Walk around Fort-de-France and Martinique-St Lucia-Trinidad on Air Caraïbes and LIAT
…or, otherwise known as, the travel day where almost nothing went right, but in the end, most everything ended up ok.
But, I owe a bit of back story from the night before. Got to my hotel, which I’d chosen based on location (walkable to most major attractions in Fort-de-France for the morning) and on TripAdvisor reviews. I was staying at l’Hôtel Impératrice, which was a very French-feeling small hotel with maybe 20 or so rooms. I’d paid a little extra for the “chambre prestige” and was quite happy with it. Plenty of space to walk around, and what looked like a nice balcony.
It was still pretty early, and again, based on TripAdvisor reviews, I decided to hit Lili’s Beach Bar, which was located in the next town over called Schœlcher, about a 10-15 euro and 15 minute taxi ride. It was located in the Hôtel Batelière down on the beach, and was really more of a bar than a restaurant. I’d gotten there about 8, and there were still plenty of people eating so it was fine. By the time I finished at 9:30, however, it had gone full bar mode and as the reviews note was completely packed with people buying expensive drinks and “paying to be seen.” Food was decent – not stellar, but pretty good. Ended up having a conch pizza which was pretty tasty, along with a Planteur Rum Punch. They were around 10 Euros per drink, but decently tasty.
Back to the hotel and crashed so I could get up and walk around a bit in the morning. Got up in the morning, and went straight out onto my balcony to take in the view. Not bad!
Breakfast was included in the rate, and a decent selection of fruits, meats, cheeses and bread. Fortified with baguette, cheese, nutella, and coffee, I was off for a short wander! I had about 2-3 hours before I had to head back to the airport, and I wanted to make the most of it. The hotel was located on La Savane, which was a large green area/park. It looked quite nice from the side my hotel was on, but the opposite side looked like someone had just given up on finishing the park. It was kinda odd! Started my walk around it, and my first stop was a monument to Martinique’s war dead. The inscription on this statue specifically mentioned the dead in the war of Algeria.
Continuing around La Savane just a short way, I came upon Fort St Louis which was…closed. No visiting today. I would have to settle for pictures from the outside of the Fort.
Continued around La Savane, and eventually came back to the side my hotel was on. Near my hotel was the Schœlcher Library, which based on what I’d read on TripAdvisor was architecturally fascinating. Supposedly it was built in France in 1889, then torn down and shipped to Martinique piece by piece and reconstructed. However, when I got there…surprise, surprise, it was also closed! Ah France in August!
Since everything was closed, I had time to walk a bit further, so I walked a bit more into the city to explore. Next stop was the courthouse, which was mildly interesting, but nothing super special.
Final stop was the Cathedral St Louis. Not surprisingly for the fourth time during my summer travels, there was a funeral going on! I don’t know what it is in 2012, but every time I come upon a church (or other religious site if not Christian) there’s a funeral/cremation/etc going on. I snapped a few pictures while remaining respectful, and moved on.
Quick walk along the corniche on the way back to my hotel. Also stopped to buy postcards, write them, and mail them at the post office before heading back to the hotel to shower up and head to the airport.
Checked out, to the airport, and now we prepare for…..DRAMA! Check-in was no big deal, and we were informed there “might be a delay.” I pushed for details – where was the plane coming from, had it left, etc etc. No details were available from the rather unhelpful check-in staff. Ok, up to immigration, through, and time to prepare to wait. There were no fewer than six flights to Paris going as well, so the tiny airport was absolutely packed. At this point, I’d been watching the hurricane churning through the Caribbean all weekend. It looked set on the Miami/Tampa area the next day, but so far, American was claiming my flight was on time. Or….
*DING* there goes TripIt before American can….Trinidad to Miami tomorrow…canceled. Grrrr, and I’m stuck in an international airport, with no American staff around, and no way to call back to the U.S. without paying $2+ per minute. This is not going to end well at all. There was no way I could afford to get back a day late, so in a Hail Mary I decided to try using 3G data to Skype American….it was a miracle. The call took 50 minutes, but eventually, I got something booked and the sound quality was actually very good!
Fortunately, I also got an absolutely amazing agent at American. She was not only willing to rebook me on any airline I could find, she was willing to try anything at all I suggested. We tried United, we tried US Airways, of course we tried American, there was just nothing at all out of the Caribbean. Due to the hurricane absolutely everything everything was booked. As a last ditch, since I’d be in Trinidad, I asked about Venezuela. Yes, Caracas to Dallas has ONE business seat. We grabbed it. As luck would have it, the Caribbean Airlines Trinidad to Caracas flight was early enough to connect to it, and had ONE seat as well. Miracle of miracles. Now, would it ticket…YES!
It was now over an hour after my departure time, but still…no plane. This was going to be really interesting. Cleverly, all the Air Caraïbes staff were nowhere to be found. Funny how that works. Around 17:45 (over 2 hours late) the plane shows up, and shockingly so do the staff! Quick unload, and load us on, and at 18:00 we closed the door. I was in row one (bulkhead had sounded like a good idea at the time for legroom) but since the plane enters/exits from the rear, it was bad for a quick connection. Crew moved me to the last row, and we had a prayer!
Fort-de-France, Martinique (FDF) to Castries, St Lucia (SLU)
Air Caraïbes Flight 435
Departure 15:45, Arrival 16:05, Flight Time 20 minutes gate-to-gate
ATR-72, Registration F-OIJK, Manufactured 2006
Seat 17F, Economy
Wheels up, and 11 minutes flight time, and we laded in St Lucia at 18:20 – 5 minutes before my connecting flight. There was a Hail Mary chance…but wait, why are there no LIAT planes? Did it leave already? Rush through immigration (there’s no airside transfer here), to the check-in counter, and am informed there’s an hour delay. LOL! Go figure!
Back through immigration (yes, you just saw me 3 minutes ago) and I needed a drink. This was stressful! Thankfully, I’d been through this tiny airport the month before, and knew there was a place to get one!
Castries, St Lucia (SLU) to Port-of-Spain, Trinidad and Tobago (POS)
LIAT Flight 309
Departure 18:25, Arrival 19:35, Flight Time 1:10
Dehavilland Dash 8-300, Registration V2-LFF, Manufactured 1995
Seat 3B, Economy
Flight was full, and completely uneventful! Just the way I wanted it after a day like this! It was 9pm by the time we finally arrived, and nearly 10pm by the time I finally made it to the Hilton – absolutely starved! Quick room service, and off to bed. My flight to Caracas was going to come very very early!