Introducing Martinique

Martinique is part of overseas France, much like Hawaii is an offshore US state. The official language is French. Stores sell warm baguettes and fragrant pastries. Pharmacies stock the world-class French scents and toiletries so prized by women (and men) all over the globe. Supermarkets sell mostly French products. Shopping here is not much different from what you would expect of mainland France.

Other than fine wines, Martinicans are obsessed with the sweet, syrupy rums produced by the island's 11 rum distilleries. These distilleries make some of the world's best-fermented sugarcane liquor. Martinique boasts the only rum carrying France's prestigious Appellation d'Origine Controlee (AOC) label. In mid-December 2004, the 24th annual rum festival was slated to kick off a special salute to the rums, dances and music of Martinique. The island's rum fete centres around the island's rum museum in a classic Creole house of 18th century vintage. Rum distilleries, as well as a banana museum, are located in the heart of the island's extensive banana plantings. And oh, the flowers! There seems to be no end of them, especially the conch-pink anthurium blossoms.

Martinique is known for its beautiful people, especially the women. The three Martinicans who ended up beauty queens with authentically royal crowns include: Josephine, Napoleon's first Empress; Sultana Valide, favourite of an Ottoman Empire Sultan and mother of a Sultan; and Madame de Maintenon, secretly married to French Sun King Louis XIV, he of Versailles fame. Josephine narrowly escaped a chopped-off head during the French Revolution. However, Martinicans didn't cotton to her pro-slavery stand and removed her pretty marble head previously topping a Fort-de-France statue. Nevertheless, Josephine's childhood home is a popular tourist magnet. And for students of Napoleonic mementos, the Empress' former home is a must-see.

There are about 400,000 people that live in Martinique an island in the Lesser Antilles part of the Caribbean and an overseas region of France. It has St. Lucia in the north, Barbados in the northwest, and Dominica in the south.

At 1,100 sq km, it's the third largest island in the Lesser Antilles.

The official language is French, others used include Martiniquan Creole, Antillean Creole, and English.

The highest point is the Mont Pelee volcano at 1,397 metres or 4,583 feet. It last erupted in 1792, 1851, and 1902.

The currency used is the Euro.

The largest city is Fort de France with about 90,000 people, followed by Le Lamentin, Le Robert, Sainte Marie, Le Francois, Ducos, Saint Joseph, Petite Riviere Salee, and La Trinite.

Much of the north part of the island is mountainous from extinct volcanoes, with the southern parts being flatter with more beaches.

The cuisine in Martinique is a combination of African, French, Carib Amerindian, and South Asian influences. A well known dish is Colombo, a chicken, meat, or fish curry, spiced with tamarind, wine, coconut milk, cassava, and rum.

Has been the setting for films such as To Have and Have Not in 1944, the Concorde Affaire 79 in 1979, as well as writings such as the novel Solibo Magnificent by Patrick Chamoiseau, the Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys, and the poem Notebook on Return to My Native Land by Aime Cesaire.

There are about 500,000 people that visit Martinique every year.

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