We anchored in the Petite Anse d’Arlet Bay, Martinique, in the early morning, after a night sail up from Bequia. After clearing in on a customs computer in the village, we were welcomed to the island by an elderly man singing Edith Piaf while buying groceries and advising us to which avocados were the best. We took a walk in the small village, and agreed that we much preferred the sleepy atmosphere here, compared the Grenadines. We had planned to spend a couple of days snorkeling in the bays, but in the end, we were more interested to go to Fort de France, the main city of Martinique, so after a couple of nights in Petite Anse, we headed the short way over to the “big” city. We hadn’t visited a bigger town since we left Recife in Brasil, six months ago, and Fort de France admittedly is a village compared to Recife, but we were able to go visit a Decathlon and get surfboards for the kids (for Christmas), new swimming clothes and other things that had been difficult to find over the last six months.
We found Fort de France quite charming, with a beautiful library, pretty much the best bakery in the world and a waterfront where the local kids played on the play ground just next to the anchorage. Additionally, the temperature had begun to decrease to the point that it was possible to be outside in the afternoon without feeling like we were burning to death.
Esben wanted to visit a rum distillery, so we rented a car for a few days and went north to the Depaz distillery on the slopes of Mount Pelée.
The volcano Mt Pelée erupted in 1904, killing almost 30.000 people in the nearby town, St Pierre. Only two people survived, one of them a prisoner. The only surviving family member of the Depaz family was a son, Victor Depaz, who was in Europe at the time of the eruption. He came back to Martinique in 1917, rebuild the rum distillery, and lived there with his wife and 11 kids. The estate is located in a beautiful place, between the sea and the mountain, with sugar cane fields flowing as far as the eye can see. We did self-guided tour, and saw the old main house, where the Depaz family used to live, as well as the distillery. The Depaz rum is still being made in the distillery, and the old machinery was still kept alongside the new. It was a very nice and interesting place to visit, and we did of course buy some rum before we left.
We wanted to try a small hike along the Beauregard water channel build high on the hills, but in the end we didn’t walk very far. You hike on the wall of the small channel, with a vertical drop off of more than 100 meters to one side. Not great for a kid like Mattis, who doesn’t quite understand the consequence of a wrong step, but it was still very cool to see, and the scenery was breathtaking.
Next we were ready to climb Mt Pelée. You actually drive most of the way, only starting the hike something like 450 meters below the caldera. We got up at 5 in the morning, to get to the mountain as early as possible, and we were rewarded with beautiful views on our way up. After a couple of hours, three ladies in identical sports clothes came running up and overtook us. Then three more, and three more, and we realized that a race up the mountain was taking place. The leaders of the race had been impressively fast, but later we met other participants who were walking like us, and who were very impressed with the kids doing the trip. We reached the top in beautiful weather, and had the views all around the island. Later, we learned that we had been exceptionally lucky, the mountain is usually covered in clouds.
Our last stop in Martinique was St Pierre, the town below Mt Pelée. Here, people had rebuild most of the houses, but many ruins from the 1904 eruption could still be seen. We went to see the small museum and of course had to visit the prison cell where the town’s prisoner had survived.
Like the rest of Martinique, St Pierre was a lovely little town to visit, and we were sorry to leave. But next up was Antigua.
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