Martinique is the second largest island in the French West Indies with a population of about 400,000. It is one of the most picturesque of all the Caribbean Islands with lush gardens, tropical flowers and rain forest, mountains, charming towns, as well as a variety of beaches and a distinctive Creole culture. Centuries ago, Carib tribes colonized this island giving it the name Madinina “land of flowers”.
Island musicians welcomed us with local Creole tunes, as we headed to the local Tourist Office, http://www.martiniquetourisme.com/ , where we received excellent service, and they gave us some helpful brochures, maps, and ideas for our island tour.
From there, we met our driver, Marc Martial, an excellent guide as well who speaks English, Spanish, and German (Email: firstname.lastname@example.org ) but greeted us with a hello in his native Creole, “Saufair“. Marc’s car is immaculate and comfortable and he took us on an informative tour of Southern Martinique. He provided insight to the history of the island, and what life is like in Martinique today economically, politically, and culturally. We heard about his family Creole heritage – a blend of European/French, African, East Indian blood, and how these deep roots impact daily life and cuisine. Creole dishes are spicy, and it’s typical on special occasions to have a melange of lobster with foie gras, yams, root vegetables, pork, and tropical fruits with some chocolate nougat for dessert. In reference to the dramatic landscapes, he explained that due to the geological shifts and volcanic activity, the north part of the island is younger (600,000 yrs. old), than the south part of the island which is 2 million years old. As we headed south, we stopped at the Anse Cafard Slave Memorial, an emotionally moving memorial located near Diamond Rock with 20 effigies that commemorates an 1830 slave ship sinking.
the “pearl of the Antilles”.
Along the beach at Salines, there were vendors selling coconut ice cream, crepe stands, and open-air bbq’s where you could purchase grilled fish. We drove through and stopped at some picturesque villages such as Le Trois-Ilets, Le Diamant, Sainte-Luce, Sainte-Anne, and picked up some baguettes from a boulangerie, as well as fruit from markets.
When we returned to Fort de France, we walked through the busy shopping district and narrow streets with flat-fronted buildings and elaborate ironwork balconies that sit behind the harbor’s charming street front.
The impressive St. Louis Cathedral stands out along the Place de la Savane, the main town square, and the nearby 17th century Fort Saint-Louis, which is set against a backdrop of vibrant green hills. There’s even an open air market in the heart of town with spices, rum concoctions, and plenty of tropical fruit.
When you visit Martinique, you really need a few days to explore all that its 34 villages have to offer – the diverse landscape, multitude of activities and various ways to experience the local culture. In the North part of the island, you can visit the city of St. Pierre and see the damage done from the 1902 eruption of over 4,000 ft. Mount Pelee. As a result, there are black sand beaches along the northwest side of the island like Le Carbet. Be sure to contact the local tourist office to help you plan your trip!