6 Fevrier 2018 Mardi

I bolted when my alarm went off at 4:45 AM – I must have been in REM sleep. I changed from pajamas to the clothes I’d laid out to wear on the plane and trip home. I rearranged some things for the carry-on and took yesterday’s clothes and PJs out to the car to add to my large suitcase, wondering exactly how heavy it was going to be, as I am limited to 44 lbs. Instead of tossing the remaining toiletries – small bottles of shampoo and shower gel, etc. I left them in case Annette had use of them. In the kitchen I left the remaining white vinegar I had bought (which we had used as a cleanser), the paper coffee filters, paper towels, trash bags, the ice cube tray and plastic cutting board Kathleen had brought from California. I also left the rest of the bag of cat food. Annette told me new tenants were arriving for the cottage today, and I hope they will take over feeding the cats. I took out the meat scraps I’d saved from last night’s dinner, and even though they had waited till daylight to appear before, apparently my trip to the car had alerted them, so Mama and Junior showed up to enjoy the treat.

I left the door unlocked, as instructed, walked through the front yard to open the gate, and drove the car out. A large tourist bus was parked across the street in front of La Pagerie Hotel, blocking one lane of traffic. Instead of pulling a little out of the driveway to close the gate, I had to turn right, park a little ways down, come back to close the gate, walk back to the car, do a 3 point U-turn, and finally was able to drive by the bus.

There was very little traffic leaving Pointe du Bout or in Trois Ilets. Once I got on N5 at Riviere Salee about 5:40 AM there was a little more traffic, but not nearly the bumper to bumper traffic jams that occur at rush hour mornings and evenings. I needed to fill up the gas tank before I returned my rental car, so pulled into the Total close to the airport, pulled up to a pump, and waited. Before when I’ve gotten gas, an attendant has come up to me and asked how much to put in. I belatedly realized that people were getting out of their cars, pumping their own gas, and going up to the window to pay. So I took my credit card with me, went up to the window and asked “Moi meme?” Which I think means, “Myself?” He nodded and said yes, so I went back, filled the tank – noting it was only 32€, compared to 36€ the other couple of times I’d filled the tank. Then I finished driving the short distance to the airport turnoff. I got to the Budget Car Rental at 5:57 – the lights were still out and the gate locked, but I was behind another car that was also waiting. Sure enough, at 5:59 AM a car pulled up, unlocked the gate, and we were motioned through. After checking over my car, my suitcase and carry-on were loaded into the Budget van and a young couple and I were driven over to the airport terminal. Unfortunately, when I yanked my cell phone out of the jack, I only got the connecting line, not the phone charger itself, which I didn’t discover till too late!

I got to the airport itself about 6:10 AM. Although my big suitcase has 2 wheels, it was still heavy and awkward. Thank goodness the FDF airport has free luggage carts to use. I claimed one, loaded it up with my suitcase and carry-on, and headed to the other end of the terminal, where Norwegian Air has their check-in desk. The line was already snaking along, and at first there were only 2 attendants at check-in, but that increased to 4. When my large suitcase was weighed, it was 2 kilos over – it was only supposed to be 20 kilos. I asked if I could move some items to my carry-on. We had to weigh that first, as it could only be up to 10 kilograms, but luckily was only 7.7, so I moved a couple items, and my suitcase was fine.

Security and the gates are upstairs. First I had to present my passport and boarding card at one gate, then on through screening, where I had to take out my laptop. But there was not a long line and the process was pretty quick – JFK can take over an hour to get through security. The FDF airport at Lamentin cleverly makes you walk through the Duty Free shop to get to the gates, which I am sure helps their business. I was tempted to buy another bottle of Martinique Rum, but didn’t want to carry the extra weight.

There was one small café upstairs in the waiting area for the gates. I carefully counted my remaining euros – I had just under 6€ left. I was able to buy one more pain chocolat and a small carton of orange jus – which turned out to be drink instead of real juice. Then I walked down to the other end of the gates to Gate 3, were my flight to JFK would start boarding in about 30-40 minutes. I wrote on my tablet while waiting. Norwegian boards the last rows first – which makes total sense to me. They called rows 20 & up – I was in row 19. But it didn’t take long before I was able to show my passport and boarding pass, and go down the runway towards the plane.

I removed my neck pillow and blanket, plus my jacket, from the carryon and asked for help to get it into an overhead bin – I had shattered my left elbow 2 years earlier and it is not as strong as the right. I was happy to be in a window seat, which is my preference, both to look out the window and to lean against the wall. Although the plane is almost completely full, there ended up being no one in the middle seat, so my row companion and I have been able to use it to store belongings.

I tried to take photos as we left the FDF airport – there were rainclouds over the city again, and a rainbow in part of the sky. I had thought the plane would take off to the west, to fly out over the Bay, but instead it taxied all the way down the runway, then turned around and headed east, towards the mountainous interior. There were wonderful views from the air as we climbed, first of the western, Caribbean side of the island, then of the eastern Atlantic side. The island is so verdant, the houses with the red tile roofs are very visible. What an incredibly beautiful place I have been staying in.

The flight back to JFK is supposed to take 4 ½ hours, but after we reached our flying altitude of 35,000 feet, the pilot told us to look down at the last remaining bit of land (he didn’t say which island) we’d see until reaching New York, and estimated we’d arrive about 30 minutes early. That would be great, as I have to get a taxi to my car about 20 minutes away, then drive 4 hours Upstate towards home, but I am not counting on it. JFK is a notoriously busy airport, and they build in an extra 30 minutes flight time for both arriving and departing planes, because the airport is often so busy that planes have to wait on the runway to taxi, or circle in the air before they are queued to land.

Annette had asked me yesterday if I would be coming back to Martinique, and I said I wasn’t sure – my friend Kathleen would like to perhaps try Belize for our next winter trip. This was my 3rd time to visit – 2 years ago I came but was only here for 3 full days, then last year, Kathleen and I came for 9 days, and this year, I came for a month. Although I’ve now explored almost all the island, and done the things I wanted to do, I think I could happily live in Martinique – if I could figure out how to afford it, and if I could get the visa that would allow me to stay beyond 3 months. Perhaps when I retire?


5 Fevrier 2018 Lundi

My last day on Martinique before flying back to the States early Tuesday morning. I woke up early, by 5:30 AM, and began packing my big suitcase, determining what should go in my checked bag and what to bring in my shopping basket that I was going to take as carry-on. I wanted to use the internet to see about meeting up with Stine today, so headed out at 6:00 AM for The Baguette Shop. It turned out not to open until 6:30 AM, but I sat at a table beyond the closed panel and was able to use the internet for 30 minutes. As soon as the shop opened, I was the first customer, buying another pain chocolat – I am going to miss that for breakfast!

I hadn’t reached Stine, but left her a message on Messenger. I went back to the cottage to pack some more, and give the cats the last of the milk, as well as some more dry food. I went back over about 9:30 AM to Creole Village to use the internet and try to reach Stine again, but still didn’t get her. I thought she was going to try to catch the ferry from Anse a L’Ane to Anse Mitan, so I said I’d be on the beach with my green beach chair.

I heard a loud drumming and a lot of commotion coming from the street, so walked over to discover that the local school children were having a parade for Carnival. Children and accompanying adults were in various costumes, and what looked to be high school band students were playing drums.

What a fun sight to see! Mardi Gras, the day before Ash Wednesday, isn’t really until next week, Tuesday February 13th, but the celebration, like in New Orleans, lasts loner here.

It started raining as I was going to head out the door, and I figured she would catch either the 11 AM r 12 PM ferry anyway, so I waited out the storm, continuing to pack and arrange things. I had decided to do one last laundry load, which I hung up to dry during the day on the sun porch. I got to the Anse Mitan beach about 11 AM, but didn’t see Stine, so settled onto my chair, propping it against a wall because the back isn’t locking in place. Unfortunately, with the sun rising higher, I lost my shade by about 11:30 AM. I walked along the beach, then sat on the wall that was still shaded, then walked back to the ferry again when it came at 12 noon. Stine wasn’t on it.

I gathered my things, went back to the cottage, and then to Creole Village to get on the internet. Stine had messaged me that she didn’t take the ferry after all, but if I could drive my car she was waiting at the Carrefour. I messaged back that I needed to finish packing, as well as get the food stuff and other items I planned to give her. At the Creole Village I ran into Christoph and Thibeaut eating lunch at the K Fe – they said they were between dives.

Back at the cottage, I had some more of the coco-rum sauce chicken for lunch. There was way too much to finish by myself, so the cats got a treat. Then I washed dishes and took out the garbage and recyclables. Finally I gathered dry food (like sugar and pasta) in one bag, and emptied the fridge to put in another. I loaded the groceries and beach chair in the trunk, and decided about 4:00 PM that I had to drive to meet Stine if I could, even though we hadn’t been able to make direct contact. I drove to Anse a L’Ane, parking at the lot next to the beach. I walked down to the Kfe Kreol where Stine had previously said she’d gone to use the internet. The bartender didn’t know where Regis had his BnB, but showed me the internet password. I was finally able to reach Stine by phoning through Messenger. She sent a map to Regis house and his address, which she said was a pink house up a steep hill. I couldn’t get my American Google Maps to show the exact address, so relied on the map Stine had sent. I managed to find almost the right street – luckily Stine walked down the hill to meet me. She showed me her sleeping porch with hammock, and said she would put away the groceries after I left. I wanted to get back before sunset, so I could turn the car around in the yard and be pointing forward for when I left in the dark early the next morning. Stine hugged and said she’d next see me either visiting her in Denmark or visiting me in the USA.

After my return, I was parking my car when Annette told me no other guests had cars, so to park beside the cottage so I could leave quietly in the morning. I lugged out the large suitcase and put it in the trunk, then finished readying the carry-on and my purse. I left out my PJs for overnight and the clothes I would wear on Tuesday for my trip home. I planned layers – I had left my warm coat and snow boots in my car.

With no groceries left in the house, I intended to spend my last evening dining out. I walked down to the Kano Restaurant in Anse Mitan, which I hadn’t tried yet, but was on the beach. However, the music was loud and annoying, and I didn’t see anything on the outside posted menu that appealed, so I walked bck to Pointe du Bout. I wanted to eat again at L’Explorateur, but it turned out to be closed on Mondays. Instead I ate dockside at the Embarcadero Restaurant, where I ordered beef steak with rice and salad, with a glass of red wine – which only cost 3.50€. While awaiting service, I wrote up more for my travel blog. I was able to get online with both my phone and my tablet. My cell phone beeped at me – a weather alert for back home in Central New York – a winter storm on Wednesday is supposed to bring several inches of snow. I checked the temperature back home and it was only 18° F., while I was sitting at an outdoor restaurant with temperature in the high 70s. I felt a moment of panic, that I can’t go back to that?! Isn’t there some way to stay? But of course, I have been blessed to be able to take a whole 4 weeks worth of vacation and to afford to visit a place like Martinique. I will retire next summer and have more time to travel, but not as much money.

The restaurant was full and the server quite busy. When my steak arrived, it was cooked medium as I’d requested, but there was a lot of gristle on it. I ended up feeding bits to the cat that appeared under my table, and taking home more to leave for the cats we’d been feeding the last 4 weeks. The rice was nice, but plain, the salad just leafy lettuce, although I liked the vinaigrette dressing on it. I declined café or dessert, just wanting to get back to the cottage.

It was about 9:00 PM when I walked home, even though I’d gotten to the restaurant by 7:15 PM….everything takes time in Martinique, you have to be patient to be waited on, to have your food delivered, to get “l’addition” (the bill) and to have your credit card picked up and the charge made. By the time I’d gotten back and showered, washed my hair, and prepared for bed, it was after 9:30 PM. I hoped I’d get a sound sleep, as the alarm was set for 4:45 AM. I heard one rainstorm before I was dreaming and in a deep sleep.

4 Fevrier 2018 Dimanche

My 4th Sunday in Martinique, I got up before 7:00 AM to start a load of wash and get a pain chocolat from The Baguet Shop and use the internet (30 minutes free). Then I went back to the cottage, got my bag ready, and walked a couple blocks to the harbor to finish paying for my day trip. At the Trois Ilets Harbor in Pointe du Bout, there are several boats offering different half and full day trips. I was taking the trip to the “Nord Caraibe” – along the northwest coast as far as St. Pierre – with Kata Mambo. I was told I had about 20 minutes before boarding the Royal Mambo, which I decided was enough time to dash back to the cottage, hang the laundry on the line that hadn’t been quite finished washing before and use the toilet one more time before getting on the boat.

I arrived back by 8:20 AM and waited another 5 minutes before we began boarding. At first I was worried that there were just young adults on board, but then some middle aged people showed up. There were 18 passengers altogether, mostly French, but 2 couples were from Germany – I was the only American. We all had to take off our sandals to get on board – the rule is barefoot on the boat. Our captain was Teddy, who was very engaging, and the Chef was Marion.

The weather cooperated with a mostly sunny day – just a few rain sprinkles. I signed up for this particular tour because I hoped to see dolphins – and we did, as soon as we got out into the Baie of Fort-du-France. From February – April it is also sometimes possible to see whales on their migration, but we were a little too early for that.

The Royal Mambo is a catamaran, and people could sit under the shaded cabin, out in seats on the main deck, or climb around the sides of the boat – there are 2 trampolines up front hanging over the water – limited to 2 persons at a time. We stayed close to the coast, heading north, passing Schoelcher and Carbet. The all day tour comes complete with drinks, snacks and dejeuner (lunch). Our morning snack was a delicious assortment of fresh fruits – with hibiscus blossoms decorating the pineapple top as part of the presentation.

We had lunch after stopping for 30 minutes to dock at St. Pierre and visit the village – which used to be the capitol city, until Mt. Pele erupted in 1902, and killed 29,000 people, destroying most of the town. Our lunch was a choice of chicken or fish – both delicious. Side dish was rice with sautéed bananas on top. The salad was colorful, with avocado, tomatoes, corn, cucumber and watermelon, and featured a homemade vinaigrette “sauce” (dressing). Dessert was banana flambe in rum.

Rum was among the beverages available to drink all day, and 3 of the young adult men on board seemed to think it their duty to overindulge, but most of the clients just enjoyed the rum in moderation. Still, some middle aged French women kept trying to get everyone to sing a rousing chorus to a song for which I didn’t understand all the words, but seemed like it was a party song or for Carnival or something. There were also bottles of cold water, fruit drink, and bottles of Coke. Plastic glasses were numbered on the bottom so guests could keep track of their own glasses.

Coming back down the coast there were opportunities for swimming in the ocean near Carbet, and snorkeling above coral below some cliffs. Teddy threw bits of bread into the water to bring dozens of fish to the surface. As we sailed back towards Fort-du-France, Chef Marion brought out an afternoon snack of some kind of sweet cake.

We were almost to the harbor when the motor for our boat began acting up, but Teddy is a skilled captain, and enlisted help from other boats to get us into the harbor and up to the dock where we could disembark, I am so glad I took the full day boat tour with Kata Mambo, and really lucked out to have Freddy as Captain and Marion as Chef. Absolutely worth 85€ – even if the USD has been dropping in comparison!

We had gotten back into the harbor and docked before 5:30 PM. Some people had to drive back to Riviere Salee or other towns, but I was lucky to just walk back a couple of blocks to the cottage. I put away the items I’d taken on the boat, showered and washed my hair, and decided to go to bed early. Again, I was full from all that I’d eaten during the day and didn’t feel like going out to a restaurant later, by myself.

Since I had finished the two new books, I played Solitaire for a while before falling asleep. I was also thinking about what I needed to do on last day in Martinique, including packing, cleaning the cottage and hooking up with Stine because I wanted to give her the beach chair and leftover food we’d bought. Heavy rain storms blew threw at least 3 times that night, and I was thankful the rain had held off during our lovely day trip on the boat.

3 Fevrier 2018 Samedi

Last night Stine had said that they would meet me at Pointe du Bout, but this morning I discovered a new message that they wanted to meet me either at the Vito gas station or the boulangerie in Trois Ilets. I called Stine and said let’s meet at the gas station. While there, I went ahead and put 20€ more gas in the car. It turned out that Stine’s friends drove up in the car behind me and did the same thing.

Stine transferred to my car and I followed as we drove D7 over to Riviere Salee, where we caught N5 south, past St. Luce and LeMarin, then over to Ste. Anne. The couple knew how to get around the more touristic places to a more remote part of Les Salines, a famous stretch of beaches on the far southwest coast. We made a sharp left near the end of the road and continued on an unpaved road with lots of dips and potholes to avoid or try to negotiate. There were picnic tables off to the side, close to the beach, and they chose one of them, motioning for me to park my car on the other side of the road while they unloaded picnic items from their car.

Regis and Carolina are Stine’s BnB hosts at a house in Anse a L’Ane, just west of the Pointe du Bout area of Trois Ilets. Stine rents an outdoor porch with a hammock to sleep in, which is very cheap – only $20 USD a night. Regis also rents out one of the 2 bedrooms, but that is more than double the price. I gathered that Regis has been in Martinique over 10 years, coming from the Strasbourg area of France. Carolina is his current girlfriend – ironically, the first place Stine had stayed through Air BnB a bit further south in Grand Anse was hosted by a former girl friend of Regis! Regis and Carolina were both very welcoming and warm. Carolina’s English was a bit better, and we had an easy conversation. Regis complimented me on my driving – he has a poor opinion of most tourists on the roads. I explained that my late father used to own Porsches, and I learned to drive from him!

I set up my green beach chair in the shade, where I could see the breakers coming into the beach. I also made the acquaintance of a yellow crab who wanted to run away with any trinkets I could spare. Stine told me a friend had a crab try to make off with her pareo she had left on the sand, and they ended up in a tug of war! Stine and Carolina went swimming in the ocean.

I decided to walk along the beach, taking lots of photos with my mobile phone. The white sand beach, which held very few other people at 8:00 AM, was the essence of paradise. The water offshore looked turquoise, as it does in the Caribbean, and the waves curling as they came to shore were translucent with the sunlight. Some palm trees were leaning over the beach. I walked south, and around the corner so that I could see Devil’s Table, a big flat rock offshore, and see far beyond where the angry waters of the Atlantic meet the calmer waters of the Caribbean – the meeting of the oceans.

We were joined for the barbecue picnic by a couple of young men who had stayed with Regis, geologists, who had come to Martinique to dive. Christoph and Thibeaut had been working in South America on a gold mine, but there was some argument about further development versus local and ecological concerns. Stine had befriended them, and gone out to dinner with Christophe the night before. There were also some local friends of Regis – a couple, Katia (an ER nurse) and Pasquale, and another older woman, perhaps in her 50s, Katti. Katti was from France, but said she was on disability, and her arthritis caused her pain so she moved permanently to Martinique 3 years earlier. They all live in Anse a L’Ane, which I was told was a small enough village that everyone knows everyone else.

F or the picnic, appetizers were some kind of shellfish, which I declined, as I can’t stand shellfish. But the main meal was chicken that had been barbecued in a fire built in the sand. Katya had brought a wonderful Creole salad with corn, tomatoes, cucumber and other vegetables as well as lettuce. Christoph and Thibaut had brought some very expensive rum from Habitation Clement – I tried just a little, then stuck to water. However, to enjoy the baguette and Brie cheese for dessert, I was told I needed to drink red wine, which I easily agreed to.

The day had been partly cloudy, and sprinkled a little earlier, but a real downpour occurred while we were eating. Regis had strung a blue tarp above our heads, propping it up with a pole in the middle, which would occasionally topple over – one time I handily caught it. The tarp helped protect us from the cloudburst, with water pouring off the sides.

The rain didn’t last long, and folks went back to play in the water, or lie on the beach. I was in the middle of the book My Name is Resolute, so I sat on my beach chair, listening to the breakers roll in and reading. Stine checked with me a couple of times to see if I was alright, as did Carolina, but I replied I was enjoying myself, and explained that the historic novel was very engrossing.

An ice cream cart came by in late afternoon, and others bought various flavors of “glace”. I didn’t buy any for myself, but ended up being given a cup with half of what Katya bought, because both she and her husband had bought 2 scoops each. Shortly after that, Katya and Pasquale began packing up to leave, and I moved my chair and beach bag back to the car so I could leave also. I wanted to be back before dark, so I left about 4:00 PM.

The drive back to Pointe du Bout was smooth, except for a traffic back up near St. Luce, that turned out to be the result of a bicycle race. After I got past the roundabout that was policed to let bicyclists and vehicles take turns, for the rest of the route on N5 towards Riviere Salee there were bicyclists sharing the road. I kept thinking of my late brother Charlie, an alternate for the US bicycling team, until he broke his leg in an accident in South America. I wouldn’t want to bicycle on a major highway with heavy traffic!

When I got back, I wanted to shower and get the sand off my body. I wasn’t really hungry enough to go out to eat dinner at a restaurant, and had really eaten enough at the picnic that I didn’t need anything else. As always, I indulged in making myself virgin mojitos – I plan to give the bottle of mojito syrup to Stine before I leave.

I needed to get up early again for Sunday, to be at the Trois Ilets harbor dock by 8:00 PM for my day trip with Kata Mambo, but I stayed up late in bed reading, finishing my book about Resolute. My late mother and aunts all used to read in bed before falling asleep, and I share the same behavior pattern.

2 Fevrier 2018, Vendredi

For breakfast, I made myself hot tea, instead of making coffee like my friend Kathleen had done for both of us. Eventually I wandered down to La Baguet Shop and tried an apple tart, instead of the pain chocolat. While there I went online (30 minutes free) and sent Stine a message, as well as checking email. Back at the cottage, I decided I needed to visit the beach again, making th e most of my few days left. I went to Anse Mitan because I dropped off a bag of garbage on the way. The neighbors also staying here from Bretagne were next to me, and I tried to carry on a conversation with the wife, who speaks almost no English. We determined that they had liked their rental of 18 years at Anse a l’Ane better, that their apartment – which is next to the road- is too noisy for them. She also thought the charge was too dear – she said 1300€ for a month, which actually is about what I’ve seen in the area for a 1 bdrm (T2). She asked how much I had paid for 4 weeks, and I couldn’t remember how to say it in French, so drew the number in the sand! After about an hour I packed up to return to the cottage. I thought about painting, but instead worked some more on Trip Advisor reviews and blog entries. I had a late morning nap, then went to the Village Creole to get online and see if there was a message from Stine. Sure enough, I had missed a message, to which I replied, and then she must have seen I was online, because she phoned me. We agreed that instead of trying to meet that day, we would wait until Monday, my last day in Martinique, because I will donate left over food from the fridge, my lounge chair and other items I am not taking back to the States. I returned to the cottage for a lazy afternoon, going out to the harbor area around 5:00 PM to check boat schedules in case I wanted to take a trip before I left. While there, my phone picked up the Marina internet (my daughter had set it up with) and Stine called, saying if I would like, I could come with her and her host friends through Air BnB to the Les Salines plage to enjoy a day at the beach and a barbecue. I was thrilled to be included, and we talked about meeting up between 7-8 AM, to get down and get a good place to picnic. For the boat trips, I wasn’t interested in swimming or diving, but was interested in possibly seeing dolphins. First one young man talked to me, then later another, who introduced himself as the Captain. I was told I needed 20€ deposit and the total was 85€ for a full day up the northwest coast, including drinks and dejeuner (lunch). So I went to watch the sun set again first- this time it sank into low clouds on the horizon itself – then visited the ATM in Village Creole to withdraw more cash, then back to the harbor to pay the deposit for a Sunday trip. For dinner I reheated the chicken, coco sauce and rice in the microwave, nothing fancy. I thought about crossing the street and getting an adult beverage at the very fancy bar at the Hotel La Pagerie, but changing to pajamas after a shower and going to bed very early again had more appeal, so that’s what I did. I had finished reading Hillbilly Elegy, so began My Name is Resolute – another book recommended by Kathleen. Again, I stayed up late reading in bed, even though it was my intention to get up with the sun and be ready to go any time after 7:00 AM.

1 Fevrier 2018, Jeudi

My daughter got up at 4:30 AM (she has to put on make up and fix her hair just right), while Kathleen and I got up at 5:00 AM. We had suitcases in the car, and left the gate to the street by 5:30 PM. It is only about 30 minute drive to Lamentin when traffic isn’t bad, and although the traffic was beginning to get heavier from Riviere Salee north towards Lamentin, we arrived at the airport by 6:00 AM. I hugged my friend Kathleen, who said she’ll see me next October in France (when we go to dog sit again), and hugged my daughter, then left them to check in. It was starting to get light as I drove back home to our cottage in Pointe du Bout. My daughter had tried to find the cats before she left to give them her fish plate from the night before, but they didn’t show up in the dark. But sure enough, as soon as I got back and parked the car, Mama Cat, Junior and Baby showed up before I even unlocked the front porch door. So I gave them the fish and rice – which they all three fell on. After only about 10 minutes, there was just a fish head and skeleton, a few rice grains and mess all over the porch floor. It took quite a few paper towels and white vinegar to clean up the mess, and then I walked the trash bag over to the dumpster so the cottage wouldn’t smell, but it was worth it to see the cats so happy. They had all been skinny when we first arrived, and now, in 3 weeks, we’d already fattened them up, so they look healthier. Kathleen is sure the Mama cat at least was once someone’s pet, because she wants to be petted and get in your lap – which is not the way feral cats act. I have been instructed to give them kibble every day before I leave too, as well as milk, and then give our landlady the bag of kibble hoping the next tenants will also take care of the cats. Although I have loved traveling alone, and had come to Martinique the first time 2 years ago by myself, and this trip had 3 days before Kathleen got here, I discovered that I was very conscious of being alone and really missed having the company of my friend and my daughter. So I just had a nice, slow day, not driving anywhere, not trying to do anything. I continued reading the book Kathleen had recommended, Hillbilly Elegy by J. D. Vance. I snacked on bread, cheese and salami for lunch. I napped and drank virgin mojitos. I made more rice, sautéed chicken breasts and revived the wonderful coconut rum sauce I had made the week before – it wasn’t as good as the first time around, but still tasty. I ate early, about 5:00 PM. I don’t think the French custom of dining late (after 7:00 PM) helps my digestive system, especially if I retire early and don’t stay up late. I went down Pointe du Bout beach to again watch the sunset about 5:45 PM – photographing it along with a lot of other amateur photographers also on cell phones or with fancier cameras. When my daughter and I had tried to view it, the sun sank into low clouds on the horizon instead of into the sea – this time, there was a gap between the low lying clouds on the horizon and the Caribbean Sea itself, so first the sun sank below the clouds, sending golden orange light rays both above and below, then it reappeared below the clouds on the horizon and sank into the distant water. Returning back to the cottage, I showered and put on PJs, climbing into bed. But instead of falling asleep, I continued reading the book I’d started. For me, once I start reading a book, I have to keep returning to it… I ended up staying up till midnight, even though I wanted to get up early and make contact with my Danish friend Stine, as we’d communicated via Messenger that we might get together Friday evening.

31 Janvier 2018, Mercredi

The last day in Martinique for my daughter and my friend featured a bright sunny day with no rain, and a full moon that night. For the first time we were able to look across the bay to Fort-du-France and see the mountain peaks NOT covered by clouds! It was like the island was showing off for us.

My friend Kathleen volunteered to take the ferry across to Fort-du-France with my daughter to leave me free to visit the beach in the morning. They set off a little after 8:00 AM, after our morning trip to the Baguet Shop to get pastries for breakfast – although my daughter got a salad instead. I loaded up my beach bag, grabbed my green lounge chair, and a bag of garbage to drop off along the way. In this climate, we have decided it is best to dispose of trash every day. The dumpsters for trash and containers for recyclables are around the corner, behind our apartments and yard, so that meant I headed for the Anse Mitan beach

There were 2 instructors helping children who appeared to be ages 5-8 learn to swim. The littlest boy still needed a floating board to assist him, but no one made fun of him. The instructors would have the children dive off the floating dock beside one instructor, then swim back to shore towards the other instructor. Another variation was to have one instructor farther out in the water and have the children swim to shore towards the second instructor. These children didn’t seem to be from the local school, as had other groups my friend Kathleen and I had seen. I think they were either a private swim club, or perhaps a feature offered by the nearby Bambou Hotel as an activity to entertain children of the families staying there.

After my sojourn at the beach for about 90 minutes, I came back, got my tablet and headed to the Village Creole to go online. I was determined to try to get on the internet with my tablet (which I had been unsuccessful at the last time I tried), and this time it worked. I uploaded several entries of my travel blog, then added photos by going online with my mobile phone. A successful morning!

About 12 noon I thought I’d head out and get a cold drink at a shop along the route my daughter and friend would walk by when they got back on the ferry – but I met them before I even got to a shop! They had gone to the Grand Marche – which my daughter agreed with us was not as impressive as tourist guides make out, the fabric shop my friend had purchased some wonderful madras material at, and my daughter had ended up buying lime green hanging curtains to cover shelving in her NYC apartment. They had gone to a bookstore which turned out to be in a mini-mall. My friend and I had avoided the mall, but it turns out that there is a Carrefour there. So my daughter had found more of the chien knives, these with blue handles. She also bought a book in francais on raising babies in the Montessori method. She is a nanny, and the book is useful for work, but perhaps I have hope of becoming a grandmother sometime after all.

Angela volunteered to buy baguette for lunch (we still have lots of cheese and sliced salami), and ended up buying a tuna sandwich for herself. We ate quickly, as our main plan for the day was to visit Epice du Monde (spices of the world) shop near the Lamentin airport – and I had refused to drive either early in the morning (it opens at 8:00 AM) or late in the afternoon, because traffic is so bad going or coming from Fort-du-France.

We easily found the spice shop, which also featured coffee, rum and tourist souvenirs. My daughter and I made several purchases – but my friend says there is a market where she lives on the California coast that she can buy all kinds of spices. The owner was very cordial, especially when we explained that we had come because Chef Prisca Marjon had recommended her shop. (Prisca warned us that the quality of the spices sold on the street was not to be trusted, but we could trust the quality of whatever we bought here.) The owner even gave us a 10% discount because we were a referral from Prisca!

It was only about 2:30 PM as we drove back towards Trois I’lets. We were driving past the signs to turn off for the Village Poterie, when I suddenly decided we had plenty of time and should stop there again, because they have the best mojitos we’ve found, at the Rainbow Restaurant next to the water. I thought I used my inside (my head) voice, but apparently I swore aloud, although more of a mutter “Oh, hell!” and abruptly turned down the red dirt land. Both turned out to be thrilled because Kathleen said she’d just been regretting not buying some hanging pots and was thinking she wanted to go back, and my daughter was noticing we were about to drive by the Pottery Village and wishing she’d bought a small espresso cup and saucer from the potter she’d admired. Both agreed with me it was a fine afternoon to enjoy mojitos. I ordered a crepe sucree as well, and they were the best crepes we’ve had. Thin, delicate, lightly browned – I ordered the one with caramelized apples and nuts, with Chantilly (whipped cream). My daughter took off to visit the potter, but Kathleen stayed and helped me eat the crepe (“I’d fall on the crepe for you” she offered).

With purchases in hand, we got back in the rental car to return home to Pointe du Bout. I had my daughter turn the car around so it would be ready to head out in the morning, instead of having to turn around in the dark. Then Kathleen decided to begin packing her bag while my daughter and I went to the Creole Village to go online.

We wanted to go out to eat one last time, so left just after 7:00 PM. We had decided to try La Marine restaurant close to the harbor. Kathleen and I remembered enjoying dinner there a year ago, and we hadn’t taken Angela there yet. Angela and Kathleen both ordered the red snapper, and my daughter also ordered ceviche for an appetizer. I ordered the chevre chaud salad. We also ordered a beer and wine. When the waitress brought our food, she brought the snapper entrée for my friend, my salad, and the ceviche for my daughter. But she never brought the snapper for my daughter. My daughter finished the ceviche, and I finished my salad, and Kathleen finished her dinner plate – which took a while, as the snapper was not de-boned and she had to work at removing bones. The waitress had forgotten all about the 2nd snapper. We wanted to just leave, but she insisted it was ready and we had to pay for it. We should have thrown a fit, We finally agreed to getting it wrapped “to go” – even though my daughter was leaving early the next morning and wouldn’t be able to eat it. We rounded up enough cash to pay for the ticket in cash, using the smallest coins possible to be annoying. And I promised them I would write a bad review for Trip Advisor. What a disappointment!

But the evening ended well, as we stopped at the Ice Cream and Coffee shop which features our favorite glace (ice cream). Then home to the cottage, to finish packing. My daughter had gone online so she could check her bag instead of carry-on – which meant it could weigh up to 20 kg (44 pounds) instead of just 10 kg (22 lbs). Kathleen had remembered that her small suitcase had a zipper so it could expand out another 2 inches and managed to fit everything inside – wrapping rum bottles inside clothing. She was not sure if it would be under 44#, but decided to just pay extra in the morning if that was the case.

We turned in to bed by 9:00 PM, knowing we needed to leave early to get them to the airport by 6:00 AM (for the 8:05 AM flight).