Location: Roseau, Dominica
Today, all of it was spent hiking into Dominica’s Valley of Desolation. It’s a geologically active area that has hot springs, geothermal vents, and one of only two boiling lakes in the world. It’s a spectacular place, but no one at home that I talk to has heard of it. For that matter, many haven’t heard of Dominica and confuse it with the Dominican Republic, with which it has nothing in common. We visit a lot of places; it’s sort of inherent in the way that I live life. Just about everywhere we go is a tourist site in one way or another. Thinking about my travel for the past five years, there is only one destination in the Caribbean that I can think of where the concept of tourism hasn’t changed how people live. It’s really rather amazing that in the dozens of places and countries I visit in a life on the go, there is only one where the traveler isn’t a primary focus for all or some of the country. This is why we spend so much time in Dominica. I’m going to devote this post to the places in the Eastern Caribbean that the tourists don’t go. The local bars and the parks and attractions that don’t show up in the 4-hour taxi tour:
Grenada: The Carenage. Ok, so this one is right on the beaten path, just a short walk from the cruise terminal, but it still retains the feel of a locals place. The fishing boats stack themselves four deep along the wall. The bustle is nonstop from 7 AM until the traffic chaotic, and the number of people makes it a bit cramped at times. You can still tuck into a local bookshop, grab a roti from a street vendor, and just do some people watching.
Carriacou: The Cricket Ground. Carriacou is a sleepy place, to begin with, an island that is quite proud of its traditional boat building heritage. They still build sloops, and you’ll see Carriacou sloops all around the Caribbean on the racing circuit. If you happen to be lucky enough to visit on a Sunday, try and make your way to a cricket match; nothing else will be going on anyway. Ask any Englishman how it played and you’ll be more confused about the rules and why this sport is popular than if you hadn’t. Take in a Carriacou cricket match, and you still might never understand the rules, but you’ll understand why it’s popular. The drinks flow freely, local food vendors line up, and a booming sound system fires up the local music every time there is a stop in play.
Bequia: Hop on a bus over to Paget Farm or Southside as it is known. Have the driver drop you off at the fisheries complex. There are a few racing boats under cover in the sheddefinitely, some fishermen who can spin a yarn. The highlight though, is the dirt-cheap lobster. About $4 a pound cheap. A ten-minute bus ride away in Port Elizabeth that same lobster will run you $30 a pound or more in the beachfront restaurants.
Martinique: The town of St. Pierre can be a nice visit at any time of year. I consider the French experts at taking it easy, and the French Caribbean even more so. You can, therefore, expect that a small town far from a city in the French Caribbean is incredibly laid back. You would be right. Fresh baguettes in the morning, mandatory nap time in midday, a few historical buildings destroyed by a volcano, and maybe some diving on wrecks brought down by the same volcano. Not a bad place overall. Bonus points if you can arrive for holiday festivities
Dominica: The whole island. Dominica is a place that I hadn’t heard of before I visited. I’m not sure why, as culturally, it has English, French and Carib roots, which make for some of the best homegrown music and art in this area. For natural beauty, I have a hard time thinking of another island in the windward chain that can come close. Its just everywhere on Dominica and tourists aren’t.
Guadeloupe: Visit Les Saintes. The main street is a bit touristy, but nothing compared to the scene at the more popular beaches and places on Guadeloupe. Walk-in any direction long enough, and you’ll find yourself at an abandoned beach with great snorkeling to boot. Grab a baguette and a sampling of the French cheeses and make an afternoon of it. It took me a few visits to the windward islands to appreciate the places. A big part of that was learning to go a little bit farther than the first place next to the dinghy dock. Asking around a bit and not being afraid of walking into the unpainted shack a few blocks from the main drag has led to the best memories and most unique experiences.