The cooks feast

Arrivée des cuisinières à la cathédrale
Arrival of the cooks at the mass to bless their foods

One day at the deep of the Creole traditions

Each year, on the 10 of August, the ladies take over the power in Guadeloupe highlighting the rich culture and tradition of the islanders.  Fans of food will mostly remember the delicious dishes, all those local specialties with flavors that will ignite your nostrils, awake you bud taste and open your appetite like no others.

L'association des Cuisinières de Guadeloupe
The cook  association Guadeloupe

The Cook feast is more than just that.

From Generation to generation, the cook ladies cultivate the spirit of the Tradition in a fraternal way, as a reminder of the essence of this movement. This association counts over 200 female chefs, from 14 to 97 years old who proudly show off their islander identity wearing their traditional costumes which are famous for their bright colors and delicately knotted hats that they wear with elegance and certainty.

For over a century, this tradition comes alive every year since the source of this popular movement on the 14 of July 1916.

Beginning of last century, a maid loses her husband and barely can find enough money to bury her lost husband. The word goes around and earing the story of this widow ‘s situation, 5 ladies decides to find a way to help her. They start to collect from one maid to another and soon, a new saying comes to town: the « Cuistot Mutuel » (mutuality chef). This became the first mutual funds organization in Guadeloupe. This guarantee to its members to have a decent burial upon their death. Since then, the Ladies’ cook carry on this tradition and offers their services at funerals.

Messe des Cuisinières à Pointe à pitre
The ladies Chef mass in Pointe à pitre

The true watchdog of the tradition

Over the years, these ladies have built a strong association defending with pride the culinary tradition of the islands along with the traditional costumes and ceremonial rites in Guadeloupe. True watch dog of the Guadeloupean culture, this ladies wear with pride their handmade traditional costumes, easily noticeable by the hand stitched apron with the effigy of St Laurent, their saint.

Some would say you have to have a certain does of humor to use St Laurent as your patron saint.

Father Laurent de Rome was condemned to be burn live because he refused to give away to Rome the treasures of the church to feed the army of the empire. The legend says that his last words were:

« Here we go, miserable soul, now that you have grilled one side of me; turn it over then eat. »

…and there he becomes the Patron saint of the chefs, cook and the meat grillers!

Portrait de femmes remarquables: les Cuisinières de Guadeloupe
Portrait of remarkable women

La procession : time to share and joy for all

After the mass, the ladies Chefs meet at the entrance of the cathedral in their traditional colored costumes. Lining up to start the procession, the chefs carry various local dishes, baskets filled with local fruits and vegetables, kitchen utensils and other local delicacies. The president and her assistants announce the beginning of the festivities by shaking a serenade of bells and start the march. At each street corner, they announce their presence and give away the best meals along the procession. They will go all over cross town singing along the way at the rhythm of the Gwo Ka and sharing with the locals, including some amazing cakes and sweets!

Clochette de la présidente de l'association
Clochette de la présidente de l’association
Défilé des Cuisinières après la messe
Défilé des Cuisinières après la messe
Les futures codons bleu de l'association des Cuisinières
Les futures cordons bleus de l’association des Cuisinières

Then, it is time to all meet for the outdoor food festival. The ladies Chef (Cordon Bleu) will make you taste their specialties and creativity of their unique artistic skills (there is a charge for lunch) One of the best gastronomic experience in the island! later on, music will take over and dancing through the night will be the ultimate finale.

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Les Saintes, Terre-de-Bas

Les Saintes, Terre de Bas
Les Saintes, Terre de Bas – Guadeloupe

Wild and frozen in time

Much less visited than its sister island, Terre-de-Bas is the second inhabited island by size in the Les Saintes archipelago with about 2000 inhabitants, mostly concentrated on 2 villages: bourg of Grande-Anse and bourg of Petite-Anse. Terre-de-Bas, with its mountains peaks and cliff drop looks keeps an overall wild and natural theme that seems to have frozen in time. The main activities in the island are fishing and local handcraft like the famous Salako, a manmade hat from the island that looks like the hats you can find in Vietnam.

Les Saintes, Terre de Bas
Les Saintes, Terre-de-Bas – Guadeloupe

Les colors of Mother Nature

If you love Nature, you will fall in love with Terre-de-Bas! Whether you like to spend time on the beach or rather take a deep in the ocean and snorkel or deep dive, you will find you elements there. For the hikers and people who likes to explore the ground, you will be able to hike many paths into the wild nature of the island. There are for main hiking paths in the island ([the Cliff hike] Trace des Falaises, [hike about the pond] Trace du dessus de l’Etang, [hike at the pond shore] Trace du pied de l’Etang and [the Hill hike] Trace du Morne). All the hiking paths meet at the center of the island where you will be able to have a broad view of the region and get familiar with the area with the large map display at the “Citerne” location. From the top, a unique sightseeing spot overlooking Guadeloupe with a clear view of the islands of Marie Galante, Desirade and Dominica! As you will go through those hiking paths, you will be able to appreciate the wide array of bright colors that Mother Nature displays, from the warm colors of the savanna to the deep intense green of the rain forest balanced with the nuances of blue between the sky and the ocean! Whether you are an avid hiker or it is your first time, you will find the hiking path that will meet your needs. Novice will be able to engage on the 45 minutes hiking path while the expert can walk onto the cliff hiking path for a 3 hour of pure fun!

Neither to say, you will need good comfortable shoes to adventure on those paths along with enough water and a good sunscreen protection.

Grande Anse beach is the famous spot in the island with a ¾ mile of white pristine sand and coconut trees but you will not meet a lot of people there; swimming is not recommended at this location as the beach is facing the ocean with very strong waves but still is a great location to relax on the sand, get a nice tan while listening to the waves breaking up on the shore. Only 10 minutes from the ferry dock, this location is easily reachable.

Plongée sous marine aux Saintes
Diving – Les saintes, Terre-de-Bas 

Unique spot of deep diving!

Grande Anse beach is the famous spot in the island with a ¾ mile of white pristine sand and coconut trees but you will not meet a lot of people there; swimming is not recommended at this location as the beach is facing the ocean with very strong waves but still is a great location to relax on the sand, get a nice tan while listening to the waves breaking up on the shore. Only 10 minutes from the ferry dock, this location is easily reachable.

For the avid divers, Grande bay beach is the way to go! It is a small beach with black sand carved into a lush vegetation. Make sure to get your equipment ready and use fins to be able to keep up with all you will have to see underwater as it has a very rich fauna and flora.

If you are looking for swimming location with quiet waters, you will go for this small black sand beach near by the fisherman wharf. This beach is exposed on the Caribbean Sea side and is an ideal location for a great swim with quiet waters.

Pêcheurs des Saintes
Les pêcheurs de Terre de Bas – Les Saintes

The best fishersmen in Guadeloupe

The fisherman in Terre-de-Bas are known to be the best in their category in the archipelago of Guadeloupe! You will need to be there when they come back from the sea after a long day at large!

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Les Saintes, Terre-de-Haut

Baie des Saintes
La Baie des Saintes, Terre de Haut

La baie des Saintes

2 of the islands are populated: Terre-de-Haut and Terre-de-Bas. It is worth a trip there! Jump onto the ferry leaving from the Capital Point a Pitre, St Francois or Trois Rivieres.

Le tourment d'amour, spécialité des Saintes
Spécialité Saintoise : le tourment d’amour

Le tourment d’amour

A quick boat trip and you will reach the wharf where the Tourment d’Amour is offering you the local delicacy of the island: a cute little pie made of sponge cake with shredded coconut, a pinch of lime zest, a touch of vanilla and a taste of cinnamon sprinkle. The recipe came from the tradition of the fishermen wives preparing daily this delicacy for their husbands coming back from work after a long day of labor at sea, giving them a taste of home, sweet home

Terre-de-Haut island is a paradise where no cars are allowed (except electric cars); you can walk all over the island or rent a bicycle or mini scooter to discover the island.

Vue du Fort Napoléon - Les Saintes
Scenic view onto les Saintes from Fort Napoléon (Napoleon Fortress)

Napoleon Fortress

Napoleon fortress, the only fortress where we ever heard a gun shot! Fort Napoleon was mostly used as a jail then was converted into a museum dedicated to the lifestyle of the islanders. Surrounding the fort, you will be able to walk through the botanical garden following the custom guard path where the vigils were protecting the island and looking for invaders and smugglers.

On the top, a breathtaking view overlooking the island of Cabrit holding the vestige of the Josephine fortress, but also the Guadeloupe islands, Dominica and Marie Galante islands.

Maison bateau d'Adolphe Catan
Maison bateau d’Adolphe Catan

The Boat house d’Adolphe Catan

An interesting construction of a house shaped as a boat that was built by Guadeloupian photographer Adolphe Catan in 1942. The building was donated to the town of Terre-de-Haut as a residence for the doctors in the islands in 1955.

Plage de Pompierre, Les Saintes
Terre de Haut – Plage de Pompierre

Pompierre beach

Probably the best beach in the island. Pompierre beach is naturally protected by a rocky barrier which provides a quiet beach perfect for swimming with family and kids. 1500 feet of white sand beach with shade areas provided by the coconut trees and the Paletuvier trees along the beach. It is also the favorite beach for the local iguanas and they will come to you as they are used to share the beach with humans.

Le Pain de Sucre, Les Saintes
Le Pain de Sure – Les Saintes

The famous sugar loaf

Famous beach fitting perfectly in a postcard moment, this is a landmark in the island! It will take you about 45 minutes walking to reach this famous location unless you rent a boat and reach the beach from the ocean. Ideal location for snorkeling with lots of colored fishes and smashing corals, a lot of local sailors Anker nearby this beach for a day to relax.

Plage de Crawen - Les Saintes
Wild beach – Les Saintes

Wild Crawen bay

Another dream location is Crawen, bay, a little wild beach far away from the town where you will feel like Robin Crusoe on his deserted island. This area is a great spot for snorkeling with a large variety of fishes and magnificent corals. Wait for the sunset before you leave as it is one of the best in the island.

But there is more to Terre-de-Haut with lots of charming little beaches like Anse Rodrigue or Anse du Figuier for example.

Débarcadère de Terre de Haut
Arrivée à Terre de Haut, Les Saintes

Take your time to discover the island

Ideally, you will need 2 days to truly embrace the island life at Terre-de-Haut; it will give you enough time to discover all the magic corners of the island, explore the villages with their colorful architecture, meet with the fisherman and the local market and enjoy the island lifestyle.

 

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