Exotic Martinique, part of the Republic of France, blends the French and Caribbean cultures in its food, lifestyle, and celebrations. This sprawling and mountainous island, located between Dominica to the North and St. Lucia to the south, has a lot to see when your ship docks in Fort de France.
In the capital city, don’t miss La Savane, 12 acres of park fringed by trees and flowers. There’s a fascinating statue of Josephine de Beauharnais, Martinique native and wife of Napoleon Bonaparte. Years ago, the statue’s head was broken off and the remainder splashed with red paint, presumably by islanders who blame her for urging Napoleon to re-establish slavery there.
For wonderful views of the sea, stroll up the hill to Fort Saint Louis. It’s a historic site, but also an active French naval base; take care where you wander, as not all areas are open to the public. In the highlands north of the fort, there’s a botanical treasure, the Balata Gardens, where colorful flowers live among the palms and mahogany trees. Walk through the tree canopy on a series of wooden bridges to enjoy a birds-eye view.
Across from La Savane park is the Bibliotheque Schoelcher, a Byzantine-style library built for the Paris Exposition of 1889, then shipped to Martinique and reassembled. Also of historical interest is the beautiful Gothic-style Cathedral Saint-Louis, standing strong since 1895 after six previous churches on the site were destroyed by fire, earthquake or hurricane.
Venture to the island’s northwest coast to visit Saint-Pierre, the island’s original settlement and capital. Saint-Pierre flourished until volcanic Mt. Pelee erupted in 1902; of the city’s 30,000 residents, the only survivor was the lone occupant of the jail. Today, the rebuilt town has a lovely waterfront; sip a drink at one of the cafes or stroll along beaches of black volcanic sand, backed by lush rainforest.
Sugar came still grows on Martinique, some of which is transformed into excellent rhum (rum). Sample some in the tasting room at Habitation Clement, a distillery that also features local art on the walls of its historic structures.
Note that this island is truly French – outside the main tourist areas, it’s difficult to find someone who is fluent in English. That’s part of the charm of Martinique. To visit the island on your next Caribbean cruise, talk with Anita, your Cruise Holidays personal cruise expert.
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