Martinique – Short & Sweet

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Approaching Fort-de-France on the Bay

If you love to travel as I do and if you homeschool as I do, you may be looking for deals that make “roadschool” possible, as I do.  Let’s just say that when I found out that Norwegian Airline flies directly to Martinique and Guadeloupe from my hometown, for between $250  and $350 roundtrip, all that was left to do was pack.  We were going.

I always begin with Internet research, opening windows into new worlds.  First I had to decide Martinique or Guadeloupe, both islands of the French West Indies.  I chose Martinique simply because the airfare was a bit less and the dates of travel worked better for us.  Norwegian flies to and from the islands on varying days of the week.

“Car or no car?”  That was the next question.  I decided short trip + relaxation for mom = no car.  We left on a Monday and came home on a Friday and my goal was to find a home base on the island that would let us explore on foot, knowing that cabs there are expensive. Thus, I chose to stay in the small town of Trois-Ilets at Hotel La Pagerie, an excellent choice!

Trois-Ilets is south of Fort-de-France, the capital city, across the Bay of Fort-de-France.  This means it’s not terribly far from the airport, and you can enjoy trips to the capital city using the public ferry, €7 roundtrip, at your leisure.

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Taken from balcony of Hotel La Pagerie

The hotel is lively, the rooms clean and comfortable, and the staff couldn’t have been more helpful.  The surrounding area has enough to offer in the way of shops and restaurants within walking distance, including two beaches, if you prefer more than relaxation by the pool and swim-up bar.

 What I didn’t know when I chose the dates was that I serendipitously had chosen the week of Carnival.  At first this worried me, but I learned that Martinique has a calm Carnival parade compared to well-known standards.  This made it more ideal for me traveling with an 11-year old girl.  In the end, we learned so much about local culture and had fun getting in on the act!  And our hotel hosted free Carnival entertainment, how-to workshops, and local vendors every day in their large, open lobby area.

Having said that, there are some attractions in Trois-Ilets that I wanted to see including a few museums.  Turns out that we befriended a father and his adult daughter from Sweden and met them for afternoon touring.  Because they rented a car for their two-week stay with friends, we were able to see some sites without paying for a cab.  None of these places are within walking distance although they are not far from the heart of town. Prepare to hire a driver if necessary.  They are worth seeing.

La Savane des Esclaves – [Quartier La Ferme, 97229 Les Trois Ilets Tél. : 05 96 68 33 91]  To understand the present, sometimes you need to be reminded of the horrors of the past.  An open air museum dedicated to the history of the Slave Trade in Martinique.  It’s moving and can be emotional reading (both in French and English although guided tours are only offered in French) the story as you walk around the grounds.

Maison de la Canne – [Pointe Vatable, 97229 Trois-Îlets Tel : 05 96 68 32 04]  Here, you’ll learn all about the sugar and rum industry history on the island.  Exhibits are written in English and French, some with audio.  Self-guided and indoors (in case it’s raining).

We also popped into the Village de Poterie; it was on our route back to the hotel.  It did not impress me.  There are several shops selling various types of pottery and things made of clay, but nothing I thought was truly unique.  I could have skipped it altogether.

RESTAURANTS & SHOPS – TROIS-ILETS

Most of the restaurants and shops we patronized are in the charming little Village Creole near Hotel La Pagerie.  Other services which may be of value, such as the ATM, car rental, grocery and alcohol are either in the Village or across the street, Rue du Chacha.

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Village Creole looking toward Pointe du Bout

[HOT TIP: One night, having had a late lunch, instead of going out to eat dinner we opted for an ice cream cone at Ice N Coffee and takeaway French fries from Havana Café!]

Le Bistrot d’en Face – Our first dinner on the island.  Very French, but with a laid-back Caribbean attitude.  Great selection of wine, friendly service for non-French speakers and very good food.  Combine all that with funky cool décor and prices that won’t bust your travel budget = winner!

Baguette Shop – While I cannot say that I enjoyed service with a smile, the pastries are worth enduring any attitude.  What is more satisfying than a coffee and layer upon layer of flaky French pastry?

Ice N Coffee – Don’t let the Plain Jane name fool you – this place is a great choice for more than one reason.  You can get a solid meal without spending a fortune.  My daughter and I had breakfast here most mornings, lunch one day and came back for ice cream on another occasion.  Judging from the other diners, it’s a local favorite.

La Bodega du Bout – [You can find them on Facebook] The food was as good as we we’d hoped it would be, even for the gluten-free vegan among us. But our server made our visit most entertaining as he spoke many languages and had a wonderful sense of humor.  His infectious enthusiasm was the highlight of our meal!

Le Café de Paris – I cannot recommend heartily based on our dinner experience, but I can say that the waiter was friendly and sincere, and if you do go, save room for the creme brulee, the best part of our meal.

HOT TIPS:

  • Martinique is French-speaking so you may want to brush up on your s’il vous plaîts
    and mercis in addition to a few helpful words and phrases.  Otherwise get your translation app ready!  Many people do not or will not speak English.
  • If you stay at Hotel La Pagerie, don’t take the hotel breakfast.  It’s expensive, even if you take the deal at check-in, which is a discount for booking breakfast every morning of your stay in advance.  There are other options right outside your door that are very tasty and far less expensive.
  • KDIMAX – The stop for cheap, good, imported wine, beer, water and other snacks on Rue du Chacha heading toward the Pointe du Bout Marina.
  • All the beaches in Martinique are public.  Two beaches, Pointe de Bout (there is a lovely beach and spot to swim in a sheltered area in front of the Hotel Bakoua) and l’Anse Mitan (across from the casino) are within an easy walk of Hotel La Pagerie.
  • Take the Pointe du Bout Ferry to Fort-de-France.  It’s cheap, easy and an enjoyable ride on the water.  It is an island after all!

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