MARTINIQUE—TIME TO BRUSH UP ON MY FRENCH—February 24 to March 20, 2017

We left Bequia for an overnight sail to Martinique, buddy boating with Tribasa Cross, around 2:45 on Friday afternoon.  We enjoyed sailing with Dolphins Friday evening!

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We  arrived at this quaint little town with a big anchorage, St. Anne, around 7:00 on Saturday morning, calling out, “Good-morning!” to Carl and Carrie on s/v Brilliant as we cruised the anchorage looking for a spot to drop the hook.  Kathe from s/v Tribasa Cross joined us ashore to check into the country at Snack Boubou and look around town a bit.  We enjoyed our first of many trips to our favorite pastry shop, Cherie Doudou!  Martinique is not an independent nation. It is actually part of France (much like Hawaii is a part of the USA, but for centuries longer!) and is generally much more developed, with a  more civilized vibe than other island nations of the Eastern Caribbean.  Speaking French is not a must, but it sure helps!  We flew the French flag on Nancy Lu while we were here.

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We arrived at St. Anne at the beginning of Carnaval, so the town was all decked out for the festivities in a very DIY-kind-of-a-way.  Mark and I met up with some fellow cruisers, s/v Delphinus, s/v Tribasa Cross, and s/v Brilliant at the church square for day-one of the festivities .  We also met a few more cruisers once we got there.  We were all anticipating watching the first parade (with a garden theme) of four days of themed parades. 

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The parade was due to begin a few minutes after we claimed our viewing spot among a very sparse crowd.  Finally, after we’d all consumed ice cream and pastries,

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I had shelled and eaten all the tamarind fruit that I could find laying under the trees from which they grew, and we’d all enjoyed visiting for a COUPLE OF HOURS,

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a big truck with huge speakers, blasting dance music, followed by a few costumed dancers, showed up.  It stopped for a little while and then moved on, only to return after slowly circling the block, gathering more dancers along the way.  After the “parade” passed by the first time, I suspected that it was more of a participatory event than a “spectatory” one.  By the time the parade arrived again after its circumnavigation of the block,

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I was ready to join in!  A little rain couldn’t deter me…

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or any of my fellow “paraders”!  I guess my cruiser friends don’t enjoy a traveling dance party as much as I do, because the only one I could get to join me was Kathy from Dephinus, and she only lasted a few steps. 

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By the time I got back around the block, the sidewalks were much more crowded, but all of our cruiser friends had left and Mark beckoned me out of the parade to head home.  That was the extent of our Martinique Carnaval experience, but it was a fun time!

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We followed the rain showers that had passed through the anchorage back to Nancy Lu.  Good thing we had closed all the windows!

With so many cruisers in this huge St. Anne anchorage, and a big marina just a long dinghy ride deeper into the bay at the larger town, Le Marin, offering so many cruiser amenities, a cruiser could be tempted to stay in this general vicinity of Martinique for quite a while.  It seems that we succumbed to the temptation for about 19 days.

Happenings during our time anchored off of St. Anne/moored at the Le Marin Marina:

Not all play and no work,

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laundry was easily accessible from a floating dinghy dock at a resort a short dinghy ride for us, and a little ways from the center of St. Anne.

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While anchored at Saint Anne, Mark replaced about 75 of the approximately 200-total deck bungs that he’s replaced since we’ve owned Nancy Lu.

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While moored at the marina in Le Marin, I enjoyed watching the kayaking class every morning, which is a part of the public school system.  We paid for a mooring at the Le Marin Marina for a couple of nights so that Mark could do some repair-work on Nancy Lu’s engine.  We wanted to be close to the marina in case he ran into a problem and needed some help.  He spent all of one day working and successfully installed a new freshwater circulating pump on our Volvo engine.  Mark discovered, after all that work, that the problem we were having was solved when he tightened a bolt—not a good feeling!  We  have a spare part, now.

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While moored at the marina, we dinghied up this, seemingly, remote river to…

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this big fancy dock…

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and did some grocery shopping at a couple of big supermarkets.

While in town, we stopped at a French pastry shop to sample some treats where I discovered I like gateau sec (dry cake), which is like the shortcake that you make from the recipe on the side of the Bisquick box Winking smile.

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But I couldn’t pass up a rare opportunity to get a Big Mac!!  I told you Martinique was civilized!!

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Shopping-mission accomplished!

Not all work and no play,

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I enjoyed two ladies’ lunches at La Dunette, a restaurant in St. Anne.

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Cynthia from s/v Minx and Kathe from s/v Tribasa Cross

One Saturday, Mark and I enjoyed a long, shore-line trek with s/v Brilliant and s/v Tribasa Cross to Anse des Salines for lunch!

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We started at the same dinghy dock where you tie to do your laundry with a view of this little water park.  The trail lead us past…

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pretty views,

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lots of picnic spots where local people were taking advantage of some weekend family time,

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and smaller beaches,

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some of which you’d feel overdressed in a swimsuit,Surprised smile!

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Anse des Salinas is a huge, popular, beautiful, golden sand beach!

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We liked it!

We had a nice lunch, but we enjoyed our after-lunch treat even more!

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This man blends custom, local fruit juices for CHEAP, using what you choose from the bins!  He chops the fruit up while you watch.  They’re more like all-natural smoothies!  We had mangue-banane-ananas AKA mango-banana-pineapple! 

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I see those pearly whites, Carrie!!!

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One rainy day, after a couple of other rainy days, Mark and I followed the zig-zag path up the hill behind the historic Catholic Church in St. Anne to observe the “Stations of the Cross” along the way.  The view of the harbor was nice, too!  We had to wait a little while under the pavilion at the top for it to stop raining before we walked down.

More Saint Anne sights:

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Our most ambitious adventure from St. Anne was to rent a car from Le Marin with Brilliant and Tribasa Cross and take a scenic route north to St. Pierre!  Carrie was our gracious driver of the big, standard-transmission Renault van.  That was a daunting task.  At least the French drive on the same side of the rode as we Americans, but traffic signs can be a little tricky, and navigating in a foreign country isn’t a piece of cake.  Our adventure took us up steep mountain roads with sheer drop offs, across the island to the East (Atlantic) side,

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past beautiful vistas, past big working vehicles stopped on not-quite-two-lane, mountain roads, and to a road block when we were just 30 minutes away from St. Pierre-Yikes!  No detour was marked!  We overcame every obstacle,

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and arrived in St. Pierre for a wonderful, late lunch at Le Tamaya, a visit to the museum, which is dedicated  to the devastating eruption of Mt. Pelee in 1902, and some sightseeing in beautiful weather.  I was determined to get some questions answered from our 2016 whirlwind look around town and visit to the museum during our short time anchored at St. Pierre. 

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Right off the bat, during lunch at Le Tamaya, I found out from the owner that this ruin, left after Mt. Pelee’s eruption, has been beautified with the painted words of a famous French poet (I can’t remember the name)—one question answered!

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Next question:  What’s the deal with the modern address numbers on these portals that are obvious ruins?  According to the museum attendant, since they haven’t been torn down, they are still given an address number.  That’s the best I could understand with the language barrier, anyway.

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Another question:  Last year, we speculated that these were the ruins of the theatre.  I had significant doubts about this speculation, and by asking the helpful museum attendant, I found out we were wrong!  These are ruins of the commercial district at the time of the eruption.  In the past, there was a batterie and promenade on the street above, where the museum is now. 

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This ruin of a fountain is on the promenade.

On to the most pressing question:  Where are the ruins of the theatre???  So, it was time to get the museum attendant’s attention again to ask!  He gave us directions, and

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we found it!

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 Mt. Pelee always looms large to the north.

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It was a challenge to imagine what the once state-of-the-art and elegant theatre looked like and where things were located.  Signs helped.

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I guess it’s to be expected that a group of sailors would be distracted from the beautiful ruins by sharing salty stories and enjoying the camaraderie with one another!

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This statue was designed and forged as a monument to the struggle of St. Pierre to rise from the ashes of the destruction and devastation caused by the eruption of Mt. Pelee.  It has had a couple of homes over the years, but now resides among the ruins of the theater.

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The greenery that grows among the ruins is like another type of monument to life going on, well it’s beautiful, at leastNerd smile!

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A ruin of a prison can be seen below the theatre.  One of the most compelling stories of the 1902 disasters is connected with this place…

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Majestic Mt. Pelee

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Carl’s headed back to the car…

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We accomplished our next goal of finding a large supermarket in the big capitol city, Fort de France, and spent about an hour grocery shopping—about the same amount of time we spent in rush-hour traffic!  We headed home after our much-less-fruitful-and-more-difficult-than-anticipated shopping extravaganza, since there were NO American brands (IMAGINE!).  We were able to find a much sought after item that had been eluding us for a while, tortilla chips, YAY!  My limited grasp of the French language allowed me to find the general items we needed, but specifics, such as, diced, stewed, or broth were hit or miss.  I missed on some.  FYI:  The French do not can chicken—duck, tuna, and ham—yes, but chicken—no!  After our shopping, we took the unintentional, long,“scenic” route back in the dark!  Cruisers almost always get back to the boat before dark!  We finally found our way back to Le Marin, found an open gas station-WHEW-and rewarded ourselves with a stop at McDonald’s about 9:00 (LATE)!!  We felt like teenagers, out past curfew!  All-in-all, it was a fun, exciting day and we all bonded through our shared adventure!   We dinghy-caravanned the long ride back to our St. Anne anchorage from the marina with Brilliant, but said our good-byes, at the marina, to Tribasa Cross, who had just recently taken a slip there due to an upcoming surgery and 6 week recuperation period.

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After 19 days at St. Anne/Le Marin, it was time to sail about 12 miles to Les Anses D’arlet, a few bays north of St. Anne.  We had a challenging sail with the wind behind us, so when the rain came it was blowing into the cockpit—not pleasant!  Luckily, I had brought everything that shouldn’t get wet down in the cabin…including myself…guess I could be called a fair weather first mate.   

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There was another pretty Catholic church at the end of the town dock.  This town had a sleepy feel to it.

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We actually anchored a little ways from the town at Anse Chaudiere, so peaceful!  There was good snorkeling, too, just a short swim right off the stern of Nancy Lu!  That’s my FAV!

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Cushion Sea Star

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Flamingo Tongue.  They actually damage coral.

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Squid

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“Double amputee” sea star in the process of growing back his arms

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Rope Sponge

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Giant Anemone

 

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One day, we started out with a walk through Les Anses D’arlet…

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Yes, that’s a rooster on the top of the cross at the top of the steeple….I have no idea!

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Then we did a pretty challenging hike, leaving Les Anses D’arlet behind and heading to the next bay north, Grand Anse D’arlet!

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The trail was quite “bouldery” and hard to follow even with marks…

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Did X mark the spot, or mean the wrong way?

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We weren’t sure, because we knew from our rented-vehicle-tour that a line meant “do not enter”.  Some places, the line-marked-trail looked like it headed in the right direction, but in other places, the X-marked-trail looked like it headed in the right direction!  We may have gone down a lot of rabbit trails, but

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we made it to Grand Anse D’arlet and were rewarded with a leisurely 3 course lunch! 

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I was entertained by this group of school kids from Les Anses D’arlets  with their chaperones playing a “steal the bacon” type game.  Our waitress told us that they were over here for a “field trip”.

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Mark and I took the same route back that they did, MUCH easier, via the road!

Another day, we rode the dinghy around the point from our anchorage at Les Anses D’arlet and spent a lot of time snorkeling the entire south wall of Grand Anse D’arlet, all the way around the point back to Les Anses D’arlet.  I even snorkeled the point between Les Anses D’arlet and the bay just south of it to experience what I had been told was awesome, clear, snorkeling.  that may have been a little over billed, but I DID enjoy myself and see some things I’d never seen before, but

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I saw only one little clump of this Orange Cup Coral.  I had been eagerly anticipating seeing a super bright colony of it that our friend Bob from s/v Discovery had posted a picture of on Facebook.  In his picture, even brighter little “tentacles” were extended from the polyps.  I had never seen anything so bright and interesting in all my snorkeling!   He said that he found it there at Grand Anse….Even though I did see this little clump, I was frustrated that I didn’t find what I was searching for!!  How could I have missed it?!  Turns out I found what I was looking for in Dominica, and was thrilled!  I’m suspecting that Bob posted the wrong location, at least that’s what I’m telling myself Be right back.  I can’t wait to share my pictures of my snorkeling in Dominica!

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Red Rope Sponge, Sea Pearls (type of algae), and green Corallimorphs

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Pink Tube Sponge with white lacy Hydroids

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Barrel Sponge

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Pink Vase Sponge with Feather Stars (type of Sea Star) in them

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Pink Vase Sponge with two Sponge Brittle Sea Star

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Maze Coral

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Sea Rod Coral

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Sea Rod Coral

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Vase Sponge with a Squirrel Fish and Blue head Wrasse

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Green Grape Algae, Yellow Fan Coral, white Hydroid

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Sea Rod Coral

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Sea Rod Coral

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Sea Rod Coral

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Corallimorphs

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Sea Fan Coral on Elliptical Star Coral

After a few very enjoyable, peaceful days at Anse Chaudiere, we sailed further north to St. Pierre.  I had not gotten all the sightseeing out of my system or all of my questions from our earlier sightseeing trip answered, plus St. Pierre is a good jumping off place for a sail to Dominica.

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As we were sailing north, I saw this odd shaped, yellow boat in Grande Anse D’arlet.  It is a tour boat with a submerged glass compartment where people sit around a table and observe the underwater scenery.  How do I know this????  Because I was some of the underwater scenery that they waved to as they observed me snorkeling/free diving at Grand Anse!!  It was so fun to wave at them and have them wave back!!  I didn’t have time to take a picture of them as they went past me. 

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Martinique coastline

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Mt. Pelee from the water

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The afternoon we arrived, we went to check out the Catholic Cathedral that you can see from the town dock.

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It was closed for renovations, so I just got pictures of the outside.

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Eyewitnesses to the May 8, 1902 eruption of Mt. Pelee were coming from Fort de France to attend Ascension Day services at this church.  At the time, St. Pierre was the largest city (pop.almost 30,000) in Martinique, and pretty swanky.  It was called “The Paris of the West Indies”.  After the eruption, It never got back to its original glory, and the population, now, is about 4,000.  According to the Doyle guide book, which most cruisers use, and to what I’ve learned from the museum, the worshippers making their way to the cathedral early on May 8 saw heavy, red smoke from the volcano descend on St. Pierre. Rather than continue they climbed the surrounding hills to see what would happen next.  The end came at two minutes past eight in the morning.  The side of the volcano facing St. Pierre glowed red and burst open, releasing a giant fireball of superheated gas that flowed down over the city, releasing more energy than an atomic bomb.  All that remained were smoking ruins.  Almost 30,000 people were burned to death, leaving only two survivors in the center of town, the most famous one being Cyparis, imprisoned for murder in a stone cell.  Only the bottom part of the present cathedral, below the twin towers, is original. 

To me, what is so intriguing about St. Pierre is that so many of the ruins remain.  Post disaster buildings have been built onto old structures, so many new buildings share at least one wall with the past. 

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Like this.

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Some pre-eruption streets are still in use.

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another building close to the cathedral

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After a burger, we made our way back to the town dock where we’d left our dinghy.  Town docks attract local amateur fishermen, and kids having fun!

Our next day in St. Pierre started out quite rainy, and I wish our day’s activities had been reversed, with doing laundry in the morning when it was cool and wet, and revisiting the theatre ruins and other sights when it stopped raining in the afternoon,

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but we didn’t discover the laundromat (with our friend Kathe from Delphinus doing laundry in it) until we were checking out the ruins of the commercial district on the waterfront street that morning.

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Somehow I missed getting a picture of the grand entrance to the former theatre on our rental car trip.  Also, I didn’t find out what the ruins up above the theatre are, so I traipsed back to the museum to ask at the window.  The receptionist called for my curator friend who speaks better English, and he came out and told me that they are ruins of a plantation house.  Now I know!  It never hurts to ask! My last question was for Mark…

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While he and the others were swapping salty tales, I was looking around, and came upon this.  I didn’t get a chance to show him, but I took a picture.  On our rainy revisit to the ruin, I showed it to him, and we decided it was a transformer for the theater. There were a couple more like this…interesting.

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The ruins of the prison and dungeon where Cyparis’ life was spared

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Looking up from the old waterfront commercial district

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Drying off and enjoying lunch at L’Alsace a Kay, a restaurant with a cute upstairs dining room where they also sell gourmet specialties from the Alsace region of northeastern France!

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Yummy! That potato looking veggie is twice baked christophene, a specialty of the Eastern Caribbean.

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Ironically, Mt. Pelee was completely clear most of the day even though it was cloudy all day.  Usually the top of the mountain is in the clouds.

We said goodbye to Martinique the next morning.  We were off, along with s/v Delphinus, to catch up with our friends on Brilliant and Sea Frog in Dominica! I still hope to hike up Mount Pelee in the future…maybe later this season! 

2 thoughts on “MARTINIQUE—TIME TO BRUSH UP ON MY FRENCH—February 24 to March 20, 2017

  1. Enjoyed the carnival photos, especially the little girl butterflies. We just had carnival fundraiser at the CC Library, masks and costumes encouraged. It appears you two don’t have to look for a gym on your travels, laundry is plenty heavy and none of those trails look short or flat! Wow! A whole fields of “mother in law” plants. I never saw that before. I guess everything grows well there with all of that ash. Those are my kind of smoothies, yum! Spectacular view from the catholic church with the so many sailing boats in the harbor. Wow, the squid and the giant anemone are spectacular photos along with the rest! I really like the photo of the grand entry to the “not there ” plantation house. The photos of Mt. Pelee reminds me of a quiet, dramatic, sleeping giant just waiting to wake up…and it likely will. Thanks for your wonderful memories. Good ⛵️To you. C

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  2. LOVED the photos…allows me to experience it vicariously through you!
    Talk about a cross cultural experience!
    Stay safe and would completely understand if you guys never came back! LOL🌊

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