As it was carnival on next door to the North in Martinique, our obvious place to go was Fort de France, the capital.
It turned out that we had some teething trouble still with the diesel system, which knocked the wind out of our sails. Whilst the boys went to carnival, I stayed on board and worked my way through the system, eventually tracing the problem to a new & very expensive racor water separator, which had been fitted in St Lucia. Ho, hum, all better now.
Dwindling time and the need for a touch of civilization saw us back track to Marin in the very South of Martinique. What an eye opener, if anyone is planning a first stop after an Atlantic crossing, this is the place. From every marine service and French style supermarkets to beautiful anchorages, this has the lot. Only down side, it is mini France, not very Caribbean.
Penultimate day here today, a real swim & relax day, meal ashore tonight, then off to Panama tomorrow. Its a shame to have had so much down time and little playtime since crossing, however all aboard are now eager to get to sea again.
In keeping with our new found eagerness, when Konrad and Andras came back from their morning shell hunting expedition, Vicky, Rob & I decided to head ashore, use a cafe terminal to ‘clear out’ and book a table for the evening. After so many days of stress & repair getting the boat fixed, it was with conscious effort we took in the waterside village of Sainte Anne, with its square and dominating, but welcoming church. It seems that the proprietor of the cafe, which holds the only customs clearance computer, had over exerted himself during the previous few days carnival, as he was now closed until tomorrow. That took the edge off our urgency in the morning, as some of us would need to come ashore again. We selected a restaurant which had all the right attributes, but rather than appear over eager, went to the seafront for lunch. Now as most of you know Vicky and I are long in the tooth enough to know that waterfront dining rarely climbs high enough to meet even the lowest of expectations, but world travelling Rob would not listen to our cynicism and chose prime location. In truth it was either this restaurant or a kebab stand. What can I say, location perfect, that’s me being positive. After those nice people who own my credit card had paid for lunch, we resolved to book tonight’s place, lest we end up water front again, no kidding the vegetarian option, the only option was chips. Average plate cost 30 euro, a classy joint! Being out of touch with all things French, when we got to our preferred evening eatery at 2.30pm it had obviously closed for lunch, aah!
Post siesta onboard, the team loaded into the dinghy promptly at seven, to make sure of a table. Maitre D’ greeted us suspiciously at the door, eyeing the shifty disposition of our multi national crew, we didn’t come ashore together much at this stage. When addressed with the ubiquitous eyebrow raised “Oui?” I really wished I had paid more attention in school! What I wanted to scream was, Oui, Oui, what? This is a restaurant, I know that because it said it out the front, we are a group of people who would like to eat. It’s fairly obvious you don’t serve petrol, so cut the shite, count the number of the party and match that up with a table that has an appropriate number of chairs and don’t chew so much garlic before evening service. Instead I managed a meek “we would like to eat, a table of five perhaps.” “Mais non, deux, trois, quatre, oui, cinq… c’est impossible.” I peer around him at the completely empty restaurant and suggest that we would only like a main course, eat quickly and begone. Alas he responded “I have many reservations;” I know what you mean I thought, I was starting to have a few myself.
Passing Saturday evening service, we were shocked at the attendance in the church, doors were open and it was standing room only, I guess with the beginning of lent guilt was big business. Inexorably we were drawn to the scene of our mid afternoon culinary disaster, but just as we were to cross the threshold, salvation. Not from the church this was more obvious, a round strip light lit sign, proclaiming ‘Restaurant Cajun Food’. To back up the declaration, the sign was haloed by low energy light bulbs arranged like detonators on a mine.
Auspicious for salvation maybe, alas lunch had really been that bad. A kindly gent explained that the church congregation would descend shortly, ravenous to begin lent. However noting our emaciated state, he offered a table alfresco, a charming group of mismatched 21st century blow molded plastic, which at this stage we were grateful to occupy. The menu appeared more of a catalogue from which you could order various bits of bovine body parts, until that is the last line, which I swear as I read it, coincided with the heavens opening and a heart rendition of Hosanna. I snapped from my reverie realising that the heavens had indeed opened and our group had huddled under the Heineken umbrella which was central to our table decor. So our order was placed, four steaks and the mysterious sounding, but entirely plausible plate vegetarian. None too soon as Hosanna had ended and the faithful stampeded from the church, already reaching the outskirts of our eatery, much more cheerfully accompanied by a rasta playing a steel drum. Red wine was ordered, poured, assessed and demolished, fears were voiced about the time it may take to be served, when miraculously (it was that type of night) all four steaks turned up swiftly followed by more red wine. Eat, eat I chastised my friends, as some of the meat looked as if it could get up and leave the table by its own volition, were it not held down firmly by a fork. You see, I explained, a bit more effort goes into this veggie stuff than your warmed up dead animal. Despite assurances to the contrary by the end on the 3rd bottle of red, hope for my meal was lost and after the 4th bottle which I insisted was gratis to ease my suffering, all desire for food was gone. In fairness as I (or more accurately, my credit card angels) paid the bill, our waiter was still trying to foist an aluminium parcel onto me lest I should expire from malnutrition.
After a night cap in a place which was entirely populated by the clientele of a cruise ship, I declared whilst I may be pissed, I am in no way way that pissed, we left and returned to the boat.