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First-time visitors to Martinique will likely never suffer a “been there, done that” feeling. Travelers journeying to this tiny island in the French Altilles will find all of the color the Caribbean is famous for, with the addition of French flair, which is most easily and enjoyably experienced in the island’s Creole cuisine. Martinique’s natural beauty and rich history is a constant. What’s new is a variety of added flights, enhanced attractions, new restaurants and excursions.
Increased AirliftOn Nov. 18, a new second daily flight via American Eagle resumes service from San Juan, Puerto Rico, to Martinique. This will improve connectivity for flights between San Juan and the mainland U.S. The new southbound American Eagle flight 4896 departs San Juan at 1:50 p.m., arriving in Fort-de-France at 3:45 p.m. The northbound American Eagle flight 4897 departs Fort-de-France at 4:15 p.m., arriving in San Juan at 6:09 p.m. The pre-existing American Eagle daily flights, which arrive in Martinique at 9:20 p.m. and depart for San Juan at 7:35 a.m., will continue as usual.
Enhanced Attractions The Balata Gardens are spread out over seven acres in the hills above Fort-de-France. The gardens have more than 1,000 species of native flora laid out over an intricate network of paved trails. This year saw the addition of an aerial path affording visitors a bird’s-eye-view of the gardens and surrounding hills from wooden walkways suspended some 50 feet in the air.
The plantation house of the Depaz Distillery was opened to the public for the first time in 2010. The former master’s house contains a collection of colonial-era artifacts, archival documents, Creole period clothing, and antique furniture, providing an inimitable look at Martinique’s plantation history. Established in 1651, the distillery has a long history on the island, having been established back in 1651. Its rum is made exclusively from fresh blue sugar cane seasonally harvested and produced on the Depaz Estate, which is located near the island’s historic northern seaside town of Saint-Pierre.
Hotel UpgradeBy December 2011, La Bateliere will complete its conversion from an independent hotel into a Radisson. The comprehensive renovation of the property will be carried out in two phases, enabling the hotel to remain open throughout the year with minimal impact on the guest experience. The result will be a completely new hotel, offering the level of service and amenities expected of the Radisson brand.
Dining Hot SpotsMartinique’s newest hot spot to see and be seen is Lili’s, a chic beachfront bar and restaurant located at the La Batliere hotel in Schoelcher. New menu choices are served daily under the auspices of chef Johnny Vahey, a native of Ireland who apprenticed under renowned celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay. Chef Vahey describes the cuisine at Lili’s as refined Caribbean/Creole with French accents, with an emphasis on fresh, local products. The gourmet fare runs counter to Lili’s rather casual setting, providing a tropical style that blends the high-style of the French Riviera with the laid-back, easy-going vibe of the Caribbean.
Le Josephine is located on the second floor of the historic and newly refurbished Hotel L’Imperatice. Le Josephine offers an elegant dining experience in the heart of downtown Fort-de-France. Dark wood furniture, stark white linens, and colorful stemware in greens and purples create a stylish setting befitting the hotel’s 1950’s-era heritage.
The hotel’s restaurant, Le Cesaire, is named in honor of Martinique’s famed poet, Aimé Césaire. The eatery, located in downtown Fort-de-France, features the culinary creations of Chef Harold Jeanville, formerly of Ti’ Foyaal and Lenotre in Paris.
Le Gossip in downtown Fort-de-France is attracting hip locals in Martinique. More than a restaurant, Le Gossip is also a boutique and art gallery that regularly hosts fashion shows, poetry readings, speed dating events and wine tastings.