The unique snake flag of Martinique is actually an unofficial banner, as Martinique is a French territory where the French flag is flown on public buildings. Having said that, the famous ‘snake flag’ of Martinique has been used since the 1700s on its vessels engaged in trade under French rule. The flag consists of the white St. George’s cross on a blue banner, which represents the surrounding seas. The snakes symbolize a variety of viper indigenous to the island and they are in the shape of an ‘L’ to represent Lucia because St. Lucia administered Martinique as a territory for France in the mid-1700s. Although, ‘unofficial’, the snake flag of Martinique is frequently flown along with the flag of France on many public and private buildings around the island, and is often flown on its own on private establishments.
I have to admit that the small island of Martinique was a mystery to Nina and I, and had never been on our bucket list but we were intrigued when it was one of the ports of call on our Caribbean cruise. Martinique is an autonomous overseas territory of France, where people speak French and Creole, and is part of the European Union. We docked at Fort-de-France, the capital of Martinique and walked into town, which was only a short walk away. Unlike most of the Caribbean islands, their currency is NOT the East Caribbean Dollar, rather the Euro is the official currency so we had to withdraw some Euro from a local cash machine. There are many good shops in Martinique eager to take those Euros, so we did a little shopping.
Later we made our way to Fort Saint Louis, a seaside fortress first built in the 1630s during the reign of Louis XIII of France. It is an impressive looking fortress but unfortunately we were unable to enter the main grounds as the gate was chain locked even though we arrived during the posted open timings. After speaking with a few discourteous locals (what is it with the French?), we found out that you can only enter the fort with private tour guides at specific intervals, which was information not included on the public posting. The whole thing put us off so we gave it a miss after wasting an hour or so.
Continuing to walk around Fort-de-France we came across the Park La Savane where we saw the statue of Napoleon Bonaparte’s first wife, Josephine, who was born on the island. Interestingly, her statue has been vandalized (beheaded) over the years due to the islanders’ belief that she convinced Napoleon to introduce slavery to the island in order to benefit her family’s plantation.
From what we could see, Martinique is a pretty island. All in all, it was an OK day but if I’m honest, it was our least favourite port of call in the Caribbean.
Facts & Figures
— In 1493, Martinique was first charted by Christopher Columbus but was not interested in settling the island
— In 1635, 150 French refugees from the island of St. Kitts landed on Martinique after being driven off their St. Kitts home by the English
— Fort-de-France was originally named Fort-Royal
— In 1902 a volcano destroyed much of St. Pierre, which had been Martinique’s most important city; as a result Fort-de-France then became the center of commerce for the island
— Fort-de-France is easily walkable from the cruise ship terminal or an a visit to the city
— Fort-de France has many nice shops in the town as you have a walkabout
— If you want to tour Fort Saint Louis you will have to book a private tour at a kiosk located on the opposite side of the park adjacent to the fortress; good luck!
— The unit of currency for Martinique is the Euro
Psalm 119:30 – New Living Translation (NLT)
30 I have chosen to be faithful; I have determined to live by your regulations.
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