Four Days In Sweet Martinique
Visiting a new town is like having a conversation. Places ask questions of you just as searchingly as you question them. And, as in any conversation, it helps to listen with an open mind, so you can be led somewhere unexpected. The more you leave assumptions at home, I’ve found, the better you can hear whatever it is that a destination is trying to say to you.
— Pico Iyer
About two months before year-end 2017 I had four vacation days left from my meager 20 days vacation, and two more countries to visit. Luckily, every year around in the fall, Norwegian Airline schedules a low cost airline to fly to the Caribbean for about $79.00 one-way. I decided to hop on the deal and before you know it, I was on my way to the French Island of the Caribbean - Martinique.
As a born and bred Caribbean gal I naturally fell in love with sweet Martinique. During my four-day stay, I felt right at home. Names of places like Rivère-Salee, Boucherie, La Poterie and Grand Anse etc. really reminded me of my home country Grenada — once colonized by the French. I also realized that so many French words are intertwined in my everyday vocabulary and how much I mis-pronounce these words because my ancestors refused to pass down the French Creole. Instead people like my grandmother would often speak french-creole as a hidden language for the younger generation.
Martinique is a french speaking Caribbean Island where very few people speak fluent english. Every time I found someone who spoke english, I sighed with relief haha. I didn't think it would have been this hard. I barely got by with the basic french words I knew…(Bonsoir, Combien ça coûte? Merci etc.). Needless to say, it was challenging, but mostly fun to step out of my english speaking comfort zone that weekend. Google translator and interactive sign gestures were my best friends. It was frustrating, mostly hilarious and it made me very patient as I tried to understand the locals and to be understood. It was enough to get me out of a parking ticket. It was also enough get me on a fishing boat where I sat comfortably eating sea urchins in Saint Luce.
I stayed in Le Diamant and I thought my decision to stay in that area was a great choice, especially since I had a rental car, getting to the other parishes was seamless and quick. If you’re planning to visit without renting a car, getting around may be quite difficult and I would recommend staying in a more central area where public transportation is easily accessible. In Le Diamant, I visited Diamond Beach and Anse Caffard Memorial/Cap 110 - a monument built after a ship carrying 300 slaves ran aground in a storm.
One of my favorite things to do whenever I visit a new country is to see the sunrise. At the crack of dawn, on my first day in Martinique I took a stroll down to Le Diamant Beach. There is something about the sunrise, it unearths feelings of gratefulness from the depths of my soul, it reminds me to thank the creator, the one who taught the sun to rise and set daily.
I also visited Fort-De-France, the capital of Martinique. It was a 35mins drive from Le Diamant. However, that day was a national holiday and I had no clue. A woman who spoke little english said it was Armistice Day. Martinique, though a Caribbean Island, observes the same holidays as France. The city was literally a ghost town. I mean, it sucked that I did not get a feel for the buzz of the city, so what’s a girl suppose to do at this point but wander and take photos.
While in Fort-De France, I also stopped by St. Louis Cathedral and Jardin Balata (Botanical Garden) where I saw some of my favorite tropical flowers.
I decided to spend the next day exploring some of the beaches (I’m not much of a beach gal… that’s a bit boring, no?). A 30 minutes drive from Le Diamant would take me to St. Anne where I checked out Les Boccanniers and Grand Anse Beach.
I later stopped by the Trois-islets Rum Distillery, one of the more popular distillery on the island.
Then I made my way to Village de La Poterie where I stumbled on this pottery shop - ZB Creations.
Before I found the shop I was in bit of a sour/tired mood ha!...mostly exhausted from doing so much earlier in the day. But when I walked in I found a little piece of heaven. My travel dreams /goals does not consist of luxury hotels and the beach, though that sounds dreamy, I much prefer stumbling into places like ZB Creations Pottery Shop, where I met Pierre.
I spent almost an hour watching Pierre work. We struggled to communicate at first, his language - french and he barely knows english. We managed to understand each other a bit (thanks google translator...haha). He asked me about living in America, and I asked about life in Martinique and his art. Like a puzzle I pieced together his english words to make sense of his sentence. He told me when the cruise-ship comes to the island he’ll often teach pottery classes to the tourists and he showed me the process to making cups and vases.
Pierre asked if I wanted to take the class, but I had to leave the country the next morning. He was so surprised that my visit was only for a weekend and said it was not enough time... I couldn’t agree more. He suggested that I must come back to check out the Creole Village, and he’ll buy me a drink. My sour mood changed to smiles and laughter. Isn’t it funny how smiling and laughing is a universal language?
- Language barriers can’t be an excuse for us to meet new people in spaces and places that are foreign to us. Every human being understands it. And in this day and age, not forgetting google translator at the touch of our finger tips.
- Always check the holiday calendar for the country you plan to visit and don't assume that because it's not a national holiday in your home state/country, it's the same everywhere.
My favorite thing about traveling is interacting with locals. I’ve said this in almost every post, because it’s true. It’s the thing my wanderlust craves the most. I have more stories of my encounters to tell, but for now, a massive shout out Gerald for allowing me to interrupt his day job by letting me climb the fishing boat to taste the sea urchins. Also, massive thanks to Gregory who was so kind to leave his work station to pick-up golden apples for my cousin and I from under his tree.
Thanks for the good time Martinique, I'll miss the island charm and the people the most!
Have you ever been to a country where english was not widely spoken? How did you interact with the locals while not being fluent in their language?