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2013 Caribbean Hotspot: 5 Surprises in Martinique

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Every Caribbean island has its own specialty, and we’re talking a lot more than just beaches.  Discover the “real” Martinique with Courtney Crockett, who was surprised by her visit to the island to find French culture (minus the French attitude), exceptional chocolate to pair with high-end, signature rum, plus three more island surprises.

Want more? Learn more local Caribbean experiences in Peter Greenberg’s Like a Local guide. 

1. When you step off the plane, you’re in France

The proof: Citizens hold French passports, spend the euro and drink more champagne than any other French region. If that’s not enough evidence, there’s also an exploding contemporary art scene, gastronomy you’d die for, and fashion that places Paris in the Caribbean. Flavored sparkling water, a French staple, was actually sipped in Martinique first. Convinced yet? The vibrant combination of culture and white sand beaches already places Martinique in the dreams of any true Francophile. The rest of us should align our bucket lists and start planning.

Olivier Couturier

Fashionistas must get a look at the haute couture of up and coming designer Olivier Couturier. He hand sews everything from ready to wear pieces to pageant gowns in a style that channels both vintage ’60s and space-age modernism. The common thread and inspiration: Caribbean color. I’m still thinking about his shell-embellished swimwear from this past season. If you want to step down from the runway and shop for traditional Martinican threads, try DODY in Fort-de-France. I liked their tops and long skirts in updated versions of the classic “madras” pattern.

 

Le Zandoli

Gallery goers should visit the modern art exhibits at the Habitation Clément rum plantation. They change frequently and create a go-to place to indulge in fresh local talent. Art fanatic or not, I recommend splitting your stay in Martinique between a luxury resort, (you’d be crazy not to love Cap Est Lagoon Resort & Spa,) and one of island’s many boutique art hotels. My favorite was La Suite Villa, an inimitable sanctuary for all things colorful and quirky. What seemed like every inch, from plates at Le Zandoli restaurant, to retaining walls, to refrigerators were covered in paintings by Cuban artist, Ricardo Ponce. The part of this hotel that made me want to jump up and down on my bed like a five year old…. was the bed itself. Owner and engineer, Giles Duplan, created the raised custom beds so that guests always have a panoramic view overlooking Fort-de-France, even while laying flat. The beds are angled, built up and decorated to royal perfection.

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