Rumskys Repositioned from the Caribbean to Europe and Back Again travel blog

Posy shot in front of Bibliotheque Schoelcher built in Paris by Henri...

Fran remembers man hiding a gun in this park, La Savane

Waterfront leading to the fort, namesake of the town

Closer view of the fort's drawbridge

Inviting alleys where the rainforest reclaims its territory

Cobblestone streets are very atmospheric

Bridges offer great photo opps

Flowers adorn the Marchet Couvert, also built by Picq

Picq's Iron Cathedral clearly resembles the work of Eiffel, his contemporary

Wonderful quiet green spaces everywhere!

Above ground Caribbean cemetary

Despite Aime Cesar's best intentions, "people still like French products"

Do these modern government buildings rival Versailles?

Encouraged by our success in Antigua, we disembarked early in Fort-de-France, Martinique. Our plan was to take a bus north to see a museum devoted to Paul Gauguin, or maybe do a tour of the fort and the town. NOPE! Apparently, there was a bus strike going on. Apparently, the tourist office happened not to be open today. Apparently, the fort was also closed today due to military reasons. We could maybe try to get to the museum by rentined a car. Sigh. Considering so many things were randomly closed, including a History and Ethnography Museum we tried to see, we decided it was not worth renting a car to the tune of 80 euros plus gas (plus, what about insurance again??), to try to see the Gauguin museum that may just be closed when we got there. Instead, there was plenty of interesting things to see and do wandering around downtown.

We quickly realized that things had changed for the better in downtown Fort-de-France since our last trip here. For example, the well-manicured La Savane park has been totally overhauled. We remembered watching a shady character hiding a gun in a tree there last time, and then trying to explain it to the police in our broken French. Ugh. This time, we truly enjoyed strolling around the streets, soaking up the French atmosphere, crossing tiny bridges, poking into the local markets, and ogling the impressive modern day government buildings apparently inspired by Versailles. We were particularly impressed with all of the metalwork designed by Henri Picq, a contemporary of Gustave Eiffel. In fact, he constructed the first historic building we saw getting off the boat, the Bibliotheque Schoelcher. This library was built in Paris for the 1889 World Expo, then taken apart and reassembled at its current location in Martinique. It houses books donated by the abolitionist Schoelcher, and makes its offerings free to the islanders. In addition to the beautiful library, Picq also designed the metal architecture of the Marche Couvert (1901) and the St. Louis Cathedral (1897), or the Iron Cathedral. We’re not sure if Picq also designed the similar structures on neighboring Guadeloupe, but they sure were effective in resisting earthquakes, hurricanes, and fires.

Wandering around, we found the Aime Cesar theater and stopped in to see if the museum was open. It wasn’t, but an English-speaking woman came over and told us about how Aime Cesar was a civil rights leader and a communist, and his party continues to participate in the politics despite being “owned” by France. I asked if people on Martinique had embraced his ideology, and would like to be self-governed. She told us that “people are too interested in French products!” Viva la France!

While the other museums were closed, we were lucky that right down the main street from the library, the Musee d’Archeologie Precolumbian et de Prehistorie (Museum of Precolumbian Archeology and History) was open. It has an extensive collection of artifacts related to the native people who cam from South America and how they lived, including intricate baskets, ceramics, and delicate jewelry. How wonderful to see items from our old stomping grounds!

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