Today was going to be big day. My wife insisted we get up at 5:00 in the morning, an hour and a half before sunrise, to get ready to leave by 7:30 at the latest. She had been looking forward to the day we climb up Montagne Pelée for a few months now — this was to be our biggest adventure. But sometimes shit just happens.
Table of Contents
- Day One — Our Airbnb Host Was Nowhere to Be Found.
- Day Two — Like a Bloody Fire Engine!
- Day Three — Things You Need to Know About Renting Cars and Dining.
- Day Four — I Know Where the Rum’s Gone!
- Day Five — The Diamond Rock / Rocher Du Diamant.
- Day Six — A Beautiful Sunset.
- Day Seven — Beaches and Nudists.
- Day Eight — How to Avoid Crowded Beachs on the Weekends.
- Day Nine — The Volcano and Jardin de Balatan.
- Day Ten — Banana Museum.
- Day Eleven — Sunsets.
- Day Twelve — the One With Me Being Lazy.
- Day Thirteen — Les Trois Ilets, Pointe Du Bout, and the Museums.
- Day Fourteen — Anse Michel, Anse Trabuad, and Driving Down a Road Narrower Than Our Car.
- Day Fifteen — Astrophotography of the Night Sky with a Fuji X100T.
- Day Sixteen — Trying Some More Astrophotography with the Fuji X100T.
- Day Seventeen — Restaurant Pignon Nouvelle Vague in Les Trois Ilets.
- Day Eighteen & Nineteen — Probably the Best Vacation in My Life.
But before we got to our destination, we stopped at Sacre Coeur de Balata — a smaller copy of the known church in Paris, France. Construction started in 1915, soon after the volcano on Montagne Pelée erupted and destroyed Saint-Pierre — the capital of Martinique.
Roads on Martinique
We took the N3 from Fort-de-France to Morne Rouge. The road is truly fantastic — barely any potholes, long sweeping turns, and huge inclines. It’s a joy to drive on. What hit me most was the harmony of the bends — they’re not frantic or unexpected, but built like a classic symphony, flowing from one corner to the next. Unfortunately, the roads in Martinique preclude driving in really nice sports cars, such as Porsches, etc — the reason for this are the many speed bumps that litter the roads in every village, city, and around every school. Some are small, but most require a ‘normal’ car to go over. The roads are also very narrow, which also makes driving even a small Boxster a handful. If not for the speed bumps I’d get something really tiny — perhaps a supercharged Toyota GT86, BMW 2-series, Honda S2K, or similar. The Alfa 4C would probably be perfect. Unfortunately, realistically a Jeep Wrangler or similar car is a better choice.
The N3 is also amazing because of the stunning views it provides, as well as the breathtaking flora. It really is worth spending a day to drive it up and down.
Morne Rouge & Montagne Pelée
Before we got to the volcano, we stopped in Morne Rouge for breakfast — we brought our own sandwiches since it was Sunday (most everything is closed, especially early in the morning) and ate them looking at the… clouds covering Mount Pelée.
Soon thereafter, we parked the car at L’Aileron — the farthest you can go by road — at around 9:00. The trip to the top of the volcano takes around four hours, and another four to get back. That would suggest we would be back before sunset – everything was going according to plan. We got out of the car, switched our flip-flops for trainers, and started out. But less than fifteen minutes later…
‘You know, I think we should turn back’ says my wife.
‘Why?’ I ask surprised.
‘I feel completely unprepared, and the weather isn’t exactly inviting. I should have brought my proper hiking boots, warmer clothes, and something to protect me from the rain’, she answers.
We turned around and went back down. I was completely taken aback — this was one of her dream trips, which she wouldn’t stop talking about. However…
…I can’t say that I blame here. Just look at the view… or lack thereof.
Since Iwona killed Plan A, we chose to continue with Plan B — drive down to Saint-Pierre, then go south towards Fort-de-France along the coast.
As we were driving down the waterfront of Saint-Pierre — the former capital of Martinique, which was destroyed in 1902 after Mount Pelée’s eruption — we spotted a farmer’s market (off frame, to the right of the above shot).
I strongly recommend cooking for yourself if you come to Martinique. We were going to dine out every day, but after tasting the fruits and vegetables, which can be purchased nearly everywhere on the island, we quickly decided to change our plans. The bananas are unlike anything I have ever tried in Europe, and much tastier than the ones in India. Everything else is delicious too. Just make sure not to buy them at supermarkets — they don’t stock fresh produce.
The view of Saint-Pierre as we were leaving it, with Mount Pelée in the background, was extraordinary.
Our next stop was the beach in Le Carbet. The sand is volcanic rock, hence its nearly black colour, and it’s one of the few beaches of its kind on Martinique. As you can see above, the waves were pretty intimidating today.
I recommend stopping a few kilometres south of Le Carbet for a wonderful view of the Caribbean Sea — there’s a small parking lot next to the road, so it’s pretty accessible.
Jardin de Balata
After we got to Fort-de-France down the N2, we drove back up the N3 (the road we took in the morning towards Morne Rouge) to visit Jardin de Balata — a botanical garden with many exotics plants from all over the world. I generally don’t care for such places and drove there just for my wife’s pleasure, but I have to admit it was very impressive.
Note — Adult tickets cost €13.10 per person.
The first thing we got to see after paying the fare and entering the gardens were three bird feeders. We didn’t have to wait long for the first hummingbirds to appear! I’d never seen one up close before…
The ones in the Balata Gardens are pretty big — much larger than the ones living in the wild on the island.
My wife also noticed this cutie trying to steal a drink from the birds.
A few minutes later I jumped up in shock, completely not expecting to see a giant centipede (or whatever that thing is) a few centimetres from the tip of my nose. This naturally forced me be on the lookout for giant spiders for the next two hours.
You can probably do the full tour in an hour if you hurry, but I recommend taking your time.
There are vast amounts of lizards on Martinique. We also have one living in our villa, which is helpful — she eats all the various insects that join us for the evening, including mosquitoes.
The Balata Gardens also feature a walkway, which is probably about five to fifteen metres off the ground — it offers some pretty nice views of the surrounding terrain…
…and the island itself.
I love Martinique — it’s a truly wonderful place.