When I think back on my trip to Martinique (a trip I won thanks to: Martinique Gourmande, Tourisme Martinique and Air Canada), I remember the sun, the sand and the radiant smiles of the Martiniquans. This French Caribbean island has real contagious charm. On the occasion of the Martinique Gourmande Festival which is happening right now in Montreal, I thought I would share my favourite things that I discovered during my week in this little piece of paradise.
We stayed at Hôtel Bakoua, a lovely 4-star hotel in Trois-Îlets. We were greeted like old friends with a rum punch and we loved the inviting colonial-style hotel overlooking the ocean. Our little suite had its own patio and was right on the beach. The view on the secluded beach in the morning was truly paradise with an abundance of flowers, palm trees and parasols. We were so happy at the hotel that we rarely wanted to leave, but we did manage to go out to explore the island!
One of my favourite places we visited was Habitation Clément, a former sugarcane plantation and rum distillery. The vast property includes a botanical garden with many sculptures along a path around a large pond, a typical colonial house and many buildings where the rum was produced and stored. It is such an impressive place to visit that you really need several hours. The tour ends with a rum tasting, of course and the giant palm trees in the garden make the best background for photos. I could easily move here, especially if I could stay at the colonial house!
Les Anses d’Arlet
We toured the southern part of the island and stumbled upon this small fishing village that was basking in a breathtaking sunset! We walked out on the dock to the sound of worshipers singing in the church that was in session at the other end of the dock. The church doors were wide open; it was a very magical, if not spiritual, moment.
Le Diamant (The Diamond)
On our last day, we visited Le Diamant, a community that was named after the large diamond-shaped volcanic rock formation across from the island. It was here that we visited two monuments: the incredibly moving statues at Anse Cafard are a tribute to all the former Martiniquan slaves, including those who perished when a slave ship crashed into the rocks below the cliff where the memorial statues stand. A few miles from here, we found the Maison du Bagnard, a tiny house built by a former convict who had been imprisoned for making a bust of a certain Colonel without permission. Upon his release in 1953, he returned to Martinique and built the little house where he spent the rest of his days, until his death in 1973. I’m not sure how he managed to live here, because the house is the size of a child’s playhouse!
The place that impressed me the most in the island capital was The Schoelcher Library, which has a rather remarkable history. The building was designed by Pierre-Henri Picq, disciple of Gustave Eiffel (famous for the Eiffel Tower), and built in Paris for the World Fair in 1889. It was then dismantled and sent to Martinique to be rebuilt in Fort-de-France where it was to house the vast collection of books (more than 10 000) of the deputy of Martinique and abolitionist, Victor Schoelcher. His only condition for his generous donation was that the library be accessible to all and especially used to educate former slaves. This beautiful example of Beaux-Arts architecture is quite incredible!
Smoked chicken and cod fritters
The two most memorable meals we enjoyed in Martinique were the cod fritters sold on the public beach near our hotel and a smoked chicken that we bought on the road between our visit to Habitation Clément and Le Diamant. The smoked chicken is slowly roasted over a wood fire with pieces of sugar cane. A bit like the roast Portuguese chicken we find in Montreal, but with a slightly sweeter flavour. We ate it with a bag of chips, a baguette and washed it down with cold beer at a picnic table near the Maison du Bagnard.
Martinique’s Gourmet event in Montreal
If you don’t get the chance to visit Martinique in the near future, you can at least enjoy a taste of Martinique until September 29th because the Martinique Gourmande festival is underway in Montreal and Quebec City! Several restaurants and bars (more than 60!) are offering a special menu inspired by Martinican dishes until the end of the month. Visit the website to find out more: martiniquegourmande.ca
You too, can have the chance to win an all-inclusive trip for two to Martinique and stay at their Club Med. Click here to participate: Martiniquegourmande.ca/concours/ Good luck!
To give you an idea of how gorgeous Martinique is, I made a short video of our trip…