Fort De France, Martinique | Cruise port of call | CruiseBe
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Fort De France, Martinique

Fort-de-France is the largest city in and capital of Martinique.
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.

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Fort De France, Martinique

Destination:

Fort-de-France is the largest city in and capital of Martinique.
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.

Cities

  • Fort-de-France: Capital
  • Le Carbet 
  • Le Diamant

    : Beach town facing the iconic Diamond Rock.
  • Le Marin: The main harbor 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.
  • Trois-Ilets: Across the bay from Fort de France and reachable by ferry. A touristic town with big resorts, restaurants, and casino.

Other destinations

  • 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 built to remember those who died in World War I and the Jardin de Balata a garden with thousands of tropical plants.
  • Presqu'île de la Caravelle, easy 30 min walk up to the lighthouse where you get a view of the whole island.
  • Tartane, fisherman's 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.

Climate

Tropical and humid with an average temperature of 75°F to 85°F. 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.

Seasons

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 travelers. 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 tend to be rather pricey, 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.

Terrain

Mountainous with indented coastline and a currently quiet but still dangerous volcano as well as related volcanic activity.

Highest point 

Montagne Pelee

1,397 m

History

Martinique was discovered on 15 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 baptized 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 at 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.
After the discovery by Christopher Columbus, Martinique remained unexplored until 1632, when an expedition led by Pierre Belain d'Estambuc landed on the island at the same time that Lienard de l'Olive and du Plessis took possession of Guadeloupe. The French settled in the north west of the island at the mouth of Roxelane and built fortifications, which later became known as Saint-Pierre. D'Estambucs nephew, du Parquet, acquired Martinique and became its first governor. He made an agreement with the Caribbeans and their chief and set about developing the island. Rapidly, however, the Caribbeans' territory was threatened and revolt burst out. The courageous Caribbeans were no match for the power of the muskets and they were apparently pushed back to the cliffs and threw themselves in the sea.
Some 240 years later, some say as a resulting curse, Montagne Pelée erupted causing the total devastation of Saint-Pierre. Everybody who lived in the city lost their lives, with the exception of one person held in the city's jail.
Like the other West Indian islands, Martinique experienced a large economic boom due to its tobacco, indigo, cotton production, and sugar cane. The lack of labor instigated the black slave trade from Africa between 1686 and 1720. Martinique's wealth resulted in a rivalry between the other European nations who shared the West Indies. In 1674 the Dutch landed on Martinique, defended by just a handful of soldiers. They attacked a storage shelter and discovered barrels of rum. Completely drunk the Dutch were thrown into the sea by defenders of Fort Royal, which later became Fort-de-France after the revolution.
The revolution in 1789 never arrived in Martinique. During the revolution, they decided to hand over sovereignty to the British to avoid being attacked by the revolutionists who had already attacked Guadeloupe. The British also occupied the island in 1804 and then withdrew in 1814.
During this time a beautiful Creole girl from Martinique, Marie Josèphe Rose married Napoleon Bonaparte in 1796 and became Empress Josephine in 1804. Slavery, which was abolished after the revolution, was re-introduced by Napoleon in 1802, apparently under the recommendation of Joséphine.
The British abolished slavery in 1833. This measure encouraged the creation of pro-abolition movements in France where slavery was finally abolished in 1848.


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Fort De France, Martinique: Port Information


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.
There's a shopping complex with numerous stores for every taste in the port.
It'll take you 15 minutes on foot to get to downtown.
Liners can also dock at Tourelles' Passenger Terminal - in about 1 mile from the city.

Get around Fort De France, Martinique


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. 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.

By car

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. Driving in Martinique will be a pleasure in comparison to other Caribbean islands. The majority of roads are of an excellent standard.

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 50 km/h in towns, 90 km/h on major roads and 110 km/h on the autoroute between the airport and Fort-de-France.

By taxi

Taxis in Martinique are not cheap. Be warned that taxis operate an extortionate 40% surcharge between 8 PM and 6 AM as well as on Sundays and public holidays. To call a taxi 24hrs dial 0596 63 10 10 or 0596 63 63 62.

By bus

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 (arret autobus) 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. There are no timetables and the service can be unreliable. Most services are finished by 6 PM weekdays and 1 PM on Saturday. There are no services on Sundays.

By boat

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 8 PM depending upon the day.

By thumb

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.

What to see in Fort De France, Martinique


  • Fort Saint-Louis, a fortress on a peninsula in Fort-de-France harbor constructed during the reign of Louis XIII. It currently houses a French naval base, and parts of the fortress have been turned into a museum and are open to the public.
  • Bibliothèque Schoelcher, One of the nicest colonial buildings in town is a library, located next to place de la savane.
  • Le grand marché, rues Blénac et Isambert. Covered market. 
  • Cathedral Saint-Louis, rue Victor Schoelcher. First built in 1671, it was damaged by numerous fires and earthquakes before being totally reconstructed in 1890 by the same architect as the Bibliothèque Schoelcher. 
  • Place de la Savane
  • Dillon distillery, 9, route de Chateauboeuf. A small museum about rum making in the former distillery Dillon. All the rum making process has now moved to a new site. 
  • Sacré-Coeur de Balata, a replica of the Montmartre Church in Paris, constructed in 1925 on a cliff surrounded by tropical forest. Open every day from 8 to noon and 3 to 6.
  • Jardin de Balata (10 km away on the road to Morne Rouge). Botanical garden with more than 200 species of plants and flowers. 
  • Cascade Absalon, Up on the route de Balata, take a left right after the Balata Gardens. Easily accessible waterfall where you can swim in the water basin. Park the car just after the bridge and watch out on the slippery steps.

What to do in Fort De France, Martinique


  • Gorges de la Falaise, near L'Ajoupa-Bouillon. 8:00h-17:00h. On a length of about 200 meters, the river Falaise flows through a canyon (some ten meters 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.
  • Anse Noire, Chemin rural de l'anse du Four. Beautiful beach on the way to Answe d'Arlet. Be careful if you swim there during or after the rain shower. The palletuvier trees are all around and will sip in the water ending up stinging you. Be aware!!! Paradise on earth. Black sand! We swam with turtles, what a majestic moment we had on this beach!!! Keep it clean, please. 
  • Hike to Cascade Didier (Take the route de Didier from the rond point du Vietnam heroique. Go all the way up, through the tunnel and now you are in the tropical jungle only 10 min from downtown.). The trail is not marked, park next to the power generator almost at the end of the road. Walk down towards the river, cross the bridge and up on the other side you'll find a tunnel, bring a flashlight. The 1st waterfall is now a 15 min walk away up the river, it is around 6 meters high and jumping from the top is possible. The 2nd waterfall is another 45 mins up the river and consist of a 25 m drop in a basin where you can swim. Watch out for the green and purple matoutou spider on the way. 

What to eat and drink in Fort De France, Martinique


Eat

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 1998 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.’ Olivier Besnard, the commercial director of the long-haul airline division of Air Liberté, wrote the preface to this same edition. 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’ Créole cuisine. An investigation of the new tourist, or “post-tourist” phenomenon (Poon 1999) venturing off the ‘eaten trail’ in search of something that is more authentic.
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.

  • Babaorum, 42 route de Chateauboeuf (behind Carrefour Dillon), ☎ +596 5 96 75 03 32. Lunch and dinner Monday to Friday, dinner only on Saturdays. Outside bar in a garden and restaurant inside.

Drink

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. Try their sugar cane juice, it is quite refreshing. Don't hesitate stopping on the side of the road to buy a drink off the locals who will make it in front of you.
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 the 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, world music. 

Shopping in Fort De France, Martinique


Martinique is a dependent territory of France and uses the euro as currency. US 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 the 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.

Safety in Fort De France, Martinique


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.
Watch out not to get caught in Paris Airport buying expensive overpriced sun cream when you can buy the same one locally at reduced cost

Stay healthy

See the above-mentioned section. 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.
Watch out for the palétuvier trees. Their sap is corrosive like acid! If it rains, make sure you don't go shelter under one of them as you will regret for the rest of your life!!!

Respect

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 in warm climates, 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.

Language spoken in Fort De France, Martinique


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.

LOCAL TIME

11:37 am
July 23, 2019
America/Martinique

CURRENT WEATHER

29.34 °C / 84.812 °F
light rain
Wed

28.35 °C/83 °F
light rain
Thu

27.85 °C/82 °F
moderate rain
Fri

28.55 °C/83 °F
light rain
Sat

28.15 °C/83 °F
light rain

LOCAL CURRENCY

EUR

1 USD = 0 EUR
1 GBP = 0 EUR
1 AUD = 0 EUR
1 CAD = 0 EUR

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