Category Archives: solo travel

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.

22 Janvier 2018, Lundi

This morning we were booked to go down to Le Marin to take the Aquabulle water tour at 10:45. I began to get worried that I had misunderstood the times, and had accidentally booked us for the tour that included swimming, which we didn’t want. The website showed that the non-swimming tour was first at 9:00 AM and the swimming tour was next, at 10:45 AM. So we were up early and left the house by 7:30 AM, without even having coffee. It was about a half-hour, beautiful drive down N5 from Rivere Salee, past Trois Rivieres, Ste. Luce and finally to Le Marin. We got off the highway heading down the main road towards the docks, but didn’t see a sign for Aquabulle. We kept looking for information and/or parking, and finally found a large parking lot on the southern end of the Annex where there were numerous restaurants, boating equipment stores, and a tourist office. We tried to find the tourist office to ask for information, but the office had moved from the place it was indicated on the buildings map. Finally I decided to use my smart phone, despite the cost of international media, and found we were 6 minutes away by walking. The sun was already hot, so I made us stop and get bottled ice tea, despite the short distance. With the help of the GPS, we finally found the Aquabulle office. It was upstairs, overlooking the dock where their boats are. We were reassured that our booking was correct, that now the swim tour was in the afternoon. We were supposed to be at the boat by 10:35, 10 minutes early, so we had about 2 hours time to fill. We walked over to the nearby restaurant with deck seating above the water and ordered 2 petite dejourners – we were thrilled to be able to order “grand crème” (bigger American size coffee with cream instead of the intense espresso most French drink), and 2 pain chocolat. After taking our time enjoying our breakfast, we decided to walk around the area, and explore the shops. But the commercial area wasn’t that large. We didn’t want to buy or rent a yacht, we didn’t need boat supplies. We decided to go back to the restaurant, found a different table in the shade to sit at, and ordered our standard drink – virgin mojitos. Which reminded us that we needed to stop at the Carrefour in Rivere Salee on our way home to get more tonic water, among other items. Each restaurant has a slightly different version of mojito: these were very sweet, with sugar encrusted rims on the glasses, but had a nice combination of mint and lime. At 10:30 AM we walked one minute over to the boat, joining the line waiting to board. The 2 Aquabulle boats are painted bright yellow. The deck seating area is ordinary with benches and roll up plastic windows that can be lowered when it rains. We motored out of the port, heading west through the bay, passing other boats and even seeing some parasailers (I saw one crash into the water). We got past the point, so that we could see Le Diamant Rock in the distance, and the town of St. Luce north of us. The water is turquoise where it is shallow above the coral reefs and we headed to a patch like that. Then we were invited to descend the stairs to the bottom of the boat. We were told to take off our shoes and go barefoot, and handed little trifold brochures with pictures of the types of fish and the kinds of coral and mollusks we might see. The hull has glass sides so there are 2 sides of viewing underwater. The bottom of the boat is narrow, with 2 benches back to back for people to sit on. It was amazing, like scuba diving or snorkeling without getting wet or worrying about having enough air. Three families had little kids, toddler size, who were ooing and ahing – but so were the grown-ups. I was clicking away with my camera, hoping I was capturing the small iridescent blue Chronis fish that were so pretty, the bluish-green Yellowtail snappers that had the yellow stripe along their bodies. There were also a few bigger bright blue and green fish called Queen Parrotfish, and a few black and white speckled Stoplight Parrotfish. The plentiful fish that looked like they had zebra stripes were Sergeant Major- I suppose they held a higher rank than the other fish! Although the captain kept re-positioning the boat so we could stay above the corals and view the underwater landscape, about 30 minutes went by too quickly and it was time to head back to port. As we moved away from the shallows, the ocean floor dropped off abruptly, taking our breath away. We all began to reluctantly climb the stairs back to the top deck. Kathleen and I agreed that this was 26€ each well spent. For lunch, I intended to head further on the highway down to Ste. Anne. We made our way back north up the harbor side road until we could connect with N5, headed south, and then I managed to miss the Y fork taking us to Ste. Anne and we headed towards Vauclin across the mountains instead. At first I intended to find a place to turn around, but of course, no decent place for a u-turn manifested itself. Since we had no agenda and no place we had to be at a particular time, we decided to go with the flow and drove on to Vauclin, an old fishing village. We first parked along the beach downtown, near the places that fresh fish could be gutted and cleaned, but didn’t find a restaurant, only a boulangerie. Using my trusty Google maps, I located 2 restaurants farther out on Pointe Faula, so we decided to drive 6 minutes there. The road lost its pavement as we rounded a bend to come alongside the beach and Atlantic Ocean. The view was spectacular – far out huge breakers crested, nearby the water looked splotchy with streaks of turquoise shallow water and deeper blue. This was apparently a para-sailing heaven, as we saw many people out having a blast. I drove carefully down the graveled, pitted road, following directions to one restaurant, that turned out to be closed on Mondays, but a neighboring restaurant, the Toucan, was open with a pretty full crowd by 1:00 PM. We sat at outside tables, covered by shade and cooled by misters attached to fans that blew air on the patrons. Kathleen order a fish plate and I ordered poulet in a rum and coconut sauce. The plates came back in elegant presentation, with small salads with shredded carrot and spring lettuces, rice and our entrée. I loved my chicken, and asked the waiter to as the chef if I could have the recipe. He came back and told me the chef said to make it “with love.” We declined “café” but ordered 2 boiules (scoops) each of ice cream. Kathleen ordered chocolate and vanilla and I ordered pecan and chocolate. The ice cream here and in France proper is so delicious- we aren’t sure of the process, but it’s more like Italian gelato, only even better. From Vauclin we could drive north to Francois, across the mountains again down to Lamentin, which we’d done before – and which was more likely to have late afternoon traffic. I decided instead we should retrace our route, this time make the swing southwest to Ste. Anne, and explore that village, which we had seen from the Aquabulle that morning. The village itself is quaint, with small stores and tourist shops downtown. We checkout out possible souvenirs to bring home for others, and I almost bought some loose, cotton pants (palazzo style), but we refrained. We found a lovely, clean restroom to use close to an ocean side restaurant, and I could seen people out on a deck, swinging under a pavilion. We chose to go out there to have a virgin mojito to refresh us, although we sat on sensible chairs instead of on the swings. We decided these mojitos were the best so far, tart and light, not as sweet and heavy as the ones that morning. We thought it would be an easy drive home, but it turned out to be a traffic jam all the way through Le Marin headed north on N5. Once we got to the last roundabout out of the city, we were able to move along, although the sun set while we were driving north to Riviere Salee. I made the correct exit (something to celebrate) and we went to the Carrefour, which turned out at 6 PM to have large, after-work crowds. We meant to just buy a few things – milk, tonic water, and white vinegar for cleaning and to discourage ants. Of course, I had become enamored of the rum coconut sauce on my chicken, tried to look up recipes online and insisted on buying various ingredients. Even though we still had cheese back at the cottage in the fridge, I couldn’t resist buying more Brie (it’s 1/3 of the cost in the US!). We had an enjoyable conversation with a mom and her two children while we had to wait in line. The brother, who seemed about 5, wanted to hear us talk “American.” He had a toy dinosaur in his hand, which I pretended to be afraid of. When we got through the line and checked out, we told him “See you later, alligator!” and “After a while, crocodile!” Since we hadn’t thought we’d buy so much, we hadn’t brought a bag with us, so after paying for the groceries, we were loading up our purses and our arms to try to carry them to the car! We didn’t get home until after 7:00 PM, and decided to snack but not go out to eat. On the whole, it was a lovely, lovely day! But we’d been gone nearly 12 hours, which for us, taking frequent naps, had been a long day.

20 Janvier 2018, Samedi

What a gorgeous day – not quite as hot, not quite as humid, a nice breeze most of the day, and no rain showers during the day. Kathleen had been going to The Baguette Shop each morning to either get us a fresh baguette (to eat not only in the morning, but with lunch meat and cheese), or a breakfast pastry – we both love pain chocolat. But this morning I got ambitious and scrambled 3 eggs in butter, with gouda cheese and prosciutto cut ham. Kathleen always makes the coffee, which we drink out of the large, American size mugs I had bought (the cottage is furnished with tiny espresso size cups, which is just not large enough for us). It was a yummy breakfast, and the cats got to enjoy leftovers. Kathleen call the cats the “Greek Chorus” and this morning we were up one more, from a mama cat and a kitten lookalike plus a teen longer hair tortoiseshell, but another smaller kitten mom look-alike. Kathleen gives them canned food, then sprinkles dry kibble on a fresh portion of the New York Times she had brought with her from JFK and read in the first 3 days. I washed the dishes, Kathleen took out trash and recyclables to the bins in the parking lot behind the gardens, which means going outside the gate, down the sidewalk to the roundabout, around the corner and down the stairs. We have our own areas of specialty – Kathleen usually cooks, but hates housework. I am annoyed by feeling sand or grit beneath my feet, so I have been sweeping the rooms. Today I decided I also wanted to wash the towels, and let them dry in the sun room, since I’d been here 10 days already. Kathleen is an avid reader, and heat and humidity really get to her. She promised she’d go to the beach again tomorrow, but this morning I left her under the front covered porch, reading, enjoying the breeze, and watching birds land on the hibiscus shrub. I took my beach lounge chair in one arm, my St. Martin beach bag with cold drink in one pocket, tissues to blow my nose in another, a beach cover up shawl and and change of sandals. My poor feet are tender from being in snowboots and not used to sandals, so I figured I could wear the sandals with the thong between the big toes going to the beach, and the Birkenstocks slide-in sandals on the way home, to avoid blisters. I decided to walk to the Pointe du Bout beach, which has fewer commercial establishments along it, and more shade. My lounge chair continues to challenge me to get it to set up right, so I positioned the back next to a rock wall to keep the back angled for the support I wanted. I took off my sandals and waded in the water a minute, then settled down in the beach chair. I took a couple photos that were not only to commemorate the beauty of this place, but that I might try to transpose into a water color at some later point. Then I people watched. When I was younger and lustier, I would have been checking out the men. I did notice there were mostly senior couples, a few younger couples. But the appealing thing about where I’d chosen to sit was that I was in the “family section” – 3 young children and families were all near me. A darling toddler girl to my right, who was taken in the shallow water by first her mother, then her aunt. She did that cute toddler thing of stooping down to make the water splash with both hands. An older girl, maybe 3 ½ – 4 , had a toy watering can, and she kept going to the water’s edge, filling it up, and taking water about 15 feet away to something she was constructing. But my favorite was an adorable boy (I even told his parents “votre fils es adorable”) who was perhaps 3. He splashed the water, kicked the water, did his best to swim from one parent to the other at their encouragement. The most amusing, however, was when he was first turned loose in the water, given goggles to put on so he could see better underwater. Obediently he put the goggles on his head, and bent way down, staring just past his feet, but keeping his face out of the water, just about an inch above it. His mother explained that the goggles worked by being in the water. Obediently, the little boy took off the goggles, dropped them into the water, and again bent down close to the water level, not actually getting his face wet. I only stayed about an hour on the beach, then walked back. Kathleen and I enjoyed another bread, cheese and salami lunch. The big outing for the day was to drive over to the House of Sugar and learn about the sugar cane industry in Martinique, but luckily the location was very near ours, just a few minutes east of Trois I’lets on the way to Riviere Salee. It was a lovely museum, with most of the signage in both French and English. The invention of a different process to extract sugar in the 1800s made a huge difference – instead of taking 20 days to distill in the complicated process, now it took about a minute. Central refineries were built – and the heyday was the end of the 19th c. – first half of the 20th c. Upstairs was more information on rhum – white rum is made from sugar cane, while apparently regular rum comes from molasses. But it was considered a useless byproduct until the later part of the 1800s, and the proliferation of rum as a desired drink really happened in the 20th c. Wait, I realize- since most of the pirates were active before that, – 1600s, 1700s, then the old supposed pirate cry of “Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum” was an anachronism. We resolved to look it up in Wikipedia and find out. Since our expedition to the Maison de Canne was mid-afternoon, we brought the car back and walked over to get some glacee to cool off- Kathleen tried a melon sorbet, while I channeled my late mother by ordering a caramel pecan. We still think French glacee is even better than Italian gelato, although we aren’t quite sure what the difference involves. For late afternoon, Kathleen read and napped, I napped and then began another water color painting, this one of the Point du Bout beach, with a rock wall marking the edge of the swimming area, and palm trees on the beach. Kathleen cooked up the steak and made a cucumber tomato salad for a late dinner, about 7:30 PM. I got to do dishes again, then brought out my tablet to the outdoor picnic table to begin working on my travel blog. Mosquitos began to bother us, so even though the temperature on the outside porch was delightful, we were driven indoors, where we turned on the AC. Kathleen is first to bed again – although I was first last night.

17 Janvier 2018 Mercredi

When we traveled together in October to Southern France, Kathleen and I had established a pattern or going out and about to explore one day, and having a quieter day resting at home the next. So Wednesday was our day to stay at our cottage and in the Village of Pointe du Bout. Kathleen makes morning coffee and buys fresh baguettes from the Baguette Shop. We eat bread and cheese or fruit for breakfast, bread and cheese and salami or ham for lunch. Kathleen cooks dinner, and I wash dishes. I also sweep the floor when motivated (sand gets tracked in on the tile floors). There is a small front load washer in the kitchen. Today I decided to wash my bottom twin sheet, as I’d been here a week and would wake up sweating if I turned off the AC or didn’t have the windows open (which I distrust, as I am fearful of mosquitos getting in). There are clothes lines in the sun porch area (which the bathroom is off of). I had bought clothes pins at the Carrefour. I am so short I have to stand up on a chair to reach the line to attach the garments, but I can pull the garment lower to take off the clothespin and remove it from the line. I took my new beach chair to the Pointe du Bout beach in the morning, and down to the Ains Mitan beach in the late afternoon. Kathleen chose to stay on the porch at the cottage, alternately reading and working on her quilting. In the afternoon we each had naps. I discovered when visiting elderly parents 15 years ago that naps as an adult were quite nice, and helped to make up for the ferocious intensity with which I tend to live the rest of my life. Kathleen finished reading all 3 books she had brought we her, and began re-reading them. She lent me her Frances Mayes book Under Magnolia, which has reminisces about her childhood in George, but I don’t’ find it as engaging as Under the Tuscan Sun. Mays relates various memories without as much analytical review as I wanted – like reporting her father’s temper and the whippings she got on her egs with a switch from out back, but not thinking through how her father came to be like this. Kathleen and I keep making ourselves virgin mojitos with tonic water, syrop de mojito and ice cubes. I fill my plastic glass with a top several times a day with a fresh drink mixture, sometimes adding lime slices. Quinine water was originally used as a defense against malaria. Kathleen has taken to teasing me about drinking so much quinine water that I’ll be impervious to malaria for life. This night was leftover night. Although we’d thought about going out for ice cream for dessert, we were really full. We claimed that we didn’t need glacee because we are both heavier than we’d like to be, but the real reason we didn’t go out again was that we were too lazy! It is good to be 66 years old and not have to rush about and get out and do things like when we were younger!