France – Martinique
The North of the island is quite mountainous and is very humid and rainy. Ashes from the semi active volcano Mount Pelee have created gray and black sand beaches. The eruption of Mount Pelee in 1902 was catastrophic and completely destroyed Saint Pierre, the former capital which, after this sad event, was moved to Fort de France. At the Maison de la Nature you will find instructions for the hiking trails which take you through scenic villages and luxuriant forests, as well as orchard fields of mangos, bananas, guavas, avocados and pineapples. When you are not sun bathing on the white beaches of the south, you can drive around and visit the sumptuous “Jardin de Balata” or other wonderful sights such as the canyon of la Falaise, the peninsula of La Caravelle, the Chateau Dubuc, a ruin from the 18th century, or the “Savane des Petrifications”.
Before the 1902 catastrophe, Saint Pierre used to be the capital. At that time Saint Pierre was called the Little Paris of the Caribbean. You can see what is left of the remains of the theatre, the church, and the “cachot de Cyparis” where one of the few survivors of the eruption was sheltered. Objects of daily use are exhibited at the volcanological museum. Also, divers have plenty to explore among the wrecked ships in the bay.
Fort de France
In Fort de France, the present capital, one can find the Saint Louis Cathedral, Schoelcher Library, 17th century Fort Saint Louis, Post Office, Palace of Justice, and many old houses scattered around. Do not forget your camera as you need it when you visit the markets, either the covered grand market or the flower and fish markets. Should you have enough of the beach, a couple of museums are most interesting: the History and Ethnography Museum and the Archeology and Prehistoric Museum. In the harbor ferry boats leave frequently for Guadeloupe, Dominica and other islands.
Martinique Aime Cesaire, international airport, is named after a poet and politician who was the founder of the Negritude Francophone literary movement. Josephine de Beauharnais was a creole from Martinique who actually ended up marrying Napoleon! The cottage where she was born is now the lovely little Museum of La Pagerie. The painter Paul Gauguin, who was also a world traveler, spent a few months in Martinique. His stay is commemorated in the Gauguin Interpretation Center.
Local Specialties: Our Suggestions
Many types of caribbean music, usually played to the fast beat of carnival themes, will call dancers to the floor of the many local clubs. Sounds such as Kanbans or Compas, zouk, love-zouk, and calypsos all abound.
Local jams made of coco, bananas and guava are delicious. A magnificant variety of Martinique punches abound for your pleasure, but the locals say the punch made only of mixed fruit juice will make you sad. Jewelry, clothes made of colorful “madras”, and pottery from the village of Trois-Ilets are the main artifacts.
There is no doubt Martinique has a lot to offer, and you will cherish your visit.