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Welcome to the aristocrat of the French Antilles, the island of the three queens: Josephine, the first wife of Napoleon, Aimée Dubuc de Rivery, one of the favorite wives of the Sultan of Turkey and mother of his successor(!) and Madame de Maintenon, (secret) wife of Louis XIV!
Named after Saint Martin, the island originally belonged to the Caribs who had chased the Arawaks. It was first seen in 1493 by -whom else?- Columbus and colonized by the French in 1635. A little later the cultivation of sugarcane started and with it the importation of slaves. In 1789 the slaves fought for their emancipation but slavery was abolished only in 1848, due to the efforts of Schoelcher, who devoted his life to the abolition of slavery. Today Martinique is part of France (with the status of a Département et région d'outre-mer) and all its inhabitants are French citizen. The idea of it being the rich, sophisticated sister of Guadeloupe still persists.


On the spot

The capital is Fort de France, with its famously decapitated Josephine statue at La Savane (my base), a rather indifferent if not slightly dangerous place to be in the evening. Traffic is a big problem in Fort de France and parking is a nightmare, except Wednesday afternoon and in the weekends.
The northern part of the island is greener and more tropical, features a volcano (Mount Pelée) that erupted in 1902, destroying St. Pierre, the former capital of Martinique and killing all its inhabitants but one: Auguste Cyparis, a drunkard that was thrown in the local prison for the night. After the eruption he was pardoned and chose to pass the rest of his days as a circus exhibit in a cage, touring the world exhibiting his burns, once again deprived of his liberty. Some people never learn… You can now visit his cell and many other ruins, the best of which is the theatre of St Pierre, as grandiose as it gets.

I particularly liked the northwest part of the island, starting from Saint Pierre, and following the western road by the sea with its glorious vistas. You can cross the mountain and its protected rainforest through Morne Rouge and get to the eastern coast, since the road stops not far from Prêcheur, making a full circle of the island impossible. The southern part is full of nice but touristy beaches, but I preferred the wilder and calmer beaches of the west coast, with their burning black sand… The JM distillery at Macouba, on the road to Grande Rivière, is a small wonder, lost in luxurious nature. If you choose to visit just one of the many distilleries of the island, this could be the one. There is a very interesting 4X4 tour of the plantation, probably your only chance to see real people working in a plantation.

The sweetest surprise of the trip was the restaurant Lari z'Abime with its’ starred chef Dasini. I was pretty hungry that day, and I still do not understand what pushed me to follow that sign to the absolute middle of nowhere (hunger maybe ?..)  But God was good with me that day and I only realized how praised this restaurant is when I had already ordered.

Last but not least, there have been cases of zika in Martinique. Don’t forget that mosquito repellent in your luggage !

The postcards

The slideshow