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!

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All the colors of the rainbow

Anse Mitan

Walking up and down the streets of Trois-Ilets, the sweet smell of colombo and massala spices cooking away in small houses, the sound of waves gently crashing on Anse Mitan beach, the lively market stands selling punch and fruit, live zouk concerts here and there, … all these wonderful things have been part of my daily routine this past week.

Unfortunately I have been unable to rent a car due to having a young person’s driving license. To rent a car, one must have at least 3 years driving experience, and I only have a little over a year. On the upside, this will save me quite a few pennies! My main mode of transportation has been the ferry boat which goes from Anse Mitan to Anse à l’Ane (which I have yet to discover!), and then to Fort-de-France. Of course, I have also been walking around a lot, and have come to know the areas of Trois-Ilets and Pointe du Bout very well.

On board the ferry

What is particularly exciting is the fact that the official carnival festivities commence this week, and there are all sorts of events organized in many villages, including the one in which I currently live in. Make-up workshops, parades, stand up shows, a different dress code every day, live concerts, costume fashion shows, … All these events will be happening as of tomorrow, and I will make sure to be in the heart of things and imbibe as much as I can.

Fort de France

On Saturday I had ventured off again to Fort-de-France, and spent the morning roaming around the markets, boutiques selling carnival gear, cathedral, the famous fort and then lounged the beach. In the afternoon, like in Guadeloupe and Tahiti, all the shops close. What is really striking is the fact that in the morning the streets of the capital are heaving with people of all ages, cars, trucks, stands, pets, musicians.. It is almost exhausting just walking from one block to the next. However, once midday strikes, the shops almost immediately close their doors and the streets become completely deserted – only the pigeons shuffle around as the the cathedral bells announce the arrival of the afternoon.

There is so much color every where you go – young women will mix lots of different bright colors in their attire, men tend to wear loud checkered shirts, houses are painted in yellow, orange, pink, purple, green… And all this color adds a genuine touch of gaiety and charm to Martinique’s surroundings. Of course, so do the palm trees, bougainvilleas, hibiscus flowers, banana trees, royal palms, etc… Once again, it seems I have landed in yet another beautiful bountiful island.

Cathedral

I hear a lot of reggae, dancehall and zouk being played on beachfronts, in restaurants, bars, cars. These seem to the most popular genres. I am looking forward to all the live musical performances organized for the carnival, which will be entertaining without a doubt. Also, the weather has been much more inviting than it was at the start of my stay, so fingers crossed, sunshine and warmth will also be on the carnival’s menu.

Rainbow - view from my room

But I am realizing as days go by that I am on my ‘final’ island, and that this tropical adventure of mine is coming to an end… Thus, I am trying to soak in as much as I can before I get on that plane ride back to reality.