Fort de France
Position: 14:35.89N 61:04.18W
Date: Saturday 6th April 2013
Charming as Trois Ilets was it was clear that there wasn’t a great deal for us to do there over the weekend so we moved on the Fort de France, the capital of Martinique. Our arrival at the anchorage off the town, just behind Fort St Loius, coincided with a squall moving in from the East and finding a place to park amongst the many yachts with driving rain and wind and quite bouncy waves required a measure of concentration.
Over the last few weeks, although the islands had been quite fantastic there had been a feeling that something was missing, something that could not quite be defined. Well just after we had anchored the cathedral in the town started to ring its bells and the sound was so distinctly French that it immediately became clear what had been missing; it was European culture. The bells immediately brought back memories of all the good times we have had in places like Brittany and we perhaps unfairly set our taste buds and other senses to expect a large dose of what our memories promised could lay in store for us in the town.
When we went ashore we found that the entire waterfront had been turned into a some sort of festival area with tented stalls set up to advertise and/or sell various services or products, there was a bandstand with continuous live music from different groups of performers, and then a very brightly painted carousel for the children. Unlike all of the other roundabouts I have come across this one had a band of about half a dozen musicians set up in the middle of the ride playing some very catchy creole music, with an accordion and various percussion instruments. But we couldn’t understand why the men running the ride were all so wet and sweaty. Then a short while later after all of the empty seats had been taken by a new batch of children it all became clear. This roundabout had no power source. Not only was the music live, but the carousel was turned by men running around in circles and pushing it. And it was a very hot day.
As we walked around town we came across the Cathedral. It was constructed with a solid iron frame. Apparently it had been built several times in the past using less robust materials but had been destroyed by fire, wind or other natural causes. It would appear as though the iron version was working OK.
Another fine building was the Schoelcher Library, also constructed largely from iron. Schoelcher had been an early advocate of the abolishment of slavery in Martinique and has a number of places named after him.
Whilst walking along the waterfront we came across someone flying an exquisite kite that he had made. Shaped like some magical cross between an old galleon and aeroplane it made a fantastic sight.
There were, of course, many places to enjoy French patisserie, coffee, decent European beer (Caribbean beer is just so light and gassy) and we had a memorable meal in a restaurant called Cave de Vin.