The French Antilles or French Caribbean Islands form two Départements d’Outremer: one comprises Martinique, and the other Guadeloupe with its offshore group, Marie-Galante, Les Saintes, La Désirade, and two more distant islands, Saint-Barthélémy and the French part of Saint-Martin (shared with the Dutch). Geographically, the main islands form the north group of the Windward Islands, with the ex-British island of Dominica in the centre of them.
Saint-Barthélémy and Saint-Martin are in the Leeward group. The larger islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique both have an area of mountains 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. The smaller islands are fairly hilly but dry, particularly those in the Leewrd group. Some beautiful French colonial architecture remains, witth intricate fretwork in the gingerbread style, but the modern buildings are concrete blocks and lack charm, looking as though they have been picked up in France and dropped on the islands by mistake.
The islands have the same status as any Département in European France. The inhabitants are French citizens. The currency is the French franc (F). The people speak French. Visitors are often surprised by how French the islands are. The connection with France confers many benefits on the islands, which enjoy French standards of social legislation etc, but it also drives up the cost of living, which is rather higher than elsewhere in the Caribbean.