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Pointe-à-Pitre is the largest city in the French overseas territory of Guadeloupe. It is the cultural and economic center of the archipelago, but it lacks the charm of for example Fort-de-France in Martinique. This is mainly because most of the colonial buildings were destroyed in 1843 by an earthquake.
The Basilique de St Pierre et St Paul at the Place de l'Eglise dates back to 1830 and therefore survived the earthquake. Remarkable about this church are the metal columns supporting a gallery around the top of the church. On this square, colorful because of the many flower stalls, you'll further find the Art Deco style Palace of Justice.
The heart of the city is the Place de la Victoire, a park surrounded by trees. This is where the guillotine used to be. Some old trees around the square were lost in 1989 by hurricane Hugo.In the mornings at the harbor you can find a lively and colorful outdoor market for fresh produce: fruit, vegetables and fish.
Located on a hill in the The Bas du Fort district is the Fort Fleur D'Épée from the eighteenth century, built in the solid style of military architect Vauban. In the same district, you can see tropical marine fish in the Guadeloupe Aquarium, near the beach of Le Gosier. This beach is the largest of Guadeloupe. There are many hotels, cafes, bars, restaurants and nightclubs. Other beaches include Plage de la Caravelle (according to some the most beautiful beach of Guadeloupe) and luxury beach St-François.
Located inside a beautiful nineteenth century building is the Musee Saint-John Perse. The museum is dedicated to the poet and diplomat Alexis Leger, known as St John Perse, who won the Nobel Prize for Literature. He grew up in the same street where the museum is located, but not in this building.
Furthermore, there's a museum dedicated to Victor Schoelcher, that fought in the nineteenth century for the abolition of slavery in the Caribbean. Indians inhabited the island long before the white settlers came to establish their power. The history of the indigenous population is the central theme of the Musée archéologique Edgar Clerc.
Pointe-à-Pitre is located on the island Grande-Terre at the Rivière Salée (Salt River), the narrow strait which separates Grande-Terre from Basse-Terre. On the latter island is the equally named capital of Guadeloupe. The two main islands are very different from each other: Basse-Terre is volcanic in origin and very green, Grande-Terre is composed of limestone and is relatively flat and dry.
Basse-Terre is formed by the vulcano La Soufrière. With a rental car you can drive up to the parking lot in Savane à Mulets (at 1142 meters high). The volcano crater is another 300 meters higher, which can be reached by foot in about an hour. The top of the volcano is often shrouded in clouds, but if it isn't, you'll have a spectacular view.
Situated near the capital Basse-Terre is the Fort Louis Delgrès. That name was given afterwards to honor the leader of the revolt against reintroduction of slavery. That slavery was abolished in 1794, but Napoleon Bonaparte disagreed. He sent troops to Guadeloupe in 1802, but the so called mulattoes (people of mixed blood) resisted violently, led by Delgrès. After three weeks of fighting the resistance had to retreat to the fort. From there Delgrès and 300 of his men succeeded in escaping to then commit suicide in the vulcano by exploding ammunition depots.
The Parc Archéologique des Roches Gravées near Trois Rivières at the south coast of Basse-Terre is interesting. Here you can find Indian petroglyphs, probably made in the first century.
Finding a parking space for your rental car in Pointe-à-Pitre or anywhere else on the islands of Guadeloupe is not a problem. The main roads are of excellent quality, but drive carefully on smaller roads! They are sometimes unpaved or have been lacking maintenance for years, resulting in large pot holes.
The international airport is officially called Aéroport Guadeloupe Pôle Caraïbes, but is also known as Le Raizet. The airport is located 3 kilometers northwest of Point-à-Pitre and you can reach it from the city center with a rental car in less than ten minutes.