Martinique is well known as France’s favoured Caribbean isle, but it is the little commune of Trois Ilets where the two cultures really mesh together. Found directly opposite the busy capital Fort de France, Trois Ilets retains its historic culture – much of it due to Marie Josèphe Rose Tascher de la Pagerie, aka Empress Josephine of France aka Mrs Napoleon Bonaparte. In fact, so proud are the Martiniquais of their famous daughter that they have sanctified her childhood sugar plantation home. La Pagerie is a fascinating museum housing rich colonial artefacts, including some of Napoleon’s rather risqué love letters to his future wife.
Trois Ilets was once an important French colony, and as such played an active role in the slave trade. A trip to the Savane des Esclaves will have you learning of the plight of Neg Marrons – and others like him – slaves who fled the plantations to live alone in the hinterland. Visit the reconstruction of a typical rural shack where Neg and others managed to survive by living off the land and by their wits.
Like many Caribbean villages, life is centrered around the church square. Colourful wooden houses with locally thrown pottery tile rooves flank the typical creole village, while the church itself (where Empress Josephine was baptised) takes pride of place. In fact, so important is pottery to the local culture that the entire village referred to as “Le village de la poterie” in the 18th century.
Unsurprisingly though, the islands natural beauty takes a front seat. Many world class beaches are found here including the lovely l’Anse a l’Ane, and the peninsula of Pointe du Bout (literally End Point). This latter place is where you’ll find most of the seaside fun. Think Hobbie-Cats, kayaking, windsurfing and jet skiing for island exploration – the Genipa Mangrove at the end of the island begs discovery if you like to take to the waterways. If your idea of heaven involves the more simple pleasures of reading and strolling under the shade of the palms, then look no further.