t’s 1pm on a gloriously sunny Friday afternoon and Le Genois restaurant is doing a brisk lunch trade. Customers eat and drink in the quayside shade, as gentle Caribbean waves lap the shore and the thermometer reads a balmy 28C. Pleasure and fishing boats dot the deep blue bay, and on the hazy horizon looms mainland Guadeloupe, with a cloud hanging as ever over La Soufrière volcano.
The restaurant is on the Iles des Saintes archipelago which lies just off Guadeloupe, one of France’s far-flung overseas possessions which between them are home to nearly three million people. It’s far closer to Caracas than it is to Paris, which lies nearly 7,000km away. But Guadeloupe, where Creole is the main language and cock-fighting a legal and popular entertainment, is officially as French as Normandy or Provence.
Yet, unlike mainland France, Guadeloupe has not been slapped with a 6pm curfew, nor have its restaurants been forced to close. Mask-wearing aside, life goes on pretty much as it did before the Covid-19 pandemic struck. That happy situation is, however, about to come to an abrupt end.