24 hours in Martinique

Once you know that the name Martinique comes from a long-lost mix between “island of the flowers” and “island of the iguanas”, dating back to the time of the Amerindiens, and Christopher Columbus, who discovered the island in 1502, it is the beauty of the vistas that instantly spring to mind, incorporating volcanoes, rainforests, extensive beaches and agricultural crops.

It is sugar cane that has become a cultural institution. Introduced in the 17th century as a profitable source of agriculture, it is used primarily to make sugar, ahead of sugar beet, and secondly traditional rum. Martinique is the only overseas French department to have been awarded the coveted AOC status for its local elixir - an indication of geographical origin - and while Reunion and Guadeloupe may both produce rum in greater quantity, Martinique has succeeded in establishing rum production as a successful tourist attraction. A trip along the rum route…

11.17am Volcanic visit

Of the seven distilleries still currently in use on the island, one has plantations directly at the very foot of Mount Pelée, one of 9 active volcanoes on the Martinique arc. For four centuries now, an abundant supply of spring water has been used to irrigate the surrounding soils of the Depaz distillery, which takes its name from the man who resurrected the sugar cane production from the ashes, after the devastating volcanic eruption in 1917.

During a visit around the distillery, from the weighing in of the sugar cane right through to its ageing in the cellars, visitors discover the rum production process among its heady aromas. Visits include grinding of the cane and distillation using spring water, and finish on a must-try tasting of traditional White Rum and Golden Rum, the latter having been aged for at least a year in oak barrels. And last but not least, don’t miss the impressive distiller, which before its use today here at Depaz distillery, was once used to fill the fountains at Chateau de Versailles.

4.23pm Paradise pick-me-up

In other words, how to enjoy a taste-tantalising pick-me-up on an intimate, deserted beach, after visiting the green expanses of sugar cane? While relatively quiet in the week, at the weekend the sandy shores transform into a must-see picnic hotspot.

And if the picture postcard beaches, turquoise-blue lagoons and white sand around the southern hotel resorts are not for you, the Atlantic coast is a much wilder prospect, with its deserted beaches to pause and reflect, and clear waters shaded by almond trees. Almost 200 types of sand have been identified on the island, boasting all the colours of the spectrum. To the north, on the Caribbean side of the island, the sand is darker. Anse Turin, the stunning cove once captured on canvas by Gauguin, is still as pretty as a picture…

7.38pm French-Creole Cocktails at Le Petibonum

Since the end of 2005, this historic and explosive establishment, with its exotic flavour, can be found on one of the most stunning beaches in Western Martinique. Guy Ferdinand, chef-proprietor, is a passionate advocate of the local farming and fishing industry, and with his somewhat artistic touch, is responsible for creating refreshing and utterly delicious gourmet cuisine.

Dances and many other events are regularly hosted. When it comes to the food, embrace the local Creole cuisine with fervour! Tuna mi-cuit in soya sauce, Tahiti-style Kingfish, duck, scallops in vanilla sauce, pineapple carpaccio, right through to savouring the most romantic sunsets from the beach bar. Don’t hesitate for even a second!

 

Journey of discovery | Published on: 13 July 2012
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