George W. Bush sits well under the table and does not say a word. Nor is he allowed to, for the master of the house has ordered him to shut up. In Martinique, the French are still in charge, and if a dog's name is George W. Bush and he has weird odd ears, he has to obey.
It does not get greener: the rainforest of Martinique
Bush lives in the bush, along with Tina and Jean-Claude Wamel, who emigrated five years ago from the gray, cold northern France to the green, warm island. Your "Maison Rousse" is a cottage in the countryside like no other. The terrace is surrounded by guava, lime, coconut, orange and avocado trees, just behind the garden begins the tropical rainforest. The countless hibiscus blossoms shine in bright pink, between yellow meter high bamboo forests shimmer yellow rubber and mahogany trees.
In Martinique many pleasant things come together: French cuisine, Caribbean climate, white dream beaches and luxury hotels with pampering program. But there are also many small hostels like the "Maison Rousse", where we get everything we need for luxury on holiday for 42 euros a day: fresh papaya and pineapple for breakfast, shady wicker chairs under the palm trees, humid heat, primeval forest, nice people, and the sea is not far.
Sweet: the island rum
Martinique is officially a French department and belongs to the EU. That's why we pay with euros, get good milk coffee on each corner, fresh baguette and croissants, and the Bordeaux costs just as much as in Bordeaux. At the town halls of the small towns the tricolor flag hangs, and the old men play boules in the afternoon. Martinique is a bit like southern France, just not so crowded.
"Madinina" called the Arawak their home in the Atlantic Ocean. In the native language Martinique was called "flower island". Christopher Columbus discovered the 65-kilometer-long and 30-kilometer-wide patch of earth on one of his travels, about 130 years later, the French settled in Martinique. They planted sugarcane plantations and abducted West African slaves to the island. In 1848, slavery was officially abolished.
Cathedral in Fort de France
The former plantation of Leyritz near Basse-Pointe in the north is today one of the most stylish hotels on the island. An avenue of mango trees and palm trees leads to the reception house, on the horizon shimmers the Caribbean Sea. Former slave shacks, small houses made of gray basalt stone, are now bungalows with four-poster beds and spacious bathrooms. The food is served in the former sugar refinery. The thick old stone walls provide coolness. A strange feeling to think of the colonial times while the locals serve us. At every meal - except for breakfast? heard a glass of rum, either in pure form or mixed with fruit juices. The rum applies to Martinique as a staple food and cultural asset as our beer here. And the unofficial national saint is a drunkard. Louis Cyparis, a notorious alcoholic, was imprisoned on May 8, 1902, in the stupor cell of St-Pierre. The city was then considered "Paris of the Caribbean" with magnificent boulevards, a cathedral, cafes and clubs. At 7:50 am the Mont Pelée volcano exploded on that day, less than ten kilometers from the city. A hot gas cloud rushed towards St-Pierre and extinguished the lives of 28,000 people within minutes. Only one person should have survived: Louis Cyparis. He lingered in his cell for three days before being found.
The inhabitants of Martinique, however, did not learn from history the lesson of rebuilding St-Pierre a little further from the volcano. What humans rather concluded from this: It can not be so wrong to simply enjoy life with a glass of rum punch in hand. This relaxed attitude connects them to most tourists who come to the island because of the tropical climate, the turquoise warm sea and the fine sandy beaches. Even in the upscale restaurants prevail Caribbean relaxed manners, no one expects that we dine at 30 degrees in the shade and at 90 percent humidity in evening dress and suit.
Getting there: With Air France to Fort-de-France.
On road: Cheap and good are shared taxis: They drive all over the island and welcome guests, as long as they have space. Phone: The area code for Martinique is 0033/569.
Le Relais de la Maison Rousse: Four-bed guesthouse in the middle of the tropical rainforest. For breakfast there is latte coffee, baguette and banana jam, and in the evening the patron serves tuna in coconut milk, chicken in curry sauce and papaya casserole on the terrace; (Sentier du Canal de Beauregard, 97250 Fonds Saint-Denis, Tel. And Fax 558549,).
La Maison Creole: Creole guest house with four rooms, a common room and shared kitchen. Only sixty meters from the beach.Four rooms, small and clean, all with balcony and sea view; Anse Cafard-Dizac, 97223 Diamant, Tel. 764125, Fax 762889.
Plantation Leyritz: Plantation with restaurant, swimming pool, tennis court and sea view; Room for up to three people, stylishly furnished, some with four-poster beds and antique furniture; (97218 Basse-Pointe, Tel. 785392, Fax 789244, www.plantationleyritz.com).
Breeze Marine: small resort right on the beach. From the light blue, pink and yellow painted house you look directly at the sea. The apartments all with small kitchen and terrace, in the fishing village of St. Anne only three minutes walk; (Gros Raisin, 97228 Sainte Luce, Tel. 624694, Fax 625717, www.brisemarine-antilles.com).
restaurants: Le Point de Vue: under palm trees, only 50 meters from the beach, run by a nice French couple. (Anse Charpentier, 97230 Sainte Marie, Tel. 690522).
Le Fromager: high above the coastal town of St-Pierre, overlooking the sea, the village and the Mont Pelée. On the terrace, Creole specialties such as "Accras", pieces of vegetables baked in pastry and seafood (Route de Fonds-Saint-Denis, 97250 Saint-Pierre, Tel. 781907).
Cap 110: Beach restaurant with French Creole cuisine. Especially good: the grilled lobster from a basin right next to the kitchen - it could not be fresher (Anse Cafard, 97226 Diamant, Tel. 761299).
Money: Martinique is paid in euros. EC machines are available in all major locations, credit cards are accepted everywhere. Info: Maison de la France, Zeppelinallee 37, 60325 Frankfurt / M., Tel. 0190570025.
In Martinique: Office Departemental du Tourisme de la Martinique, BP 520, 97206 Fort-de-France, Tel. 63 79 60, Fax 736693, www.touristmartinique.com.