Friends. I have fallen Inn Love. You know when you find one of those places that after you visit, you just keep dreaming about it? You even consider packing up and moving? My goodness – I have found it. It was by chance. A delightfully inexpensive (OK, this was a Christmas present from my parents, so it was free, but even so…) trip to the far reaches of the Caribbean could not have been more perfect. I know many people choose “safe” Caribbean destinations – they speak English, an all inclusive resort with American food, etc. People, I’m telling you. BREAK THAT HABIT. Go beyond English and all-inclusive and you find the true majesty of travel. There is something so fantastic about feeling like a local in a place as beautiful and rich as this.
This island is situated between more well known, St. Lucia and Dominica and is part of the Lesser Antilles. It’s a fantastic place for Americans to travel because as a a region of France, its currency is the Euro and the current exchange rate is ($1=.93 Euro!!), but even better than that are the high standards of French cuisine. You can be at a little run down, beach
side cafe and the food is far better than what you would find in the States…and we all know how important that is to me! So come along with me and discover the French island of Martinique.
I like giving my readers gifts, so here is one. Now, don’t go blabbing to all of your friends. This is our little secret.
We traveled to Martinique on a relatively new low-cost European airline called Norwegian Air. I see your eyebrow furrowing. THAT’S RIGHT. Norwegian Air. Don’t believe me? As of writing this, you could leave Friday, January 27 and return February 3 for $250 round trip from Baltimore. THAT IS INSANE! Don’t worry, this isn’t a paper plane with a monkey for a pilot, the service and comfort of this airline is top notch. The *only* downside is luggage restrictions. You get one carry on bag that must weigh no more than 10KG (~22 pounds). Don’t worry though, what more do you need than sunscreen, a bathing suit and sandals? (Sidebar: On this note, please do not be concerned that I only own one dress as you’ll think from photos. This is my bathing suit coverup! And, when every restaurant is on a beach, why wouldn’t you always have a bathing suit on and snorkeling gear ready? That’s what my carry on consisted of! Priorities, people!)
We arrived at our HomeAway property – a 3 bedroom villa overlooking Les Anses-d’Arlet complete with a kitchen and private pool. In traditional Runion (that’s my maiden name) fashion, we had just enough time to have a fabulous dinner. We arrived at L’Escale, a beautiful restaurant tucked down off of a hillside, surrounded my nature. It was at this restaurant where I was reminded that the French love their cheese. I, of course, ordered my first of, probably 10, Salade au Chevre Chaud (Warm Goat Cheese Salad!).
In our family, my dad and I are the explorers. Luckily, TJ was up for a stroll, so the three of us set off the first morning to find the boulangerie (bakery!) – essentially the most important thing any French island has to offer. Also lucky for the fitness fanatic in me, our villa was on top of a very steep hill and the boulangerie … at the bottom (in the photo, you’ll see me on the road and the boulangerie is by the water). Each morning, we hiked this hill in search of croissants and a baguette to start the day off right. On that first morning, we were up early enough to see the local fisherman pull up to the town center with the daily catch. We bought this one night to grill at home and it was delicious and fresh and only 16 euros!
We spent the next day discovering our new neighborhood. Martinique has quite a history. One of our favorite stops was in Le Diamant which had an over look
of Le Diamant Roche (Diamond Rock). Can you imagine, this rugged rock sticking up from the water was a fort which housed a hospital and more???
We arrived in the village of Le Diamant and found lunch at La Voille Blanche where for the first time I tried Marlin…raw, and it was phenomenal. In addition to my obsession with goat cheese, I now wanted to eat anything raw on the menu as did my sister. Our trip basically consisted of rotating Salade au Chevre Chaud and Beef, Marlin or Tuna Tartar. Every dish was served with so much color!
Mid week we discovered the most perfect beach, Anse Noire (black sand beach!). Nestled in between two cliffs, this nearly private beach isn’t so easy to access. If you don’t have a boat, the only
option is down a flight of about 100 stairs. We arrived early with snorkeling equipment as we were told this was one of the best snorkeling beaches on the island. Unfortunately, I don’t have an underwater camera, so it’s left to my memory. The only thing I brought back from that excursion was very burnt shoulders from hours of slow swimming!
Other than sunbathing and eating, my mom really wanted to do a boat excursion. We found Louis at La ronde Pecheur who took us on a 4 hour boating, snorkeling and snacking trip. We had a beautifully sunny day on the water and got to do some great snorkeling in areas only accessible by boat. If visiting the area I would highly recommend him!
The final day in Martinique was heaven. We finally learned what the locals knew – you must get to Chez Fab et Claude early for a beach side table. We saw Claude a couple of days prior, literally running to and from, singing in French, taking orders. He was marvelous. His energy level was 10x mine (can you imagine!?) and he was happy as a clam. There is a reason he has regulars. The food here is top-notch and you cannot beat the setting. I had the Poulet Boucane – a creole BBQ chicken with frites (fries!). His is the best. Served with a shot of local Rhum (rum!) and a berry cobbler. I adored Claude, I hope to be like him one day.
Our trip finally came to a close. I write this entry just a week after our return and gosh do I miss it already. Part of me hopes I have convinced some of you to add this to your bucket list, but the other part of me hopes it remains my little treasure to return to. But if you go, brush up on your French, order things you don’t understand and take plenty of sunscreen. I promise, you won’t regret it.
“People don’t take trips, trips take people.” – John Steinbeck