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Photos courtesy of Martinique Promotion Bureau

With only two brief periods of British rule, Martinique has been a little piece of France in the Caribbean since 1635. Its colonial capital was St.-Pierre, at the foot of Mt. Pelee, which erupted suddenly in 1902, destroying the city and killing almost everyone in it. Since then, the capital has been at Fort-de-France, on the southwest coast.

Martinique is suave and sophisticated, colorful and exciting. It is also very Caribbean, very relaxed, and very vivid. It has beautiful beaches on the south coast, rising continuously to the North, to Le Carbet and Mont Pelee, 4586 feet high.

Resorts include Trois Islets, just across the bay from Fort-de-France, and Les Diamants, overlooking the famous Diamond Rock formation, dubbed H.M.S. Diamond Rock by the British. There are lovely hotels on the east coast and several preserved plantation houses high in the interior. And Club Med’s Buccaneer’s Creek is completely rebuilt, top to bottom.

Fort-de-France is a historically popular cruise ship port of call, and the colonial era fort there is still occupied by the French Foreign Legion. Shopping is chic, and cuisine is vast and inventive.

Not To Be Missed – Rum Festival on December 16, 2007 in the village of Ste-Marie; Le Tour des Yoles is the annual small boat sailing race around the island from July 27 to August 3, 2008; La Tour de la Martinique is a week-long bicycle race in mid-July.

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