This was our Wednesday destination two weeks ago.
There are a few distilleries left in Guadeloupe, and from what we can see it is possible to visit at least some of them. Sugar cane can either be taken to the factory and made into sugar or to the distillery and made into rum. Papy thought that the latter pays a bit better, Bertie thought that you only take the cane to rum outside of the factory season, I remain unclarified on why you would use one rather than the other!
From my reading, I have discovered that the reason there is only one factory left here and a few distilleries is not so much that the island hasn't been able to produce enough, but that since the mid-1800s the demand for it has been falling drastically. This was initially due to the innovation of producing sugar from sugar beet, and then due to all the other countries entering in on the market and producing more cheaply and effectively. I was interested to note that following the first world war, a huge limit was put on rum being imported into France, partly in response to the alcoholism that had crept in as rum was liberally used to encourage the troops.
In any case, the lack of successful alternative product to import has greatly influenced the economic difficulties faced by the island, not helped by the frequent devastation through the last two centuries by hurricanes, earthquakes, volcano action, fires....it's no bed of roses in the Caribbean!
Back to the distillery. Bertie's sister had recommended it as a lovely place to visit and picnic in the grounds, but they had been the Sunday. Going during the week had the advantage of seeing the place in action....but the disadvantage of NOISE! It really was deafening! The men working there all had earphones on and I don't know how the houses nearby tolerate it!
We watched as the cane came in on the back of titans (huge lorries) - as it has been mechanically cut it is already in small pieces when it is loaded into the machine where it passes along a conveyor belt and all the juice is extracted. Cane that has been brought by individuals and cut by hand is still in one long stem and tied up the traditional way by a cane leaf.
There was no proper tour, just some boards explaining the process, and I kept a close eye on the girls whilst looking at the machinery as it would have been oh so easy to slip on the metal stairs into it (rather like a James Bond film).... Health and safety does not seem to be a major concern here!!
Bertie explained to us how Papy used to bring his cane to the same type of machines but at the factory (the initial process is the same) and it was interesting to imagine them there.
We had a look at the windmill, no longer in action, and there was plenty of rum on offer at the bar/shop but we declined (despite being cheerfully greeted with a loud "hello" from the bartender!). Around the site were plenty of boxes and empty bottles and then outside was a huge pit for all the begasse, the leftover product, which in bigger islands is used to make petrol.
Not being the ideal spot for a picnic, we went off to the beach Autre Bord in Le Moule and enjoyed our current favourite of drumsticks and pasta. The water was so hot that it was almost uncomfortable, in fact more refreshing outside than in!
I don't think I recounted my encounter with a crab at Petit Havre the previous week - I was happily lying in the shallow water carressing a stone when suddenly that very same stone gave me a good hard bite! I threw it out of the water in my horror and didn't even get to see the culprit. Bertie found the whole event very funny but it has left me somewhat apprehensive in the water!