Ilovecarnivall decided to go to carnival in Guadeloupe this year. This added my total of carnivals in different countries to 15. Although this year’s soca in Trinidad was sweet talking me for all it’s worth, I just had to see what Guadeloupe carnival was about. I heard it was a very different carnival experience. It was more traditional. They were not wrong. I loved it. But before I get to describing my experiences in Guadeloupe, there are a couple of things you need to know before going to this Caribbean Island.
- Guadeloupe is a French territory so the main language is French. If you can speak creole you will probably get by. Some people speak English but not many. But Guadeloupeans will try to help you any which way they can.
- As Guadeloupe is a French territory, the currency is euros.
- Guadeloupe has carnival on at least 5 days straight, the last one being on ash Wednesday for the season. They are held at various times, morning, afternoon, night time. They are held in various towns but the main ones for me are in Pointe A Pitre and Basse Terre.
- Getting around by public transport is not easy at all. The buses can be really infrequent. We were recommended to hire a car and that is what we did. It will be useful to have more than one person who is willing to drive to share the driving.
- Depending on where you are from, driving might be easy or a challenge at the beginning. If you are from the US and many other countries, driving will be fine. It is on the same side that you are used to. If you are from England or some other countries, it will take some getting used to as drivers in Guadeloupe drive on the other side of the road.
- Some places in Guadeloupe can get chilly at night such as St. Francois. It might be useful to pack a light jumper.
- Guadeloupe Carnival remains primarily traditional and has very clear and deep cultural roots. That is what struck me the most. There is no guessing about what they are about. From memory there was only one band I saw with ‘bling’ costumes similar to those in Trinidad and this was by a designer outside of Guadeloupe. Costumes are bit more reserved, more traditional but there is clear significance and reasons for the costumes. Most are cloth based but may use other materials from trees such as coconut trees to make costumes. I had many discussions about this and will talk about it in my subsequent articles.
- Most masqueraders make their own costumes.
- The mas camp is called the ‘locale’
- There is only one pace on the carnival route for bands, especially the more popular ones such as Akyio and that is ‘fast’. Not much chipping so if you want to participate, prepare to march, fast.
So those are a few things which might be helpful to know before going. Now on to our time in Guadeloupe!