What to do in Martinique
Fort-de-France the capital city
You need a whole day to visit the city as it has a little something for everyone a such as a shopping mall and a farmer’s market. You can walkthrough the shopping center Cour Perrignon while enjoying the breeze from the air conditioners. You can visit the bookstore “Librairie Kazboul” which specializes in caribbean authors. You have a tea shop by the name of “Qui m’aime me suive” meaning who loves me follows me. For those who have an artistic eye , there is a contemporary art space 14°N61°W located at 22 May 1948 street which houses temporary exhibitions and projects with a focus on Caribbean art. At 33 Professor Garcin street there is a museum of natural history by the name of Father Pinchon museum. You can find at the old city hall an explanation of the life of former mayor and influential literary writer Aime Césaire. Finish with getting a drink at the rooftop bar restaurant the Cloud.
Saint Pierre the reemergence
Saint Pierre is to Martinique it’s past and future, its memory and resilience, its smile and tears all in one. The city is surrounded by mountains and the sea. It is affected by heat and trade winds. You can explore the city on foot taking the time to walk through each ruin and discover its renewal. We recommend the train the Cyparis Express a sparkling white and blue locomotive. The tourist guide Fernand Pain is eager to share his knowledge with you. In the city center you will find souvenir shops where you can buy local products such as a jewelry made from banana leaves which may bring you luck. In the following 3 shops : “Le Bataka”,1902, and Malou Creation you will be greeted by passionate shop owners and employees who love life and Saint Pierre. You can enjoy all the creole dishes to your heart’s content. You can get a ti-punch, a planteur or a simple freshly squeezed juice while watching the ocean waves. If the treasures of the sea interest you there are many companies who offer underwater excursions. The volcano eruption damaged the city and the underwater sea was not spared. This does not mean there isn’t anything worth exploring underwater. There are shipwrecks, coral reefs, a variety of fish, lobster, and on some rare occasions you have turtles.
Route de la trace, a total change of scenery.
It’s real name? National Route #3 , it's a less glamorous name. Route de la trace (Trail roadway) is a national road spanning 29 kilometers linking the capital to the city of Morne rouge which winds through a tropical jungle. Originally the national route #3 was full of footpaths from entry points. The trail roadways informal name hails from the Jesuit order trails. There are some interesting stops along the way such as the Basilica of of the Sacred Heart of Balata, the botanical garden of Balata, the spa of Absalon, the white river (and ideal place to take a refreshing swim), the Saut Gendarme falls and last but not least the Emerald domain which is a national park. You have arrived at Morne Rouge the town where it is the coolest temperature wise in Martinique. The town which means Red Hill in english is aptly named for its red fertile land where pineapples and bananas are grown. Fertile land found on the slopes of the volcano Mt.Pelée. Locals are called Péléen. Everything you want to know about seismic activity of the Caribbean at the Ecomuseum house of volcanoes. While you are there visit the grotto of Lourdes, a real cave where there is a statue of our lady of lourdes since December 8, 1904. At the time of the unveiling there was a large crowd who had come from all over to witness the inauguration. It was a tribute and a time of prayer. The shrine still has its followers to this day. There is a spring present next to the cave. The water is fresh,clear, and drinkable.
Ajoupa Bouillon, the lush greenland
Nestled inland, Ajoupa Bouillon is a town where you will find altitude, vegetation, and cool temperatures. A lush greenland full of flowers, quiet and charming. Labeled the flower city it is covered with colorful flowers against the backdrop of lush green vegetation. Ajoupa is the creole word for a wooden shed and Bouillon comes from the name of the first French settler Jean Robert Sieu de Bouillon who built his lodgings there. It is definitely a must see tourist attraction. In the city center stands a church that was not damaged by the eruption of the volcano in 1902. You can stroll through the botanical trails along the riverbanks of the Falaise. If you are hungry then you can stop by any of the family run restaurants where they serve a large freshwater prawn or crayfish stew along with onions, tomatoes and of course rum. It is quite a treat! Just be mindful to bring an extra replacement tee-shirt or two. Just in case you dirty your current tee-shirt with the gravy sauce while eating. See you soon!*
The JM Distillery, the rum of distant past
Located in the northeast of Martinique in the town of Macouba. It is a town with approximately a population of 1,000. It was used as a tobacco plantation during the 17th and 18th centuries. In 1845, Jean-Marie Martin created a rum which bears his initials. In 1914 the Crassous de Medail family bought the distillery and its three hundred hectares which the family descendants still manage today. The rum here is distilled to 72% to preserve the aroma of sugar cane placed in copper barrels. Rum Jm is considered to be one of the best old rums in the world market today. However, they are not as well known in mainland France. There are five brand names for the five different types of JM distillery rum. 1) VO a three year old rum,2) VSOP four years old rum, 3) XO six years old rum, 4) “Out of Age” rum that is between 8 and 12 years old, and 5) Millésimé rum that is 15 years or more. With VO OR VSOP rums you can prepare a ti-punch which is basically a cocktail made of rum, lime, and brown sugar. XO rum is better taken as a digestive stimulant such as a Cognac or and old Whiskey and a rum that you can appreciate all of its aromas. As always in order to remove the “sting” aftertaste drink fresh cold water right after you take a sip that will mute the sensations.
Grand Rivière the tradition
Located on the northern tip of the island at the foot of the volcano Mt. Pelée is a fishing village rooted in its traditions nicknamed the “town at the end of the world” otherwise known as Grand Rivière ( Large River). It must be said that the roadway ends in the middle of the town. It may be far from Fort-de-France but it is breathtaking. You will drive through a rainforest crossing a metal bridge that is covered in lush vegetation. There are peacocks perched on giant trees. It is a sleepy town a far cry from the hustle and bustle of Fort-de-France. You can buy the fish caught that day, stroll on the stretches of beach named Sinaï while gazing at the outline of the neighboring island of Dominica if weather permits.Visit the church Saint Catherine and admire it’s fresco’s such as Christ surrounded by angels by Jean-Phillipe Girard. You can visit the Beauséjour plantation or the ruins of the Malakoff plantation or Fond Moulin and journey through time. All of which produced coffee,cocoa,indigo and vanilla beans at one point.
La Baignoire de Josephine
There are those who say this is a tourist trap, do not pay them any attention. The only thing to do is to go! Of course depending on the time of day you will find a large crowd of tourists but do not let that stop you. It is a wonderful experience to have. In the morning you schedule an appointment time with a local fisherman at the port of Francois. Once all details are agreed upon you can embark on a fisher’s boat that has a capacity for 12 people. Located about 2 kilometers from the port is located the “Baignoire de Josephine” nestled between to islets called Oscar and Thierry. The legend goes that before Josephine became an empress she used to bathe frequently at that location. Pragmatists say that the location is actually a site where a boat by the name of Josephine would come and dump sand at that location. Still others will say that is the name of the homeowner who named his home Josephine. What does it matter?! What matters is the experience of receiving cod fritters and alcohol while you’re in the middle of the sea in clear blue water standing on a sand dune. While you’re there you can go scuba diving admire fish, crab, underwater vegetation and maybe even a turtle. Don’t forget sunscreen! For lunch depending on the itinerary between you and your guide you can have lobsters while under the careful gaze of the iguanas on one of the surrounding 8 islets. To get started here is a contact info for you: Denis at 0696444646.
Saline Coast line, a scenic beach postcard
Over a kilometer long the beach of fine white sand is what most people dream of. Bordering the turquoise blue Caribbean sea. Dotted here and there are pretty green coconut trees allowing one to doze off under its shade. The only thing is it is rare to be the only one seeking shade from under a coconut tree. Every year the Salines welcome more than 2 million people per year. Locals often go there during the weekend after a hard week’s worth of work. It can get noisy at times therefore if you are one who prefers tranquility go there during the workweek. Behind the beach contains a wooded area of about 83 meters where at one time it used to be a camping ground however it is now a protected nature preserve.
The beach has three access points: Grande Anse, Grande Terre, and Petite Anse
Grande Anse has an easy access and is very busy, grande terre is at the end of the car park after the gate begins a walking path. You have to walk about 4 kilometers to an area that is desert like. It is known as the Savannah of Petrifications. At one time it used to be full of fossil fuels such as driftwood. While you are walking along the path there is over earth no tree in sight not even any significant vegetation except some yellowish green bushes. Walking even further you will be able to witness a magnificent view where the waves crash against the rocks. Finally you will arrive at Anse Trabaud beach a place that is much less crowded due to the lack of easy access.
CAP 110 the memory
In the city of Diamant a slavery memorial was installed at Anse Caffard in 1988 dedicated not only to the various victims of slavery but in particular slaves who were victims of a shipwreck of the coast of it’s shores. On the night of April 8, 1830 an unnamed boat ran aground on the rocks by Caffard Cove with at least 132 men and women aboard. 86 were saved by a plantation owner by the name of Mr. Dizac and his slaves. The rest perished. On the 16th of April the crew and slaves who perished were buried although at different locations. The crew were buried at the cemetery while the slaves were buried near the seashore. Death may have been a shared common trait but not burial ceremonies. The shipwreck the last of its kind carrying slaves was a moment of history that needed to be memorialized. Diamant wanted to honor the lost souls of these slaves who were lost to the sea. Martinican sculptor Laurent Valère was asked to design and erect a monument which would memorize this painful moment of history. Cap 110 Memory and Brotherhood is done in a triangular fashion indicating the triangular trade between Africa, the Americas, and Europe. The 15 statues are genderless and facing the sea with heads bent towards the earth in a sad manner. Facing the sea as a tribute to where they came from and a reminder of where they perished. At the entry of the memorial there is a description of the details recounted from that fateful day.
Pointe du Bout, a popular site
Pointe du bout is the fathermost tip of the city known as “Trois Ilets”. She who enters the Caribbean sea, the one where life is good, sleeping, singing, eating, laughing, drinking, swimming, and buying. A place where you can be yourself. There are many hotels ranging from upscale to budget , various restaurants fine dining or a regular local restaurant, fast food such as a pizza joint or a place to get crepes. Pointe du Bout is a cosmopolitan city, the Martinican version of a Saint Tropez. There is a beach called Anse Mitan which has white sand in front of a turquoise sea. The marina has many shops where you can do your shopping for souvenirs and local crafts. You will also find some beautiful art done by foreign and local artists. The smell in the air is a mixture of vanilla, coconut, and of course sunscreen! There are many hiking trails around and snorkeling is also available. You have a shuttle ferry that brings you to the capital in about 20 minutes for 7 euros roundtrip. It runs from 6 in the morning to 10 pm at night. In the mood to play some golf? That’s possible! At the entrance of the city you have a golf course where a magnificent 18-holes awaits you. It was designed by pro-golfer Robert Trent Jones who has created at least 500 golf courses around the world. While you are there do not forget to visit the home of the Empress Josephine (Domain de la Pagerie). The empress’ original name was Marie-Joseph-Rose Tascher de la Pagerie. She lived there for the first 16 years of her life.You can visit her room which has been renovated showcasing the love letters she received from Napoleon Bonaparte. Like everywhere is Martinique at Pointe du Bout you have history, culture, cuisine and entertainment.