Martinique so French

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After spending only one night in Dominica,  which we will fully explore next season, we sailed south to St. Pierre on the northwest corner of Martinique.  This was known as the Paris of the Caribbean for its culture, theater, and refinement. It was destroyed on May 8, 1902, when Mt. Pelee erupted, killing the entire population of 30,000 people instantly. The only survivor was in a stone prison cell. Next year, we will explore the ruins and the museum.

Like so many Caribbean Islands, Martinique was charted by Columbus and has a colorful history from the Arawak and Caribe Indians to the British to the French. Columbus first charted this island in 1493 and later sailed back in here in 1502. He named the island Martinica after the sister island Dominica. It was not until the end of the Napoleonic Wars that Britain handed Martinique over to France. Interesting to note when slavery was abolished in 1848, many former slaves chose to fish and farm rather than work for their former masters. The plantations imported East Indian laborers in order to continue. Martinique remains a department of France and, as French citizens, the people may move to and from France freely.

The Island is divided into 4 main government sections. St. Pierre, Fort De France, Le Marin,  La Trinite. After leaving St. Pierre,  we anchored off the southeast point in the town of St. Anne and fell in love with the location. This could be our favorite harbor of the entire trip so far. It is a calm, easy anchorage in sand 10 – 20 feet deep, with a great dinghy dock, and a wonderful little French town. Here is a map of Martinique.

The 4 governing districts of Martinique

Our Anchorage view

Island Spirit anchored off St. Anne, Martinique

The Town of St. Anne

Anchoring off St. Anne is a dream. We can see our anchor, the harbor has no swell, and the wind blows from the town out to sea. There were over 100 yachts on anchor here and we can see why.  The French live well!  At the dinghy dock is trash and recycle drop off bins plus a public area with a playground, park benches and a plaza under shade trees. The beautiful church is straight in from the dock. The coffee shop and bakery and grocery stores are just a block away.  This is a great location!

Touring the Banana Plantation

We rented a car for two days from Theviein at Madinina Loc’Auto in downtown St. Anne. Excellent service! Our first stop was Habitation Belfort. While we rode a train through the fields, our guide narrated in French and English. We learned so much! A banana plant will produce one bunch per year. The banana weevil is controlled by putting out one dish of soapy water per acre. If more than 15 weevils are caught in 2 weeks, then more dishes are distributed. The bananas grown in Martinique and Guadeloupe are exported solely to France. This was a very fun tour with rolling hills and miles of vistas. Afterwards, we tasted banana chips, dried bananas and banana wine.

Hayden and Radeen on the banana tour train, fun times
Harvesting a bunch of banana, 20-30 lbs. The plastic protects the fruit from dust and insects.
Each hand is cut free and rinsed in bleach water, then dried and boxed

Touring the Rum Plantations

Our first rum distillery was Habitation Clement. With an excellent 2 hour self-guided audio tour, we saw the process of growing and harvesting sugar cane and processing it into varieties of rum. We were amazed to learn about the “Angel’s Share” which is 8% per year that is lost to evaporation. You could smell this in the air and warning signs of explosions were posted in the aging buildings! We took very deep breaths in there 🙂 We toured the airy and comfortable 100 year old plantation home in the middle of 160 acres overlooking the rolling hills. The next day, we toured the Trois Rivieres Rhum Plantation first established in 1660 and enjoyed their “rhum” even more.  Martinique is very interesting and we have so much more to discover!

Barrels of Clement rum aging….smells soooooo good
The racks of barrels aging for a legal minimum of three years
Rhum tour #2 the Trois Rivieres plantation. a triple blend that is very nice ($35)
Phillip explaining the staging process of Rhum making

What makes Martinique so wonderful?

Martinique is charming and very clean. The schools and other public buildings are better maintained than what we have seen on the English Islands. The roads are amazing, with freshly painted lines and excellent signs. The busy four-lane highway leading to the capital of Fort de France has many traffic circles with no tolls and no red lights. And then there is the food, the cheese, yogurt, and the wine is totally Irresistible, not to mention the bakeries.

The fisherman bringing in the catch for the day
A full aisle of nothing but yogurt
Bakery and baguettes yum yum

We will return to Martinique

My sailing buddy and dear friend Reuben would love the little ice cream parlors which are everywhere. These alone are worth sailing back to Martinique for, but we also know there is so much history to learn and so many more tours tp take and more wonderful anchorages to enjoy. One thing is for sure, we really like the French Islands and their way of life.

So clean, so beautiful, so much color, so French…

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Hayden and Radeen in St. Lucia, trying to catch up on the blog.

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