Saturday, 6 May 2017

MARTINIQUE: Visit Martinique Enjoy The Sunny Beaches

The CDC has identified Martinique as an affected area of the Zika outbreak. Pregnant women are advised to be cautious as the virus can lead to birth defects. Adults affected by the virus experience fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis (red eyes) typically lasting a week.

Martinique is a Caribbean island that is an overseas department of France in the Caribbean Sea, north of St. Lucia and south of Dominica.

The island is dominated by Mount Pelee, which on 8 May 1902 erupted and completely destroyed the city of Saint Pierre, killing 30,000 inhabitants. In the South of the island, there are many beautiful beaches with a lot of tourists. In the North, the rain forests and the black sand beaches are worth seeing. The interior of the island is mountainous.

Martinique is an insular region of France located in the Lesser Antilles in the eastern Caribbean Sea, with a land area of 1,128 square kilometres (436 sq mi) and a population of 385,551 inhabitants as of January 2013. Like Guadeloupe, it is an overseas region of France, consisting of a single overseas department. One of the Windward Islands, it is directly north of Saint Lucia, southeast of Puerto Rico, northwest of Barbados, and south of Dominica.

As with the other overseas departments, Martinique is one of the eighteen regions of France,being an overseas region and an integral part of the République française or French Republic. As part of France, Martinique is part of the European Union, and its currency is the euro. The official language is French, and virtually the entire population also speak Antillean Creole or Créole Martiniquais.

Together with Guadeloupe, La Réunion, Mayotte and French Guiana, Martinique is one of the Overseas Departments of France. It is also an outermost region of the European Union. The inhabitants of Martinique are French citizens with full political and legal rights. Martinique sends four deputies to the French National Assembly and two senators to the French Senate.

Cities Of Martinique

Fort-de-France : Capital.
Le Carbet :
Le Diamant : Beach town facing the iconic Diamond Rock.
Le Marin : The main harbour for sailboats, located in a bay.
Morne Rouge : Access to the Montagne Pelée.
Sainte-Anne : Perhaps the most touristic town as it is the access point to all the white sand beaches of the south, including the most famous but crowded Les salines.
Saint-Pierre : Former capital that was destroyed by the 1902 eruption, many historic remains. The city has been rebuilt but is much smaller than it was.
Trois-Ilets : Across the bay from Fort de France and reachable by ferry. Touristic town with big resorts, restaurants and casino

Places To Visit

Macouba, a former tobacco town, currently a great look-out place with a great view of seas and mountains. On a clear day, neighboring island Dominica can be seen.
Balata, a serene little town with a church (a miniature Sacre Coeur) built to remember those who died in World War I and the Jardin de Balata a garden with thousands of well tended tropical plants. An optional narrow bridge can be walked at tree top level.
Presqu'île de la Caravelle, easy 30 min walk up to the lighthouse where you get a view of the whole island.
Tartane, fishermans village where you'll find the most consistent surfing.

Martinique is an overseas department of France and retains both French and Caribbean culture. The island cuisine is a superb blend of French and Creole cooking that is worth trying. The north part of island lures hikers who seek to climb the mountains and explore the rain forests while the southern portions offer shopping and beaches for those who chose to just relax.

Tropical and humid with an average temperature of 24°C to 30°C. The climate is moderated by trade winds. The rainy season is from June to October and the island is vulnerable to devastating cyclones (hurricanes) every eight years on average.

There are two climatic and three tourist seasons on Martinique. The high season is between December and the end of April, with soaring prices and great crowds of travellers. From May to the end of November, Europeans tend to go elsewhere, as the weather is fine back home and travel possibilities are numerous.

Summer months (July and August) are a sort of intermediate season, as Martinique and Guadeloupe residents often take advantage of the good weather to visit the mainland. Prices and tourist services, as well as airplane tickets tend to be rather pricy, or even extremely expensive at this period, so be sure to book in advance to avoid paying double.

All in all, if you wish to avoid tourist masses but still take advantage of a pleasant temperature, we would advise you to visit the island in May and June, as the climate in this period of the year is rather dry with an acceptable level of humidity, and tariffs are still quite on the low side.

July and August are hot and humid months, but don’t be discouraged by tourist clichés saying that the so-called “cyclone” period is a horrible one: it does rain rather often, but the weather is still rather pleasant especially if you are planning to sightsee. Don’t count on taking a cruise ship in September, though, as you have considerably higher chances of meeting up with a hurricane or a tropical thunderstorm in this season.

Martinique was discovered on 15th January 1502 by Christopher Columbus. When he landed on the island, he found Martinique to be hostile and heavily infested with snakes and therefore only stayed three days. He baptised the island with the name given to the indigenous people, Matino (the island of women) or Madinina (the island of flowers).

The indigenous occupants were part of two different tribes. The Arawaks were described as gentle timorous Indians and the Caribbeans as ferocious cannibal warriors. The Arawaks came from Central America in the beginning of the Christian era and the Caribbeans came from the Venezuela coast around the 11th century.

When Columbus arrived, the Caribbeans had massacred many of their adversaries, sparing the women, who they kept for their personal or domestic use.

Tourism

Tourism has become more important than agricultural exports as a source of foreign exchange. In 2000, the island hosted 500,000 tourists, and the tourism industry employed 7% of the total workforce. Roughly 16% of the total businesses on the island,some 6,000 companies provide tourist-related services

Martinique's main and only airport with commercial flights is Martinique Aimé Césaire International Airport. It serves flights to and from Europe, the Caribbean, Venezuela, the United States, and Canada.

Fort-de-France is the major harbor. The island has regular ferry service to Guadeloupe, Dominica, St. Lucia, Les Saintes and Marie Galante.There are also several local ferry companies that connect Fort-de-France with Pointe du Bout.

The road network is extensive and well-maintained, with freeways in the area around Fort-de-France. Buses run frequently between the capital and St. Pierre.

Ethnic groups

Most of Martinique's population is descended from enslaved Africans brought to work on sugar plantations during the colonial era, generally mixed with some French, Amerindian (Carib people), Indo-Martiniquais of Tamil origin, Lebanese or Chinese ancestry.

Martinique also has a small Syro-Lebanese community, a small but increasing Chinese community, and the Beke community, descendants of European ethnic groups of the first French and Spanish settlers, who still dominate parts of the agricultural and trade sectors of the economy. Whites in total represent 5% of the population.

The Beke population,which totals around 1% of Martinique's population, most of them being of aristocratic origin by birth or after buying the title generally live in mansions on the Atlantic coast of the island,mostly in the François - Cap Est district.

In addition to the island population, the island hosts a metropolitan French community, most of which lives on the island on a temporary basis,generally from 3 to 5 years.

The official language is French, which is spoken by virtually the entire population. In addition, most residents can also speak Martiniquan Creole, a form of Antillean Creole closely related to the varieties spoken in neighboring English-speaking islands of Saint Lucia and Dominica.

Martiniquan Creole is based on French, Carib and African languages with elements of English, Spanish, and Portuguese. It continues to be used in oral storytelling traditions and other forms of speech and to a lesser extent in writing.

Use of Creole is predominant among friends and close family. Though it is normally not used in professional situations, members of the media and politicians have begun to use it more frequently as a way to redeem national identity and prevent cultural assimilation by mainland France.

Indeed, unlike other varieties of French creole such as Mauritian Creole, Martinican Creole is not readily understood by speakers of Standard French due to significant differences in grammar, syntax, vocabulary and pronunciation, though over the years it has progressively adapted features of Standard French.

An estimated 90% of residents are Roman Catholic; 5% are Hindu and another 5% practice other faiths, including Protestantism, African belief systems, Judaism, or are non-religious.

As an overseas département of France, Martinique's culture blends French and Caribbean influences. The city of Saint-Pierre destroyed by a volcanic eruption of Mount Pelée, was often referred to as the "Paris of the Lesser Antilles". Following traditional French custom, many businesses close at midday to allow a lengthy lunch, then reopen later in the afternoon.

Today, Martinique has a higher standard of living than most other Caribbean countries. French products are easily available, from Chanel fashions to Limoges porcelain. Studying in the métropole,mainland France, especially Paris is common for young adults. Martinique has been a vacation hotspot for many years, attracting both upper-class French and more budget-conscious travelers.

Martinique has a hybrid cuisine, mixing elements of African, French, Carib Amerindian and South Asian traditions. One of its most famous dishes is the Colombo,compare Tamil word kuzhambu for gravy or broth, a unique curry of chicken (curry chicken), meat or fish with vegetables, spiced with a distinctive masala of Tamil origins, sparked with tamarind, and often containing wine, coconut milk, cassava and rum.

A strong tradition of Martiniquan desserts and cakes incorporate pineapple, rum, and a wide range of local ingredients.

Martinique has a large popular music industry, which gained in international renown after the success of zouk music in the later 20th century. Zouk's popularity was particularly intense in France, where the genre became an important symbol of identity for Martinique and Guadeloupe. Zouk's origins are in the folk music of Martinique and Guadeloupe, especially Martinican chouval bwa, and Guadeloupan gwo ka. There's also notable influence of the pan-Caribbean calypso tradition and Haitian kompa.

Visiting Martinique

Being an integrated part of French Republic, Martininque is considered as European as Paris politically, therefore European Union immigration rules apply. In short, EU citizens and citizens of many other industrialized nations can visit Martinique visa-free, others need a Schengen Visa.

However, if you are on a round the world trip on your own boat, and have an expired Schengen visa while in need of a valid visa for entry into Martinique, it’s reported that the customs officers don’t care much about the situation and let you in since you are supposed to leave the island in a short time.

By Air

From Paris: Air Caraïbes, Air France, CorsairFly 450+€ round trip
From Caribbean: Air Caraïbes, Air Antilles Express and LIAT 150€ round trip.
From Germany, FRA (via Paris): Air France 700€ round trip.
From USA: Norwegian Airlines, American Airlines (American Eagle) is once again offering flights to Martinique, most include a stopover in Puerto Rico.
From Canada: Air Canada

By boat

From the surrounding islands, you can use these ferry companies:

Express des Iles
Brudey Frères

Cruise ships often visit "in season". Modest-sized ships can dock near downtown, and others moor in the Fort de France harbor, with passengers tendered to docks also close to downtown.

Movement

Public transport in Martinique is very limited, which could explain the reason why there are more cars registered in Martinique per person than anywhere else in France.

Despite the traffic, if you are going to make the most of your stay in Martinique, it is recommended that you hire a car. Without a car you will miss some of Martinique's best landscapes and scenery.

Due to the Taxi Union demands, there is no public transport from the airport, which means that you can either hire a car or take a taxi.

Taxis in Martinique are not cheap. The taxi fare from the airport to Fort-de-France is around €20, €38 to Pointe du Bout and Le Francois and €55 to Sainte-Anne. Be warned that taxis operate an extortionate 40% surcharge between 8PM and 6AM as well as on Sundays and public holidays.

Buses There are very few buses in Martinique. Most bus services are mini buses marked "TC", which stands for "Taxi Collectifs". The destinations of the buses are marked on a board either on the front window or on the side door. Bus stops are normally a square blue sign with a picture of a bus in white.

Most Taxi Collectifs depart and arrive at the Taxi Collectif Terminal at Pointe Sinon in Fort-de-France. They cost approximately €5 to Saint-Pierre, Pointe du Bout and Diamant, €7 to Sainte-Anne and €9 to Grand-Rivière. There are no timetables and the service can be unreliable. Most services are finished by 6PM weekdays and 1PM on Saturday. There are no services on Sundays.

Shuttle Boats There are shuttle boats every 30mins from Pointe du Bout and Trois Ilet to Fort-de-France. It is a very pleasant way of getting to Fort-de-France and also avoids the traffic. Services finish between 5:45 and 8PM depending upon the day.

Hitchhiking Hitchhiking is very common in Martinique, although like anywhere in the world not recommended. If you are going to hitchhike, take lots of water and try to stay out of the sun. There are very few footpaths in Martinique, so be careful and take the usual precautions that you have to take when hitchhiking anywhere. If you are unsure about getting into a car, just keep walking or wait for another car.

Driving in Martinique Driving in Martinique will be a pleasure in comparison to other Caribbean islands. The majority of roads are of an excellent standard. However roads in the center of the island go through terrain that can be very steep and caution is advised when rounding the frequent curves.

Your driving license from your home country is valid in Martinique. Driving laws are the same as in France and you have to drive on the right hand side of the road. Distances and speed limits are in Km and Km/h. There are several speed cameras on the island and the Gendarmerie are carrying out an increasing number of speed checks, so you should always watch your speed.

Unless otherwise stated, the speed limit is generally 50km/h in towns, 90km/h on major roads and 110km/h on the autoroute between the airport and Fort-de-France. If you rented your car, the rental car firm will charge you 20€ to 25€ for each inquiry of a drivers address by the police in reference to a car receiving a speeding ticket.

When traveling to the airport during rush hours, allow plenty of time. The N5 and Lamentin can get very busy. It is particularly busy between 06:30 and 09:30 and between 15:30 and 18:30.

French and Creole patois are spoken on the islands; English is known by some inhabitants. they speak very fast so tell them that you do not know french well.

Attractions

There are lots of beaches in Martinique.

Gorges de la Falaise, near Ajoupa-Bouillon. 8:00h-17:00h. On a length of about 200 metres the river Falaise flows through a canyon,some ten metres deep and 1-3 meters wide. You can discover the canyon by a combination of walking and swimming. The canyon is on private property, hence the fee,it also pays for the guide.
Be aware that some parts of the route can only be crossed by swimming, so you should wear swimming gear (no jeans, shirts, not even hats). However, you need to wear hiking shoes (no flip-flops etc.) as the hike goes over slippery stones. You can rent appropriate shoes at the entrance.
Note that the guide might be able to carry small cameras, but don't bring mobile phones, huge cameras or other stuff. You can leave your clothes, wandering gear, electronics etc. at the hut where the guide is waiting. EUR 7.00.

Purchasing

Martinique is a dependent territory of France and uses the euro as currency. US dollars and Eastern Caribbean dollars are not accepted in shops, but some stores and many restaurants and hotels take credit cards. The best exchange rates can be had at banks. Not all banks will do foreign exchanges and may direct you to Fort De France to do such transactions.

Reportedly, the best offerings include French luxury imports (e.g., perfumes, fashions, wines) and items made on the island, e.g., spices and rum. And some merchants offer 20 percent tax refunds for purchases made by credit card or travelers' checks, though many may not accept the latter.

Shopping opportunities include:

Galleria, in Lamentin (near airport), is the island's largest mall, with several European branded stores and others.

Fort-de-France's Spice Market offers stalls full of local/unique flowers, fresh fruit and vegetables, and herbs and spices.

Rue Victor Hugo Fort-de-France's main shopping street...a strip of sometimes tiny, Paris-like boutiques, island shops and vendors of fresh fruit and flowers

As a decidedly Catholic island, very few stores are open on Sundays or holidays celebrated in France.

Business hours: Sundays may find many stores closed. Check in-advance before hiring transport to any particular store or shopping area.

Dining

Martinique is unique in contrast to the majority of the other Caribbean islands in that it has a wide variety of dining options. The Ti Gourmet Martinique (2000) lists 456 cafés and/or restaurants on the island – not including the various bars some of which serve food as well as alcohol. The brochure produced and published by the ARDTM counts up to 500 food-service related establishments this corresponds to over 3,000 jobs.

Restaurants in Martinique range from the exclusive high-end gourmet restaurants to the crêpes, accras, boudin, fruit juices, and coconut milk one can purchase from food merchants on the beach or at snack stands/restaurants in town.

The abundance of both Créole and French restaurants reflects the predominance not only of French tourists in Martinique but also of the island’s status as a French DOM. There has been a growing interest in the traditional dishes of the island, and therefore, a more recent profusion of the number of Créole restaurants. Many of the restaurants tailor their menus to cater to both Créole and French tastes

In the 2000 edition of Délices de la Martinique (Delights of Martinique), the guide put together by the island’s restaurant union, the editorial given by the then Prefect and director of tourism, Philippe Boisadam, describes the contribution that ‘Martinique’s cuisine makes to the culinary arts.’

He states that this Créole restaurant and recipe guide is ‘a tourist souvenir that you are welcome to take home with you.’ Francis Delage, a culinary consultant who assembled most of the recipes for this guide underlines the fact that the island’s restaurateurs are the gastronomic ambassadors of Martinique and that they in particular represent the ‘quality of the welcome,’ ‘the products’ and ‘the savoir-faire of Créole cuisine, which is truly part of France’s culinary heritage.’

The changes in tourist composition,behavior, interest may very well account for the evolution in the culinary offerings in many of today’s restaurants. Restaurants in Martinique offer not only French and other International cuisines , but also the possibility of consuming the foods that the Other eats.

In this case, the Other refers to the Martiniquans. Visitors can catch a glimpse of the behind the scenes reality regarding Martiniquan culinary practices through an ‘authentic’ Creole cuisine. .

Restaurants, Créole cookbooks, public fairs and festivities, and the expensive dining rooms of foreign-owned luxury hotels where food is served, all present themselves as crucial staging grounds where ideas about Martiniquan cuisine, and therefore, identity, authenticity and place are continuously tested.

Drinking

As in France, water is safe to drink from the tap, and restaurants will happily serve this at no extra charge,l'eau du robinet.

Fresh fruit juices are also very popular on the island along with jus de canne which is a delicious sugar cane drink which is often sold in vans in lay-bys off the main roads. This juice does not stay fresh for long, so ask for it to be made fresh while you wait and drink it as quickly as possible with some ice cubes and a squeeze of lime.

Martinique is famous for its world class rums and the island today still hosts a large number of distilleries inviting tourist to explore its history. Production methods emphasize use of fresh juice from sugar cane to produce "rhum agricole", rather than molasses widely used elsewhere.

Although rum is far more popular, the local beer in Martinique is Bière Lorraine.

Karaoke-Café, quartier Basse Gondeau 97232 Le Lamentin, 0596 50 07 71, bar/restaurant/nightclub, currently the trendiest place (but not the most typical). Live music, Karaoke, 80s, dance, techno, worldmusic. Entrance €20 with a drink.

Accomodation

Camping is available in both mountain and beach settings. Setting up just anywhere is not permitted. A small fee is charged.

In addition there are hotels, bed and breakfasts (French: gites), villas and even private islands, Ilet Oscar and Ilet Thierry, for rent.

Employment

For European people coming from an EU country, working in Martinique isn't a problem. If you're from outside the EU, you will probably need a work permit,check with the French Embassy in your country. Do not forget though that the unemployment rate is high. But if you work in the health sector,doctor, nurse, it will be much easier.

Voluntary service: Volontariat Civil à l'Aide Technique (VCAT). Only for EU/EEA-citizens. You must be over 18 and under 28 years old (inclusive). You must not have had your civic rights revoked by a court or have been convicted of certain offences.

Safety

Bring lots of sunscreen!

There are Metropole-style pharmacies which carry top of the line French sunscreen, that can be expensive.

Also, keep hydrated, especially when hiking in the mountainous areas. A hat is often a good thing to have because the sun can get extremely hot.

Heat prostration and sunburns can be a real threat to those not used to the climate.

Mosquito repellent is a good thing to have if you are sensitive to bites. There is no malaria on this island but other mosquito borne diseases such as Dengue Fever are present.

Conduct And Manners

Polite manners will go very far in this jewel of the Caribbean. When entering a business establishment, always say, 'Bonjour' and 'Merci, au revoir' when departing. Also note that things often run a lot slower here, so patience is a must. Also, don't expect kowtowing, smiling 'natives'.

The Martiniquais are a very proud, dignified people and are often wary of impatient tourists without manners.

Unaccompanied women in tourist and beach areas are likely to experience frequent cat-calling and similar attention from men. A popularly stated reason for this is that there are a greater number of women than men on the island.

The best way to deal with unwanted attention is to ignore the attention or firmly state a lack of interest.