From Grenada to Martinique: step into a different world

    

When the last odd jobs on Trinidad were done: epirb check and new battery, new gas bottles (aluminium), accu monitor repaired and some new gear, we sailed to Grenada. It was a close reach and as usual a bumpy ride because of the current coming in on 90 degrees. So Roberta was seasick (however without throwing up), but big girl Rita proved to have four sealegs already and enjoyed all her meals. Talking about food, fresh tuna costs less than €4 per kilo so this is frequently on our menu. The kittens also crave it and go completely wild, judging by the groans they make while wolfing the fish meat down.
Grenada is a beautiful island and the capital St.George is extremely colourful. So are the people, exuberant in friendliness but also in what they wear. Unfortunately staying in St.George becomes every year more difficult because of the supermarina that they are building. Sure we could get a berth there, but it is a bit expensive. Besides, the yachtclub is far more lively. Everybody agrees on this so now you have to make reservations weeks in advance. Anchoring in the channel between the club and Port Louis is allowed by the club, but not by the marina so we were kicked out after a couple of nights. A night “outside” at anchor was extremely rolly, but in the meantime P had the right connections so in the end we berthed at the club pontoon.
So we are not completely happy with Port Louis, but the locals think otherwise. They see that the water in the Lagoon is now becoming cleaner, that wrecks and scrap from the last hurricanes are cleaned up after years, and it creates job opportunities. In construction and in running the project; let us hope that the locals get chances in management positions as well (because so often this is not the case).

On Grenada we partied for a week, mostly with Richard, a delivery skipper we met some years ago. He took us to the coolest hang-outs such as the Lazy Lagoon and the Horny Baboon. On our last evening they had live music in the yachtclub. The bar is a perfect spot with a good view on the lagoon (and on Port Louis), the food is nice and cheap but all good things must end once so we left the following day for Martinique.

Underway the kittens were not the sweethearts we want them to be. They meddle in everything and Rita's paw was almost trapped in a winch, miAUWWWW! Luckily she screamed in time so no damage was done. We also were involved in a battle for power: “who is the boss on board”. We don't often forbid things, but on deck by night when manoeuvering or taking down sails is not allowed. So we closed all hatches. Queen Rita was so angry about this that she deposited a big shit in our bed. Of course she now knows who is really the boss on board!

On Martinique we stepped into a different world. In Marin we encountered a Club Med resort, masts all-over the bay and rows and rows of rental yachts. A marina-village with accompanying chandlers, pubs and restaurants, car hire and souvenir shops crammed with colourful pareo’s and other wanna-have's. The southeast of Martinique is a big sailing center, by the way elegantly designed. But the old city is a picturesque places where nothing happened and also nothing will happen. The creoles lime on the beach, make conversation and we immediately felt at home. You can have dinner here as well, in the sand on plastic chairs and not with a creation of x on a bed of x and served with a puree of x. Just spicy fish from the bbq, for a reasonable price and served with a smile.
But we got accustomed to the other world rather quickly and after one day we felt at home again in all those gigantic supermarkets stocked with camembert, roquefort, salted butter, foie de canard, mushrooms from the forest, sweets, cakes and all the other delicacies we love but about which we had forgotten.

Formalities are no problem at all. Clearing is - one of those advantages of that  other world - a do-it-yourself-job on the computer: you complete the on line form, print it and ready! At last no four different forms with three carbons each and hard pressing with your ballpoint. But back on board the customs tender came immediately alongside and triggered by our answer to the standard question where we came from: Grenada – Trinidad – Surinam... What?! Surinam?! very criminal drugs country! we were visited and overhauled and preferably they would also have taken a look into our water tanks. Luckily they realised how much hassle that would create with all those glued lids and perhaps after all we were not the drugs couriers they were looking for, so allez.

We rented a car and became impressed by magnificent Martinique. Surinam remains #1, but we surely could live here if we were rich enough, as life on the french Antilles is 40% more expensive than in France. Martinique is less rugged than for instance St.Vincent and is perhaps therefore, but obviously mainly as a result of the french financial input, almost completely cultivated. We didn't know that the island is famous for its bananas and the east side is covered with banana plantations. There is even a banana museum! Also rhum is important and it is still produced in the old-fashioned way from sugarcane. And of course there are the local fishermen.

Used as we are to potholed roads, we found the french infrastructure quite awesome. In the mountainous parts we imagined ourselves in the Dordogne (if it was not for the vegetation), and the pretty south reminded us of hilly Auvergne. Colour is everywhere: the authentic fishing boats are nicely painted and the island is covered with a sea of flowers.

The capital Fort de France is dominated by the historical fort, but also by a cacophony of architectural styles plus on the waterfront a huge concrete boulevard where JW only a couple of years ago saw many small pubs and bric-à-brac shops. We found St.Pierre in the north much more attractive. This was the capital until it was ruined by the eruption of the vulcano in 1902; although many old walls still stand and renovated historical buildings give the place a special atmosphere; reason why it is nicknamed: le Petit Paris des antilles caribes.
The north is dominated by vulcano's and the beaches are black. The continental plate here is still moving. We knew that already as two years ago in Surinam we felt an earthshock originating around Martinique. St.Pierre, located right below the biggest vulcano is the appropriate location for a vulcano and earthquakes museum (they call it Earth & Science Discovery Center) where they give all kinds of demonstrations, which we will visit tomorrow. And then we'll leave for Dominica.

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