Where to Stay:
Le Cap Est Lagoon Resort & Spa
"Amid the beautiful beaches of the Caribbean, you can enjoy exceptional cuisine, luxurious accommodations, and the refinement of French culture."
Nestled in the French Antilles, Martinique offers a unique French-Caribbean experience. Amid the beautiful beaches of the Caribbean, you can enjoy exceptional cuisine, luxurious accommodations, and the refinement of French culture. Upon arrival at Le Cap Est Lagoon Resort & Spa, of the Relais & Chateau collection of hotels, we are given a refreshing cocktail. Cap Est is a beachfront, all-suite property with picturesque landscaping and a lovely infinity pool. Our lavish suite features oversized windows for a breathtaking view of the Atlantic, with its crystal-clear blue waters just a few meters away, an outdoor shower, and a private plunge pool. The décor of the room is a fusion of Creole and Asian influences, with abaca fabrics and exotic woods.
Le Bélem, Cap Est’s premier restaurant, is luxurious and elegant, but the friendly, attentive service and delectable offerings allows diners to relax and fully enjoy themselves. After an appetizer of pan-fried langoustines with baby vegetables and lobster consommé, I can’t finish my entrée, which is lobster fricassé with satay and a coconut and lime juice emulsion. I ask to take it back to my room, but we’re enjoying ourselves so much that I forget about it.
When we return to our suite, the food has been beautifully arranged on the coffee table! Martinique’s cuisine distinguishes it from other Caribbean islands. International cuisine, peppered with local accents and prepared with French techniques, can be found throughout the island. One of our favorite desserts is a fruit salad, soaked in Martinican rum, topped with tangerine sorbet. Along with Le Bélem, we enjoy the fare at the Hotel Bakoua, Le Zandoli, Ti-Sable, Le Petitbonum, and the Plein Soleil Hotel.
Apart from the delicious food, divers of all experience levels come to Martinique for the exceptional visibility and calm conditions, and to explore coral reefs and the shipwrecks left in the wake of the volcanic eruption of Mount Pelée in 1902.
Travelers from around the world visit La Pagerie, the childhood home of Josephine Bonaparte, whose rise to nobility as a 32-year-old Creole woman with two children fascinated the French. Shoppers buy locally-made goods offered in Trois-Illet, like pottery, spices, soaps, fashions, and handmade jewelry. Rum-lovers visit Martinique’s rum distilleries, where samples are eagerly served. Clément Habitacion, the first black-owned rum distillery in Martinique, now houses several art galleries.
During a walk around Fort-de-France, Martinique’s capital, we visit several sites of interest, including the Bibliotheque Schoelcher, which was assembled in Paris. It was dissembled in 1890 and shipped to Martinique to house the extensive book collection of Victor Schoelcher, who was responsible for abolishing slavery in the French West Indies. We also visit the large, open-air market, where alongside fresh produce and traditional garb, shoppers can purchase bois bandé, a natural aphrodisiac.
Everywhere we go, we are greeted with wide smiles, and we are affectionately encouraged to practice our French. Honeymooners willing to add a couple of hours to their travel time are well-rewarded in Martinique, where there is no need to choose between turquiose waters and elegant sophistication. — Noemi Smith