Taking in the sun, doing very little else
29.01.2012 - 04.02.2012 25 °C
So leaving Vegas would bring us into the final stretch of our trip (sniff sniff) - the Caribbean. The original plan was to start off with a week in Martinique, followed by a week sailing with friends, and finish off with a few days in Saint Lucia. Sadly our organisational luck this trip finally ran out on James and when he tried to book some accommodation in Martinique from Vegas, we found that there was nothing to be had for the week. So a quick replan had us staying for a few nights in Saint Lucia before heading up to Martinique instead.
After a pretty long flight (two 4 hour flights with a 4 hour lay over in Miami) from Vegas we finally arrived at the international airport at the southern tip of Saint Lucia. James later realised that he'd managed to leave his waterproof camera at the airport security scanner in Vegas - sigh - though luckily we've managed to get it back from them now. It does mean there's rather fewer photos than we'd hoped as we were slightly nervous of getting sand/water in the SLR.
After the long wait for customs which we've grown so accustomed to on our travels, we made it out of the airport and onto the overpriced taxis going to Rodney Bay at the north end of the island. The 1 and 1/2 hour drive up meant we got to take in the sights of the rugged exposed Atlantic coast, the lush interior of the island, and the relatively sheltered Caribbean coast. It was very pretty. We arrived in Rodney Bay which is a pleasant if very artificial collection of resort hotels and restaurants.
After a false start at a smart hotel which refused to let us check in without a print out but also had no printer facility, we settled in for a few days basically doing very little other than lying on the beach / by the pool which was great. We managed to play some tennis too, and to our delight we even had our first good Indian curry since Singapore, in a restaurant opened by two Nepalese brothers who'd emigrated to Saint Lucia!
We then got the express ferry from Castries (the capital city of Saint Lucia) to Fort de France (Martinique's 'capital' city if you don't count Paris). It was a slightly stressful start to the day as our taxi got caught in rush hour traffic (who'd have thought they had that in the Caribbean eh?) and we only just made the ferry by 5 minutes. That was further compounded by the Saint Lucia border guard clearly not trusting James and picking at his passport for about 10 minutes (passports don't look as good once they've been in the washing machine). We eventually made it onto the ferry for a rather bumpy ride to Fort de France (sadly James hadn't taken any sea-sickness tablets).
Fort de France itself was a striking change from Saint Lucia - it really felt like we'd just landed in France, albeit with warmer weather and more coconut trees. We walked to the centre of Fort de France and found a nice tree-lined square with some bistros serving a nice 'plat du jour' and a creperie for dessert. Oh how we'd missed French food...
After a rather long drive down to the south end of the island (public transport really isn't up to much in Martinique), we arrived in our digs for the next couple of nights. Until recently it was a very smart (and rather pricey) hotel; it then went bankrupt during the strikes of 2009 (where basically all of Martinique went on strike, meaning the tourism sector took a real hit) and was converted into much cheaper short-term holiday lets. It was on a nice quiet beach a short walk from the village/town of Sainte Anne. We took in some more sun, James went snorkelling for the first time, and we even managed to catch a local carnival in town in the evening, with people marching/dancing/singing in local costumes down the main street. All in all, a very nice couple of days; we just wish we could have been there for longer.
From there we went up to Le Marin (a few kilometres up the beach) to pick up our charter yacht for the next week - more on that shortly...