait to see what I discover next in Tahiti and in the Caribbean. Who knows what musical treats are lying there, and also what their cultures have to offer in terms of state of mind and mentality? It is exciting, and I’m also looking forward to simply exploring and continuing my tropical travel adventures.

Mahalo Hawaii, and Mele Kaliki Maka to everyone!