Martinique - Marin and day out with Beez - 16th -17th January

Mon 17 Jan 2011 14:39
Some interesting facts about Martinique:-
Discovery - Christopher Columbus discovered Martinique in 1502 and is known as the Island of Flowers.  The island swapped between the French and English for a few more centuries until it returned to French hands in 1814. 
Economy â past/present Since the end of the 17th century sugar cane cultivation had grown considerably, but with the regrettable consequence of the importing of African slaves.  By the end of the 18th century the majority of the population had become of African stock.  Martinique is now largely dependent upon sugar, bananas and pineapples, although considerable emphasis is being placed on developing tourism.
Shocking - St Pierre, the first town and the economic centre was literally raised in 1902 by the eruption of Mont Pelee.  This terrible catastrophe caused 30,000 deaths and changed the economic and social situation of Martinique, as the majority of the European population died in the eruption.
Dangerous - The fer-de-lance, is an aggressive pit viper found in overgrown and brushy fields in Martinique and itâs bite is highly toxic!
Marin is tucked into the bottom of its cul-de-sac and owes most its economic development to its marina.  The checking in/out process on most of the French islands is different to other Caribbean islands, as you are required to complete your details on a computer, print them off and then hand the paperwork to the immigration officer; typical of the French!
Anne concentrating on navigating everyone safely to the Marin dinghy dock
Going shopping, but Pepe lost her balance and ended up doing her DYING INSECT impression!
One of the local yole sailing boats -  looking a bit unsteady
We hired a car with Beez Neez for the day and Bear kindly offered to drive us around the island.  We drove north to visit the famous former capital of St Pierre, just a few kilometres south of Mont Pelee, the still active volcano that destroyed the town in just 10 minutes!  After several warning signs it eventually erupted into a glowing burst of superheated gas and burning ash, with a force 40 times stronger than the nuclear blast over Hiroshima!  Between the suffocating gases and the fiery inferno, 30,000 inhabitants lost their lives within minutes.  However, out of 3 survivors there was a prisoner named Cyparis, who escaped with minor burns and later joined the PT Barnum circus where he toured as a sideshow act!
The prison lies besides the remains of the once splendid and celebrated theatre of St-Pierre and we were able to walk up the broad sweep of steps to the entrance and see the huge stage area.  Across the road we paid a small entrance fee into the Musee Volcanologique to see an interesting collection of objects and documents of life before 1902 and the remains of the disaster: including household metal and glass objects charred and deformed by the extreme heat.
During this stop Michael was trying to stop the recently filled up dinghy fuel tank from leaking into the hire car!
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Anne, Bear and Michael at the stairs to the St Pierre theatre entrance
The remains of the theatre walls
Remains of the prison
The story of Cyparis, one of the earthquake survivors.
The ruins covered in lush green vegetation
Michael and the still active Mount Pelee in the distance
As part of my pathfinder duties, I directed everyone in between the rain showers to the covered market, where we all had an indifferent 12EC$ lunch at Le Guerin, a not so good recommendation from the Lonely Planet guide.
Pepe and Bear in St Pierre and making their way for lunch
The ânot so goodâ restaurant, Le Guerin, in the covered market
Christmas nativity scene still being displayed in St Pierre in Mid-January
Our drive then followed a route through the beautiful lush rainforest of tall tree ferns and roadside bamboo and after a quick stop to view the Atlantic rollers on the east side of the island we managed to stumble across the Musee du Rhum St James.  The museum is set in a beautiful colonial  home on the site of St James planationâs working distillery, where nicely laid out photos show how sugar cane becomes rum.  Locals say this is the place to try some of the best rums Martinique has to offer, so we naturally had to do some tasting to check if this statement was true!  A quick detour to the Musee de la Banane where everything banana was available including banana ice cream â yummy!  Back to Marin via Carrefour and a great day was had by all.
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St James rum museum, with Michael next to one of the distillers
What a lovely bunch of bananas; above/below
Next port of call, Fort de France. A 20 mile sail around to the west coast of Martinique.............