Tag Archives: French tourists

Vous Parlez Anglais?

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The area I was staying in had very few English speakers, and I only ran into 2 couples from America. They had also taken advantage of the cheap Norwegian Airlines flights from the U.S. At the end of my first full day on Martinique, Wednesday night, I was walking back to my apartment from spending the evening on the beach, when I overheard an older couple coming towards me on the sidewalk speaking English. I was startled at how glad I was to hear English again. I stopped them, asking if they spoke English, and it turned out they were from New York City. The wife especially had a strong Brooklyn accent. They were here for a week, and it was also their first time. We chatted for a minute about how lovely this place is, and the French and Creole cuisine is great, but they too were struggling to communicate in French, and had the same experience I had, that very few people knew English.

The second American couple I met on Thursday late afternoon near the Harbor. They were from Washington and it was their first time in the French Caribbean as well. After a week in Martinique, they were going to Guadeloupe before returning to the States. I met this second couple of Americans when we had all tried to see if a harbor side restaurant was open for dinner yet. It was almost 6:00 PM, but it turned out dinner isn’t served until sept heures. Cultural differences… my body thinks dinner should be earlier, not later!
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Ducking in and out of shops and covered walkways in between rain showers, it was about a quarter to seven when I stopped at a fancy restaurant called Infinity up some stairs at Creole Village. I stared at their menu, trying to understand what their daily special was. The original waitress didn’t speak English, but she called over the bartender, who translated for me. The only word I had recognized was “camembert” – and I was guessing that “truffe” meant mushroom, which turned out to be correct. I felt reassured to have the English translation so I’d know exactly what I was ordering to eat!
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The next morning, Friday,  I stopped for petit- dejeuner at a café, and the waitress again didn’t know anglais. When I saw oeufs on the menu, I remembered those were eggs, and decided that jambon was ham, since it was listed under the “Americaine” version of their petit dejeuner. But when my order arrived there was no salt or pepper on the table, and I had no clue what they are called in French. Pantomiming shaking salt onto my eggs, the waitress finally understood and brought back the shakers to the table.

I think it’s like white privilege. I found myself expecting that, even though I’m not bilingual, other people should be able to speak English. And it’s not true that others always speak English. Over my petitdejeuner Americaine, I chatted briefly with a retired Frenchwoman waiting for her husband at the next table. She said she had studied English for 8 years back in school, but because she never used it, and didn’t converse, she had forgotten almost all of it. So our broken conversation was conducted mostly en francais, since my pathetic French was better than her even worse English!

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Mont Vernon Pool and Orient Beach

The Mont Vernon condos boast an amazing swimming pool right above Orient Beach, with an amazing view. Just gorgeous, lots of seating, 2 sides to the pool – one deeper for more serious swimming, the other side more shallow where kids liked to play. There is a bridge across the middle.

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From a corner of the pool area is direct access to Orient Beach. It’s easy to take a beach chair down and hang out right on the beach and contemplate the waves. Or walk down the beach towards beach bars and sporting outfits. During the afternoon there are folks out para-sailing, motor boating, etc. The Mont Vernon end is quieter, easier to just appreciate the natural beauty.

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Farther south on Orient Beach, around a point, is a beach intended for au naturelle. “No photos!” is posted. Since Orient Beach is part of French Antilles, it is quite common for French women to let the sisters swing free instead of containing them in a bathing suit top. But what I discovered on my last morning when I finally got up in time to walk right after dawn, is that early in the morning the beach front becomes a parade of walkers and runners… most of them old, many of them stark naked. I had to time my own walk down the beach so that my view ahead was not of some old guy’s behind… And I had to avert my eyes whenever some guy approached letting his cajones get aired out for the day. Not attractive.

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But the beach itself, the water, the sky and clouds, were all mesmerizing. I wasn’t there to people watch but to re-connect to nature. So inspiring!

Where Americans Don’t Go

Mont Vernon is on the north side of Orient Beach. The condos I’m staying in have guests from France and French speaking Canada for the most part. I hear French all around me. On the beach, a darling little boy, about 3 , kept asking me something – I think he was wanting to show off, but I didn’t understand him. All I could reply was, “Je n’sais pas. Je ne parle francais.”

There are water sports available farther down the beach, and I could see para-sailing, and see and hear jet-skis. There are lots of bars, one mini-restaurant, volleyball. But I was happy at our end of the beach, quiet, relaxing. Mostly I can hear the waves rolling to shore, not motorized boats.  There are older retired couples here, and families with small children. The nude beach is way down  the other end of Orient Bay… but several women don’t sport tops to their swimsuits. Must be a French thing. I have no desire to expose my senior body to the sun, especially since my poor ghost legs are covered up to protect them from sunburn. My favored attire is gauzy cotton – cool, flowing and keeping my privates private.

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The colors of the condos where I ‘m staying are a delightful mixture of Caribbean pastels, with latticework on the balcony. It’s all very charming. There are occasional sailing ships crossing by the bay and I counted 10 masts from anchored sailboats between the island and mainland. I’m very much looking forward to a dinner cruise tonight, and a day cruise tomorrow – but those are both down at Simpson Beach.

I am so glad I’m not at one of the huge resort hotels, boasting gambling and adult entertainment, that seem to be around Phillipsburg and Simpson Beach – where cruise ships come in and close to the airport. Those seem run over with American tourists. I can see Americans in the U.S. – I’m here to experience island life. wpid-20150210_151815.jpg