Visitors are often surprised by how French the island is. The inhabitants are French citizens, the currency is the euro and the people eat croissants and baguettes. However, the African connection is strong too, dating back to slavery on the plantations. Most people speak Creole as well as French, there are African rhythms and instruments in the music and African influences in art and literature. Creole cuisine uses West Indian ingredients, many of which were introduced to feed the African slaves, but with a French flair which distinguishes it from its neighbours. Even the rum is different, made from the juice of the sugar cane instead of the molasses as elsewhere in the Caribbean, but it packs the same punch.
The island is large and has mountains, volcanoes and forests where you can find rushing streams, waterfalls and pools for bathing in. The best beaches, however, are in the more arid parts, which are flatter, and these have become holiday resorts, popular principally with the French. Some beautiful French colonial architecture remains, sometimes with iron balconies and intricate fretwork, but many modern buildings are concrete blocks and lack charm.