4 Reasons Why Martinique is Magnifique
I couldn’t have been happier to hear that, beginning in April, American Airlines will start flying direct from Miami to Martinique. When I visited for the first time last summer it was an all-day haul, with an evening connection through San Juan, Puerto Rico that meant we didn’t arrive until well after dark. Nevertheless, I fell instantly and completely in love with its combination of French and Caribbean culture and returned from my maiden trip determined to go back. Check out these reasons why Martinique’s on my “go list” - and then add it to yours!
I have few regrets in life but one of them is not being able to have more time to enjoy Cap Est, the plush digs where we spent a night. Everything about the resort says understated elegance, the kind of classiness that never needs to speak above a whisper to make itself known. Sprawling beachfront landscape punctuated with leaning coconut palms; spacious suites with private pools and, my favorite hotel feature, the outdoor shower; a painstakingly edited gift shop selection (I am a shopper, after all); and a restaurant where my virgin tastebuds discovered for the first time the uniquely French gastronomic indulgence that is echire butter (Google it and feel your arteries harden).
A nun, a tourist and a schoolgirl walk into an ice cream parlor … Sounds like the beginning of a joke but it’s just a sample of the diverse clientele that beat a path to Ziouka Glaces in Le Carbet, on the northwest coast just outside St. Pierre. Claude Ziouka has run this tiny and unassuming corner store for the last 13 years, serving up sublime scoops of his award-winning homemade ice cream and sorbet in must-try tropical flavors such as cassava-and praline, chocolate-and-orange, rum-and-banana, and sugar cane. His secret: “Quality ingredients and the love I put into every scoop.” It’s a taste of heaven you don’t have to die for – but you will.
Contrary to what you might think, you needn’t be a big drinker or have even more than a passing interest in rum to enjoy a distillery tour. At least not at the Clement estate, where a visit reveals not just how rhum agricole is manufactured but offers a glimpse into Martinique’s history and culture. The main attraction for me, however, was the opportunity to see captivating installations of local art. I loved the haunting black-and-white portraits of distillery employees that hang from the rafters of a former rum works. And I could have spent hours touring the estate’s three art galleries, which house a collection of mostly contemporary paintings and mixed media pieces.
Call me crazy but I’ve become just a little obsessed with the bakoua, a style of straw hat traditionally worn by local fisherman. Each is made from the dried leaves of the bakoua tree, which are plaited into a single braid exactly 168 feet long and then wound into a cone-shaped hat. The cone apparently serves two purposes: to keep the sun off your head, and as a repository for the money the fishermen would collect from selling their catch. I doubt I’ll be ever carrying my money under my hat, but I want a bakoua just the same, and next time I’m on island I’ll be heading back to the market in Fort De France to get one.