Upon arriving in Fort-De-France, Martinique, all illusions of a charming little island matching the name go completely out the window. Our bus trip out of town on our one hour drive to a secluded beach took us on a six lane highway past industry and multiple car dealerships. I was half expecting some of the charm I had left behind in Guadeloupe. So I’ll just cut this short. Skip Martinique and make a beeline for Guadeloupe. The capital city of Pointe Á Pitre is a pit, but most of the capital cities in the Caribbean are for the most part. Once outside of there the country is a charmer. Back to that later.
Don’t let the pretty day deceive you. This island has an ugly undercurrent.
HIGHWAYS AND INDUSTRY
FINALLY SOME OPEN SPACE
After an hour drive we got to the South Beach which wasn’t all that great. I just sometimes do a good job of making places look better than they are. I slid into my dive skin, and got into a little snorkeling. It was looking a little bleak until I headed over by the shore where I encountered schooling fish and a few little reef systems to keep me busy for about an hour. The sleeve I bought kept my phone dry, but wasn’t particularly good at shooting photos. I did manage to get a few decent shots before heading into the beach.
A few worthwhile photos and fish made the trip worthwhile.
The snorkeling I did was on the shore on right hand side of the picture.
SEA URCHIN & CORAL
This is where things got interesting, and cemented my decision to never set foot in Martinique ever again. My money was in my waterproof phone case and I needed to rinse off the salt water to get at it. A nice guy was making pizza and crêpes at a beachside eatery. I asked him if it would be alright to rinse my case so I could buy something. I did so quickly in the sink next to the pizza oven. Then I found a table and gathered my stuff from a rock next to their place, and put it down on a chair as I prepared to order a ham and cheese crêpe.
It was at this point that an overzealous, sawed off young punk started reading me the riot act for dripping water on an outdoor deck that gets rained on all the time. I was focused on retrieving their money and not on a little water. It’s the beach for Christ’s sake! You’d have thought I’d walked into Maxim’s in Paris with a wet bathing suit and flip flops given the spittle strewn Gallic gobbing I was subjected to.
Just when the dust had settled an older, overweight, stumble bum laid a bunch of undecipherable French vitriol upon me. Again it probably had to do with the negligible amount of water I’d left behind which with a minor flourish of my towel was wiped away with ease.
I think these two sick individuals simply lay in wait for tourists to abuse. I surmised that they probably owned the place. There were no women in sight so I reckon Mom must have left after tiring of being abused. Without her around, the old man probably takes it out on the kid with the chip on his shoulder.
Anyway those two idiots disappeared, and I felt a little peckish so I ordered a crêpe and a Coke Zero from the nice guy. Then the punk shows up again within eyeshot and starts chewing on a pizza. I got to thinking, and decided to not let this guys disrespect go unchallenged. So in the best French I could muster, I informed him that I had a retroactive response to the way he had treated me before. There is a really insulting way of telling somebody to shut up in French. Ferme ta grande guelle, which means shut your big dog’s mouth. Usually “Ta Guelle” for short. I went for the short version.
The nice guy told me it wasn’t cool, and I wondered how those two other guys could justify their behavior to me. Anyway “Charles Ta Guelle” kicked me out of the place which was fine since I wasn’t all that hungry, I got to keep the soda and they wasted a crêpe. Absolutely the rudest French people I have ever encountered in my life. I guess I was looking to even the score from the get go.
Regardless, do not go to Martinique. I encountered nothing but sweetness and light in Guadeloupe. It’s not over-built. The people are nice, the food is amazing, the souvenirs are beautiful and you won’t run into surly buggers like in Martinique.
ONE OF MANY CAR DEALERSHIPS
R2D2’s HOUSE – R2D2 built himself a place with some of the earnings from the Star Wars franchise. C3PO has been known to visit from time to time. Love that building.
INTERNATIONAL NIGHT – After doing battle on the beach in Martinique, I went to my cabin for some International Z’s.
POINTE Á PITRE – Don’t let the pretty picture fool you. Pointe Á Pitre is a shithole. Get to the rest of the island ASAP.
PARC DES MAMELLES – A special eco-park with animals and sky-bridges criss crossing the rainforest canopy. Located in the Basse-Terre side of the island which is more rugged and volcanic than the other side.
JUST ADD RACCOON PELLETS!
Local raccoons form circle in the hopes of inspiring the tossing of additional treats.
FIRST OF MANY ROPE BRIDGES
View from the upper canopy.
ROPE BRIDGE FROM BELOW
This French lady took a little trip back into her childhood, and enjoyed bouncing up and down on the bridges much to the consternation of the tourists of more advanced years.
JAGUAR – This is how I spent most of my time on the ship.
PUMA – The rest of the time was spent searching for food.
Doesn’t every little boy love turtles?
COATIMUNDI – Pig Snouted Raccoon of Central America – My favorite!
CASCADE DES ECRIVESSES
Well the day started as one would expect any proper April Fools Day would with an obnoxious joke played on an unwitting recipient, in this case, me. Upon awakening I tongued one of my front teeth and realized a previously repaired veneer had come unglued. The idea of crunching it up with my lobster birthday dinner the next day was not my idea of fun. Nor was trying to find a dentist with an opening on a Saturday.
Go to the green sign and hang a left, keep an eye out on the left.
I googled away and was shot down twice before deciding to leave the ship and go in search of a dentist. It was 9:00am which improved my odds as I asked a taxi driver if he knew of a dentist who might help. He directed me to one not 150 meters away, and I was instructed to have a seat and they would see if they could squeeze me in. Sure enough, they could, and proceeded to re-adhere the veneer. They even repaired a chipped tooth that a second rate Mexican dentist had just repaired two months before.
DR. SHERRY SAVED THE DAY!
LOCAL SATURDAY SWAP MEET
CASTRIES CENTRAL MARKET
My troubles actually began the night before when I developed a chronic unproductive dry cough. This was probably precipitated by being coughed on unshielded by excessive amounts of passengers in numerous bus tours.
So here I sit, my 60th Birthday is tomorrow and I’m hacking away like I’ve got whooping cough. It’s a good thing I had the sense to skip my tour, get my teeth fixed and scrape up some effective, numbing cough drops. The weather was not very good anyway, and I needed the rest. I’ve got kayaking and snorkeling in St. Vincent tomorrow so I need to have my act together.
Well so much for my Amazing Colossal 60th Birthday Celebration! I was down for the count, and slept the whole day through. Obviously, I missed my kayaking and snorkeling tour, and there was no lobster dinner, no cake, nada. That’s not entirely true, a birthday card from the Captain of the ship was slipped under my door. A small consolation for all the phlegm, vicious throat pain, cold sweats and occasional violent shivering.
WELCOME TO BARBADOS – Chalk up another death warmed over day. Same shit, different island. I missed another tour that involved a catamaran ride followed by swimming with turtles. Instead my excursion took me into town in a group taxi where once deposited I crossed the street and headed straight for the pharmacy where I stocked up on antibiotics, throat lozenges, cough syrup and Advil pm. I walked back across the street, took the next cab back to the port, and walked the 500 meters back to the ship, and that my friends was Barbados.
My Taxi to and from town.
TRIDENT HOUSE – The pharmacy in the corner supplied me with antibiotics, cough syrup, throat lozenges and Advil.
ABBA MANIA – I just about went insane over the poor sound mixing, off-key singing, and chunky lead singer. The only appropriate song would have been S.O.S.
SIX DAYS AT SEA
CROSSING THE ATLANTIC
NICE AND SMOOTH
FRESH ORGANIC GELATO – SMOOTH AND TASTY – I AM SAVED
PALANI – My faithful cabin attendant throughout the cruise making me feel like one of the one percent. Palani 28, is newly married from Southern India across the way from Sri Lanka. He is currently under contract for eight months at a time. These guys work very hard, and remind me how lucky I am to be retired, single and free.
Canary Islands – Tenerife
Santa Cruz de Tenerife was a crucial point for ships sailing to America. It has all the characteristics of a Spanish city, with many prestigious architectural gems, including the Church of the Conception and the Church of St. Francis which I completely missed due to a quick bout of shopping and 3½ hours spent catching up on travel planning in a nice café with free wifi.
I did manage a few nice snaps in the center of town. I must admit that the Canary Islands were a surprise to me in that they are volcanic and arid. I was expecting lots of greenery with canaries flitting about to and fro. It’s really not my scene here, but I did find some things to enjoy nonetheless.
VIEW OF DOWNTOWN SANTA CRUZ
TIME TO HIT THE OPEN SEA
Canary Islands – Lanzarote – Arrecife
Lanzarote is known throughout the world as the “Island of Volcanoes”. It is calculated to have existed for twenty million years. The island arose out of the depths of the sea after continuous gigantic volcanic eruptions. Between 1730 and 1736 the biggest volcanic eruption in the history of the modern world took place. The eruption of the volcano “Timanfaya” covered a quarter of the surface of the island with lava, volcanic cones and ash, burying the most fertile areas.
Arreccife is the most important city, as well as the capital of Lanzarote, the most Eastern city of the Canary Islands. The island’s name derives from the Genovese sailor who discovered it: Lanzarotti Malocello. The island was later occupied and granted to the Kingdom of Castile, which made it a port and a center of commerce. Thanks to the fertile land, today the island is like a splendid garden looked after by its residents.
EXCURSION BUSES AWAIT
EL PATIO – AGRICULTURE MUSEUM
JARDÍN de CACTUS – Creation de Manrique
This Art Installation and Cactus Garden was conceived my the Canary Island’s most famous artist, César Manrique. It houses over 1000 species of cactus.
Oculus in the entry to the bathroom.
STEPS AND BUILDINGS ARE CONSTRUCTED OF LAVA ROCK
MORE BARREL CACTUS
CÉSAR MANRIQUE FOUNDATION
GATE WITH THE ARTIST’S INITIALS
CÉSAR MANRIQUE’S PAINTING
Outside of an early figurative and coloristic period, César Manrique’s (Lanzarote, 1919-1992) painting was characterized by abstraction and research into the properties of materials, with clear references into to the textures of volcanic lava. In the late nineteen fifties, the artist adopted a non- figurative approach in keeping with the tenets of the informal art movement.
He was to remain true to that plastic language throughout his creative career, once it had been consolidated into his art in the nineteen sixties, at the height of of his pictorial activity. In the early nineteen seventies, he introduced figurative references into his paintings, generally related to burials and volcanic ash. In his latter years, he experimented with new materials, including fabric, cardboard, and burlap, heightening the color of his canvasses.
Appearances to the contrary, he never used natural volcanic sand or ash as a material. Rather, his technique involved mixing casein, ammonia, pigments, shellac, sawdust, glue and acrylic paint, among many others.
César MANRIQUE – Tierras Ordenadas – 1958
César MANRIQUE – Pintura No. 58 – 1960
César MANRIQUE – Coxis Enterrado – 1975
César MANRIQUE – Tobas – 1966
César MANRIQUE – Autorretrato – 1970
Well folks good news, the Travelers’ Century Club considers certain territories when tallying up countries visited so by their metrics I managed to hit 100 the day before my 60th Birthday on April Fools Day as I sat in a dental chair in St. Lucia.
So, hooray for that!
I will, of course, continue on until I finish up the full 100 independent countries which are the only ones I list on my website, but it still feels good to have the formality of being recognized by the TCC especially considering what a misery my flipping birthday was.
THE CITY BECKONS
PLAZA DE LA MERCED
As usual Spain offers up another great city. I left the ship and got to the city center early so I could see the city waking up. This is a great time to be introduced to a town before the crush of tourists drain the streets of their charm. Upon entering the square upon which Picasso’s birthplace has a front row seat, I was immediately surrounded by the scent of Spring blossoms.
Much to my surprise this was not the case at all, but the pleasing aroma was coming from whatever the army of street cleaning crews were spraying all around downtown Malaga. Whereas most cities carry the faint odor of fermenting garbage, Malaga flirts with your nostrils like a blushing debutante.
These cleaning crews had modern equipment, trucks in neon lime green with jumpsuits to match. These are not the forlorn janitors you see fighting a losing battle against filth, but a proud vanguard of grime vanquishing Valkyries. I was so pleased that after their successful campaign, they took refuge in the café next to Picasso’s birthplace for their morning repast.
Pablo Picasso was born here on Ooctober 25th 1881.
PABLO’S DOOR KNOCKER
PICASSO SKETCHING IN HIS SQUARE
PICASSO 125th ANNIVERSARY
BEFORE THE CROWDS
FLAMENCO INSPIRED STREET ART
CENTRO DE INTERPRETATION TEATRO ROMANO DE MALAGA
BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY’S – Too bad it wasn’t open. No worries, I’ll be back.
PRELUDE TO PICASSO
PICASSO MUSEUM MALAGA – Pictures Prohibited
Pablo PICASSO – Bust of a Woman – 1928
Pablo PICASSO – Bather – 1971
The quality of these two photos is not up to the usual standard due to shot having to be taken on the fly at waist level so as not to arouse the suspicions of the ubiquitous docents.
TASTES OF MALAGA
BACK TO SEA…..
Last Night Before Rome