Monday, June 20, 2011

Martinique




We spent a couple of days hanging out in Fort de France – Martinique’s vibrantly shabby capital. Happy that the anchor was dug in and that the rain squalls had abated, we picked up Sam and Jon from Imagine and left our boats straining at their anchors but protected somewhat from the gust by Fort St Louis, an original fort dating back to 1640. Fort de France has a beautifully maintained waterfront and we left our dinghy Lilolil in its care. First stop was Macdonalds who offer free wifi. The French islands are notoriously bad for having password protected wifi so that we poor beggers afloat can not link into the internet from the comfort of our own homes. But the air conditioned Macdonalds was no hardship on a hot and sticky day. With emails retrieved and weather downloaded next stop was customs. Every country we stop at, we must clear in and out of customs and immigration. Here the French Islands redeem themselves, where every other island charges exorbitant fees, the French islands are free. In fact most do not even have customs and immigration offices anymore. A computer is step up in a cruiser/yachtie friendly shop or restaurant and you are left on your own to fill out your own forms and get the shop to sign – et voila, easy peasy. Now every cruiser knows that after the stress of clearing in a well deserved beer is in order. Fort de France is not lacking in bars but they are not the street front kind that spill over onto the pavement so you can watch the world go by. Many are tucked away, up windy stairs in shabby little places, over the top of shop fronts. We found a seedy enough looking establishment with the requisite rubbish on the floor and dirty glasses and over flowing ashtrays on the empty tables that are required by cruisers whose soul purpose it is to find the cheapest place possible to consume beer and rum. With that said the tables were cleared and “quatre bieres, s’il vous plait” were ordered. Expecting a local bottled beer to be served, as we quite forgot that we were in a tres chic country, the Leffe beer that was served in a glass was a nice surprise (especially for Sim). A little bowl of peanuts were also served with a small spoon – How civilized!! That was, until we got the bill and were flabbergasted at being charged 4.50€ each beer or maybe that was 2.50 for the beer and 2.00 for the peanuts with the spoon! Grumbling and mumbling to ourselves on the way out, trying to make it clear (to a French man) in our English way that we won’t be back!

But the smiles on our faces were not gone for too long as next stop was the Leader Price supermarket. Not the kind of place everyone gets excited about but here you can buy baguettes and pain aux chocolates in boxes of 6! Cheap French wine by the carton and boy do we cruisers love boxed wine. Stinky Camembert’s and Brie’s for less then a euro. Dijon mustards, salami’s and giant packs of chocolates. All the things that are taken for granted at home. Yummy.

But as always we were under pressure from time constraints – and a flight to catch from Grenada in a couple of weeks. So we keep on the move. Grand Anse D’Arlet is on the south east corner of Martinique. It’s a small fishing village surrounded by lofty green hills. A small pedestrian waterfront runs along the beach and a few rickety beach bars and restaurants dot the sandy shoreline. After a quick walk around and a stroll on the beach, we are back to sitting down with a beer in our hand admiring the view and taking cover from the rain……and people wonder what it is that we do all day! :-)


This morning I wake up and we are in St Lucia. It is only 20 miles from Martinique. We arrived yesterday afternoon. The wind is howling, the rain is pelting the decks and dripping through leaky windows. The sky is overcast, lightening flashes and thunder booms. I think we might stay on board today.

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