With daylight rising and clouds crossing the tip of Mt Pelee, we pulled up the anchor and left the exciting island of Martinique behind us. This has become one of our favorite spots. Clear warm water, sand beaches, good snorkeling, fun cruising friends, great food, unlimited amount of imported quality (yet cheap) French red wine, cheese, salami,rum, and baguettes are some of the reasons we were content to stay here. Other reasons were the shear beauty of nature, mountainous terrain mixed with lush tropical foliage, a green flash at sunset (not once but 6 times), the ambiance of the French culture, great bus system, and the warmth of the sun with cool night breezes kept us comfortable. It truly felt like we were on vacation the whole time.
We had stopped here last year but only to fix our radio. We arrived and left with no great insight into the gifts this island had to offer. This year when we arrived I realized it might be a great place to celebrate turning 61, and it was. We arrived on a stormy day and sat out the first two days of rain downpours before digging out our foulies. On day 3 with rain jackets and umbrellas under our arms, we went in search of red wine and cheese.
The selections were so numerous we were overwhelmed and unsure how to narrow down our choices. So we took a practical approach. Buy no bottle over 4 Euros, and have a wine tasting party on our boat. We invited 4 couples to bring a bottle and we sampled 7 different wines. What a great fun night that was for all of us! Celebration, Unicorn, Panchita, and Jammin swapped bottles, stories, recipes, and advice while testing the French waters of wines. The next day we went to the stores and bought numerous bottles of our favorites from the night before. Then we tested the cheeses. I found a camembert that was sweet, and Dave found one that had a hint of blue cheese notes it it. My favorite Boursin, a creamy garlic and herb cheese, was my first purchase with a baguette. Dave bought chocolate filled rolls and 6 bottles of red wine.
When the weather improved we went for hikes and shopped. Part of the fun was trying to recall my 40+ year old lessons in the French language--its amazing what the brain can retrieve out of those dusty archives. It also helped that we have 3 French handbooks and two dictionaries. When something looked good in the meat market we looked it up, one day we avoided buying 5 pounds of cow lung that was going for a great price! We hopped buses and went to a shopping center, a great way to see the road system and town out of walking distance...and to find another grocery store for more cheese, wine and pastries.
One day we were invited to walk around the Botanical Garden. The brochure for the garden showed flat walk ways and a Tom Sawyer style catwalk over the tree tops. So we hopped on a bus with our two friends, from Unicorn, and our water bottle filled. When we got to the garden entranced we walked pass it and followed a hiking path that took us up on a ridge and around the garden. Three hours later we completed the hiking loop, washed the mud off our feet, and ate our lunch. The pictures we took were beautiful(when we get internet we will post them). This hike was a great test of how in/out of shape our leg muscles are.
Amazingly we could still walk and shop the next day. The shoe shops here are amazingly plentiful, cheap, and so stylish. There were at least 2-3 shoe stores on every block. I found a pair of shoes and a dress, total cost 28 Euros.
We also found time for work. We finished off many sewing projects, repaired the water maker, and accomplished other boat projects in calm and sunny conditions. And of course we read 12 more books. We left 5 years ago with 300 books and it is our goal to finish all of them before next year.
This morning we are off for a sail by to Dominica, Guadeloupe, The Saintes, and Monserrat and sometime on Tuesday we will arrive at Antigua where English is spoken, and new bays await our discovery.
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