Martinique Part 2: May 23-30, 2007

Click on the above thumbnail for a map during this time period

Southern Anchorages and Expeditions in Martinique

On 5/23 we left St. Pierre and traveled down the coast to Anse Mitan, which is across a big bay from the city of Fort-de-France.  Barb was anxious to visit the city; Chuck was not.  Found a spot right next to Kevin and Amanda on Solstice, but had trouble setting our anchor -- we kept scooping up pieces of concrete debris that would prevent the anchor from plowing into the sand.  The insecure holding, Chuck's lack of enthusiasm for a visit to the city, and the fact that we awoke the next morning to find ash from a distant fire falling on the boat, all contributed to an early departure to parts further south, to wit St. Anne and Ilet Baude in the Le Marin area.  Along the way we passed a 573' high chunk of limestone called Diamond Rock.  During the Napoleonic wars, the British navy landed 100 sailors on the rock and fortified it with cannons, and believe it or not, registered it as a warship, the HMS Diamond Rock.  They constructed a munitions depot, a dock, a cistern, and a hospital on the rock, and from it were able to enforce a blockade of Martinique for almost 18 months.  Finally, the frustrated French decided to attack the rock.  But how to attack an unsinkable "ship"?  The French began the attack by floating over to their foes several barrels of rum, and after a suitable wait, were able to easily take the fortification.  The British sailors fled to Barbados, where they were court-martialed for deserting their ship.

In arriving at Marin/St. Anne, we caught up with Steve and Linda on Seaman's Elixir.  On 5/28 we all rented a car and set out to visit as many rum factories as we could in one day.  Oops.  That Monday was a holiday on Martinique, and so the rum distilleries were closed.  So were most shops in the cities and villages.  Traffic was very light, however, and we decided to continue the tour of the island.  Stopped in Fort-de-France, and so as it turned out Barb could kinda get her big-city-fix anyway.  Most everything was closed, but we saw the Place de la Savane, a 12-acre waterfront park. The park was undergoing some kind of renovation -- it was surrounded by a construction fence and did not match the "flower-filled" description mentioned in all of the guide books.  But through the fence we could see the statue of Empress Josephine, wife of Napoleon.  The most striking aspect of the 1859 statue is that Josephine no longer has a head -- she lost it in 1991 during a protest -- perhaps because the Empress is said to have influenced Napoleon to prolong slavery in France and its colonies in order to benefit her own family's plantation.

Our travels took us back up to St. Pierre, where we visited the nearby butterfly garden and had lunch in the adjacent restaurant.  From there it was an easy drive to the end of the road on the southeastern slope of Mt. Pelee.  From that point there is a steep steep path that leads to the top -- but we had neither the time nor the correct shoes for such a challenge, so we only ventured up a few hundred yards, hoping to get a glimpse of St. Pierre.  Alas, we were just out of sight on the wrong side of the mountain.

Diamond Rock

Another view

Closeup of caves on Diamond Rock

Zig-zag path up the hill behind church at St. Anne

Each corner has a station of the cross

Burial crypts in St. Anne

Wares in open market at St. Anne



Colorful plant in St. Anne

Banana field -- note blue plastic over each bunch

Closeup of plastic bag over banana bunch

Flower in butterfly garden

Another flower in butterfly garden

Musical bamboo wheel

How does it work?

Beautiful home at one of the (closed for holiday) rum distilleries

Linda snapping the home

Making noise in butterfly garden

Old Justice Building in Fort-de-France

Deserted street on a holiday in Fort-de-France

Headless Josephine in Fort-de-France park

View from road end at base of Mt. Pelee

Looking up at Mt. Pelee peak

Steve and Linda coming up path

Paths on Mt. Pelee

View from Mt. Pelee -- the village of Morne Rouge

Steve gathering fruit on the grounds of a rum factory

Sign for one of the rum factories

Instead of flagmen, the French use portable traffic lights

Habitation Clement

On the way back toward Marin we stopped at Habitation Clement, which was open but due to close in approximately 1/2 hour.  The young lady at the desk said that it would take at least 2 hours to see the plantation, and so we declined to pay the admission fee and went on our way, but decided to rent the car again the next day and return.   And so we did.   Turned out the plantation grounds have been converted into an extensive museum with separate treatments of the botanical, industrial, architectural, and rum-making heritage.   We soon discovered that the plantation had been the site of an historic summit between President Bush (the elder) and President Mitterrand and assorted generals at the height of the Gulf War.  Rum is no longer made at the site, but several buildings on the self-guided tour are still used for aging rum in casks.

These pictures were all taken in the botanical section of the Habitation Clement ...

... there are over 300 species of tropical plants on the grounds...

Banana field just outside the grounds

Black swan

Black swan nest w/ eggs

Linda seeking a dramatic angle

... and these were in and around the rum museum ...

The old Creole house ...


La Mauny Distillerie -- Riviere-Pilote, Martinique

On the way back to Marin from our visit to Habitation Clement, we passed the La Mauny distillery.  On an impulse, we pulled in, and at last discovered a working factory.  We joined a guided tour, mostly in French, but the young lady could speak a little English and gave us all remarkable free rein to crawl around and photograph.   Here are some of the results:

Small truck arriving with hand-cut sugar cane

Large truck being unloaded up over the side

The chains are used to pull the load up over the side

The huge claw that grabs the chains

Large truck dumping machine-cut cane -- right foreground has hand-cut cane

Steve and Linda getting help with a stalk for tasting

About as much cane as one man can cut in one day

Cane juice -- vesou -- collected from the grinder/crushers

View from above of the crushers

Closeup of one of the grinder/crusher wheels

Sprinkle of water helps to remove the sugar in the crusher

Another view (from above) of the vesou

Residue fiber after crushing out the sugar -- this is dried and burned

Peekhole into a furnace burning the dried residue

Steve (and guide) tasting the raw 75% result of distillation before dilluting and aging

... tastes kinda strong!

La Mauny is award-winning

Flag courtesy of ITA's Flags of All Countries used with permission.