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Hello!  I haven’t been back to update this blog recently.  Lots has changed since my last post and the information is out of date.

If you want to keep in contact, you can follow Davin on Twitter @DavinMGarg, or me on Instagram @Libby_J_Kennedy.

Thanks!

– Libby

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Exploring Toronto, CN Tower, and the Edge Walk

Since its been awhile, here is a bit of a refresher: We were “homeless” during May 2013 as our lease at our previous apartment expired at the same time that articling completed (we planned it that way).  We wanted to take advantage of not having to pay rent for the month as we wanted to travel anyways before coming back and diving into work.  So we stored the majority of our stuff in a friends storage locker (thanks Katie!), and hit the road with our backpacks.  We spent a couple of days at a place called the Rose Room in Toronto, went to Niagara-on-the-Lake for our friends’ wedding, went straight to Barbados from there, then Martinique, and then we came back to Toronto to visit with Davin’s parents and attend our call to the bar ceremonies.

When we left for Niagara-on-the-Lake and the Caribbean, the Rose Room let us store our bags with them as we had booked the same room for a couple days when we got back into town.  It was really nice of them, and also convenient to have a bit of a home base to leave our colder weather items and our suits and robes for the call to the bar later in the month.  So it was back to the Rose Room when we landed, which was starting to feel a bit like home by now 😀

We had a day before Davin’s parents arrived after we landed.  It is kind of embarrassing, but Davin and I haven’t really spent much time actually exploring Toronto.  Since we’ve been here work has been the primary focus.  And both of us are prone to workaholic behaviour to begin with… So we took advantage of the down time and nice weather to act like tourists in the city that we hadn’t quite accepted as “ours” yet (writing this in hindsight – in Spring 2015 – it still feels strange to think of Toronto as “home”… the #westcoastbestcoast still imo…).

We did what I would suggest tourists-with-one-day-in-Toronto do, and wandered down Bay Street to Yonge-Dundas Square and Eaton’s Centre.  There is always action in that area with street performances, big TV’s etc.  Pretty much sensory overload, but fun to wander around and take it all in.  Then on to Old City Hall which is a beautiful building.  It was in danger of being demolished with the panning of Eaton’s Centre, but was declared a National Historic site in 1989.  I’m glad as it is striking, and adds a nice architectural contrast in the downtown core.  Davin prosecuted a few cased in the building under the Provincial Offences Act during articling and he liked walking up the big grand steps in the front after grabbing a coffee at the Starbucks across the street on a break 🙂  Here is Davin on the Bay Street side.  The front of it is quite something and worth seeing, but we didn’t take a picture:

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And us in the same spot with some tall Bay Street buildings in the background:

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New City Hall (or just “City Hall”, I guess) and Nathan Phillips Square is right across the Street from Old City Hall.  At the time it was the home of Toronto’s side show, Rob Ford.  Now Mayor Tory has settled in, and I’m glad to see the back-door of that fiasco.  It was hard to feel proud of our city with all the garbage that always surrounded that guy…

But City Hall is a beautiful building.  For some reason I didn’t take a picture of it so here is a stock picture from Google:

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And here is me with a bit of Nathan Phillips Square in the background.  Great place.  Has ice skating in the winter, and lots of food trucks all year ’round!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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We walked down to Lake Ontario which has an “ok” water front (it’s not the Seawall).  Coming from Vancouver and the Okanagan in B.C., it is really nice to have a large body of water close by.  I don’t really know why, its not like we swim or go boating.  But I just like the feeling of it.  Davin LOVES ducks!  He could sit and watch them all day I am sure.  They have such interesting little social interactions, and get so worked up!  I love the little quackers too ;p  Here he is trying to convince one to come close enough to pet.  They never come close enough to pet…

IMG_4579 Davin has been wanting to do the Edge Walk at CN Tower since he heard about it.  Me not so much.  The Edge Walk is there they strap you into a harness and you get to walk around the OUTSIDE “circle part” of the CN Tower, almost 1200 feet above ground!  Yeah, PASS… (http://www.edgewalkcntower.ca/more.html)

This is how he showed up to the Edge Walk, in khakis and a blazer (these pictures are all a little blurry because I was taking them behind glass):

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Then you get all suited up:

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Once you are ready to go…

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You head outside.  It was a perfect day for it.  Great visibility all the way to Niagara Falls on the other side of Lake Ontario.

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While Davin was outside clinging to the CN Tower by a harness, I was in the main observation area where they have a few TV’s that stream what is going on at the Edge Walk.  So these pictures are mostly from what the TV was showing:

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Exhilarating:

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Testing out the harness strength…

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Thinking of going hands free:

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Hanging off the edge (that is the landing strip for the Billy Bishop downtown airport in the background)

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He’s waving up at me here, but Im watching him on the TV!

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This picture was taken looking down from the top observation pod.  My plan was to go to the main circle part to snap a few pictures from the TV’s there, then head to the top pod to get a few live shots.  Here Davin is hanging off the edge doing the “Napoleon pose”…

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I thought this was a funny warning sign.  Like I would EVER climb on glass when it is the only thing in between me and a 1200 foot drop…

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I hung out in the pod until Davin was done and then he came up to meet me.  His hair is nice and wind blown, and I’m happy to have him back in one peice.

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The view from the top was really spectacular

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Looking south east over Lake Ontario

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Overlooking Rogers stadium where the Jay’s play. I like this picture because we caught the shadow of the CN Tower too.

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Looking south west at Billy Bishop Airport and Lake Ontario

And of course the glass floor where you look down onto Ripley’s Believe It Or Not Aquarium:

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And just one more of us at la Tour CN:

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Davin, did you like the CN Tower?

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Yep he had fun 😀

Day 7 – Hiking, Hitch-Hiking, and Home

For our last day in Martinique (this time, I want to go back!) we decided to hike the hill-y terrain a little bit south of Les Trois-Îlets that also had spectacular views of le Rocher du Diament.  We could have gone the longer way around the coast as we hadn’t explored that area yet.

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This is where we wanted to get to

But we decided to take the more straightforward route along the D7 (which we had driven quite a bit as it is how we got to our hotel) and the N5.

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As we were driving we came across an older couple hitch-hiking.  Apparently hitch-hiking is a fairly acceptable way to get around the island.  We decided to pick them up as DMG is always looking for opportunities to practice French.  And little did we know that later that day, karma would come back to repay us 🙂

They weren’t going very far, so we didn’t get to talk with them for long.  Just about 4-5 minutes down the road.  But they were really nice people.  Originally from mainland France, and had been living in Martinique for quite a few years now.

After we dropped them off, we found the base of where we were going to start hiking and parked the car on the side of the road.

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Our goal for today!

The initial path just happened to walk right by somebody’s house!  And whoever lived there has the crankiest dog!!!

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This is seconds before he came and yelled at us for no reason. Well, maybe for waking him up… But we were definitely minding our own business!!!!

A preview of the view we were treated to at the top.  This is before we got into the trees:

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We only brought one way-too-serious-for-a-two-hour-hike backpack this time 🙂

It was a beautiful hike.  Across a couple of ridges, and then it got steep enough to be challenging, but not too crazy.

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And there were some reply nice little creatures along the way 🙂

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DMG’s snail friend

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M. le Gecko

There were lots of these vines everywhere.  Quite the jungle!

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There wasn’t a view directly from the top.  We had to descend a bit until we reached this open area.  and then the view was magnificent!!!

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If you look in the centre of this photo, slightly to the right Le Diament is just visible poking out of the trees just off the coast.  Really pretty and fairly clear day to take in the view 🙂

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After we took in the view at the top we had two options: 1) heading back the way we came so that we would end up at our car (BORING!), or 2) climbing down the other side of the mountain, and then walking back to our car along the coast (yeah, that sounds like more fun…).

So down the other side we went.

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Made it to the other side!

 

When we cleared the mountain we came across a really nice open area looking south west.

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And after walking along the the D37 a bit longer we stumbled upon the Memorial de l’Anse Caffard le Diament.  Is is a powerful display of many large statues looking out over the ocean in the direction of Le Diament with their heads bowed and shoulders hunched over.  When we first saw it we just looked at each other like, “wow… what’s that?”  It is unmistakably mournful.  I found a nice summary of what it memorializes on the Uncommon Caribbean (great website by the way for anyone who is visiting this area and wants a bit of a different experience.  I wish we had found it before our trip!

“The importation of new slaves to the Caribbean had been made illegal in 1815, but that didn’t stop the illicit trade from continuing many years later. Traders simply opted to port their ships at night to avoid getting caught. As you might imagine, this dangerous practice often had tragic results…

On the night of April 7, 1830, a ship carrying a cargo of Africans sank in the rocky waters off the coast of Le Diamant. More than 40 would-be slaves, shackled together in the ship’s hull, drowned.” (http://www.uncommoncaribbean.com/2010/11/03/uncommon-attraction-anse-cafard-slave-memorial-martinique/)

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Around this time we were also getting some great views of Le Diament as well.

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By this time, we started to realize that we had probably bitten off way more than we could chew.  We were out of water, it was a super hot day, and we left our wallets in the car.  We passed a little ice-cream and juice stand just off the road with nice music playing… Cry…  But we kept pressing on and found some other really cool hidden gems like this view of Le Diament:

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The road we were walking on (D37) started to narrow (uh-oh… We’ve been through this before…) and the shoulder where we were walking disappeared.  At the same time the road started to leave the coast, and it began to climb up a windy hill inland.  Things were starting to get hairy again, and we estimated that we were a solid 8 kilometres away from our car still!

As we were trudging up the windy road (hot, thirsty, cursing ourselves for not just going back down the way we came), we heard a car slow down behind us, and eventually pull up beside us.  We were not even hitch-hiking!  A young couple just saw us trudging along and thought it looked like we needed a ride!  Love this island, the people are top notch!

We drove with them for about 10 minutes.  During the trip we were looking at each other and our eyes kept getting larger as we realized that we were much farther from our car than we had guessed as the minutes and kilometres went by up a steep and windy road, and back down again.  We realized that we were much, much farther from our car that we had guessed.  Our initial guess didn’t take into account the change in elevation!

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Our driving/hiking/walking/hitch-hiking route for the day

The couple was really nice.  Again, originally from mainland France and DMG relished the chance to practice his French 🙂 I don’t remember much about the conversation (its tough for me to follow if I am not familiar with the accent or they speak quickly).  But for some reason I just remember them telling us to not go to Guadeloupe, because the people there are really racist against white people!!!  Lol.  I had to ask DMG when we got out if that was actually what they were saying.  I thought it seemed so bizarre that I must have lost something in translation.  But nope.  According to them, apparently Guadeloupe is definitely NOT the place to be 🙂  But we will still go on an adventure there one of these days.  I’ll take my chances  🙂

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We were so happy to get back to the car, and get a nice bottle of water!  We decided to drive back into Les Trois-Îlets.  And I am happy we did because we stumbled on the church were Joséphine de Beauharnais was baptized (who married Napoléon Bonaparte I, and became empress of France during France’s time as an empire).  Her family was from Les Trois-Îlets.  Crazy!

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We went out for a pretty tame dinner, and then packed our bags for home time in the morning.  Our flight back was a little more direct 🙂

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Au revoir Martinique!!!  We will miss you.  But there was still a lot of Adventure June to get through yet!!! 🙂

Day 6 – R & R and Party Time?

There are few things that I like better than sitting by the pool (or ocean, lake… you get the idea) with a good book!!!  This kind of drives Davin mental as he likes to be going all. the. time…  But he indulges me, and makes sure that our action-packed vacations have time for some good R&R 🙂

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I am so happy right now!!!

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And Davin really tries to sit still 🙂 Reading Sherlock Holmes in French.

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Need to look up a word, to the French-English dictionary! Why is the sun so bright and where are my sunglasses!? How much longer is she going to want to sit here!!

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I am in my happy place

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But that kid is coming way too close…

At some point we went for lunch, and then wandered down to the beach in Les Trois-Îlets that is about a 3-5 minute was from where we were staying.  We pretty much just wandered around town for the rest of the day as we hadn’t really had a chance to explore the place we were staying except just for dinner.  There are some really great lunch places/huts on the beach.  We intended to come back (as we had already ate lunch), but never made it!  Just not enough time.  Next time 🙂

In our hotel there was a performance they called “ballet” scheduled for that night, and happy hour around the same time.  So we got cleaned up and headed down to “watch” it…

BUT little did we know we were headed into crowd participation!  Definitely NOT ballet.

We could heard this awesome drum based music from our room and when we got downstairs the performance had already began.  It started with the ladies doing a great traditional Martiniquan dance about harvesting.  There were also men dancers, and they performed a few traditional numbers as well.  It was very entertaining, and also neat to experience some of the culture..

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I love all the colour!

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Dancing with bowls that symbolize gathering the fruits of their harvest. Really pretty.

Throughout the MC told us different stories about the history of Martinique, and about the transition away from slavery and how he felt it impacted different aspects of their lives.  He was both very informative and super funny!  He had everyone laughing all night 🙂

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Davin and the MC got along 🙂

There were a few other dances.  Davin and I were settled in for an evening of being entertained.  That is until WE became the entertainment! 😀

There was about half an hour at the end dedicated to crowd participation.  They grabbed Davin and I almost immediately.  Probably because we were laughing, having fun, and looked like the type of people who wanted to be in the action 🙂  It’s always fun when a show turns into a crowd participation event to watch the look on the faces of people sitting around you and see them get all of a sudden really interested in something away from the stage.  Or have to immediately go to the bathroom!  My sister and I used to do Polynesian dance growing up.  We would often perform on weekends and at the end of the show there was always crowd participation where we invited people up onstage with us, so I know the look well!  Lol!  But I unstrapped from my sky-high platform sandals (gotta have my heels!) and Davin kicked off his shoes and we were all in!

The dance that we were taught is called the Bélé.  Each of the male dancers brought up a female guest, and the female dancers did the same for male guests.  And this became our partner for the dance.  The dance itself is umm, kind of hard to explain.  But it involves lots of booty shaking, and hip thrusting… with your partner of the opposite sex at very predictable intervals!!!  Hah!

It is a dance that is associated with the harvest and fertility (and you will know why if you watch the link below!).  The MC told us that during the period of slavery, the slaves would sneak away from their homes, and practice this dance in private as it was outlawed.  The resilience of the human spirit is remarkable!

Here is a description from wikipedia:

“The Martinique bèlè is a legacy of the slave music tradition. The bélé itself is a huge tambour drum that players ride as though it was a horse. It is characterized, in its rhythm, by the “tibwa” (two wooden sticks) played on a length of bamboo mounted on a stand to the tambour bèlè, and is often accompanied by a chakchak (a maracas). The tibwa rhythm plays a basic pattern and the drum comes to mark the highlights and introduce percussion improvisations.

It is organized in a certain way, the first entry of the singer ( lavwa ) and choir ( lavwa Deye or “answer”). Then the “Bwatè” (player ti bwa) sets the pace, followed by bèlè drum. Finally, the dancers take the stage. A dialogue is created between the dancers and the “tanbouyè” (drummer). The “answer” play opposite the singer, the audience can also participate. As a family, together singers, dancers, musicians and audiences are lured by its mesmerizing rhythms.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bélé)

Here is also a link to a youtube video that not only shows you some of the dance, but also has a bit of an explanation about its origin and meaning (if you are up on your French):

It was a blast and we laughed so hard doing our “courting” dance for the partners that picked us.  And the whole crown was laughing and got pretty into it.  Then at the end the MC chose a “King” and a “Queen” who he thought danced the best (If I had known it was a competition I would have shook my booty harder!!).  But as it happened it wouldn’t have mattered because he chose me and Davin!!!  *Huge smile, always winning :D*  Then we got to finally dance the Bélé together.  My makeup was everywhere by the end of it from sweating (its pretty energetic and hot/muggy!), and laughing so hard I was crying!

GUESS WHERE WE GOT TO GO FOR DINNER!!!!!????

Yep!  Back to my FAVOURITE restaurant with my favourite Accras de Morue!!!

As mentioned, Davin likes trying new places.  And I like tried tested and true… But tonight I talked him into taking me back here for dinner because I loved it so much the first time 🙂  He laughs at me and says, “you would come here every night of our stay wouldn’t you?  Six nights straight.  And you probably would order the same thing every time!?”  Yep, that’s me in a nutshell.  And proud of it 😀

We sat at the same table (awesome!) and I had the exact same grilled white fish with accras de morue as an appetizer (whoohoo!).  In this picture you can see what I mentioned in my previous post a bit better.  About the boats in the harbour.  Very beautiful spot.  Love this restaurant!

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After dinner we were feeling like going dancing.  We didn’t know if there were any nightclub type places in town.  But we started to walk in the direction where we thought they may be located.

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Libby, you wanna go dancing with me some more?

We asked a few people who told us the best thing to do was take a cab out of town.  We didn’t really want it that bad, so we wandered into a way-too-cool lounge with loud music in town.  Cocktails started at €15…  No thank you!!!  So Davin spun me around on the dance floor a few times just to say we did it, and then we left like we were up-to-no-good.

We ended up getting soft serve ice-cream from the same place we did the other night, and wandered together back to the hotel.  The next day we were going hiking again, so decided it is probably best that our “party-time out” was cut a little short 🙂

Day 5 – Sugarcane Plantation, Clément Rum, and the South of the Island

I have always wanted to go to a sugarcane plantation and see a rum distillery.  L’habitation Clément (http://www.rhumclementusa.com/index.php) is fairly close to where we were staying while still giving us an opportunity to head over to the east side of the island.  It was said to be beautifully maintained with botanical garden etc. and it really was.  They also restored the large house on the property, and it is where French President Francois Mitterrand and President George Bush met for a summit following the Gulf War.  It is all open for visitors to walk through, and it did not disappoint!

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We headed out from Les Trois-Îlets.  Connected back up with the N5 towards Le Lamentin.  But this time turned off just after Ducos onto the N6 (before traffic became congested!).  The N6 took us all of the way to Le François in about 45 minutes.

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It was a beautiful, hot day and I loved walking the sugar cane grounds.

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There is a LOT of ground to cover, and its a really beautiful stroll:

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I see you!!! The grounds are really well kept and the paths are easy to follow.

 

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Always climbing!!

 

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I love the roots on this tree, so beautiful!

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Lush and green everywhere. I just love it on this island!

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Ohhh palm trees, how I love you 🙂

 

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And sugarcane, LOTS of sugarcane!!

 

This is a remanent from years ago (it has been around since 1887!).  Before automation the mills to grind the sugarcane were powered by animals.  This is called le Moulin à bêtes (animal mill).

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Davin showing us how it’s done

 

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They have some of the most interesting looking trees. And they also have plaques describing what type they are.

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I really wanted to run through the sugarcane and get lost in the field!!! Looks like a fun place to play. Like our cornfields in Canada 🙂

 

After we had taken in the grounds we headed to the distillery.  Their self guided tour was really well done, and taught us all about the rum making process which I was really interested to learn about.

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This large house/manor is beautifully restored and visitors are able to walk through.  Really lets you get a sense of what life would have been like on this planation years ago (for the fortunate ones!)

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Then the tour naturally ends up at the gift/souvenir store.  There is free rum tasting and Davin loved that!

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We came home with Clément Liquor Créole, Orange Shrubb.  It is a beautiful orange flavoured rum.  We also bought a really nice snifter glass with the Clément logo acid etched into it.  It was only €1.75!!!!  Both great purchases!

After that it was au revoir to l’habitation Clèment and we were back on the road.

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Since we had visited the northern part of the island, we were now curious about what was in the south.  So we continued along the N6 and started making our way towards the south.

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We stopped at a look out in Le Vauclin.  Beautiful countryside.

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It was SO hot and the sun was really intense.  I was wearing Davin’s hat just to protect my head and we had to sunscreen-up again!  Can you tell that I packed light for this trip!?  Lol, just a few summer dresses and bathing suits 🙂

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After our little pitstop to take in the scenery we continued southbound along the N6.  We eventually turned onto the D9 at Le Marin.  And the road slowed down quite a bit, even though it was nicely paved and definitely NOT the D2/D1 *shakes fist*(See post “Day 3 – Part I).  But it was really nice to drive slowly along the road, windows wide open, and music playing, with my love ❤  Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky” had recently been released and it played a few times on the radio.  It was the first time I heard it and I still love the song because it reminds me of meandering through Martinique without an agenda 🙂 Me-mor-ieeees!!!!

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We arrived in Sainte-Anne and pulled into a really windy beach.  There were lots of surfers taking in the waves and people kite sailing.

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And when Davin sees something to climb… Well, he’s just gotta do it.

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Running down the beach to climb the hill…

 

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Almost there…

 

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Surveying the area from a higher perspective 🙂

After that we got back in the car and drove to the local beach in a cove that was more sheltered from all the wind.  It is really tranquil and even though there were a fair amount of people there it didn’t feel crowded.

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Looks like something out of a magazine right? Very beautiful, and the sand was so soft!

I LOVE swimming, and I really love playing in the ocean/surf/sand.  Davin is not so much of a water animal like I am, but he comes along and humours me.  He is so funny when he bobs in the waves because he will normally get water in his mouth and sputter and spit it out making a big scene!  Lol, nope.  Not a water animal 🙂  But we spent the rest of the day on the beach, swimming in the ocean, sitting where the waves crash onto the shore and getting knocked over.  And then getting so much sand in our bathing suits that we had to go back into the ocean to shake it all out 🙂  We walked along the beach as the sun was setting (romantic!) and stood in the sand as the waves came in so that we sank a little bit each time.  Yep, I love the ocean!!!  But not sea urchins or jellyfish.  I hate both of those.

We have a nice quite drive back home as we were both kind of wiped from a day in the sun.

After a couple hour nap in our room we didn’t feeling like venturing too far so we went to the restaurant in our hotel.  It was nice, really good service.  But a little more expensive than a lot of the restaurants in the surrounding area.

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He’s so handsome 🙂

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Showered and clean after the day!!! Hungry and waiting for dinner.

Awwww – Tanned and happy 🙂

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We don’t often drink (more on vacation, but still not so much), but we had some margarita-esque type drinks and rum punch with dinner.  So we were feeling a bit rejuvenated and not ready for bed.  And we were in the mood for some more rum (especially after our visit to Clément earlier) and a change of venue.  So we wandered down to the little marina by the beach as there are a lot of open concept restaurants and lounge-y type places that play music.

We found this little place.  Half of it is a restaurant, and half was set up as a lounge with live music.

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This picture is facing the restaurant that was much more quiet than the lounge. The area where were were was packed although you can’t tell from this shot!

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Oh hi!!!

It’s too bad that these pictures didn’t turn out as it was too dark and I didn’t know how to make the flash work!  But the singer had an incredible voice and she just had a quality about her that I found really beautiful.  I wish I got her name as I would have liked to look her up back home.  Really fun way to spend the night.

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After the music wrapped up for the evening we went for a stroll around the town and took in the ambience before bedtime.  We were pretty tired, but pretty high on life (and a little bit of rum)  🙂  Bonne nuit!!!!

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

Whenever we travel, we typically come back in better shape than when we left.  Mostly because we have the time to be active every day, and love getting in lots of hiking, tennis, swimming (I love swimming!!!)…  Really whatever we can.  And Martinique is ideal for an active vacation as it is known for its great hiking thanks to the beautiful mountainous terrain.  It really looks like something off of Jurassic Park.  I just LOVE it there!

So for our first day we thought we would get started by hiking Mont Pelée, the active volcano in the northern part of the island.  We were up early and raring to go… Well as early as we could justify given that it was the first day of our vacation 🙂  We got up around 6:15am, and were on the road by quarter to 7 in the morning.  BUT if we had anticipated that the morning commuter traffic was going to be bumper to bumper and crawling on the N5 (one of the main highways that runs from the airport to the south of the island) we might have set our alarm a little earlier!

This is the route we had planned to take.  Looks nice and simple, right?  It was supposed to be about an hour and a half drive, putting us at the base of the volcano around 9:15am.

Overall map with route

This is the route we actually took, getting us into the base of the volcano, nice and grumpy from hours on the road, around 11:30am:

End overview

Let me explain…

In the morning we started out from our hotel in Les Trois-Îlets.  Everything was going great as we travelled along the N5 until we hit Le Lamentin and traffic began to crawl!!!

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We sat in the bumper-to-bumper traffic for a while with our windows down and enjoying the scenery.  Until we realized that the commuters were all heading into the capital, Fort-de-France and that it wouldn’t ease up anytime soon.  And then we got to thinking, “hey!  You guys have to sit in this traffic.  We are on vacation and can do whatever we want”… So we did.

We had a map (that by the end of our trip was beginning to disintegrate in my hands, precicesly because of this type of this thought process/attitude/behaviour!).  You can’t tell by this picture, but it is about one or two folds away from falling apart!

Map

So with Davin as the captain, and me acting as navigator we started off on our detour to Mont Pelée, and thought we would see a bit of the island in the process.  And boy did we ever 🙂

We cut off the N5 around La Lamentin onto the more rural D3, then D27 and hooked back up with the more major route on N4 through Gros-Morne.  We heard that La Trinité was really pretty and worth seeing.  So since we weren’t going to get the (sort of) morning hike we had anticipated we thought we would stop there and see what is to be seen.

 Detour to La Trinité

They were having a festival or open air market by the beach (I wish I had taken some pictures!).  Not sure if it was an actual event (it was Wednesday morning!) but there was definitely a lot of activity.  There was live music, fresh fish for sale, spices, homemade sauces, and other goods likes beeswax lip balm, assorted clothing… that type of thing.  Great atmosphere for a little stop over!  We spent a bit of time looking at the different stalls, and walked down to the beach.

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Now, here is where we get into trouble… When we cut off the N5 we travelled along two “D” series roads (the “N” series highways are the major roads, while the “D” series are the smaller roads).  So when the navigator (me) was looking at the map and charting a course to the base of Mont Pelée, I thought it would be ideal to cut across the island from La Trinité along the D1 and D2.  And this would drop us nicely at the base of the mountain…

We were soon to learn however that not all “D” roads are created equal.

Goal route copy

We started on our merry way along the D2.  As we were driving, we noticed the road started getting more narrow (note, the roads in Martinique are generally already perilously narrow to begin with!!).  But no big deal and we didn’t think much of it.  Until it began to turn into this:

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And that is not even as narrow as it was still to get!  Not to mention that Martinique is very mountainous.  So as we were crossing the island, we were also climbing a pretty serious mountain.  And then as it got even more narrow, we were like, “what happens if a car comes at us from the opposite direction?”  We had a steep drop to our left, and a mountain side to our right…  And you think this would deter us…  Well, surprisingly this is not the first time that I have been in a car with Davin, winding along a treacherously narrow path at the top of a mountain with a perilous drop to one side.  So we pushed on.

Then we came across one of those concrete dividers (the kind that separates traffic on highways).  Given that we had already travelled an ever narrowing path, and now were staring at a concrete traffic divider, the normal person would think “okay, that’s enough.  We are turning around”.  But nope.  By this time we had come too far and were determined to conquer this damn road!  And besides, if you sort of looked at the concrete divider with one eye closed, and from the right angle it looked like it was just telling us that past this point was a one way road.  And, duh.  It is obviously only oneway traffic at this point… *sighs*

So Davin manoeuvred our tiny rental car around the concrete divider that was effectively blocking the road.  And blocking the road for good reason as we were yet to find out.

And we continued.

By this time tree branches were clawing their way at the windshield and sides of the car as we forged ahead.  The nature in Martinique is truly spectacular.  It is almost like the flora is just waiting to reclaim the land, if given just the slightest opportunity.

Eventually we hit the summit.  Here is Davin, pretty proud of his driving skills at the only place along the whole drive where you could actually get a car to do a three point turn.

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It was also a very pretty view.  I am telling you, Jurassic Park all the way!

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After the summit, we began to descend at a fairly steep incline.  And nature continued to win the battle to recover the land… We didn’t get too far down the mountain past the summit, because it was just getting way, way to hairy with no sign of it getting better anytime soon!  But, of course the road was so extremely narrow by this point (branches were pressed pretty completely against the car on either side) and there was still the steep drop on the one side that had been our constant companion for the past couple kilometres.  As turning the vehicle around wasn’t an option, and continuing forward was looking bleaker by the minute, Davin drove in reverse, all the way back up to the summit where there was just enough room to actually turn the vehicle around and head back the way we came.

You may think that we might have felt dejected.  Like the mountain won or something (or maybe that is just the competitive streak that runs pretty deep in both of us!).  BUT that was such a white knuckle drive for the approximately 40 minutes it took along that freaking goat-trail, that we were both relieved to be heading back where we at least new the road, and most importantly, knew that it would get better!!!

And I’ll just jump ahead a bit to say this (I wish I had taken a picture but we drove by it too fast!):  When we were coming back after our hike up Mont Pelée (yes we eventually made it, spoiler alert! ;p) we drove down the N3 on our way home.  And it just so happened that the D1 “connects” to the N3 where we were driving.  Well as we were coming along the highway I told Davin that our nemesis road was coming up on our left (as I was following our route on our map), and that we should shake our fists at it as we drive by.  And we definitely would have, if our jaws were not hanging open at what we saw: a big “ROUTE FERMÉE” sign, along with one of those same cement dividers, and what was only the remnants of a road, taken back by nature.  Hah!!!

So after our little stunt, here is what our actual route to Mont Pelée looked like after leaving La Trinité:

Detour to Mont Pelée

We were pretty road weary when we arrive at the base of the volcano.  And just as we pulled into the parking lot, it started to pour buckets of rain like it does in tropical climates.  We read that the volcano is often shrouded by clouds.  So part of the reason that we wanted to hike on this particular day was that it had the best weather outlook on the 7 day forecast.  Obviously wrong.  So we were also nice and cranky that getting any sort of view from the top was going to be out of the question.  There was a moment when we pulled in, right after we turned the car off and we were just sitting in our seats, seat belts still buckles, and not moving.  Our eyes locked, and the unspoken “I won’t judge you if you don’t want to do this.  Maybe lets not do this?” passed between us.  Haha.

But then we both knew that we would regret it, and be even more cranky about it later.  And Davin’s favourite line when we are travelling is: “We may NEVER be here again!  We may NEVER get the chance to do this EVER AGAIN!  So we have to take advantage while we can!!!”  It can be exhausting trying to wring every last drop out of every experience when we are travelling.  But ultimately I love the zest for life that he has, and how he doesnt take these experiences for granted and wants to soak them up to their fullest!  And I have become a better person for all that we have been able to do together, specifically because of his approach to not only travelling, but to life as well 🙂 *heart*

So we got out of the car and took our way-too-serious-looking-“hiking backpacks”-for-a-two-hour-hike out of the trunk.  And started towards the trail leading up to the mountain.

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There is a concern for dengue fever in Martinique (as in many tropical areas) http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/tmp-pmv/notices-avis/notices-avis-eng.php?id=44.  So before we left I bought lots of bug spray (which I hate), but I also brought these cool Off Clip-ons.  They just attach to you, have a little fan inside, and once turned on the fan blows out repellant that creates an area where mosquitos don’t want to hang out.

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And this probably would have been a great idea, had is not been so damn windy that there was no WAY a tiny little mosquito would be hanging out anywhere near us!  Don’t forget rainy… and misty, and COLD!!!!

There was a stray dog that we found in the parking lot.  She came with us for a bit of the way (we gave her some of our granola bar that we had).  But then once it got too steep she was like, “yeah, I’m just going to not.  You guys go on ahead”.

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Sometimes there were steps…

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Sometimes not…

Almost the entire time we were hiking the mountain was covered in cloud.  And it was so windy that when we were walking along a few of the ridges I had to brace into the wind as it felt like it could pick me right up off my feet!!!  But a few times when the wind would blow away the clouds long enough to get a bit of a glimpse, we were able to get an idea just how stunning this hike would have been on a clear day!!!  It would be fun to go back, and do it again without the rain/wind/clouds!!!!  I snapped a few pictures when the wind whipped the cloud coverage away.  But these moments lasted only seconds, and for the most part our visibility was quite poor.  BUT I would still recommend this hike even with the bad/cold weather.  It was really fun, and once we got going and got the fresh air in our lungs we felt great!

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 Here is Davin peeking out at me during another brief moment when the clouds parted a bit for us:

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We made it up to Morn Le Croix at 1255 metres where there is a little shelter (that really smells, so it is not a place that you want to hang out for too long).  But it was a way to get out of the wind as we were pretty cold once we stopped moving.

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At that point, we could have continued on to the summit, and the highest point on the island.  We really wanted to.  Whenever we are in a new place, Davin LOVES to climb to as high a point as he can in order to get a view, and a lay of the land.  And on Martinique, the summit of Mont Pelée is it.  But the wind was pretty fierce, and there was no chance of a view for us.  So at this point we thought it was a good time to head back and see what other type of trouble we could get in.

We were soaking wet, and cold.  But the hike was really great and I would do it again in a heart beat!  And the air was so fresh!  The clouds parted for us a few times on the way down and you can really see how beautiful the scenery is:

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Davin: Why are you putting on makeup? We are going hiking… Libby: Because I like makeup. Hours later Davin makes a point with a picture…

Happy 48 Month Anniversary!!!!

Davin has always had mild panic attacks when I inform him that our X year anniversary is impending…  Lol!  I love to say it to him just to watch the terror pass through his eyes 🙂  Teehee!  BUT to ease the pain for him (I know, it is really tough being with me! ;p) I have been counting our anniversaries in months as it doesn’t seem to elicit the same horrified reaction from him.  I’m nice like that.  PLUS it gives me a chance to tell him each month that our X month anniversary is coming up.  Which is great for me 😀

When I was thinking of an anniversary present this year, I almost made him a scrapbook.  I made him one for our 12th month anniversary, and he really liked having all of our memories that we made that year in one place.  But with our nomadic lifestyle that we lead lately, it is not really practical to haul a book around with us.  And not to mention that involves printing off all of the pictures, etc. etc…  So I decided to (finally) update our blog, and fill in all of the memories that I have been not motivated to put up yet 🙂

But that being said, it is a much larger job than I had anticipated.  No wonder I haven’t written anything in so long, it takes a long time!  For our anniversary, I had wanted to have posts to bring the blog totally up to date.  But I only got as far as our trip to Martinique… There is a LOT more to go.  BUT I am recommitted to doing it.  Originally I wanted this area to keep our friends and family up to date.  Which I still do.  But there is another use for it beyond that.  And that is to keep a record of all of the memories that we make for US as well *heart* 🙂

***Disclaimer!!  Unbridled sweetness ahead… Skip to the next post if you are not into sappy overload.  And if you continue to read, consider yourself fairly warned :D***

So Davin, this is one of my 48 month anniversary presents to you.  In the past four years together, I have done more positive personal growth than I thought ever possible.  To the point where I barely relate to the person I was before I met you.  That might sound like I have “lost” myself.  But with you, I have actually found a more authentic version of myself in who I was at each step along the way.  Same person.  Same fundamental values.  But with each leap of growth my eyes become a little more open to different possibilities that I love exploring with you.  And I intend to look back in another four years, and be in the same position.  Where I continue to push my personal boundaries, and ours as a couple as well to continue to grow, change, and evolve.  And always keep moving in the direction of our goals and dreams.  In some ways it feels like we have been together for a long time.  But in many more ways, it feels like we are just getting started.  There is so much ahead for us on our path together, and I love walking it with you 🙂  Happy anniversary my Sweet, I love you with all of my heart ❤

In the beginning: 

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Year 1: 

Davin Michael Garg and Libby Kennedy - Team Suits2

5

Year 2: 

3 4 1
Year 3:

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Year 4:

10374460_10152151387892761_1972935225034654051_n 10301174_10152088432902761_9173836455881623072_n  1000524_10151527710982761_187920314_n

And beyond… ❤

Day 4 – Fort-de-France, and Cruise to the Bat Caves around Le Diamant

The day after we did this:

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We decided to have a quiet morning.  We slept in, had a lingering brunch, then went for a walk.  We knew that we wanted to go to Fort-de-France to look around so we wandered down to where the water shuttle comes to dock in Les Trois-Îlets to see prices and departure times to go across the bay to the capital.

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I can’t remember exactly how much it was.  But it was definitely less than €10 each round trip.  If I lived here I would want to live in Les Trois Îlets, and maybe work in Fort-de-France.  And take the water shuttle to work each day.  See-ya traffic!!!! 😀

But on our way we ran into people selling little half day trips.  I love boats, and the water in general.  And one of the trips was an all inclusive “cruise” to Le Diamant (a very distinctive rock in the southern part of the island) and the surrounding bat caves.  We had intended to visit the area around Le Diamant while we were here, and thought looping it into a boat ride/snorkelling/bat caves sounded like a fun way to get a different perspective on it.  But the cruise left at 1:30pm, and it was just after 10:30am.  And this was the only day that we could fit it in.

Not being ones to miss out on an opportunity, we literally ran back to our hotel (stupid tourist, no decorum!) to grab what we would need to visit Fort-de-France, I don’t think we had our wallet/purse with us.  And then ran back just in time to catch the 11:00am water shuttle to the city.

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Ahhhh made it!

We got into Fort-de-France at 11:30am.  And that gave us approximately an hour and a half to run around Fort-de-France like crazy people before we had to catch the 1:00pm shuttle back to Les Trois-Îlets.

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View of the city as we were arriving

So we didn’t have much time.  But Fort-de-France is not the most beautiful city.  It’s a port city, and has a pretty gritty feel to it.  But while we were there we really took it all in.

The military base is quite a distinct structure as you enter the harbour.  So we went there first.

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I have always loved this French symbol.  I remember it from the French embassy when we were applying for our French visas.  So Davin went and did his best impersonation in front of the Maritime Affairs office 🙂

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Then we wandered around town.  Here are some of the sights:

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You will notice there are really dark clouds overhead.  At one point it began to absolutely pour!!!  We had an umbrella, but this was the type of rain that wraps underneath your shelter and grabs you!  But the people were really friendly as we took shelter in one of the local open air clothing shops and waited for the worst of it to pass.  The store keeper brought us a box of kleenex to dry ourselves off a bit!!!  Very thoughtful 🙂

There is a river that runs through the city and it is a pretty murky colour… I wouldn’t want to fall in…

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And there is a bridge that runs over it.  We crossed briefly to the other side, but ended up in a bit of a sketchy neighbourhood.  So we crossed back again and headed back towards the city.

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We ended up running through a little fruit market.  If we hadn’t been literally running, we might have stopped to buy a bit of fruit to munch on 🙂

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Then, a little nervous we would miss our boat back (even though this is the caribbean, the French influence is strong and stuff. runs. on. time! :D).  So we headed back in the direction of the ocean so we could keep an eye out for our shuttle.  McDonalds (or McDo as it’s called there) had pistachio milkshakes… So we got one of those to share while we waited the few minutes until the boat arrived to take us back.  I am so glad we don’t have them in Canada!

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Bye Fort-de-France! it was fun!! 🙂

We got back with just enough time to run BACK to our hotel, change into swimwear, and then run back with a few minutes to spare in time to make our mini-cruise trip (yeah, we ran a lot that day).

This is while we were waiting.  Not the nicest day, but it was still fairly warm, and we had fun 🙂

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Cool kids hang out at the back of the boat ;p

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On y va!!!!

Some shots we took while on the boat.  I just love it on the water, but then again I am a pisces 😀

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Les grottes des chauves-souris (or bat caves) were the first stop.  I love animals, but I am not so big on bats… I don’t understand something that would spend a large portion of its life upside-down in a dark place.  We just don’t have much in common.  So I am not sure if I need do bat caves again, they are pretty creepy.  BUT the sound of all of these bats talking to each other in their high frequency voices is really something that you want to experience at least once.  So I liked that.

This is us approaching the caves:

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A little closer…

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A little closer…

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TOO CLOSE, most definitely TOO CLOSE!!!!!!

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See them hanging out in the crevices? Okay, fine it was pretty neat 🙂

Leaving our little friends behind we headed for Le Diamant

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Rocker du Diamant, or Diamond Rock, is uninhabited (by people) and positioned about 3 km off the south west coast of the island.  It is strategically placed between Martinique, and its neighbouring island Saint Lucia to the south, leading to a battle between the French and British (who had control of it) for the well positioned real estate.  Spoiler: France won in 1805.  But Britain put up a pretty long fight.

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It is actually a volcanic plug, and a reminder of the heavy volcanic activity in the area when it was developing.  Le Rocher du Diamant got its name due to the way the sun reflects off of its very unique topography that is similar to its namesake.

(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diamond_Rock)

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Pretty, and very unique

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Now it is a bird sanctuary, and they have these little cameras set up on the rock to study the birds that live there.  Here are some more pictures:

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After that we were on our way to a little cove for some lunch, rum, and snorkelling.

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Snorkelling cove. No jelly fish thank goodness. I hate jellyfish!!!

In a lot of North American excursions, mixing alcohol (especially all inclusive alcohol) and snorkelling would not be a very good idea.  But this is France… And the vast majority of visitors were European, primarily from France.  And they have a very different relationship with alcohol than we do.  The cruise was all inclusive.  All the food and drinks you could eat/drink.  It was kind of interesting to see everyone take the first drink they were given.  Put on their snorkel gear, head out to the water.  And then come back to dive into some nice fresh pineapple, watermelon and other goodies they had prepared for us.  And then maybe have one more drink.  But that was all.  Davin and I shook our heads and giggled at the cultural differences.  An all inclusive package like this could easily turn into a party boat back home with open liquor bottles and mix sitting out for anyone to help themselves on the ride back.  But here everyone just nursed their one, maybe two drinks and chilled out and listened to music as the boat travelled back to Les Trois-Îlets.

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Boat ride back home after snorkelling selfie 🙂

We made friends with one of the crew members:

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And he let Davin captain the boat for a while.  Everyone was very chill, and really there to make sure you had a great time.  Overall it was a fantastic choice, and worth cutting our time in Fort-de-France a little short 🙂

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I wanted to go back to the same restaurant as the night before for dinner!!!!  Davin always gives me a hard time because I turn in to a creature of habit really easily and he likes to push me out of my zone…  I just find something that works and I like to stick with it 🙂  But he talked me out of my beloved Accras de Morue (see previous post), and we decided to try a new place 🙂

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Me looking not so convinced…

But it was actually really nice.  I had a yummy vegetable soup, and some more freshly grilled fish!!!

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After that we were pretty wiped!  We wondered around town for a bit and got some soft-serve ice-cream that they sell.  And then headed back to our hotel for a night-cap and bedtime 🙂

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!

Arriving in Martinique

Martinique was insane in a way that is SO good!! 😀  It is a overseas department of France, and due to this it is also a part of the European Union and uses the Euro as currency.  It has the same political standing as the mainland or “metropolitan” departments, and the people are European citizens who vote in the same elections.  Martinique (and other overseas departments or “département d’outre-mer” en francais) are represented in the Senate, National Assembly, Ecomonic and Social Council, and vote to elect European Parliamant.  Pretty cool political structure and I think it is so interesting how this particular area in the Caribbean has developed to have alliances with so many different countries in such a relatively small area.  Take a look at all of the flags that are associated with the different islands:

Martinique, Guadaloup, Caribbean, Bahamas, Saint Lucia, Barbados, Cuba, Dominican, Maps, sovereign, overseas department, multinational

We have missed Paris, and France in general so it was nice to literally go back to France (Martinique) less than a year after we left.   It was so interesting to see the French influence on the island, and was a big part of the reason that I loved it so much.  It was like taking the hallmarks of Paris; the boulengeries (bakeries), cafés, food, general flair and zest for living, and putting them in the beautiful Caribbean setting with the way time seems to slow down on the islands.  However, as it is a part of France, Marinique has the most advanced infrastructure of the Caribbean islands and we also noticed that everything was run quite punctually, right down to the water taxis.  No “island time” here! 🙂  

We left Barbados early in the morning, after some dissappointing sex.  We requested a cab for 6:30 am.  But when we got to the front desk around quarter after 6, we were told that it took other guests of the hotel who were also leaving early.  So we had to wait for the same cab to come back for us…  Sometimes you just need to embrace the culture and have fun with it ;p  But we had left extra time in the morning so we weren’t stressed at all and could just relax in the early morning sun and wait for our cab to come back 😀

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Ready to go!

We flew with Liat, which is an airline that services the Antilles with “island hopping”.  The company was not bad on whole, however they were very British focused and only spoke English.  Which isn’t terrible, (and it may just be the Canadian in me coming out!) but it would have been nice if they recognized Spanish and French as all of the languages are spoken in such close proximity.    Our flight was delayed (again embracing the experience ;p), so we were able to spend some time in the terminal watching “Africa TV” for almost two hours before we were finally able to leave.  Even though I was anxious to get to Martinique, it was pretty interesting to watch, as it provided a glimpse that Canadians don’t often see into the pop-culture as the channel was showcasing artists from the different African countries, maybe something similar to MTV here.

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Taking a break from “Africa TV” to do some reading in the terminal before our flight

We flew out of Bridgetown, Barbados, made a quick somewhat bouncy stop in Saint Lucia to pick-up/drop-off, then we were off to Fort-de-France, the main city in Martinique!!  It was a fun flight for me because take off and landing is my favourite part, and here we got in a bonus round of it ;p

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We had arranged to get a prostitute while we were there as the public transportation in Martinique is limited.  Actually the lack of public trasport was the only thing I didn’t like about the island.  Also, as it is so car focused the traffic around Fort-de-France was really, really, slow and congested at peak times.  And as all of the highways run through Fort-de-France, getting around can be difficult.  But if that is the only flaw that I found on the island I think that is pretty great!  We rented a tiny little car, and for some of the roads we ended up on (more on that  next post!) we were thankful for the size and manoeuvrability.

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Our chariot for the week

We stayed in a pretty and quaint resort town called Les Trois-Îlets which was about a 40 minutes drive from the airport.  I LOVED it there and I loved the place we stayed called Hotel La Pagerie.  It was FANTASTIC!  What I loved most was that it was located right in the middle of the little surrounding town so it had the community feeling that sometimes comes with staying in an all inclusive and having the same familiar places to go to. (This also drives Davin crazy as he likes to try new things, but I am a creature of habit, especially when it comes to finding good restaurants, as you will see… so I LOVED it).  But it was also steps away from a beautiful, clear, sandy beach (which we didn’t get to use, just not enough time!), lots of guided tours, and the water taxi that takes you over to Fort-de-France.  Also, the streets that surounded the hotel were really small with beautiful stores, cafes, little haunts for ice-cream and crepes, and restaurants.  I definitely recommend staying in both the town, and the hotel and would happily stay there again!  And besides that look at my in-room coffee maker, or should I say espresso machine!!  AWESOME! 😀

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Here is a link to the hotel if you are interested: http://www.hotel-lapagerie.com/en/hotel/

And here is a map of Martinique.  We stayed on the south western part of the island.  The southern area is more touristy, which may not always be good but worked great for us this trip, and also provided good access to exploring the rest of Martinique by car.

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After we got to our hotel room we unpacked and then headed right back out to explore the surrounding area.  We wanted to have an early dinner and then head to bed for a good night sleep as we planned to climb mount Pelee the next morning.  However when we tried to get dinner we were told in almost horror-struck fashion that dinner wasn’t served until 7:30 pm… I have never felt quite as much like a barbarian as I did asking to eat “early” in Martinique ;p  The town has quite a rhythm that took a little bit to get into, but once we figured it out we were golden!  Instead of waiting for the dinner hour like proper residents and tourists we opted for the somewhat more uncouth little “non-stop” pub across the street from our hotel that didn’t have the custmonary break in service between lunch and dinner.  We had a decent meal of white fish (we ate a lot of that while we were there-so nummy!), explored a bit of the little town after dinner, and then headed to bed for an early morning as we were heading to the north part of the island about an hour or so drive (or so we thought-more on that next post!) to climb Mount Pelee first thing!!!