For years we sailed past the Guadeloupe anchorage of Deshaies, wondering what treasures lay within its grasp. Always, my eyes strained through binoculars, searching for clues. “What d’ya think is in there?” I’d query the captain. But off we’d sail, on a mission to other saints and somewheres.
Perhaps a lack of comprehendible French kept us out or adherence to an ant track that excluded the mystery spot. Even hearing other cruisers extol the virtues described as ‘French country perfection’, didn’t prompt a stop. “The food is gastronomic!” they’d exclaim.
“It’s a time travel to the good old days,” one lamented. And when the Euro fell to a ridiculously affordable level – still, we did not stop.
Oddly, the lure that finally hooked and hauled us in was a string of who-done-it murders, each executed and solved within filming distance of that little bay.
Specifically, eight of them taking place every year for the past five years and we were a part of the crimes, sort of – via Netflix and a tiny screen.
I blame the rain of Seattle, where we first discovered and binge watched the popular BBC1 series, Death in Paradise. Filmed in Deshaies, the show’s characters quickly became old friends and the town of Honoré on the island of Saint-Marie became a place we had to visit.
So, on a gusty afternoon we motored into the half full bay, playing with anchors until they grabbed the deep, sloping bottom. The moorings, free for the taking, were full and by sundown so was the anchorage.
The next morning I rowed to shore, armed with hope and one cruiser’s tip, “You clear customs in the t-shirt shop.” I searched the line of buildings, their backs to the water, for any sign of familiarity but it all seemed so plain and pale. I deduced that looking into Deshaies was a far cry from looking out through the eye of a big lens.
I stashed the dinghy and made my way to the one lane road that runs through a town cut straight from a story book. The world went from black and white to Technicolor as I strolled past a ribbon of structures, each held together with filigree, blooming vines and gingerbread; every one of them frosted with opposing colors of shout-out-loud paint. It was the town of my dreams, my show … Honoré!
Not knowing the whereabouts of the t-shirt shop, I cruised the length of the place, passing half a dozen of them, and then reversed the hunt, asking for guidance along the way. The Créole speakers had little English but plenty of patience for my bungling French.
It was difficult to find because ‘Le Pelican’ had not one indication of customs officialdom but some sublime hammocks and trinkets to distract me on the way in. “Customs?” I asked the man behind the counter. He pointed with a smile to a computer then assisted me repeatedly as I struggled with the French keyboard, even changing a few of my bogus answers. I signed the form, paid four Euros and went off on the mission set in Seattle.
I located the faux police station, locked and loaded until the next run of murders. The church next door was open so I ambled there, hoping for a bad guy to sprint through. Catherine’s bar, a popular haunt in the show, turned out to be La Kaz. I asked the man inside, armed with a mop, “Death in Paradise? Photo?” but received an unknowing shrug and permission to snap.
I couldn’t find the oft-filmed seaside bar till the lady in the tourist board pointed the way. It was simply a thatched-roofed veranda, empty but for tables and chairs. So I seated myself with a beer, relishing the fact that I was there, on the set.
Our visit was too short. We didn’t hike to the famed Jardin Botanique de Deshaies or walk the river’s edge to the bathing pools. We didn’t partake of rhum agricole or the delectable creole cuisine. But we will.
And when we return to the scene of the crime, we’ll solve some more of the mystery.
Meanwhile, look for Death in Paradise season five … coming to a TV near you.
Jan Hein and her husband, artist Bruce Smith, divide their time between the Caribbean the Pacific Northwest with a boat and a life at each end: www.brucesmithsart.com