Friday, January 18, 2013

Martinique - France in the Caribbean


Martinique is an overseas region of France with a vibrant West Indian vibe, French history and culture, and is also called the Isle of Flowers



Martinique offers fine French cuisine, high end fashion/shopping, breath-taking beaches, luxurious hotels, interesting historical/cultural sites, and 17 varieties of rhum (rum). 

The island is located between Dominica and Saint Lucia, with an ideal temperature of 79 degrees year-round. Each coast of the island offers a diverse tropical landscape of mountains, rain forests, rolling hills, lush colorful fields, rocky coasts, and beautiful peninsulas. 





Travel Tips 

  • Travel to Martinique is expensive - June through December is considered off season and offers lower prices and less tourists.  
  • French is the official language, English is spoken by many locals, however in the countryside you will need to brush up on basic French.  
  • Many of the beaches offer no shade, so bring a hat, sunglasses and lots of sunscreen
  • The Euro is the official currency. Credit cards are excepted in Fort-de-France, however outside of the capital you may have to use cash. American Express credit cards are not excepted by many island establishments. 
  • Island hop via ferry to Guadeloupe, Dominica, Martinique and St Lucia 
  • Getting to Martinique will be easier in 2013 as American launches new weekly service to the island starting April 6th  




Mount Pelee



The southern coast is lined with long white sand beaches and sea grape trees, while the lush and rugged northern coast is flanked by the lofty peaks of the Mount Pelee volcano.

The western coast attracts history buffs with numerous cultural and historic sites, and the coastal swamps are located in the center of the island.  

Martinique is a beach lovers dream as you are never more than minutes from the shore in any direction. Most tourists frequent the smaller beaches at the major hotels, however better and less crowded beaches can be found on the island. Many of the less traveled beaches and coves do not offer beach facilities, so be prepared to bring your own snacks, drinks and anything else you need for a great beach day. 

Les Salines beach is one that offers food vendors, restrooms and showers. The calm clear waters make this a popular spot with families - especially on the weekend. Les Salines offers endless miles of beach lined with palm trees, and no visit to the island is complete without a visit. Visit during the week to avoid the crowds. 

My favorite beach spot on the island is Diamond Beach. It's the absolute picture perfect beach lined with swaying palm trees and coconut trees - and the sand actually glows depending on time of day when the sun rays hit the beach. 

The Anse Cafard Slave Memorial. High on a hill stands the 20 white stone effigies which are approximately 8 feet tall, made of concrete and sand, and stand at an angle of 110º directly in line with the Gulf of Guinea. 




The concrete monument has suffered a lot of damage from the elements over the years 


On the night of April 7, 1830, a slave ship crashed into Diamond Rock and sank off the coast killing the African slaves who were chained together in the ship's hull. 

There is no charge to visit the memorial, and it is open to the public everyday. 






While there you can capture a photo of Diamond Rock (pictured below) which is visible offshore.  




The mountainous northern part of the island is known as the wild side and a favorite with mountain climbers, hikers, and nature lovers. This side of the island is home to the dormant volcano Mt Pelee, the highest point of the island. Here you'll also discover beautiful waterfalls, lush forests and canyons. 






At 4,500 feet, Mt Pelee is not for the faint of heart - this is a steep and strenuous climb that appeals to adventure seekers and travelers who are quite fit. Rather than scale the side of the mountain, visitors can also park a little more than a mile away from the summit and make the trip on foot. 

There's beautiful waterfalls and lush banana plantations at the base of the mountain, and explore the island by "canyoning" down the middle of a river gorge by hiking, wading and zip lining through the rain forest. 

Visit the Mt Pelée website for more info - http://www.mount-pelee.com/



It's all about high end shopping in Fort-de-France where you can purchase French fragrances, fine crystal and china, every kind of designer fashion, and authentic crafts and jewelry. The island is known for 18-karat gold Creole jewelry. Be warned that the capital is very congested and crowded.





La Savane Park (La Savane des Esclaves) is where you can bargain with local vendors, and have a lovely meal at many of the cafes - knowing a little French is helpful. 

This is also where you will find the headless marble statue of Martinique born Empress Josephine, the first wife of Napoleon Bonaparte. The statue was vandalized by locals who believed Josephine persuaded Bonaparte to continue slavery on the island.

Fort-de-France has a number of 17th and 18th century cathedrals, such as the St. Louis Cathedral, as well as the ruins of Château Dubuc, along with the historic Fort Saint Louis, and several museums highlighting the island's history.


When the sun sets, most of the nightlife is centered around Fort-de-France. The islands signature drink is ti punch made with lime, sugar cane syrup and local rum (rhum). Many bars charge a cover, however this is not consistent as some nights there is no charge. 









Happy Travels,
Linda
Travel 2 the Caribbean