With Mid January approaching it was time for the annual winter getaway. I snagged Norwegian’s inaugural flight deal in June 2015 and Martinique became our winter destination with the possibility of a day trip to Guadeloupe.
There were a lot of firsts on this trip, first time using AirBnb, first time driving in a foreign country without GPS, first time in a French speaking country etc.
Finding a hotel was challenging because most were sold out online and the hotels that were available the cost benefit factor didn’t seem to be worth it. The places that I wanted to stay like the luxe 5 star Le Cap Est was out of budget for a 4 day retreat (some day Le Cap Est, someday). Dropping $800 a night on a non-all inclusive stay was a bit extreme for my taste.
After finding no luck with rentals on Homeaway I decided to try AirBnb. The AirBnb process was a bit exhausting as well. The homes that were super swanky were either booked or had no reviews. I was advised to stay away from non reviewed rentals despite how sexy they were. Thankfully I didn’t strike out and I was able to secure a studio rental at the Hotel Carayaou in Trois-Îlets (rated as a 3 star hotel —I guess). I settled for this location because it had a private beach, it’s proximity to restaurants, bars, and the marina. It was also a convenient 10 minute ferry ride to Fort de France.
During my trip preparation research phase it appears that Martinique was not ready for the influx of tourism that would be coming with Norwegian’s introductory deal. The flights arrived at 8PM in the evening and departed at 7AM. When I arrived all the shops in the airport were closed with the exception of the car rental booths. So if you’re looking to turn up upon arrival you should hit Duty Free before boarding your flight.
Here are some highlights and tips that will be useful to you if you ever decide to visit the beautiful isle of Martinique.
Bomb Scare in Fort De France?
On January 14th we took the ferry to FDF to sight-see, buy a SIM Card from DIGICEL and most importantly (for me at the time) buy a Power Adapter. I bought an international USB charger for our cell phones, but I completely overlooked the need for an adapter to charge our laptops, and of course to plug in my blow dryer and flat iron.
After spending an hour in DIGICEL trying to get my sim card situated I powered up WAZE and headed to the nearest Carrefour. Carrefour was located inside a mall and I wound up in a mediastore that sold international power adapters. At last, I found what I was looking for all is right again…WRONG! Just I was about to hand the cashier 20 Euros I saw droves of people scampering in the hallway but I paid it no mind. I figured that maybe it was a firedrill (even though I didn’t hear any alarms) and they take these things seriously. Mind you this woman was taking forever to pull up her screen for me to pay. A moment later an announcement came on the mall’s intercom urging that all patrons evacuate immediately. With that the women gave me back my money and placed the converter in my hand and said we have to leave now. I was SO CLOSE! I wanted to scream (you know how I get). Waiting around outside in the courtyard I heard a few people talking about a bomb in the building. Honestly I didn’t get the vibe that I was in danger so I brushed it off. I mean there were still people in the courtyard, had it been a real threat the courtyard would have been cleared as well, right ? I didn’t know what time they were going to reopen the mall and there were a quite a few items left on our agenda so we headed back to Les Trois Illets on the ferry.
The food was underwhelming and maybe this is because I stayed in a tourist hot spot.The best food I had on the island was at Infinity Bar and at Le Zandoli in Trois-Îlets. At Infinity Bar I had a burger, and at Le Zandoli I ordered the roasted duck. My mouth is watering just thinking about those 2 meals.
Hands down the best dessert or sweets is the Creole Cake at the Depaz Rum Distillery. The vanilla creole cake reminded me of the sponge cake that my grandma used to bake in Trini around Christmas time. I ordered (2) slices that day, I was so tempted to just tell her to give me everything. The drinks on the other hand were not up to my standard. Drinks like mojitos, margaritas and sex on the beach was subpar, I can only imagine if I ordered a whiskey sour, or tom collins. According to my friend “in Martinique you dont need to know how to speak French, just know how to order Planteur.” Planteur is their equivalent of rum punch. Hands down this was my drink of choice during my stay.
Explore and Tour Some
From research I learned that taxis on the island were very expensive so we opted to rent a car and explore on our own (aside from La Cata Creole tour).
La Cata Creole is a open bar catamaran tour along the south of the island with about (4) snorkeling stops, beach stop, covering immaculate views of the coastline like the Diamond Rock (the Caribbean’s Rock of Gibraltar). We left the marina round 9:20 and returned around 4PM. There were (3) lunch options fish, chicken and lobster. All the food was made fresh. After our second snorkeling stop our guides began to set up lunch. They served Boudin as an appetizer, followed by an amazing papaya salad. I selected roasted chicken for which was amazing! For dessert/ mid afteroon snack they served a fruit salad soaked in rum (the best), marble cake and more fruit.
The following day our agenda was to drive to the North Coast to visit Mount Pelee, Depaz Rum Distillery, have lunch on Le Petibonum and lay out on the black sand beaches. We decided against hiking Mount Pelee because of the fog and started with a self guided tour at the Depaz Rum Distillery (free entry and free rum tasting). After Depaz, we were ready for lunch but sadly we never quite made it to Le Petibonum. The GPS kept bringing us to Le Kayo Jacko in Le Coin. The 1 hour drive back to Le Pointe Du Bout went by a lot faster as we sped along the windy road that’s somewhat reminiscent to the road to Maracas Bay in Trinidad.
One thing that I wish we had the chance to do is to check out the Anse Cafard Memorial. On April 7, 1830 a cargo ship transporting enslaved Africans sank off the coast of Le Diamant. Needless to the majority of the slaves shackles together drowned. Sculptor Laurent Valére memorialized the event with statues 8 feet tall standing in triangular formation signifying the illicit triangular trade (importation of slaves was banned in 1815). The statues stand at 110 degrees in line with the Gulf of Ginea. (importation of slaves was banned in 1815 but that didn’t stop the trade).
Speak French .. a little
The official language of Martinique is French, followed by Creole. Wherever you go, they’re going to make the assumption that you speak French unless you tell them otherwise. I took French from sixth grade until my freshman year of College but there were some instances where I had to ask people to slow it down and even gesture especially when I was asking for directions. It’s also good to show people what you’re looking for. For example I didn’t know the translation for Universal Power Adapter so I pulled up a pic on Google when asking around. I found that people were much more polite and receptive if you attempted to speak French rather than just asking them out right if they speak English. If you don’t speak or understand a lick of French try to get some practice with apps like Duolingo and download Google Translate to your phone. Also think about some phrases that you might be asking a lot like where’s the toilet, where’s the nearest supermarket etc.