Day 3 – Part II: Mont Pelée (detours to La Trinité, Saint-Pierre, and Le Morne Rouge)

Mont Pelée is the most active volcano in the west Indies.  The last major eruption was in 1902, and it is likely to erupt again.  The town of Saint-Pierre on the west coast paid the price of the eruption with over 30,000 lives lost in what is dubbed the worst volcanic eruption of the 20th century.  Before the eruption, Saint-Pierre was the largest city on the island.  As of today it has never fully rebuilt, and has a population of less than 5000.

Thanks wikipedia! (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mount_Pelée)

We were rejuvenated from our morning drive after the hike.  And after experiencing the grandeur of this powerful mountain, we were curious to see the town of Saint-Pierre.  So we set off along the N3, branching off along the N2 to Saint-Pierre.

Detour to Mont Pelée

As we were entering the town, traffic was backed up quite aways (again!).  Apparently there were really good gas prices, and people were flocking to the gas station along the exit for the town from the highway, causing the lineup at the red-light.  There was this man kind of wandering from car to car.  I didn’t really think about it, but if I had I would have thought he was likely asking for change… Nope.  He was trying to drum up “business” for a cock fight.  Davin looks at me with a hint of, “I want to go?” mixed in with “I realize this is not a good idea”…  He didn’t end up going.  But he found some roosters later… More on that shortly.

Saint-Pierre is really something.  The largest city on the island destroyed by lava, just imagine…

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I brought a change of clothing for both of us.  So after peeling off our soaking wet clothing in a parking lot and throwing on some dry clothes we were off to explore the town, and what is left of it.

The entire town is littered with ruins.  This area in particular:

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The contrast between the beautiful scenery right on the coast, and the remnants of buildings long gone is a bit chilling.  He shouldn’t be climbing on ruins…

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That’s better:

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This is a monument to the abolishment of slavery on the island, sparked by slaves marching into Saint-Pierre and setting fire to a house of the governing body resulting in 35 deaths… This town has a lot of history.

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(http://books.google.ca/books?id=fRQ86zs1A5QC&pg=PA122&lpg=PA122&dq=anti+slave+revolution+saint+pierre+martinique&source=bl&ots=9sZ7Vtcr5g&sig=EGwKuqmI9m691sajN1PAVpRlfgc&hl=en&sa=X&ei=xdJsVKWyONeBygT0xIC4CQ&ved=0CCoQ6AEwAQ#v=onepage&q=anti%20slave%20revolution%20saint%20pierre%20martinique&f=false)

The beaches have a very dark sand, and it is evident that the town is not what it once was.

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Okay.  Davin has a thing with roosters… It stems back from when he was hiking up Machu Pichu when he was younger.  Apparently he was sleeping on the ground in a tent, and was woken up by a rooster cockle-doodle-doing outside.  When he poked his head out, the rooster cocked his head to the side, and shouted at him some some.  So he has this thing where he thinks that roosters are alway fronting on him…  SO, when this guy comes strutting along it seems like the perfect opportunity to give a rooster a bit of a hard time.

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The face-off…

It's on!

It’s on!

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Things are getting heated…

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He darts this way…

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… And he darts that way!!

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AND THE ROOSTER RUNS AWAY! … What a … CHICKEN!!!! Haha! Sorry I just couldn’t let that one go…

VICTORIOUS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

VICTORIOUS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Seriously, the things that makes this guy happy…  Never a dull moment 😀

After the excitement with Monsieur le Coq, we were on our way again.  We would have driven down the west coast of the island on the N2, however there was still an incredible lineup for the gas station (random I know).  And guess how much we wanted to take our changes with the arterial “D” series roads after the Dreaded D2/D1 fiasco.  So we backtracked briefly through Le Morne-Rouge, until we hit the N3.  Then we came south down the centre of the island to complete our crazy looking travel map 🙂

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Coming down the N3 was such a beautiful drive.  The road weaves through the mountains and was super narrow (whats new) and really windy (again par for the course).  BUT it was paved, and had a nice bright yellow line down the centre dividing traffic for the majority of the trip, so we were happy 🙂

We stopped along the way when we could pull over to take in some of the scenery:

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And a couple shots of us, why not 🙂  Really beautiful area!  And the air is as fresh as it looks, even though we were just off the side of the road.

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The northern part of the N3 is also called “La Medaille”.  And then as the N3 continues south it is called “Route de Balata” according to the different regions that we were passing through.  Just off of Route de Balata (also the N3) is a really beautiful church perched on the hill as you are approaching Fort-de-France (the capital).  So that it has a beautiful panoramic view of the city.  It is called Sacré-Coeur de Balata and is fashioned in a similar style to La Basilique du Sacré-Coeur be Montmartre in Paris with the domed roof and romanesque style architecture.

Construction on Sacré-Coeur in Paris began in 1875, but didn’t complete until 1915 (thanks Davin for the many history lessons while we were living in Paris!! <3).  This church has an interesting back storey on how it came to be, especially as we had just visited the northern part of the island.  Apparently, after the eruption of Mont Pelée in 1902 that destroyed the former capital, Saint-Pierre, many people who lived in the area descended on Fort-de-France, giving rise to the current capital of the island.  But this sudden influx of people stretched the then smaller Fort-de-France’s resources, and more infrastructure had to be built to accommodate the rapidly growing population.  One of the important new buildings to be commissioned at the time was this church and it was commissioned by the local bishop in 1915, the same year its more famous counterpart was completed in Paris.  Cool huh?  Thanks Uncommon Caribbean for the fun facts! (http://www.uncommoncaribbean.com/2013/09/23/uncommon-attraction-sacre-coeur-de-la-balata-martinique/)

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From the other side

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Pretty statue in the garden

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The camera doesn’t capture how beautiful the view was.  But the drive is worth it just to see this panorama overlooking Fort-de-France:

Check out the angle of the palm tree in the middle right of this photo. The wind does't mess around on this island!

Check out the angle of the palm tree in the middle right of this photo. The wind does’t mess around on this island!

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After this last stop, we were homeward bound.  We didn’t stop for lunch and just munched on a couple granola bars and a banana that we packed for the hike (who has time to stop and eat when there is so much to do!!!.  So we were nice and ready for dinner 🙂

Les-Trois-Îlets has fantastic little restaurants in the cove where we stayed.  So after getting cleaned up a bit we went down to the water and found what became my FAVOURITE restaurant during our stay!  It is right in the cove, on the second floor of a building, open air and has a beautiful view that overlooks the harbour where there are tons of boats docked and you can hear the sound of them swaying and creaking in the ocean… Really pretty.

They also serve what became my favourite appetizer of our trip, Accras de Morue and they were so good, yet so bad!!!!  I liked them so much I found a postcard with the recipe on it. And I’ve tried to recreate them at home with very limited success…  Probably for the better as it is like tiny fried tim-bits with fish ranging from shrimp and lobster to different types of while fish and even urchins… I am not doing a very good job selling it, but trust me it is delicious!  Here is my postcard with the recipe (but if you try to make this yourself be warned that mine were super subpar):

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Here is the wonderful sign welcoming us into the restaurant, and promising my delicious Accrus de Morue:

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We are not really “foodies”, BUT the food here was really great (I think even for food connoisseurs, which I am not.  It it looks like food, smells like food, Ill probably eat it…).  AND look at everything you get for €19.50 (as mentioned earlier, Martinique is a part of France and their currency is the euro): choice of a “planteur” (their take on rum punch, delicious!) or fruit juice, choice of grilled fish or coconut chicken; and then choice of two scoops of ice-cream or this delicious banana desert soaked in rum… Oh and there’s “one more thing *in Steve Jobs’ voice* … It doesnt say it on the menu, but you also get a half caraf of wine… We chose rosé.  I would have paid a lot more for this restaurant experience, But I sure like a great deal!!  We obviously came back 🙂

We had the fish.  Ohhhhh it was delicious and so fresh.  And the presentation was beautiful!

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And here is Davin, about to enjoy his meal 🙂  You can see the lights of the harbour behind his head.  It was really nice.

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After dinner we took a walk along the little boardwalk that runs along the water, and eventually wound our way back to our hotel.  Bonne nuit!

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