Martinique, the enchantress
Martinique has the sky, the sun, the sea... and so much more. A picture-perfect postcard island with white sandy beaches, crystal clear waters, and coconut trees gently sloping towards the sea, Martinique is also full of unexpected treasures for those who take the time to discover them.
On the island, the most famous places those that delight tourists the most are found mainly in the south. But we must also head a little further north to François Bay. It is there we find ‘white backgrounds' as they are called here. With water up to the waist, it is heaven just getting off a boat to sip a freshly prepared ‘ti-punch'. According to legend, this was ‘Josephine's bath', named in memory of the daughter of the island, Josephine de Beauharnais, born Taschers La Pagerie, who became the Empress of the French, although it was never proved that she bathed here... but who cares about such details; in Martinique, we love stories.
And there are many other tales we may come upon during our outings. Sometimes just a stopover in a village and a chat with a chance encounter will have you following the small winding roads that lead you to discover breath-taking surroundings. Drive through lush tropical forest, admire the cane fields whose tufts recline gently under the breath of the trade winds and visit a sugar-cane mansion, the heritage of past centuries.
Along the narrow streets of Fort-de-France, there are historic monuments with remarkable architecture: the Schoelcher Library, with its bright red and yellow facade, St. Louis Cathedral and the Old Town Hall. Do not miss the covered market and its colourful assortment of mangoes, star fruit, and cinnamon apples. For the more adventurous, the ascent of Mount Pelee, which dominates the town of Saint-Pierre from its height of 1397 metres, is a must. Though the volcano is now calm, we may recall that its eruption on May 8, 1902, destroyed the city, wiping it from the list of communities. As we can testify today, it has been rebuilt and is again alive and well.
In Martinique, the smiles of the people are everywhere. No question of giving in to nostalgia, although the writings of Aimé Césaire, Edouard Glissant, or Patrick Chamoiseau, the island's most famous writers, are often imbued with a certain melancholy, due to a colonial past that has left its mark. You may enjoy reading them in the shade of a mango tree or on the terrace of your hotel, with an amber glass of rum in hand.