There is sugarcane growing right next door, waving in the French Caribbean breeze.
And there was sugarcane along the highway on the way here.
And there’s sugarcane in my glass.
This is rhum country, the the island of Basse-Terre in Guadeloupe, a land of lush rainforests, towering volcanoes and some of the best rum on earth.
Its unique microclimate has produced a terroir in which sugarcane thrives, where Guadeloupe’s Rhum Agricole, the unique French Caribbean rum that distills fermented sugar cane juice instead of molasses, is liquid gold.
While both Martinique and Guadeloupe produce Rhum Agricole, Martinique’s rums have found more success beyond their shores; the outstanding rums of Guadeloupe, at least outside of France, remain largely a cask of mystery.
And here at the Habitation Saint Charles, next to a field of cane, is the island’s coolest new hotel.
There are just nine rooms here, along with three villas, a mix of rooms, bungalows and villas, with some of the bungalows and all of the villas boasting their own private plunge pools.
Inside, the rooms are well-appointed and sleek, some with Smeg appliances and others with both indoor and outdoor showers.
Mine, for example, had a beautiful stone-walled plunge pool with a waterfall, a welcome soundtrack in the afternoon, swapping places at night for the rhythmic song of Guadeloupe’s tree frogs.
There’s a lovely main pool that, instead of a fence or glass wall, is built into the shape of a rock garden; a delightful bar with a nice selection of rums from around the Caribbean; and a three-meals-a-day eatery featuring modern Creole cuisine.
No, it’s not on the beach, and there isn’t a view; the story here is the tranquility and the privacy; you’re here in the fields and the meadows of Basse-Terre, in an endlessly serene environ that marries an airy, relaxing setting with a prime location for exploring Basse-Terre’s collection of rum distilleries.
And hotel, which opened at the beginning of this year, is instantly one of the best hotels in all of Guadeloupe.
And if you’re looking for the family heritage of Reimonenq, the rugged artistry of Montebello or the aged wonders of Karukera, every one of them is just a 15 or 20 minute drive.
And that’s just the beginning of exploring the rum wonders of Basse-Terre — go further and you can explore the legendary Bologne or the innovations of the brand-new Papa Rouyo.
Even better, the superb beaches of Deshaies (yes, that’s the town from Death in Paradise) and the northwestern coast are less than an hour away, with equally spectacular stretches of sand on the journey there.
And after a day of exploring, or an afternoon at the beach, you come back to the Habitation, find your hanging chair or descend into your pool, perhaps enjoying the treasures you’ve acquired in the day.
And you listen to the tree frogs and you raise your glass to the quiet of a country evening.
Rhum country, that is.
For more, visit the Habitation Saint Charles.
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