Originally I’d planned to rent a taxi to and from the airport and just stay put during my short half-week visit to Martinique. But taxis were so expensive I decided to rent a car. And for the price of renting a car, it seemed like I should spend at least one of my 3 days exploring in the car. So I decided to head for Le Diamant, one of the more famous landmarks (seamarks? It’s just off the coast) in Martinique. Also, from my location near Tres Ilets, it wasn’t that far away. I had to head back through Tres Ilets – and toward the main North/South Highway N5. I was glad to see the landscape by daylight – I hadn’t known I’d driven by a golf course in the night! And driving during daylight I got better oriented as to where the Baie du Fort du France and where the mountains were. I got back on N5 near Trois Rivieres, which is often 4 lanes, and at least passing lanes and headed south, then exited west towards Diamant. A young couple from France was hitchhiking by the road and I gave them a lift to Diamant, where they planned to stay at a youth hostel. The young woman, who spoke more Anglais than the young man, told me she’d spent part of her childhood on Martinique and St. Martin, but now she lives in Bordeaux. The road was fairly straight west, with more roundabouts to get off to side roads and villages. We came into Diamant, followed signs towards the town centre and plages, and after passing a public beach I decided to find a place to park. The young man helped me parallel park on the left on a one-way part of the street, then we wished each other bonne journee and parted ways.
I took photos of the iconic Le Diamant sitting out off shore. I could see several sailboats around it and wished I was on one of them. When I come back to Martinique I want to take a boat trip – I love sailing. The beach was longer than Anse Mitan where I’m staying, but there weren’t many people out in the late morning. It was fairly windy out, partly cloudy but mostly sunny, so the wind actually helped keep the temperature from feeling too hot. Since I hadn’t eaten breakfast, I decided to have an early lunch and sought out a restaurant next to the ocean. I was the first patron at Chez Lucie, with open-air seating right above the beach, so I sat right at the edge of the ledge above the beach, looking out onto the water and having a view of Diamant in the distance. I ordered chicken columbo, fresh vegetables (which turned out to be green lettuce, grated carrot and grated something else) and rice. A large bottle of Chanflor water was only $2.50 E. Although the ocean view, listening to the waves roll to shore, made whatever price worthwhile, the restaurant was not expensive, less than New York certainly, and the food was better than I’d had so far in Pointe du Bout.
After lingering over my meal, adding coconut flan as my dessert, I walked back out the street the opposite direction from my car, past a church and school and more tourist shops. I cut down to the beach at a convenient opening and walked farther up the beach, enjoying the wet sand on my bare feet. After sitting on a rock for a while, watching the waves, I walked back down the beach toward the public quay and my car. I went up the steps, back towards my rental car, window shopping and observing the other people on the sidewalks. When I was walking by a mausoleum I suddenly realized I definitely didn’t remember walking past that after I’d gotten out of my car, and had to re-trace my steps to find my rental car after I’d walked by it! BTW, almost all rental cars look alike, they’re almost all white, and I hadn’t memorized the license plate. BUT I had left a brightly flowered beach bag in the back and that was how I identified the rental car I’d parked!
I headed east back to the N5, but instead of heading north towards Trois Rivieres and the Trois Ilet exit, headed southwest towards St. Lucie. St. Lucie proved to be a small village with many one way streets. I found a parking place and looked for a restaurant I could get a drink and a snack at. I settled for a restaurant overlooking the bay, but they were out of the dessert I wanted. I settled for a kind of sweet cake with cream. Then I went walking down the street by the ocean. It was fascinating – the street was one way, with restaurants and their kitchens on the land side, but outdoor seating across the street covered by umbrellas and tents on the beach side. There were a number of tourist shops, selling souvenirs and swim wear and boogie boards, etc. The restaurants offered seafood and poulet columbo (a Creole speciality), local beers and rhum.
One of the restaurants was named “Barracuda Obama” and I wondered if that was in tribute to the U.S. President. As I walked by one tent area with several young men handing around, I could distinctly smell something I remembered smelling from college in the 1970s – marijuana. I have no idea if marijuana is legal in Martinique, but I smelled it a couple other evenings back in Pointe du Bout as well.
Both Diamant and St. Lucie had some closed shops and stores, and the streets didn’t seem very full for what should be full out tourist season in February. I wondered if the zika virus had affected the tourist population – it was the reason my daughter wasn’t traveling with me. Diamant and St Lucie also seemed a little less well kept up, a little poorer, than the Pointe du Bout area. I was glad I hadn’t chosen to stay in the Diamant or St Lucie villages but in the Anse-Mitan/Pointe du Boute area. I also overheard more Americans/English speakers in these other towns, compared to the French staying in Pointe du Bout.
I left mid-afternoon, traveling back to my apartment, and got home shortly before a rainstorm hit. Great timing!