Trip Report: Dominica 2006, Part the First (Martinique, if we’re really honest)

We were supposed to have a family vacation on the Caribbean island of Dominica (no, not the Dominican Republic) with M, my parents, granny, aunt and uncle. However, M and I and the folks arrived a few days earlier and decided that it was probably not the best destination for an 87-yr.old. So they changed their plans and we had a two-week holiday for just the four of us.

And it was fantastic! We flew from Amsterdam to Paris to Martinique (via a shuttle bus between Charles de Gaulle and Orly, arriving Orly as they were boarding, one of the most stressful bus journeys of my life) and had two days in Martinique.
I have to say that Martinique was more or less what I expected (a tropical island) but also, strangely, very much European.

Distillerie Trois Rivieres

I especially felt this when we came back to catch our flight to Paris. From the savage beauty, terrible roads, smiling people of Dominica we flew back to Martinique to agriculture, a BIG capitol city, light industry (and all the negatives that implies) and pretty roads and cars with French license plates. It felt so terribly different from what we had just left and so very similar to our destination.
But Martinique was also a very nice introduction to the area. It is lovely, something about the forests of palm trees is very captivating. Not to mention the beaches!

Anse Ceron

The first evening the sun set much quicker than we were ready for, dark at 6 instead of 7.30 like in Amsterdam. We found a small local restaurant with outdoor tables under a tent right next to the bay — like, 2 meters from the water. They only served grilled things that they prepared right there on an oil drum barbecue. Young men were playing dominoes on a nearby table with a SLAP every minute. Our one full day we mostly spent driving. We went up the coast, searching for coffee — impossible to find on a Sunday morning, but we did find a small dark patisserie and a tiny grocery. We stopped in St. Pierre, the town which lost all of its inhabitants in the volcanic eruption of 1902 — all, that is, except for one man who was saved by the thick walls of his prison cell. I’ll bet he had some serious cognitive dissonance over the morality of his situation.

St. Pierre

We had a picnic at the beach shown above and spent the afternoon at the botanical gardens “Les Ombrages.” It was a beautiful jungle walk with massive bamboo all over.

We ended up at Presqu’ile La Caravelle for a walk as the sun was going down. It was supposed to be a short jaunt 5 minutes down to the castle ruin but it was closed so we walked (jogged, more like) 30 mins each way to the lighthouse at the end of the point.

We found a fantastic restaurant for dinner, Case Coco in Ste. Luce, near our hotel. Wonderful!
The next morning we left way early, our ferry was not till 1.30 but at 9 we were on our way to return the car and take a taxi to the ferry. We arrived at the port at 11.18, lots of extra time. Taxi driver: “Where’s the waiting room (or check-in or whatever you call it) for the ferry to Dominica?” Port guard: “Oh, there’s no ferry to Dominica, it’s in dry dock and won’t be running till next week.” GULP. Taxi driver to us: “So, where would you like to go now?” Us: Absolute Silence. After way too many negotiations, discussions, phone calls, debates, to get into now, we somehow ended up back at the airport with our taxi driver leading us by the hand to the private planes. And that’s what we did! When faced with the idea of buying flights for the next morning, getting another rental car, organising another hotel and wasting the entire day OR hiring a private plane and leaving within the hour for not much more money, we went with a private plane. What jet-setters! Our pilot was extremely capable and only let down her guard when I asked her for a photo — “Oh, je ne suis pas coiffee!”

And so we made it to Dominica.


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