Beauport - Le pays de la Canne
Aquarium de la Guadeloupe
Jardin botanique de Deshaies
Rhum Karukéra
Green Blue Houses
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village du littoral

Saint-Claude

Basse Terre - 10 587 Hab.

Saint-Claude:   Luxuriant nature, proud people

Occupied from the beginning of colonization, the land now known as the commune of Saint-Claude was first established, in around 1640, as a district of Basse-Terre. The 17th and 18th centuries were eventful years for the area, which was the site, among other things, of the British landing of 1691, and a battleground in the wars of the League of Augsburg and the Seven Years War. With the arrival of Dutch Protestants, who were expelled from Brazil and allowed to settle in Guadeloupe by Governor Houël (owner of Guadeloupe from 1650 to 1664), a number of sugar plantation-refineries sprang up in the region, particularly on mounts Bellevue, Beausoleil, and Espérance. In 1766, the parish of Saint-Pierre of Matouba was created. Matouba (from an indigenous Caribbean word meaning “place of abundant birds and flowers “) is the commune’s historic cradle. It is here in Matouba that one of the most heroic events in Guadeloupe history took place:  the epic resistance, in 1802, of Commander Louis Delgrès, who, with a number of officers and black combatants, took up arms to defend the freedom of the people, and perished at the d’Anglemont Plantation. It is here in Matouba also that the first church and presbytery were erected. These two edifices became the Governor’s Residence in 1807. At that time, under the governorship of the Count of Nozières, a bridge was built spanning the Rivière Noire (“Black River”). In 1810, Captain General Jean Augustin Ernouf surrendered to the British, who occupied the island until 1814. Designated as a commune in 1838, Saint-Claude was so named in 1858 for the first Father Superior of the Carmelites in Guadeloupe, and was formalized in 1859 by Governor’s decree at the initiative of its first mayor, Louis François Albert Souque.
The history of Saint-Claude is closely tied to that of Camp Jacob, initially a military acclimatization camp, then hospital.  Originally located in Matouba, Baron des Rotours, governor of the island between 1826 and 1830, transferred the camp to Morne Saint-Claude in 1829. Between 1844 and 1845, soldiers worked at building the “colonial road“ between Basse-Terre and Matouba. The urban fabric of Saint-Claude then took form around the camp and the church. The church, presbytery, and cemetery, were built thanks to a donation by the Pelletier de Monteran family.
Saint-Claude was a strong agricultural base, influenced in the beginning by the Carmelite community. Sugar cane, manioc, and cotton were grown here. However, the decline of the sugar cane economy, due in particular to the excessive rainfalls of the late 17th and early 18th centuries, led, starting in the 1720s, to the cultivation of more mountainous areas, where coffee was introduced, resulting in a general crop conversion. A colony of European farmers arriving from Guyana in around 1763 cleared the heights of Matouba and established food crops there. Later, cacao and vanilla were introduced, followed, in the early 20th century, by market gardening and banana plantations. The ruggedness of the landscape prevented mechanization, however, and banana cultivation declined. In the early 20th century, a population originally from India settled in the heights, primarily in Matouba, Grand-Matouba, and Papaye. In 1953, Saint-Claude ceded the districts of Desmarais, Morne à Vaches, Circonvallation, and Rivière des Pères to Basse-Terre.
The commune has many architectural riches, including several well preserved plantations and numerous examples of colonial architecture, including the Belost Plantation, Petit-Parc, the prefectural residence at Morne Houël, the former barracks of Camp Jacob, and the old town hall erected in 1860.
The church is representative of the architectural style of its time, although its façade is greatly inspired by the religious edifices of South America.
Known as a “ville de notables“ (“city of prominent citizens”) since the early 19th century, and as a retreat for acclimatization to mild tropical climates, Saint-Claude is home to a number of healthcare establishments that provide many jobs (Nouvelles Eaux Vives Clinic, Monteran Hospital, etc.). While remaining a holiday resort, it also contains government centers, attracting many white-collar workers and professionals. With a population of nearly 11,000, Saint-Claude has been able to boost its economic potential in several areas. In addition to a still-significant agricultural sector, the Morin artisanal industrial park and the presence of springs (both thermal hot springs and springs for drinking water) also serve to stimulate the economy. “City of the Volcano” offering numerous bed-and-breakfast establishments tucked away in the country and many paths and hiking trails, the commune is firmly on the path to ecotourism. However, its development is also closely related to its status as a university center:  Saint-Claude is home to the Camp Jacob campus (the former Camp Jacob military hospital) and the “cité of knowledge,“ which includes a medical and social studies campus, the regional branch of the École de la deuxième chance (“School of the Second Chance”), an arts and performance center, a regional university for applied arts and crafts (URMA), the regional consular institute for training in restaurant and hotel management and tourism (IRHT, managed by the chamber of commerce and industry, or CCI, of Basse-Terre), and a number of other establishments. As a multi-cultural city, Saint-Claude’s various identities are expressed through folklore, food, dance, music, and religious beliefs, and contribute greatly to the town’s richness and prosperity.

Tour of Saint-Claude

Saint-Claude is a resort town that enjoys a particularly mild climate. It is also a residential city that invites visitors to explore its prosperous past at a leisurely pace. Lying next door to the Prefecture of Basse-Terre at an elevation 530 m, this can’t-miss stop on the way to La Soufrière volcano, which forms its backdrop, is worth touring at a relaxed walking pace. In this rugged landscape of over 3,430 hectares flowing with nearly a hundred streams and rivers (including the Saint-Louis, Galion, and Rivière Noire), visitors can find unique accommodations hidden away in nature, explore the vestiges of an eventful history, and embark on long hikes in a luxurious tropical setting.
In the town center, visitors will find the church of Saint-Augustin, with façade inspired by the religious edifices of Latin America, and several examples of well preserved colonial-style houses with wrap-around porches, friezes, and hipped roofs. The former town hall, built in 1860, stands on the main square, along with a War Memorial and fountain. A few dozen meters away lies the covered market (under renovation), a much-loved gathering place of Saint-Claude residents and visitors alike, who come here to buy the products of local harvests. Next, take the road up to Camp Jacob, noting the brand-new Médiathèque media library on the left. Further on, the magnificent wooden structure of the Prefectural Residence may be seen in the middle of its grounds, followed by the handsome architectural ensemble of the former Camp Jacob hospital, now a university campus. Return via Avenue du Maréchal Foch. On the corner, the present-day Town Hall stands tall against the sky, with a bust of Rémy Nainsouta proudly erected before its impressive stairway entrance. Nearby stands the remarkable former Maison Darracq (“Darracq House”), home to the Office of Tourism. This is the departure point for the “Au fil de l'eau“ (“along the water”) tourist circuit, with its distinctive signage facilitating access to various sites, including the Vauchelet Cascade, Matouba Falls, Rouge River, and Matouba hot springs.
In the northern part of the commune, 4 km above the market town of Saint-Claude, lies Matouba, which served as a refuge against British attacks in the late 17th and early 18th centuries, and was the scene of the sacrifice of revolutionary black commander Louis Delgrès, who died in 1802 resisting the reinstitution of slavery. A stela in white marble commemorates this act of courage on the road to the hamlet of Matouba, several meters after the second bridge. Near the church, stands the “Matouba” spring water bottling plant, fed by the Roudelette spring.
At the Matouba “Maison Forestière” (“forest house”), find the trailhead of the Victor Hugues Trace, which crosses the mountain ridges to end in Petit-Bourg, at the hamlet of Montebello. Numerous other trailheads may be found above the Plateau de Papaye. La Soufrière—the highest peak in the Lesser Antilles at 1,467 m—is the most active volcano in the region. In addition to its exceptional natural sites, Saint-Claude enjoys the remnants of a rich agricultural past, including the Dain Plantation, formerly known as the Mont-Carmel Plantation, the oldest in Guadeloupe; the Desmarais Distillery; the former Belost Plantation (Belost section) with its old 18th century battery; the Petit-Parc Coffee Plantation, which remained in operation until 1930; and several other remnants that may be explored, in particular, at the former plantations of Reiset and Beauvallon, or in the Choisy section (water tank, smokehouse, water wheel, annatto mill, etc.). Saint-Claude is also home to the headquarters of the Parc national de la Guadeloupe (“Guadeloupe National Park”), whose mission is to ensure the conservation of natural sites and the preservation of species - www.ovap.net. Chemin Bleu tourist maps of Guadeloupe and city street maps are available at the Office of Tourism.

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