Well, here we are in Fort de France, Martinique, the furthest south that we have been yet. It’s wonderful to be in a big city for a change and to be anchored literally a few hundred feet from the city streets is unique in our experience. However, with convenience comes some discomfort as we hear music blaring each evening and there is a constant parade of ferry boats rocking us, sometimes violently, as the come by from 08:00 to 16:00.
However, we are well protected from the strong winds, tucked below a ovely historic French fort.Of course, as the bottom drops off quickly as you get further from shore, the anchorage is tight, and yes, we are as close to the other boats as this photo appears. However, tight anchoring works here as the wind is so consistent with the easterly prevailing winds. The catamaran just in front of us is Raven, with our friends Barbara and Ted aboard. They are from Austin TX and have been living aboard for the last two years. We arrived here a few days ago after an overnight stop in Dominica, a very rural island that was trashed during last seasons hurricanes. We only stayed there and didn’t even clear in, to break up the trip to Martinique. It was sad to see the devastation that they have endured. Leaves had been stripped from the rain forest. When we were here last winter it was a dark green and very lush. We were told that this is much improved compared to a few months ago when the hillside was completely barren. This closeup really gives a feel for how barren the trees are.
While a good deal of cleanup has been done, there is still a lot to be done to get things back in shape ashore. There are signs of damaged boats and buildings everywhere. What’s remarkable is that just 30 miles south, as you approach Martinique, the forest is lush and untouched. And, speaking of lush, we rented a car with Ted and Barbara yesterday to tour some of the rum distilleries and countryside as we drove around much of the island. It was really beautiful. Details to come on that in my next post. Anyway, we have also explored the city near the waterfront and it’s a unique mixture of old and modern. There are many lovely streets in the historic district. With colorful shops selling most anything from marine supplies to island themed fabric. And, stirred into the mix are some really modern buildings. Somehow it all works. There are a few real standout buildings including the Schoelcher Library designed buy a disciple of Gustave Eiffel, that guy that brought you the Eiffel Tower in Paris. Like the famous tower, the library was also built for the 1889 worlds fair, disassembled, shipped here to Fort de France and reassembled. See what others have said about the building.
The gorgeous Bibliothèque Schoelcher is a soaring late-19th-century library built of wrought iron, concrete, wood and glass. The building was designed by Pierre-Henri Picq, a disciple of Gustave Eiffel (of Eiffel Tower fame), and built in Paris for the 1889 World’s Fair. It was later disassembled and shipped in pieces to Martinique. Picq was also responsible for the nearby St. Louis Cathedral, another handsome example of eclectic cast-iron architecture. Travelers interested in the island’s literature will also want to visit the Aimé Césaire Museum, located just two blocks away in Fort-de-France’s old city hall. A small collection of manuscripts and artifacts provides an introduction to the life and works of one of the Caribbean’s premier intellectuals. Césaire, a poet and playwright born on Martinique, served as the longtime mayor of Fort-de-France and was a founder of the Martinican Progressive Party.”
Inside is impressive with a soaring ceiling. And an impressive collection of old books and manuscripts. Remarkably, this is open to the street so the books are not being stored in a climate controlled environment. Wonder how they will do over time exposed to the humidity. Nearby the St Louis Cathedral also by the same designer in perfect condition. There’s lots more to tell but too much for a single post so you’ll have to stay tuned. Fort de France is a remarkable spot and I expect that we will stay here for a while before heading further south.
Along with the remarkable architecture the difference in the condition of the island compared to nearby Dominica just serves to reinforce the point that real estate agents always say “location, location, location” and in this case how things change only a few miles apart.
To see the near total devastation on an island so nearby is certainly sobering.