Sounds of Freedom

Anse à l'Ane

Here it is, the carnival has begun, and the streets are now lively with celebration, music, sweets and dancing. Thanks to a little program I found online, I am savvy on what is happening and where during the week. On Friday, the carnival was revving up on the beach of  l’Anse à l’Ane, a 5 mins boat ride from Anse Mitan. When I got off the boat and explored the stunning beach area, a small party was already happening – a few speakers blaring reggae and dancehall, drinks, a big barbecue, and a lot of young locals. It was a perfect way to start the weekend.

I was offered a fresh beer and got speaking with a French métro expat (métro means from metropolitan France in Europe), who looked like he was in his late twenties. He later told me that he was 40 years old, and I couldn’t believe my ears. I wondered whether it was to do with this new lifestyle he found in the Caribbean, whether this made him feel and look younger. I couldn’t help myself but interview him asking him all sorts of questions, what brought him to Martinique, whether he misses the cold sometimes, how long it took him to integrate himself and earn respect from the locals, whether he learnt to speak Créole quickly, what is so different from France and what is the same, etc. It was really interesting to speak with someone who is totally integrated within a new culture.

coconut stand @ Anse Mitan market

The following day I got up early to have a browse round the Saturday morning market. The sun was shining and the market was lively and musical – some speakers were set up at the center of the place and were playing zouk. I love markets and looking at what each stand sells, what it specializes in, speaking with the vendors about where the various products are from and how they are made. There were all sorts on Saturday – organic jewelry, hats, spices, fruit, clothes, kitchen utensils, paintings, sculptures and of course lots of different bottles of rum. Markets like these really reveal the assets and heritage of a given country. Back home, I love going to the market, buying fresh bread, choosing cheese, stocking up on fresh fruits and veggies.

I spent the following hours at Hotel Kaboua, a 4* with infinity pool and all the works, sat on the private beach and swam in its clear warm waters. I spoke with various tourists who came over to chat with me. I was then invited for lunch at a beach bar on the ocean. I ate a tasty poulet boucané salad accompanied by a Lorraine beer (the local beer) – poulet boucané is smoked chicken topped with sauce chien, a sort of spicy créole sauce, delicious to say the least.

I then ventured out of the hotel and went to Copacabana restaurant where a make up stand was being set up for the afternoon. I was immediately sat down and face painted when I arrived. I was asked what colors I wanted, and what sort of a design. I told the make up artist to use purple paint and improvise. The result was beautiful, and so were all the other makeup designs which I could see in the making. Colors, sparkles and diamonds were painted on our faces and marked us as ‘ready to celebrate’.

my carnival make up

I then walked over to the nearest beach bar and began speaking with various locals all very excited and in festive moods. I had a drink and waited for the sounds of the parade to begin. Just as I finished my last sip of beer, I heard percussions from over the street, and met with the crowds to greet the first group of paraders.

The parade was smaller than the ones I had seen in Guadeloupe, but just as lively and fun, full of instruments, lots of percussion, dancing, colors, excellent costumes and make up. There were a few chariots transporting big speakers blaring out festive zouk style music. Everyone clapped and danced along, some following the groups, some standing by the pavements to watch the spectacle go by. The streets really come to life, and it is very easy to get carried away and just follow the rhythm of whichever band tickles your fancy.

Today I went to le Bourg which is another little village, part of the Trois Ilets area. It boasts a typically créole church called Eglise du Diamant, which stands proudly in the center on the village. It is a nice little town with lots of little back allies with restaurants, bakers, bars. It gives on to the famous golfing terrain, which is magnificent – I can understand the rumors which say that it has been voted one of the best in the world. I spoke with a young man who works as a golfing teacher, who seemed very proud and happy to work there.

carnival group 'Pom Pom'

There has been such a shift of atmosphere since the beginning of the carnival. Everyone is on holiday – the locals as well as the tourists. And so it is with an inevitable smile on my face that I walk the beaches everyday, exploring a little more, eating cod fritters, sipping ti-punch and listening to the sounds of freedom here in Martinique!

Boat trips and big hotels

another sunset view from Waikiki beach

A few weeks have gone by now since my arrival on Oahu, and I’m getting used to things here in the city of Waikiki. Although the contrast between the laid back atmosphere on the beach and the non stop liveliness of the city’s streets can be difficult to adapt to. One minute you could be sipping a tropical ice tea, facing the calm waves of the ocean rocking back and forth on the beach, listening to hula, the next you could be in a large crowd of people impatiently waiting to cross the street to desperately get into Macy’s or Starbucks.

I’ve been cruising around the shoreline and around Diamond Head mountain in a boat this past week. Once on Thursday at 3Pm, where the boat sailed around at quite high speed and played some reggae music on board – it was a great way to unwind, and the glass of champagne certainly helped. The next trip I took was on Sunday evening, at 5PM, a ”sunset booze cruise” – same boat, same route, but slower and all-inclusive drinks. This was also good fun, and seeing the sun set, the skies turn to orange, pink, purple, and then watching Waikiki’s city lights brighten as the day turned to night was delightful.

the Sheraton's infinity pool

I have been doing a lot of walking around the city, discovering the right, left and center of it. I go and visit the farmer’s markets on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays (it changes location each day), and have become friendly with one of the market stands which now gives me free gifts such as coconut mochi bread or oatmeal cookies. I ate my very first malasada last Thursday: a Hawaiian treat consisting of two small yet thick doughnut-like buns with creamy custard in the middle – not the healthiest of snacks, but certainly worth a taste.

I’ve met some very interesting people on my little walks and explorations here and there – a very talented barman at Jimmy Buffet’s, who can do all sorts of swinging and juggling tricks with bottles, and makes some mean cocktails too. I also got talking to the captains of both boat trips, who recommend I come on their trips in the mornings to snorkel with the sea turtles.

From time to time, I will hang out in the big hotels: The Sheraton, The Royal Hawaiian, The Hilton Hawaiian Village, etc.. sit on a sun bed, drink a little something, have a dip. No one notices that I’m out of place – it must be because I’m here quietly and discreetly by myself and obviously don’t look too inconspicuous. I also recently came across a Sheraton towel card in my wallet which I picked up at the airport when I transited through Honolulu in October on my way to Maui – I will try and see if I can use it, if so, I will be able to have a dip in the infamous Sheraton infinity pool, which looks rather chic.

Kimo, the bartender from Jimmy Buffet's

The music scene is certainly overwhelming – there is so much to listen to, it is difficult to choose. There is generally a good selection of Hawaiian, jazz and rock music every night in a lot of different bars and venues. It depends on what you’re up for – a laid back background sound to go with a classy cocktail, an energetic dance in a club, a more traditional island setting, etc. But nothing caters for anything else, I was told to experience the up and coming creative musicians who ”aren’t allowed to play in Waikiki” (i.e. not tourist-y enough) play in downtown, also known as Chinatown. However, I have also been advised not to venture in this part of town alone, so I’m a bit apprehensive about checking it all out. Plus, there is so much to hear here in Waikiki, I am afraid I may musically OD if I hit downtown (if there is such a thing).

I have found an equivalent to Mana Foods, a natural health food store in Maui, called ‘Down to Earth’, which is very pleasant and makes excellent food you can eat out on a terrace. This place is in Kailua, which is the nearest smaller town to me. It is student friendly town: cheaper prices, health food stores, internet cafés, small convenience stores, massage therapist places that are considerably less expensive than in the center of Waikiki.

And that is one down factor, Waikiki is extremely expensive. If only money grew on palm trees!

Bahama Mama

Yesterday morning I awoke to a symphony of men and women all chanting ‘OMMMMM’ in harmony and in several sequences during a yoga/meditation class next door. It wasn’t a bad way to wake up!

Moose's

The previous night I had gone out to Lahaina, about an hour drive from here, with a francophone group of buddies to a bar called Moose’s. The attraction were the 1$ drinks served from 10PM onwards. I have never been one to want to drink excessively, but I made the most of the deal in my own way by ordering some elaborate cocktails, namely some ‘Bahama Mamas’, which were 3$ instead of 8$. The bar  was situated on the second floor of the building, so our table gave on to a balcony view of Front Street, Lahaina’s main road – an entertaining people watching spot.

It was quite an international setting – I was sitting with three French boys, a German guy, a Spanish girl and a Canadian dude. The bar, which I would best describe as a USA sporty type of a place, had its charms but was a bit tacky. Lots of TV screens, framed photos of people drinking beer, road signs, burgers and nachos… It eventually turned into a night club, and out of nowhere it seemed, a lot of very under dressed women, loud men and wet sticky floors seemed to take over the night’s festivities! The music was your average club music – 50 cent, Katy Perry, House of Pain, etc.. I watched the dance floor for a while, thinking I may bust my moves for a bit, but the whole floor was jammed full of not-so-sober bumpers and grinders!

Maoli

Friday night’s festivities were a bit more up my street (and literally too!) – a reggae dub group called Maoli played live at Charley’s. They were amazing, and I’m glad I took some film of them. They had a fresh young style and made the atmosphere in Charley’s the best I’ve seen it since I’ve been here. I very happily danced to them!

Today I went to the kitesurfing spot of Kahului, and watched the impressive amounts of surfers out there. It is pretty cool to watch as you can see all the different kites and their colors dancing in the sky just above the waters. Closer kitesurfers are entertaining to watch because they will occasionally do a trick or two, leaping into the air, twist and turn into all sorts of shapes and land back down onto the water, only to be whisked away again by the kite into another direction. I went up and down the beach, which had lovely sand. Today was super sunny, and I may even have got a bit of a sun burnt nose.

Yesterday I had gone to Paia Bay Café to wait for the bus, I tried their chocolate chip banana bread which was yummy. I had it in mind to go to Kihei, one of the funnest spots I have come across. Whilst I sat there waiting for the bus, another regular of the café, a man in his 50s perhaps, introduced himself to me. A theater teacher, who also practices spiritual healing, and said that he could align my Chakras if I so wished some time. I have no idea what it means, but it was certainly very nice of him to offer! He said that next time he sees me at the caf, we should have tea and discuss this particular topic – so it looks like I’m in for an interesting discussion next time I go for coffee in town.

Wailea

I hopped on to the bus, and having arrived at Kihei, I decided I would stick it out a bit more on the bus and wait until I got to Wailea. Wailea is, I have come to learn, the richest most chic area of Maui – the grass every where is very well trimmed, it has a Beverly Hills air to it, sports cars can be spotted a lot, and everything looks perfect. When I finally got off the bus, I mooched around a bit, and came across an outdoor shopping center. Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Guess, art galleries, real estate agents, a very expensive steak restaurant, and some very pricey coffee/ice cream joints. I walked around the high-end shops and boutiques, and found the place really charming – it had impressive water pieces, palm trees and fancy escalators too. I caved in and bought myself a scoop of ice cream at one of these little cafés – coconut, caramel and macadamia nut, and ate it in the sun by a water fountain.

I lent a hand to Ryan this morning by helping him move a big mattress out of his old house up in Haiku. The drive up is nice, and seeing as it was such a sunny day, the views were amazing from up there. Only a week left though until I leave to another island – and I am feeling like I need to make the most of Maui before I leave by really soaking up all the views, the atmosphere, the good feeling as much as possible!

Trick or Treat?

Monday night was Halloween night, a pretty big deal in the USA. Children go knocking on neighborhood doors with bags, asking for treats, all houses are filled with candy, chocolate, goodies to give away.

We went out with Rose and got some vampire teeth that day, which were a great buy. We got the fangs with some granulated wax, melted the wax and molded it onto our teeth until it hardened, thus giving us custom vampire dentures. Excellent. I can reuse them again! They were a hit.

my vampire fangs

Paia was bustling, much like last Friday night, with less open shops. Absolutely everyone was dressed up though – Elvis Presleys, zombies, construction workers, fairies, Mexican farmers, knights, there was even a couple of brothers dressed as the Olsen twins. We had lilikoi margaritas at Café des Amis with quite a few people. Most of us and many other Paians then lined up in front of Charley’s trying to get in to join in on the only night time festivities in town, all tickets were sold out so there was more of a party going on outside than in.

The atmosphere was great – everyone was enjoying the costume chaos.

We ended up at a house party, belonging to a yoga instructing girl dressed as a frog, where 10 or 15 people showed up, drank beers, danced, played darts, chattered. I met a Moroccan and a Tahitian who both spoke French.

the Olsen twins!

It was a great night! The following day I took it easy and had an afternoon nap on the beach. I also went to Mana Foods to find a few things ‘yeast free’ – as I have been suggested by an esthetician to avoid yeast products as much as possible. This essentially means no bread, wine, cheese (yeah, right, as if that is going to happen), some fruit juices, tomato sauce, beer, mayonnaise, pasta, processed foods – pretty much all I ever eat. Anyway, I still thought I’d give it a go, and bought some avocados, sprouts, spinach salad leaves, almonds and cranberry juice.

I am now living with two boys – both Branden and Trish have moved out. Ryan, 27, is American, and Olivier, 23, is French; they are both kite surfing fanatics. As I am the remaining girl, I have been upgraded to Trish’s old room, which is the master bedroom of the house with walk-in wardrobe and an en suite bathroom. Sweet!

the new bedroom..

Ryan has a chihuahua called Heidi and a fluffy cat named Kip. Heidi is the smallest dog I have ever seen in my life, and I have warmed to her, as I am more of a cat person than a dog person. The kitty is awesome and likes to sit on top of the fridge a lot. Both Olivier and Ryan are very nice guys – we went out to Flatbread tonight all together along with Olivier’s Canadian friend Kyle. Flatbread is a very popular pizzeria in Paia, which makes tasty food with local ingredients. I had my first coconut beer there tonight, brewed in Maui.

The weather has been very strange these last days – one moment it will be pouring down with rain, the next it will be bright sunshine and very hot outside. Lots of rainbows during the day, and lightening at night.

today's rainbow on the way back from Kahului