The Rally is an opportunity to refresh pilot’s knowledge. Amongst other tests taking place during the rally, pilots are invited to evaluate flight time from one destination to another. Ben and Thomas were assigned to take the engine start and engine shut off time from each crew. The flight from Nevis to Martinique took a little over one hour.
Contrary to last year, we enjoyed a clear view of the coast and airport and everyone was able to arrive at roughly the same time so tower had us backed up in order to let “the big guys” land in between.
Welcome to Martinique! started with the usual easiest and fastest “hard to beat” customs clearance ! Martinique is the Official Governor General’s Cup Air Rally turning point since 2011. Martinique is equidistant from the coasts of Venezuela and Haiti/Dominican Republic. As every year, we will spend three days enjoying French/creole culture, cuisine and lifestyle. Follow me !!chocolate and cake, Rum Punch ? a bag of souvenirs to take home… and beautiful folkloric dancers set us into the mood! Georgie and Jessica, Tourism representatives and members of Martinique flying club received us with open arms. Jessica, who speaks perfect English, was to be our guide during our stay. No time to waste ! Martinique has so much to offer… we jumped in the bus to the hotel. As every year, we stayed at the ideally located Hotel “La Pagerie”, town of Trois-Ilets, near beaches, marina, and little fashion and souvenir “boutiques”. After a quick lunch, we boarded the ferry to Fort de France for a visit of the legendary Grand Marché where locals have been selling herbs, spices, produce and a variety of merchandises for generations. Still time to visit nearby fashionable shops in search of the latest trends directly from Paris. We would catch the last ferry back to Trois Islets and get ready for the celebration diner offered by the Martinique Tourism Committee. This year the event took place at the colorful hotel resort “Bamboo”, a replica of a creole village, on the “Baie des Flamands”. The diner was accompanied by a spectacular show with very skilled Martinique dancers. Some of us joined them onstage… Martinique is a beautiful island with a lot to see and a lots to do!. A vacation in Martinique brings a lot of opportunities and one visit is never enough. Opportunities also include a day visit to neighboring islands. The closest to the north is Dominica, 16 miles away and Saint Lucia, 23 miles away to the south. St-Lucia maintains strong ties with its neighbor, Martinique, mostly through the traditional sailing event called: The Gommier Canoe Crossing launched annually from Gros Islet around March 14-16. This has nothing to do with the spectacular “ tour des Yoles” which is the most important sports event in Martinique taking place around July-August http://yoles-rondes.net/portail-fyrm/index.php Saturday, early morning, twenty eight of us sailed to St-Lucia onboard a 75 foot chartered catamaran. The balance of the group chose to fly (4 aircraft total). All would be meeting at the Capital Castries. Flying was the best way to see the famous St-Lucia Pitons that rise to 2619 ft from the water located on the southwestern coast of St. Lucia. I was onboard 1 of the two aircraft that got to fly around the Pitons: Can’t wait to see the GOpro footage… Like most Caribbean islands, St-Lucia is covered with lush tropical rain forest with natural waterfalls and majestic pics that offer breath-taking views. (Photo courtesy Michael B.) It took two hours for the boat to reach Castries port. Rally “sailors” disembarked and toured the town.Pilots here in the picture were met at the airport by St-Lucia tourism representative and tour guide.This island being a different country (28 Caribbean Countries in total) boaters and pilots had to clear customs. This happened to be our 5th customs clearance in 8 days! “Pas de souci!” (no problem !)
Our group headed for the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. This Cathedral is the pride of local artists; An amazing piece of architecture decorated with painted glass windows and wooden walls and alter. Next stop: the national landmark “Pigeon island” a living museum within a natural setting, a reminder of late eighteenth century naval power which consists of numerous forts, one of them was used by the British to spy on French ships coming from Martinique. Our guide was a wonderful lady who made our visit a very fulfilling experience. We particularly enjoyed the spectacular view of St-Lucia’s coastline. The group of “flying” visitors returned to the airport and in only a matter of 20 minutes we were back in Martinique… time to enjoy a supper at one of our favorite restaurants by the marina !!! and have a nice chat with the waitress who by now knows us well. The next day was a Sunday so forget about going to Fort de France, everything is closed; Perfect time for a tour of the Northern part of the island, with stops along the way at the “Jardins de Balata” a botanical garden which has thousands of varieties of tropical flowers and plants that grow naturally in Martinique called rightfully “the island of Flowers”. From there we proceeded to the old Capital St-Pierre which used to be “Small Paris of the Antilles” but was wiped off the map by the volcanic eruption back in 1902. Saint-Pierre never recovered. It is now a modest commune of some 5000 inhabitants. From there we headed towards the Montagne Pelée (volcano) across the rain forest and stopped at the great restaurant “La Chaudière” nestled in the heart of a tropical garden. Next stop, the “Musée du Rhum Saint-James ». Located inside the distillery tells the history of rum going back to the beginnings in 1765. It was actually started by the Brothers of Charity. Martinique rum is so special that it even has an “appellation controlée” of its own. Martinique has a lot to offer and is a “perfectly safe and family oriented” destination. There are a great number of accommodations offered at a very reasonable price including short term vacation apartments, beach bungalows, B&Bs. It is a very easy island to drive around. Many of us rented a car and had a great time. Thank you Martinique for this again wonderful experience!!! See you next year !