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Martinique: Expérience

 
This tiny island in the Caribbean is actually a part of France - The language is French, the currency is the Euro, and the grocery stores carry a distinctly "Continental" (European) selection of items.
Most visitors are from France and they like it that way - few accomodations are made for those who don't speak French.
Martinique will give your French language skills a solid workout. You will also earn about the island's complex history, develop an appreciation of it's cultural identity, and experience the breathtaking beauty of it's massive volcano, rainforests, mountains, and waterfalls.

Itinerary

This is our essential itinerary for students visiting Martinique - a selection of places and activities that introduce you to this island's spirit, character, culture, language, history, and natural environment (avoiding remote places that would consume time). We spend our arrival afternoon exploring Fort-de-France (the capital city), and over the following days we explore the north (lush landscape with volcanos, canyons, waterfalls, rainforests), the southwest (historic Martinique with museums and plantations), and the southeast (dry semi-desert landscape with salt marshes and wildlife parks). No trip to Martinique would be complete without trying to sail a Yole, so that's included too!
Day City Overview
1 Airborne Meet your Program Director for an overnight flight to Martinique!
2 Fort-de-France On arrival we'll drop luggage at the hotel, change into clothes more appropriate to exploring Fort-de-France under a beating sun, and have our first taste of Martinique's cuisine for lunch. After lunch we'll kick off a student-led orientation walking tour with the students working together to find Marché Couvert Fort-de-France aka Marché aux Epices (Spice Market), Rue Victor Hugo (popular street for fashionistas), Cathedral Saint-Louis, Place de Savane (a palm shaded park with a statue of Empress Joséphine), the Schoelcher Library (inspiring back-story, incredible architecture), ending at La Francaise Beach.
3 Northern Martinique Our morning will be spent on a food tour that brings us into the Tropical Rainforest where we'll visit Sacre-Coeur de la Balata (replica of the famous basilica on Montmartre in Paris, and similarly located high above the city, it has a great back-story and a wonderful view), the Alma River, Saint-Pierre (like Pompeii this city was left in ruins by a volcanic eruption), Saut Gendarme Waterfall, and Anse Turin (a fascinating gray sand beach). Local cuisine for lunch, and then we're off to explore Musée Guaguin (the artist painted in Martinique for a few months), Jardin de Balata (beautiful botanical gardens), ending at the Gorges de la Falaise (invigorating bouldering adventure ending at a waterfall).
4 Trois-Îlets This morning starts at La Savanne des Enclaves (an open-air museum where you'll discover the history of slavery on the island), La Pagerie (explore the childhood home of Empress Joséphine), and Village de la Poterie (former Jesuit Convent turned into a pottery village with lots of locally made artisinal items like soaps and perfumes). Lunch at Anse Matin is followed by a tour that takes us to La Diamont (a beach town that faces the infamous Diamond Rock), "Cap 110" (Anse Caffard's Slave Memorial), a Cocoa Plantation (follow the journey of a cocoa bean from fruit to chocolate), and ends relaxing on Anse Noire (a black sand beach) and it's the neighboring Anse Dufour.
5 Southern Martinique We'll start with a short climb to the summit of Piton Creve-Coeur (for a phenomenal 360° view of Martinique) before we learn how to sail a Yole - essentially a huge canoe with an oversized sail that's steered by leaning it to port or starboard. Yole sailing a team sport with some crew members "hiking out" on long poles to lean the boat and others bailing with buckets if they lean too far! It's a massively entertaining way to enjoy the warm waters and trade winds. After lunch we'll visit Etang des Salines (a salt-lake nature reserve crossed on a wonderful boardwalk) and La Savane des Petrifications (a semi-desert wildlife park), watch the sun go down on the beach, then freshen up for our Farewell Dinner.
6 Departure Flight from Fort-de-France. "Au revoir Martinique!"