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?