MARTINIQUE – FRENCH WEST INDIES
Dave has observed that in cruising during this particular season it is best to leave as early as possible as the wind really picks up during the day. Even though the forecast was fair, just as we were arriving in the lee of Martinique the waves in the channel picked up. I was so glad that we had left nice and early, having breakfast underway, rather than to have waited that extra hour or two as when we left Bequia.
The weather determined a change in our plans as the forecast is worsening over the next few days. Instead of anchoring in Marin, on the southeast coast and where we spent some time picking up a delivery in 2003, we decided to go further north to a lovely anchorage just across from Port-a-France, the capital, off of a resort town called Anise Mitan. We both enjoy the French islands for their great cuisine & shopping and there is no charge when you check in or out with immigration. We enjoyed this small vacation village, filled to the brim with French tourists on a Caribbean holiday. Our anchorage was close to town which was convenient as we take our noontime meal, the largest of the day, on shore whenever good restaurants abound - see pictures. The anchorage is set out as to avoid the two ferry channels which divide it into two segments. Although we try never to anchor on a lee shore we did in this case as the other was too crowded.
In the past months we have used four separate currencies. When we left Venezuela the Bolivar was $4,500 to 1.00 US; When we exchanged our money for EC (Eastern Caribbean) the exchange rate was $2.67 to $1.OO US. When we exchanged our EC for Euros the exchange rate was .76 Euros for $1.00 US – obviously French islands are much more expensive for Americans. I can remember traveling in France when our US dollar was really worth something – about 2.30 Francs for one dollar. The last time Dave was in St. Barts he could get 9 Francs for $1.00 (obviously before the Euro) – I never thought I would live to see the day when the US dollar was so worthless; however, even though I don’t think the dollar is worth much at least when I spend a US dollar in a country with American exchange, I spend a dollar in my mind and don’t have to do the math.
Dave filled up our dinghy with gas – to his horror 18 litres cost more than 1,500 litres had in Venezuela where it was 11 cents a litre. Now you can see one of the reasons we like South America as we do. He looked as though he had seen a ghost. Despite the money and exchange, we actually had a lovely time in Martinique. After exchanging our money ashore we took a nice walk and scoped out the shops and marina. Quite picturesque. We had a delicious Creole lunch of boiled fish that reminded me so of the French Quarter. The next day we had lunch at the marina restaurant, Le Ponton, which wasn’t nearly as good as the Creole meal but the ambiance was great – being Saturday the racers were out and I had the pleasure of “people watching” at a large table. This group came in off of a huge multi-million dollar trimaran – very French and very crusty old sailors.
On Saturday morning we took our dinghy over to Fort de France, the capital and largest city on this island of 100,000 citizens, and did some shopping. We went to the weekly market which was a true experience in itself – absolutely marvelous – it was enclosed and not out in the street as I had remembered it some 17 years before. Ah, the price of progress. At that time the Creole women had come into town with baskets on their heads just brimming with fruits and vegetables that they had grown. This year they were driving vans but still had the same assorted foods to choose from. As I have been buying local food all along I didn’t need much but I did get some wonderful tomatoes, the kind we used to pick as children and eat like apples, and some home grown lettuces. Dave bought a litre of local honey for his morning cakes, which we splurged on at the local bakery.
All in all, it was most enjoyable – but as we had spent one-third of our monthly budget in such a short time we decided to avoid this island in the future. It was much more expensive than even the BVI.
AN OLD FRENCH WEST INDIAN HOUSE