March, 2009

Arrival at Fort de France, Martinique

After an all-night sail from St. Lucia, we arrived early in the morning at the town of Fort de France on the island of Martinique.

Our first view of the town of Fort de France

We started to come into the east port of the town, which took us by a French frigate stationed there (the Ventôse), but in the end the anchorage wasn’t deep enough so we sailed back to the western part of the town, and anchored offshore.

The French frigate Ventôse alongside the light ferry ship Francis Garnier

Shortly after anchoring we went ashore to see the town. By this point it was late in the morning and was getting increasingly hot. We didn’t find the people in the town to be at all friendly, though we did our best to speak in halting French. Stil, it was a pretty town.

Walking up a street in Fort de France

The cathedral in Fort de France (Cathédrale Saint-Louis de Fort-de-France), Martinique

Erika with a yellow flower she found placed in her hair

The Tricolore flies over Fort Royale; Martinique is considered part of France, so we visited Europe while in the Caribbean (and paid for the privilege in Euros).

Annie and Erika sorting out the shells Annie had collected

Some sample shells

The beach adjacent to the west side of Fort Royale

Close-up of a collection of shells (and these were the rejects!)

Twilight over Fort de France

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The “Ruins” at Pointe du Bout

A cloudy morning over Fort de France

When we got up in the morning, we had plans to head over to go on one of the buses in town and do a picnic lunch at a botanical garden located on the island.

Once we got to shore though, Vanessa was clearly unhappy at the prospect of getting on a bus and traveling anywhere by road. So at the drop of a hat we changed our plans and decided to head over by ferry to the southern side of the large bay we were in, over to Pointe du Bout where we had heard were more extensive beaches and had other things to see and do. So we hopped on the ferry and headed over.

Windblown at the front of the fast ferry to Point du Bout

I’ll admit to being a bit cheesed at not going to the botanical park, mainly because I was hoping to shoot some good pictures there, but I wanted to stay with the family and see how Poinet du Bout panned out.

In the end, I wasn’t much impressed with what I saw there. The only public beach available was that by a defunct hotel which was undergoing a slow and haphazard dismantelling. From what I could make out, it seems as though the place was to be levelled (or intended to be leveled) to make way for a set of luxury condos. In the meantime it was left largely to go to ruin, so relaxing on the beach there felt a bit like being in the aftermath of a warzone. The beaches themselves were largely clear of debris, and it was clear that it was a popular place to hang out with the locals and some of the more adventuresome tourists,
but if it weren’t for the beach I wouldn’t have voluntarily have wanted to go there. Especially with active demolition (or was it low-level looting?)
going on just behind us.

Still, I decided to venture around and take some shots of the place. Ruins always make an interesting subject to shoot.

A view of the north wing of the hotel from the beach. No glass in the windows, and large concrete blocks to indicate where the edge is.

The spiralling external fire escape staircase

A view of the front of the building

Another view of the front, which must have looked impressive at one time (am guessing it was made sometime in the 70s by its look). You can see its name by the tile palm tree: Kalenda. All of the debris strewn about made me wonder if this was more of an abandoned building actively being looted piecemeal than a proper demolition. Am sure the answer lies somewhere in between.

Inside, looking south towards the elevators

Inside, looking north, by the concierge desk

Looking north-west, towards the beach area

Behind the check-in counter

Looking outside to the south-west

If it weren’t for the broken vent fans and the absence of glass in the windows, you could be fooled into thinking that this was still a working hotel.

A view from the the road leading in to the former hotel

The hotel from the beach

A sign announcing a future luxury condo development. This development seems to be dead though, as the URL they list no longer exists.

Erika and the girls hung out the beach by the former hotel for most of the day. Feeling restless, I explored the small town that was next to it, along with the deliberately touristy stores that were also there. Found plenty of other beach-side restaurants, plus other places where one could stay, though nothing approaching the size of the former Kalenda Hotel. The other big draw to the area was a local casino, but it was small and not much to look at. The small tourist-town was nice enough, but not enough to make me recommend the place for a visit to anyone else.

A “rock family” Vanessa put together down by the beach

A beautiful blooming Hippeastrum outdoors. (Similar to the one I shot earlier this year, but outside).

A little brown bird on a ledge; some sort of finch judging by the beak

Blue sky, and the gingerbread lining the roof facade of a store

By the late afternoon we took the ferry back to Fort de France, where the girls went searching for fabric to bring home as a gift for the woman looking after our dog at home. The fabric place in town happened to be adjacent to the local cathedral, so I took the opportunity to take some more shots of it.

The whole of the Cathédrale Saint-Louis de Fort-de-France and the small square that faces it.

Detail of the mid-section of the tower.

The top of the cathedral’s tower, clearly in need of a fresh coat of paint.

We met Jennifer on shore shortly afterwards. as she was waiting along the shoreline for the friend (Reinhard) she had invited down to join us on the boat. Unfortunately Reinhard had flown into St. Lucia instead of Martinique the day before, and he doesn’t have a cellphone, so all she had from him was a text message over the Internet saying that he “was here”. Where exactly “here” was in Martinique wasn’t exactly clear, and it seemed likely that he didn’t know either. Jennifer came back to the boat with us, and we saw that the crew had put up the racing flag, which the words “Volterra” in big letters along with the griffin and dragon logo, in the hope that maybe he would see it. It also gave me the opportunity to shoot pics of it with the camera.

The S/Y Volterra with her racing flag flying, as seen from shore

View of the flag from onboard

Not long after we got back on the boat, Matt and I simultaneously thought we heard someone shouting from the shore. Yup, it was him. Matt got in the dingy and picked him up from the shore.

Reinhard’s tale on getting here was a comedy of errors. Landed in St. Lucia which is where the boat wasn’t. Basically spent the entire evening awake since he didn’t have a place to stay, and ended up partying (and keeping an eye on his wallet) with a bunch of “working girls”. At the crack of dawn, he found a ferry that would take him over to Martinique. He got to Martinique, and wondered where the heck we were. Turns out he landed well south of where we were, at another stretch of coastline. This was where he sent his plaintive “I am here” message from. Eventually, in talking to the locals he figured out that where we were was likely not where he was, and made his way over to Fort de France, where he eventually spotted the S/Y Volterra. He had some real passport fun (he had not officially landed in Martinique) and was able to access his money from any local bank machine, so he was very, very relieved when made it to the yacht.

After the stories, it was time for another memorable meal under the stars, while watching the sunset over the harbour.


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Sandy Island and Carriacou, The Grenadines

Erika catching some sun on deck

Erika and the girls snorkeling in the waters off Sandy Island

Underwater shot (by Jennifer) of a turtle

Conch shell on the dark sandy beach of Carriacou

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Last Morning in Barbados

This was our last morning in Barbados. Penny, an old friend of Josef’s who lives in Barbados was to join us for our sail out to The Grenadines. So this was my last chance to take some pictures in and around the marina where we were berthed.

A coconut palm with an unripened coconut.

The customs house/office building at the marina.

Looking north-west from the bridge

White flowers against a blue shy

The bridge rimmed with purple flowers, and a palm tree

Annie and Vanessa on deck having a fruit drink before we set off for sail.

The S/Y Volterra docked, with hatches open

Close-up of a block of coral rock that lined the beach

Josef at the wheel with Matthias in the background

Penny and Josef

Jennifer ties up the boat fenders as wet set out from Barbados

Matthias and Jean-Claude put up the main sail

The mainsail hoisted

It wasn’t long before Annie, Vanessa and I started feeling queasy. We took some medication but it didn’t do the trick for us; the girls were repeatedly seasick and I came down with a nasty migraine. Penny couldn’t go below decks without feeling ill so she slept out under the stars on deck. It was the first long sail for myself and the girls — the first of many, though thankfully this was the longest single sail over the course of our trip.

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Visiting the Mount Gay Rum Distillery, Barbados Day #2

In the morning we headed off to the next major town south from the yacht, which was Holetown. We stopped off at a small place that sold arts and crafts to tourists. Annie used her allowance to buy herself a small mermaid doll, which was a real hit. I bought a hat to keep out the sun, and we saw this tree containing masses of huge, fleshy flowers, apparently called a “Cannonball Tree”.

A “cannonball” flower. We were told that the tree it came from was one of only three on the island of Barbados (turns out they originally come from South America. We were told this this example was one of only three on the whole island.

A view of the actual tree it comes from

An extended branch about to bud multiple flowers

Me with a new hat

Riding the bus on the road heading south towards Bridgetown

After a lengthy walk from our bus-stop in the hot mid-day sun, we made it to the Mount Gay Rum Distillery.

The sign outside the distillery

Our very animated (and good) tour guide

An old Pot Still from the original refinery, dating back to the 1760s.

A Coffey Still Rectifier, which is more typical of the modern distillation process.

Erika and Jennifer preparing themselves to smell the high proof rum

A moment later

Sampling various rum-based drinks at the conclusion of the tour

Vanessa enjoying a cold, non-alcoholic, drink at the Mount Gay bar

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First Day of Vacation: Barbados Day #1

Had an uneventful flight heading down from Toronto to Barbados on the Air Canada flight down. Once we got past customs we found our way to a taxi van which was driven by a delightful woman driver who took us on a scenic (and oddly, more direct) path to the yacht club at the south western part of the island. On the way there we saw palm trees with coconuts, kids playing outside their schools (each in the own distinctive and colourful school uniforms), breadfruit trees, and many other sights of rural Barbados. Afterwards we regretted not getting her name and taxi number, as she was very friendly and clearly liked Annie and Vanessa.

We made it to the yacht which was anchored at the Port St. Charles marina, close to Speightown, which is in the north eastern part of the island.There we met Erika’s sister, her Father and the crew: Jean-Claude (who is captain when Erika’s father isn’t on the boat) and the first mate, Matthias.

The cove we were in had a nice snady beach on the other side from where the boat was docked, so after we had unpacked and settled in, the girls got out their swim gear and I got out my camera gear. 😉 Here are some of the shots I took:

I love palm trees. (This ended up being my Facebook “Picture of the Day” for the 365 Group).

Did I say I loved palm trees?

The S/Y Volterra that seems dwarfed by the motor yacht moored beside it.

Head of a flying fish found on the beach.

Vanessa and Annie swimming in the shallow bay at the Marina

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Sinister Pete Visits Canada

A rare non-posed shot of “Sinister” Pete Vamos, a long-time friend visiting from Ireland. Bill Wood and I go to see him while he was in Canada briefly to be with his Dad, who had just come back from the hospital. Bill and I took him to a local pub and he told us about his life in Dublin, being a new Dad, what his wife is like, etc. This was the first time I had seen Pete for several years, but he was still the same ol’ Pete.

The colour from the flash was to harsh, so converted to sepia and toned down the detail level.

This was my one and only chance to see him during his visit to Canada, since I was leaving the next morning on vacation.

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Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Rehearsal

I went to pick up Vanessa after school today. She was still practicing with her group for their presentation of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory they plan on presenting at the end of the school term. Shot this picture while I was waiting.

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Long-Tailed Duck

A male long-tailed duck down by the beach. Taken using a telephoto lens (they are very shy).

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