Martinique Part 1: May 21-23, 2007

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


We decided to skip Dominica on our trip south (too many islands and not enough time) and spend time there this winter.  We never checked in at this southern-most of the Leeward Islands, and never went to shore.   Flew our yellow quarantine flag, and anchored off at Mero, Dominica, about half-way down the large island, on the evening of 5/20/07.  Took a few pictures at sunset.

Sunset at Mero, Dominica

Hotly-contested soccer game on the beach

St. Pierre, Martinique -- The Northern-most island of the Windwards

The Village

St. Pierre is perhaps best known for being the victim of a catastrophic pyroplastic eruption of the volcano Mr. Pelee.  Despite plenty of advance warning from the volcano, the residents of the village were persuaded that it was safe to stay -- there was an election pending, and the officials wanted their public at home and voting.  On March 8, 1902, at about 8 AM, Mt. Pelee erupted, sending not lava but an enormous cloud of super-heated dust and poisonous gasses tumbling down from the collapsed southern side of the mountain.  Before the eruption, St. Pierre was known as the Paris of Caribbean.  After the eruption, the entire town lay in ruins, with over 28,000 dead.  There were only a very few survivors, the most celebrated of which was Auguste Cyparis, who was saved by virtue of being incarcerated behind the thick walls of the local jail.  He was in the cell for four days and three nights before being rescued by neighboring villagers who had come to scavenge in the total destruction of the village.  Cyparis later joined the Barnum and Bailey Circus, where he exhibited the scars from the burns he had received in the cell.  Although some sources mention as many as six survivors, the only other certain survivor was an old cobbler who lived on the far outskirts, and happened to be in his cellar at the time of the eruption.  Today St. Pierre is an especially charming little village of only a few thousand residents.  The eruption collapsed most of the buildings, as is evident in the photographs in the Musee Vulcanologique, and is also evident to even the most casual stroller, since many of the existent buildings clearly have walls with very irregular and very old stone bases.  Cruisers:  don't miss Martinique; don't miss St. Pierre, and don't miss the museum!

Martinique is another thoroughly-French island.  We had a delightful lunch one day at Le Tamaya, a nautically-themed small restaurant run by a couple who arrived in Martinique by yacht.  The proprietress knew no more English than we know French, but we would return any time!  Elegant presentation and delicious.  And the customs office in St. Pierre is in a local cyber cafe, so one can enjoy a beer while filling out the forms!

Mt. Pelee, as seen from St. Pierre

Sunset at St. Pierre

Another view -- Church in background

Ruins from above


Ruins from below

Note line of rebuild on the walls

Approaching ruins of a church

Collapsed into the street, and still here over 100 yrs later!

Church ruins

Church ruins

Church ruins

Entrance to the theatre

Theatre stage area

Another view of stage area

Statue at the theatre

Old jail next to theatre

Barb is in jail!

Is this where Cyparis was?

Sign adjacent to the jail ruins

Second half of sign

The famous survivor

Mural on wall of modern school

River running through the village

Casket shop in downtown St. Pierre


Depaz Rum Factory

One day we went on an extended hike down the road to the Depaz rum factory, one of several such factories on Martinique, but the only one that is still steam-powered.  Self-guided tours through the facilities are encouraged; but alas, production was halted during our visit due to a problem with the stoker -- we think.  (The engineer spoke little English.)   At the end of the tour, one enters the gift shop and tasting bar, where we were introduced to Ti Punch.  Yummy.  We purchased two bottles of rum, a bottle of the cane sugar used in the Ti Punch, and one of the special swizzle sticks used to thoroughly mix the cane sugar, rum and lime juice.  (Picture a thin stick with many "toes" at the end -- splayed out in various directions like the toes on the leg of a bird.  Place the stem of the stick between your palms and rub them back and forth, thereby twirling the toes in the mixture.  Add a single ice cube if you wish, and voila!  Ti Punch.)

Recipe for Ti Punch:  1 part sugar cane syrup; 1 part lime juice; 5 or 6 parts white agricole (ie, made from sugar cane instead of molasses) rum (can also use golden rum); stir with special swizzle stick; add a single ice cube if desired; enjoy!

Martinique is the "island of flowers"

Tractor in cut cane field

Young man who is cook at cafe adjacent to rum factory -- he also walked to the factory from town

The cafe

Visitors' entrance to the factory

Decorative barrels at the entrance

The big picture of the enterprise

Weighing station for arriving cane

Adjacent estate

Water wheel

Sign at water wheel


Series of signs in the main building ...

Large casks for yr-old golden rum

Sign about 1-yr-old golden rum: Dore

Small casks for multi-yr golden rum

Sign about "old" golden rum: vieux

Lizard enjoying the factory ambience

Banyon tree planted on factory grounds in 1980!

Stainless steel tanks for the white rum

Sign about white rum

Smoke stack for the furnace that creates the steam

Sign about recycling the ash from the smoke stack

Sign about former sugar production

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