Hello… It’s Martinique.
I’ve been wondering if after all these years you’d like to meet.
Why yes, beautiful, Caribbean country. You are the stuff of dreams. And I thoroughly enjoyed cruising your mountainous terrain and inhaling your sea air.
If you would’ve asked me a year ago if I wanted to visit Martinique, I would’ve said sure and later Googled the location. I’d never heard of this country, although it is ironically on my bucket list.
It Was Fate
Fate planned all of my trips last year and has already started in on 2016.
One June day, my Facebook feed exploded with calls to #BookDatIsh and #YOLO when the Martinique flight deal dropped. It’s why I can’t stress enough to build a tribe of travelers to alert you to unbelievable travel deals. If it weren’t for my tribe, I would miss so many opportunities as I’m sleeping, eating, and reading my way through life.
The hour a day I peruse social media provides countless chances for epic experiences.
Before I started this travel recap, a Facebook friend posted an interesting meet up at her home where participants will pick, slaughter and prepare a meal from scratch. The event will also have learning opportunities and a discussion on farm-raised, hormone free eating.
Seriously. My traveling friends are fuggin awesome.
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Taking Travel Virginities
As soon as I’d booked my ticket, (because the first rule of planning a group trip, is to book your ticket first. Waiting for others before buying your flight during a deal is a huge no-no. You’re waiting for your friends, but the airline isn’t waiting for you. Don’t be the person who gets left behind over someone who probably won’t go anyway!) I posted on Facebook asking who wanted to come with me.
My non-traveling Facebook friends jumped on my post and into my inbox ogling over the flight deal and inquiring about how they could join the trip. Out of over 50 comments on the post and private messages, only two people flew out of the snowy BWI airport with me.
We had a ball.
These two individuals are even dearer to my heart because they stamped brand new passports for this trip. It gives me such a high to have taken their travel virginities and to have helped them sow wild oats around Martinique.
We definitely left our mark.
What stands out about Martinique is that they don’t cater to Americans. I’d been moaning about how Americanized countries are and how easy travel is because everyone speaks English, signs are in English, there’s a McDonald’s or Seven Eleven, blah, blah, blah.
The Universe offered the perfect answer to my complaints: Martinique.
Bonjour or Bust
Martinique is a French island known for its scenery and rum. Floating in the Caribbean Sea between Dominica and St. Lucia, this tropical paradise has no problem holding its own.
And my small, but mighty travel crew held our own driving up and down its narrow, winding roadways.
If you are interested in visiting Martinique, hit the library and grab French language instruction manuals or DVDs. You are going to need them.
I took three years of French in high school and practiced for three months using Duolingo’s language learning app, and I still spoke less French than the Martiniquan children frolicking on the beaches.
Broken French with a side of gestures went a long way. Not to mention frantic typing on Google translate.
If You Reach Water, Turn Around
Our first adventure started out of the airport as we navigated to the hotel in our tiny European-styled car on narrow, European-styled roads.
I had a copilot equipped with a T-mobile free international phone plan that offered GPS directions – albeit intermittently for each turn.
Driving took some getting used to.
A smaller car, smaller roads, round-a-bouts, and dark, winding roads punctuated our drive with splashes of dread and exhilaration – at least for me. By the next evening, I was a professional Martiniquan driver and totally comfortable whipping around the asphalt.
I don’t believe my copilot was ever comfortable. Especially when we explored the north-western coast of the island which was accessible by an uphill drive on scary mountain passages.
The island is only about 40 miles long and 20 miles wide, and I joked that we couldn’t get lost.
If we reached water, we needed to turn around and go the other way, and if we kept driving, we would eventually pass our hotel.
I should mention that running out of gas is a possibility.
At first, we laughed at the long lines to get into gas stations wondering why people didn’t get gas later or go to another station. On the third day, when our gas tank hovered near E, we found out why people waited for gas as we rode from station to station.
Stations ran out of gas and if you let your tank reach empty, you could sputter to a stop before finding fuel.
Beyond running out of gas, there is little to worry about. This island is super easy to navigate and renting a car is your best option to explore. Personal drivers are also available for day or half-day excursions if you prefer to be chauffeured.
After getting turned around a few times, we reached our hotel La Dunette. It was there, in our room that I pulled my first Stupid American move.
I had the bright idea as a professional traveler to bring my power strip for our electronics.
Between the three of us, we had four cellphones, a tablet, and a battery charger. My power strip is pretty cool. Each outlet is individually controlled so I can switch off power and save energy when I’m not using that item. I plugged this cool invention into my worldwide travel adapter and boom – the lights on the left side of the room went out.
We click the switches and get nothing.
And so I make the second Stupid American decision and put the adapter and power strip into the working outlets on the other side of the room. Guess what happens?
With our tails tucked between our legs, we paraded back to the front desk to explain our dilemma. Then we went to have dinner, very late and without a reservation.
Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner Without a Reservation
We ran into dining issues several times during our trip. Either we were trying to dine past lunch hours or past dinner hours, or we were crashing the eatery without a reservation. I was totally lost on the dining culture of Martinique.
Thankfully, everyone was super accommodating and did their best to feed us even with short notice.
What I missed most was breakfast. Our hotel didn’t serve breakfast and from what I saw neither did the other restaurants lining the popular Sainte Anne strip. Most mornings, I munched on baguettes and a yogurt drink called Yop.
Beyond my morning cravings for bacon, the food was marvelous and every menu had its fair share of rum cocktails. I made it a point to eat French foods including plenty of french fries. Does that count?
My travel comrades had more cautious palates and we made three stops to McDonalds so they wouldn’t starve. And sure I encouraged them to chow at the many restaurants specializing in local cuisine. But as the saying goes, you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink. Though he might opt to swim if the water is as beautiful as in Martinique.
So Many Beaches, So Little Time
The beaches of Martinique found us. They are plentiful and beautiful in their own right. Especially the black sand beaches to the north. The scenery is out of a Nat Geo magazine and you will have to drag yourself away.
They are plentiful and beautiful in their own right. Especially the black sand beaches to the north. The scenery is out of a Nat Geo magazine and you will have to drag yourself away.
We hit other touristy spots including the Fort-de-France pier, the Cap 110 Slave Memorial, a La Mauny Rum Tour (in French), and the Sainte Pierre Zoo.
We rode all over that island and by the end of our week, I felt like I was Martiniquan. And I had an island tan to match.
If I could do things differently, we would spend a weekend night in the country. It was interesting to see how the sleepy town grew livelier as the weekend approached.
Also, I would have planned better for our water sports activity. We all wanted to do a water activity but had trouble tracking down a company for the activity we wanted.
The rental car company held $2700 on my credit card. No that is not a typo. I should have pre-paid for insurance when I reserved the car to avoid this hold. If you need an automatic, book in advance because sticks shifts are the norm in Martinique.
And I would have packed less clothing.