Magical Martinique

We were up again early this morning, and we went straight out onto the balcony to have a look around.  We were docked in Fort-de-France, principal town in Martinique, which is one of France’s overseas départements.  Once again it was a new port of call for us, and today we were booked on the full day tour.

Fort-de-France is one of the major ports of the Caribbean.  Exports include the inevitable sugar, rum, tinned fruit and cacao, and our visit today would include a tour of the St. James’ rum distillery.  😉

As we were eating our breakfast on the rear decks, we saw the Anthem of the Seas making her big ungainly way into the port opposite Adonia.

Once breakfast was finished, we disembarked the Adonia and made our way to the quayside to be directed to our waiting coach.  We set off along the east coast, which allowed us to have fantastic views of the beautiful coastline, rugged hills and palm-fringed beaches.  Our driver stopped often to allow us to capture photographs.  At one stage we could see the Anthem docked across the bay, with the Adonia looking tiny in front of her; she was less than a third of the length of the Anthem.

Our first stop was in the town of Sainte-Marie, at the St. James Rum Distillery.  Similar to when we were in Guadeloupe, we were able to see the machines cutting the sugar cane and collecting it up to be put into the processors.  The distillery, which is also a museum giving a fascinating insight into the history of rum in the Caribbean, was set in lush gardens which were pleasant just to walk around and try to find shade from the sun.

After we’d learned how the sugar was processed and the rum produced, we were then invited into the shop, where an array of different rums was on offer for us to taste.  There were the aged dark and amber rums as well as the white rums, rum liqueurs and rums flavoured with coconut, coffee, pineapple, orange and other exotic fruits.  It was a rum lover’s paradise.  🙂

We opted to buy a bottle of the coconut rum, which was a bit like the Malibu in the white bottles we get at home.  It will be a nice treat and reminder of our visit to Martinique.

Continuing on our way, our next stop was at a large banana plantation.  We saw lorries loaded with unripe bananas taking them to the packing centre, ready to be shipped to France.  We also saw the rows of banana trees, some of them with the large, unusual purple flower hanging down, and the start of little bunches of baby bananas.  Bananas are botanically classed as berries and, as well as the eating bananas we all know and love, you can get the shorter, plumper fruits used in cooking, and known as plantains.

Back on the the bus (enjoying an air-conditioned respite!) we next went to the town of St. Pierre, one of the most famous places on the island due to the devastating volcano of 1902. Thirty thousand people perished when Mount Pelée erupted.  The only (known) survivor was a prisoner named Ludger Sylbaris, who was saved by virtue of the fact he was being held in a dungeon in the prison at the time.  Sylbaris was later invited by Barnum & Bailey circus to travel with them, where he made a living by exhibited his burns.

We were able to see the remains of the cell where Sylbaris was held, as well as some building ruins, most notably those of a theatre.  It was interesting to see how Martinique has combined its new buildings with these historical relics.

It was then time to go to lunch.  Our bus took us to the “Restaurant Le Bambou” in the little village of Morne Rouge, at the foot of Mt. Pelée.

As we entered the restaurant, we were given a cold glass of rum punch.  We started off the meal with French bread and a dish made with chickpeas, fish and some sort of oily sauerkraut – I wasn’t too keen on it to be honest.  Then we had the main course, which was a spicy chicken curry-like dish, served with butternut squash and washed down with red, white or rosé wine.  Dessert consisted of baked banana soaked in a rum-infused caramel syrup.

Then we all piled back on the bus to start making our way back to the port.  This time, we went via the west coast through some gorgeous little villages, including Case Pilote, which is one of the oldest fishing villages on the island.  We were able to see where Columbus landed in 1502, as well as where the French artist Paul Gauguin was inspired to paint some of his most stunning coastal landscapes.  All in all, it was a great day out, and we arrived back at the Adonia around 4.00pm.

We didn’t really want a big dinner tonight, after our substantial lunch, so we decided not to go to the restaurant.  Instead we opted to eat in the Conservatory, where they were holding an Indian buffet.

We enjoyed a selection of authentic Indian dishes washed down with a bottle of Tiger beer each (they didn’t have Kingfisher!).  Then we had a wander about out on deck, as we’d finished dinner earlier than we would have done if we’d been to the restaurant.

The show tonight was another one we’d seen before (on the Ventura in 2012) called “Reel to Reel” and featuring songs from famous films.  Yawn.  I’d say the entertainment so far on this trip has been reasonably good over all, but certainly nothing out of the ordinary – we’ve seen much better.  Also, the same shows must do the rounds on all the P&O ships; I think they need to look at some newer and original material.  Never mind, it gave us the chance to sit down, have a drink and let our dinner get down a bit.

We then finished the evening doing the usual things – went up to the Crow’s Nest for a while (the band, Quintessence, we performing country music), did the syndicate quiz (we didn’t win this time) and finished off by returning to the Crow’s Nest where they were holding a St David’s Day karaoke.  As usual, not many people got up and the gaps had to be filled by some of the entertainment staff (one of whom was the Phantom of the Opera singer Mike Sterling who we’d seen the other night.  Of course they kept dragging me up to sing as well and, fuelled with one or two proseccos, I was happy to oblige.  🙂

Afterwards, Mike Sterling came over and thanked me for “holding the show together”.  We told him how much we’d enjoyed his performance the other night, but that was a big mistake; he sat down at our table and never shut up.  It was basically a case of “I love me – who do you love?”.  It was getting on for 1.00am before we could make our excuses and leave.

Back in cabin A006 we commented that our fantastic holiday was rapidly coming to an end.  But we still had a few days left, and tomorrow we were due to drop anchor in Bequia, in St. Vincent & the Grenadines.

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