With a puffy face, hurting jaw and teeth from crying all night and the resulting sinus pressure, and a broken heart, we left the airbnb in the morning. I really didn’t want to do anything. I didn’t want to go anywhere, see anything, nothing. Poor Brian, he was trying to be so encouraging. Two items on the agenda for sure- the banana museum and the rum museum. But they didn’t open until 9 and it was 7. So
Brian in a desperate attempt to get me out of the bnb and out into the world to get my mind off things we decided to drive out to the Caravelle Peninsula that was really close. Good news, my back no longer hurt, just my tailbone. Probably because the pain in my heart was taking my mind off of it…
The peninsula was gorgeous! Little fishing villages dotted the coastline. We drove all the way to the end and decided to get out and hike around. There was an attraction here called Chateau Dubuc. We had no idea what it was (that’s where not researching a trip ahead of time gets ya!), so decided to hike over and check it out. Of course, it was closed until 9, and it was only 8:30. So instead, we decided to hike through the mangroves. Beautiful mudflats and mangrove forests!
Got back around, and Chateau Dubuc was open. The man at the desk didn’t speak a lot of English, but was very friendly and explained enough so we understood that if we took this map and audio/pointer thingy, that when we touched it to the map it would tell us what we were seeing. Clever!! This was a sugar cane plantation built in the 1720s. And that’s about where the history of this place ends. The audio guide did a great (maybe too detailed) job of describing what each of the building ruins had been used for, but I couldn’t get a connection to the place because there was no story. Just “here is a building, and here is literally every single minute detail about how that building worked”. And it is EXPANSIVE- as in 20+ stops, each with several minutes of details. Still, it was cool to wander around the place. Today it’s in the middle of no where and you have to hike to it. I can’t even imagine 300 years ago…
It was well past museum opening times now, so we headed back toward Sainte Marie to go to the Rum Museum. First stop was the grocery store to grab a little breakfast. Holy. Shit. Every register, like 8 of them, had lines 10+ people deep!! Was a hurricane coming and people were stocking up? Was the grocery store only open one day a week? What the hell???? I stood there with my baguette, salami, and a couple other snacks for the road for what seemed like forever, while Brian went to the nearby gas station to get cold drinks. As I got closer, people with lots more groceries than me waved me in front of them in line. We didn’t speak the same language, but kindness is universal. This is France, and there is just a certain je ne sais quoi here.
Rum museum was right around the corner, and was FREE if you didn’t want to ride the train! There were two buildings- the main building with an upstairs video (not in English) and a museum behind that that WAS in English!! St. James Rum is still being produced today, and I have to say that the museum was very nice and well done. I didn’t learn a lot (my head was NOT in the game today), but Brian ooohed and ahhed over a bunch of machinery, so there was that!
Next up, banana museum just down the road. This one I had been excited about, because I had learned SO MUCH at the rice museum in Malaysia that I was hoping this would be like that. Well, kindaish. Again, my head just wasn’t really into anything. It was like $16 for us both to get in, and it was basically a lot of signs (in English!) discussing the history of the banana. I kind of felt I could have read the banana wikipedia page and got the same information, but I’m a bitch today so I hate everything! 😕 I didn’t even take a picture of a single informational sign, at either museum, which is definitely not me. After the museum was a beautiful garden of all kinds of bananas- there are like 1000 species and 300 are edible (see, I learned SOMETHING in the museum!!). Not sure how many species were out here, but it was fun to walk through and see the different types. At the end, there was a restaurant. We shared a banana split. I told Brian they should have “banana flights”- like beer flights. Bring out a bunch (no pun intended!) of different types of bananas and let you taste them. That would have been really fun! Oh- other thing I learned- they originated in Africa and were brought to the Western Hemisphere by Europeans. There are so damned many bananas in this part of the world, I thought they came from here.
Brian knew I was bummed yesterday when the volcano museum we were going to was closed. He found another one and attempted to get me excited about going to it. Seriously, I felt sorry for the guy. Between Dominica being our worst travel experience together ever, my aching tailbone, the news about my son’s wedding….I was in a serious funk and definitely not fun to be around. Nothing was funny. Nothing was interesting. Sigh. I agreed for us to drive to the other side of the island to go check it out, because, well, volcano. So off we headed to Sainte Pierre! I had heard of Mt. Pelee, and knew it was some big old nasty volcanic disaster- but I couldn’t have found it on a map to save my life. Who knew it was in Martinique?! Well, the town of Sainte Pierre sure the hell did in 1902. Mt. Pelee is actually the deadliest volcanic eruption of the 20th century! How deadly? 30,000 people- the entire city of Sainte Pierre- DEAD deadly. Well, except for 2 people. I’ll get to one of those in a moment. That must have been one helluva lava flow, right? Wrong. Zippo lava. None. This was a special type of pyroclastic flow- a superheated combination of ash and gas. How superheated? Oh, about 1800F. That’ll bake your cookies! It was so hot, that it ignited ships that were anchored offshore!
The ladies at the museum were so friendly (do you notice a theme here? EVERYONE is friendly!!) and spoke great English. They gave us headsets that would automatically start playing as you went around to different exhibits. I am very much a multitasking type learner- I like information from a lot of different sources all at once. (That’s exactly how I research for lesson plans.) This was cool because I could read the information on the exhibits and the headsets had totally different information- they were more like stories that supported what you were seeing. The museum was very modern and very well done. I was slightly happyish for the first time that day!
When I was boo-hooing last night, Brian started researching Atlas Obscura. He knows I love any kind of crazy weird sightseeing kind of thing. He told me about the only entry for Martinique– A man named Sylbaris had been tossed into solitary confinement for fighting. The cell was made of very thick cement walls, a solid door, and just a slit facing the ocean (opposite side from where Pelee was) for ventilation. Well, this proved to be his saving grace. He was burned by the air, but not killed. In fact, he went on to join Ringling Bros and Barnum Bailey Circus, where he would tell his story and show his scars. France pardoned him for his crimes. SUPER INTERESTING! And the best part, his cell still stands amidst the ruins of Sainte Pierre! You can even go inside of it! We walked up and visited it, and I was so enthralled by this history that I even made a few educational videos!
That was basically the end of our sightseeing for the day, and we headed south to Anse Noire, where I had booked us a splurge accommodation! For 2 nights, we would be staying in a treehouse on the beach! It was part of several bungalows run by a super nice man named Claude of Domaine de Robinson. We parked our car at the top of the hill, and went down WAY too many stairs to get to the beach and the treehouse! Down with bags is one thing…I was dreading up (for Brian, because I knew I wouldn’t be carrying shit!).
We walked through the gate that said “Private Property” and found Claude. He took us to the treehouse and loaded our luggage into a makeshift elevator. It was not for people. Something called a “monkey bridge” was for people. I don’t drink, but I am seriously concerned for the lack of discernment I apparently was exhibiting at the time of booking the zipline o’ death bnb in Dominica and the monkey bridge o’ death here in Martinique. I swear to god, neither of these things looked so high and sketch when I saw the pictures online! So I swiped right. Things online though sometimes look much better than they do in person, because I was having a serious case of wanting to swipe left after one look at that bridge….
Claude went up first. He said one person on the bridge at a time (don’t have to tell me twice). I didn’t even know this man 2 minutes ago, but for some reason I didn’t want to look like a total wuss in front of him. I didn’t have any time to contemplate the 80 different ways I could die on this thing before started my slow, deliberate steps. It was shaky. It was high. At the end it was steep. Even worse- at the end there was no solid board and you had to step over a damn gap of empty space!! Space that if I lost 50 lbs and my internal skeleton, I could easily slip through and plummet to my death! That one freaked me out for a second, but I pulled myself over it and on to the porch. I told Claude I was scared of heights. He said a couple of times back and forth and I wouldn’t even think about it (spoiler alert: he was wrong, but it did get minimally better).
Claude got us settled in. We had a big room with a large bed and mosquito net, a little kitchen, a shower, sink, and a separate room with a toilet. And wifi!! I said in an earlier blog I go for unique, cheap, and wifi when I’m booking, but will settle for 2 out of 3. For almost $200 a night, easily 4 times what I normally like to spend, you can see what got left out this time. But it was worth it. It was so quiet, so peaceful, so relaxing. Just the sounds of birds and frogs. We ate some food we had picked up at Carrefour on our way in and just sat on the porch, relaxing. Something we hadn’t done since we started this trip several days ago…Something we desperately needed after everything.
We had one visitor that night- a moth as big as my hand! He was amazing! Until I did research on him get an ID (literally about 5 days after seeing him while writing this blog, otherwise I would have been even more freaked the fuck out). Meet Ascalapha odorata, better known as the Black Witch moth. Silence of the Lambs- you know the larvae that the killer was putting into his victim’s mouths? It was of this moth!!!!! And get a load of this….THE FREAKING THING HAS LEGENDS ABOUT IT BEING A HARBINGER OF DEATH AND MISFORTUNE SINCE PRE-COLUMBIAN TIMES!!!!! So yeah, if this damn thing flies into your house, death, misfortune, or a curse will befell you. He’s a little late to our pity party, but you know what they say about island time…. #fml