Atout France: Describe your favorite view in Martinique
Valérie Vulcain : Martinique benefits from beautiful landscapes, bright colors, a lush nature combined with blue lagoon waters.To enjoy Martinique from above, I like to climb up the stairs of historic 17th century Fort Saint Louis, located in Fort de France and standing up there, facing the bay and looking into the majestic city being energized by its essence. From up there I look at the magnificent Fort-de-France bay and I am reminded why it was classified among the most beautiful Bays in the World. A few landmarks that you can see from there include Fort de France modern cruise terminal and cruise village shopping center, right at the entrance of the city, La Savane Park, featuring boutiques, cafes and souvenirs and also Schoelcher Library, a unique building build in France for an Exposition Universelle, shipped to Martinique and rebuilt onsite, piece by piece, in downtown Fort de France. Fort Saint Louis is a sprawling and imposing stone fortress that has stood guard over the island’s principal port city for nearly 375 years. Closed to the public since being reinstated as an active naval base by The French Navy after 9/11, the fort officially reopened on July 20, 2014.
AF: If you only had 24 hours in Martinique, where would you eat and drink?
VV: My 24 hours in Martinique would start with a quick stop at Village de la Poterie's famous patisserie, located at the very entrance of this historic site to buy exquisite French pastries and fresh guava juice for a picnic breakfast at Les Salines Beach, a magnificent white sand beach located at the southernmost point of Martinique and named by Trip Advisor among the top Caribbean beaches.
After breakfast, I would jump in the water for a swim and would have fresh coconut water before leaving this unique site. Enjoying this protected site in the morning is a wonderful treat! For lunch time, I would go to downtown Fort de France, the capital city of Martinique, to experience a traditional lunch at Chez Carole, located within the Fort de France market. Martinique native Carole Michel has helmed the eatery for more than 13 years, producing delectable accras de morue (cod fritters) and refreshing fruit juices made onsite. My personal favorite meal anytime I go, is the grilled red snapper, served with local vegetables, a must!
For a lovely dinner with an amazing view, I would go to Le Zandoli restaurant, located at 4-star La Suite Villa boutique property in Trois Ilets. The tables are set on the terrace, facing the Fort de France Bay, and everything around you is art related, starting with the plates designed by a Caribbean painter, friend of the owners. Le Zandoli offers a large selection of cocktails, including my local favorite, the traditional planteur, our local version of the planteur's punch. The Chef offers an innovative cuisine, fusion of French and Creole cuisines. I always go for his sea urchin delightful appetizer and his unique version of a warm chocolate cake. For entrees choices, the Chef always has unique selections, using seasonal fresh products, everything on the menu is a treat.
AF: What is your favorite season in Martinique and why?
VV: I enjoy Martinique all year round but I particularly love visiting Martinique during winter time, benefiting from warm, sunny Caribbean weather while it is cold in New York! And this winter, Martinique is more accessible and more affordable than ever with 6 weekly non-stop flights from Miami, operated by American Airlines and 3 nonstop flights out of JFK, 2 nonstop weekly flights from Boston and 2 nonstop weekly flights out of Baltimore/Washington Dc area, all operated by Norwegian airlines.
Winter season is also a rich cultural events season for Martinique. It starts with from the Holidays Season traditions including getting together to sing Christmas Carols. Christmas Carols are the focal point of the holiday season in Martinique. We call it Chanté Noël. This ancient tradition comes from the middle ages in France where friends and family would gather at each other’s home to celebrate the birth of Christ. In Martinique however, those carols are whole heartedly sung in a distinctively creole way. For the 3 weeks preceding Christmas, people gather at each other’s house, bring food and sing carols all night long. From coast to coast, South to North, from fishermen villages to inland hamlets, the voices of friends, families and neighbors join in Chanté Noël accompanied by the beat of the drums, the pulse of the Ti bwa and sometimes, old fashioned violins and accordions.
Another great moment to discover Martinique during the winter is during Carnival. Pre-Lenten Carnival in Martinique shares many similarities to better known celebrations in Trinidad and Rio, but in Martinique there’s one big difference: length. Each year as revelers in other Carnival hot spots wind down with the close of Shrove Tuesday, the party in Martinique keeps going, reaching its climax on one of the most solemn days on the Christian calendar, Ash Wednesday. The official dates of the 2016 Martinique Carnival are February 6th to 10th, though the celebration actually begins many weeks prior with Carnival parties taking place across the island each weekend beginning in January.
And after Carnival, why not extend your stay to celebrate Valentine Day in Martinique, staying in one of our most romantic properties such as 5 star Relais et Chateaux Cap Est Lagoon Resort & Spa or 4 star Boutique La Suite Villa named by Trip Advisor the #2 trendiest hotel in the Caribbean , not to forget 4-star Bakoua hotel, right on the beach in Pointe du Bout Resort area or 4-star fully renovated La Pagerie Hotel and, last but not least, 3 star romantic Plein Soleil Hotel.