Martinique was settled by the French in 1635 and attacked several times by the British who held it for most of the period from 1794 to 1815.
Slavery was first abolished in 1794 during the French Revolution but it was restored by Napoleon in 1802 partly because of the influence of his wife Josephine who was born in Martinique to a family of wealthy plantation owners. For that reason, she is not well regarded by the islanders and her statue in the "La Savane" park is often defaced by graffiti even now, two centuries later!
It took another half century for abolitionists such as the Martinique deputy Victor Schoelcher to get France to abolish slavery definitely in 1848.
Martinique and Guadeloupe both receive a lot of tourists, about one and a half times the resident population annually, but income from tourism represents only about 10 % of GNP.
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It was raining when I got here by the ferry from Dominica. I got wet looking for a room on foot and took the first one I found in my price range. It was expensive (28.60 $US), very small and not very clean so I moved to another hotel the next day for same price.
Click here for a live view of Fort-de-France from the hills.
The original Fort Saint-Louis was built on this narrow peninsula in 1640 but it has been expanded many times since. Parts of it are still being used by the military but the rest can be visited.
A small naval base and the marina are tucked in an inlet on the other side of the peninsula shown above.
The cruise ship terminal occupies the best site in Flamingo Bay, right in front of the city centre.
Here is another view of the cruise ship terminal with a different boat.
The Schoelcher Library was built of steel for the 1889 World Exposition in Paris by Henri Pick in the architectural style made famous by Gustave Eiffel. It was then dismantled to be rebuilt here, on the corner of rue de la Liberté and avenue des Caraïbes.
The Saint-Louis Cathedral on rue Schoelcher was also built of steel by Henri Pick a few years later (1895).
Victor Schoelcher was a humanitarian propagandist and political leader who crusaded for the abolition of slavery for more than 15 years before the 1848 revolution led to the adoption of emancipation legislation in France. Subsequently he dedicated his efforts to correcting the abusive labour conditions still being imposed upon the freed slaves by their past masters.
This beautifully restored building on avenue Des Caraïbes, not far from the Schoelcher Library, was the town house of rich sugar barons where the family members could stay when not at the plantation house.
This small ferry is arriving at the Pointe du Bout marina on the southern side of the bay opposite Fort-de-France where the three famous resort hotels, the Bakoua, Méridien and Carayou hotels, are clustered.
Here is a view of the Bakoua across its protected private lagoon.
And this shows part of the Méridien's lagoon.
Some patrons of this class of hotels keep their boats and crews in the Caribbean all year round. They congregate at a number of exclusive places and islands that common mortals like me are not allowed to approach.
If you don't scuba dive, you could still visit a reef in this pocket Aquascope submarine I saw leaving the marina.
Further south one reaches the town of Sainte-Anne whose city council has adopted a resolution favourable to the independence of Martinique from France. That green, red and black flag flying above the French flag is the banner of the independence movement.
Sainte-Anne is touristy of course as is all of Martinique, but in a more relaxed and friendly way.
It nonetheless has its own busy marina.
And kilometres of fine beach.
Saint Pierre, at the northern end of the island, was the capital of Martinique until it was destroyed by a devastating eruption of Mont Pelée in 1902.
Its population went from 30 000 to 6 000 and it is now only a small village visited by tourists on a day trip from Fort-de-France. i.
Here is a view of the waterfront looking north. The beach is made of dark grey volcanic sand.
And here is the view of the beach looking south towards Fort-de-France.
I was not impressed by Martinique, I found it expensive, too touristy and somewhat pretentious.