Waterfall in the rainforest of northern Martinique
Martinique is truly ''a little bit of France in the Caribbean." It exudes a distinctly French ambiance in the excellence of its cuisine, the style of its population and the beauty of its language. Yet Martinique has a cachet all its own, an endearing West Indian warmth in its personality, a special spice in its music, its dance, its local dishes and its way of life.
The beauty of Martinique is everywhere. It can be seen in its attractive residents (population 400,000), its beaches and its spectacular topography. However, it is the lush vegetation of the "Island of Flowers" that takes your breath away. Hibiscus, frangipani, bougainvillea, anthuriums, poinsettias, orchids and exotic hardwoods are found throughout the island. There are fields rich in guava, mango and papaya as well as vast plantations of bananas, pineapple, sugarcane, cinnamon and coffee. In the tropical rainforests of Martinique, ferns grow as tall as trees and green comes in a thousand different shades.
It is also an island rich with contrasts. The northern part of the island features dense rain forest, mountain peaks and dark sand beaches. The southern areas are much drier and flatter with magnificent white sand beaches. There are charming fishing villages and commercial developments, tiny guest houses and large, upscale resorts. All in all, something for everyone.
The capital city of Fort-de-France, built like an amphitheater around the yacht-filled harbor, is backed by luxuriant mountains and is one of the most memorable, picturesque settings in the Caribbean. It is a city of just over 100,000, with narrow balconied streets, busy and bustling by day, generally quiet by night.
The island is 3275 km (1965 mi) from New York, 2450 km (1470 mi) from Miami, 3783 km (2270 mi) from Montreal, 708 km (425 mi) from San Juan and 7102 km (4261 mi) from Paris. The island covers 1105 sq km (425 sq mi), is 83 km (50 mi) long and 37 km (22 mi) wide.
Martinique became an Overseas Department of France in 1946, a status identical to the departments of metropolitan France. In 1974, it was given the further status of Region. A Prefect is appointed by the French Minister of the Interior. The electorate sends four Deputies and two Senators to the French Parliament. A legislative body, the Conseil Général, is elected by the citizens of Martinique and has 45 representatives. The Conseil Regional, also elected by the citizens of Martinique, has 41 members. Each town has its own mayor.
Martinique is on Atlantic Standard Time (Eastern Standard Time plus 1 hour or Greenwich Mean Time minus 4 hours). This island does not convert to daylight savings time. Time is indicated in the 24 hour format (in other words, 1:15 p.m. is 13:15 or 13h15).
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Photo courtesy of Martinique Promotion Bureau, © David Sanger