Fort de France

Overview

Introduction

Fort-de-France, Martinique, is a lovely little city, but unlike places such as Charlotte Amalie in St. Thomas or Philipsburg in St. Maarten, it isn't really a tourist town.

Fort-de-France is a teeming, bustling capital city noted for its excellent restaurants and French fashion boutiques. Be prepared for heavy traffic and narrow, crowded streets, especially when a cruise ship is in port.

The town, which begins at the waterfront and climbs into the foothills of the Pitons, is best explored on foot, but there are many bus tours for those who prefer air-conditioned comfort.

Several sights are worth seeing in Fort-de-France. Place de la Savane, a 12-acre/5-hectare park, is the heart of the city. Around Place de la Savane are lovely colonial-style houses, shops and cafes painted pastel colors and embellished with wrought iron. A short stroll south through the park brings you back to the waterfront where, east of the park, you can see Fort St. Louis, which guards the entrance to the harbor. The first battery dates from 1639. The present imposing stone structure was completed in 1703 and is still an active military base.

Across from La Savane on Rue de la Liberte, at the corner of Rue Perrinon, is the Bibliotheque Schoelcher, a strange conglomeration of arches and domes that was originally built in Paris in 1887. The neoclassical structure across from the Schoelcher library is the Prefecture. Built in the 1920s, it was the seat of the French governor in the colonial era.

Otherwise, spend your time leisurely dining in the restaurants and walking the streets. Even if you don't care to buy, poke around the vegetable and fish markets and the various shops (pay particular attention to the Creole apothecary remedies in which tropical herbs and medicinal plants are used to create homeopathic cures for everything from the common cold to arthritis).

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