Exotically French But Caribbean

Trip Start Feb 01, 2005
Trip End Dec 31, 2020

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MV Noordam

Flag of Martinique  ,
Sunday, December 2, 2012

 Ooh la la!  The soft lyrical language of Martinique leaves us in no doubt of this island's history. It contrasts nicely with the "Britishness" of Barbados, our last port of call.

A hot and sultry day greeted us as we left the cocoon that is our cruise ship. Walking into the city centre of Fort-de-France an American couple passed us returning back to the ship.

"It's a rubbish town!" the man panted, flushed from walking in the heat. 

"Don't bother going in. The shops are all shut. Worst Port of the whole trip!" he continued, his stance and body language inferring a sense of outrage that he should find himself in a Port with no immediately, obvious, shopping outlets. We asked if he had seen any of the historic sights but he just huffed, " It is all so dirty! Worst Port!" and went on his way back to the ship, imparting his doom and gloom to all the guests heading his way, as his wife trotted behind him.

Each to their own. It IS a Sunday, and Martinique IS a laid back and predominately Christian island so, no, the shops won't be open, but what a brilliant opportunity instead to see and hear a Caribbean Church service!  Colourful "Sunday Best" frocks and head scarfs abound, and glorious harmonies rise in the steamy air. Sunday is a brilliant opportunity to sightsee in a quirky historic city, without the crowds. We found the incredibly ornate "Bibliotheque Schoelcher" (library) and discovered this building was originally built in Paris for the 1889 World Expo. After the expo it was dismantled and shipped in pieces all the way to Martinique and reassembled in its current position. Now that IS quirky!

We found a concert of folk dancing and singing happening in another beautiful old building and sat and watched for awhile fanning ourselves against the heat. Afterwards we managed to get ourselves lost and decided to ask for directions. The lady we approached spoke no English, but after showing her where we wanted to be on our map, she indicated we should follow her. She cheerfully led us well over a kilometre back to where we should be only to find the Net Cafe' we were looking for closed however Kentucky Fried Chicken was open and had free wifi so Sunday for us was also a good day to check emails at a more acceptable rate (cost of an icecream sundae) than the cruise ship's exorbitant.90c per minute. 

The obsession with shopping unfortunately rules the day for many "cruisers" aka the complaining man. Not us!

We loved Fort-de-France, but our experience of Martinique was not quite over. The captain set sail, hugging the coast until we were level with the historic Mt. Pelee. We were treated to an educational talk over the loudspeaker as we gazed (or more accurately peered as the clouds rolled in) at a volcano with a startling, little known, but violent history. In 1902 Mt. Pelee exploded with a force 40 times stronger than Hiroshima, killing all except 3 of the 30,000 inhabitants of the capital city of the time, St. Pierre. Tragically there had been some minor volcanic action in the weeks before the deadly eruption and some families had started to leave. The Governor persuaded the residents it was only part of the normal volcanic cycle of activity and brought his own family closer to the mountain to live, in a misguided show of faith. Along with the city, all the boats in the harbour at the time were destroyed.

A night of sailing ahead in the calm waters and our next stop will be the country of Dominica.   
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heatheravan on

Great tip, thanks.

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