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Monday, February 29, 2016

Fort de France, Martinique Walking City Tour


Martinique was a French colony in the West Indies. Its capital city was St.Pierre, but in 1902, it was virtually destroyed and more than 30,000 people were killed due to a volcanic eruption by Mt. Pelee.
Fort de France became the city of Martinique which is now the primary entryway on the island.

This one hour, 15 minutes tour is not to be missed when visiting the city of Fort de France. There are several highlights as you visit historical monuments such as the War memorial, the Schoelcher Library, La Savane Park, St. Louis Cathedral, Le Marche' Couvert, Aime' Cesaire Theater, Maison Bougenot, Fort St. Louis, and many more.
If you signed up with a group tour, itineraries would be a bit limited since tour guides usually follow the time length of the tour as exactly as it is.
A walking city tour on your own will probably be a bit longer since you can take time as you wish, but you have to have your guide map with you.

Among the tour highlights with noted historical pasts: (Not in order)

  • La Savane Park (Place de la Savane) - This is a 12-acre plaza and park which was built as early as 18th century. It was originally used as a training place by French military stationed at Fort St. Louis.
This photo is not mine (Courtesy of azmartinique.com)


At the southwest corner of the park is the Statue of Belain D'Esnambuc, while at the northwest corner is the Statue of Empress Josephine. Each of the two statue found in the park has its own long story to tell.


Statue of Empress Josephine (headless) and there's a story behind that.


  • Fort St. Louis - located east of La Savane Park, just across the Blvd. Chevalier Sainte-Marthe. The fort was built to protect the harbor and its town from enemies. The fort was reopened in July 2014 when it was reinstated as an active military installation.

  • St. Louis Cathedral - this church is built of iron with a Gothic architectural style and considered to be the most prominent structure that you see when you are in downtown Fort de France. Because it was constructed of iron, it can withstand earthquakes, hurricanes and fires. It was built in 1895, but in those early days, it was destoyed by natural disasters including other previous churches. This is designed by Henri Picq, prompting him to construct its entire frame with steel, - the reason why the church is now called "The Iron Cathedral". The cathedral has extremely interesting huge pipe organs and Byzantine architectural elements.


  • Court of Justice Building - infront of the building is the Statue of Victor Schoelcher, who had an important role in the emancipation of the island's slaves in 1848.

  • Schoelcher Library - this building was initially constructed in 1889 serving as a tribute to French abolotionist Victor Schoelcher. As a contemporary of Gustave Eiffel, designed by Henri Picq, the library was dismantled piece by piece and shipped to Martinique, then reassembled in Fort de france along Rue de la Liberte', just across La Savane Park.

  • Le Marche Couvert - this is the covered market, also designed by Henri Picq which was originally built in 1901, but it was later restored in 1989. Currently, it's now a busy place to go where you can buy local spices, herbs, fruits, veggies, arts and crafts, all local products of Martinique. There are also restaurants within the market that offer local cuisines.
  • Aime' Cesaire Theater - the theater used to be the City Hall of Fort de France where Aime' Cesaire held his office for more than 50 years, - a civil rights leader statesman and a playwright. It was constructed between 1884 and 1901 with a Neoclassical architecture in the Caribbean. At present, it now houses a museum upstairs in honor of Cesaire.


If you are touring on your own, you can also add more landmarks to visit such as the Martiniques Pre-Columbian Museum, Place Jose Marti, etc...

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Seaworld Explorer Tour (St. Maarten)

This 2.5-hour tour is the best way to see the aquatic life underwater without actually getting wet! ;) If you're not into scuba diving, this is the best option.
The tour starts with a 30-minute bus ride through the countryside, and the adventure begins upon reaching a quaint, unspoiled fishing village of Grand Case, located on the French side of the island. Grand Case might be partially hidden throughout its countryside, but it is a paradise due to its famous idyllic bay and restaurants. 
You'll then be stepping along the shore with crystalline waters and then board the semi-submersible SeaWorld Explorer,-considered to be a state of the art semi-submarine craft which was developed for use on the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. Once onboard, you will enjoy a 60-minute narrated tour, - first by looking at the scenic views while cruising through the harbor to the unique geological formations of Creole Rock, as the boat goes closer to it.

Creole Rock


Upon reaching close to the Creole Rock, you will descend into the hull of the boat which is 5 ft. below the water's surface, and comfortably be seated in an air-conditioned comfort while enjoying the last half part of the tour with the help of your tour guide.
In an instant, you will see yourself surrounded by the turquoise waters of the bay of Grand Case as you see the marine life through clear glass windows, observing the coral reefs that surrounds Creole Rock, the underwater gardens and colorful school of fish. If you would be lucky enough, you will also get the chance to see the fascinating green and moray eels!




As you witness and marvel this paradise below the water, a diver will swim by your window while he hand feeds and surrounds himself with clouds of brilliant-colored fish, so you could see them more up close. The diver will be swimming, leading these marine life alongside with him to the viewing chambers (all windows) as he shares the spectacle with you.


Some sea turtles, eels, stingrays and even barracudas can sometimes be around among the reefs, so keep an eye on them, as they can be quick to swim away if they get startled.
This is also a good tour where you can take tons of photos as you wish. If your camera can take excellent photos in an underwater scene, get the chance to sit beside the window! :)
The tour will end up as you go back up the boat deck while returning back to the shore of Grand Case.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Jewelry Gifts For Firefighters!



Most firemen are considered heroes and they are loved. Do you have one from your family? Then you should be proud! They deserve to be honored. Whether he is your dad, your brother, husband, uncles, cousins, they are worthy enough to be called heroes because they are risking one important thing...their lives. 

 How about giving them Joy Jewelers fireman pendants as a surprise gift? Whether you want to honor them, or give these pendants to them during special occasions, they are ideal keepsakes!

Valentine's day is also a good day to shop for these unique items from Joy Jewelers online. So, better yet check their various collections of designs; - maltese crosses, helmet badges, St. Florian medals and many more that come in sterling silver, yellow or white gold. There are some selected items for lady firefighters as well such as beautiful rings and lady pendants.

You don't want to miss these V-day sales! They are all uniquely made in their designs, and rare to find.

Friday, February 5, 2016

The Essential St. Kitts Tour

This is an amazing 3-hour tour if you are visiting St Kitts. in the Caribbean. Itineraries include visits to the 10-acre Romney Garden, the Caribelle Batik Studios, and the Brimstone Hill Fortress (also known as "The Gibraltar of the West Indies") which is the highlight of the tour! 
St. Kitts locals are all descendants from African slaves who worked in sugar plantations during the Industrial Revolution.
Basseterre, St. Kitts has a vibrant culture and multicultural heritage. You will discover its signature landmarks which include both the French and English colonial architecture of Independent Square, the War Memorial and the Anglican Church.

The Romney Garden is an old estate manor located at the edge of the rain forest surrounded by tropical gardens. The garden offers picturesque views, ideal for photographers who love to take photos focused on nature. The most awesome view in the garden is an incredible 350 year-old Saman Tree with enormous branches that go down along the ground, and then going up again like another tree. Truly am majestic creation, only God can do!
Courtesy of Travelmag.co.uk
I have to borrow a photo since I wasn't able to take a photo of this tree while I was there :(. Probably because I was overwhelmed visiting the Batik Studios...;).
It is at this location where local artists get their products used for fabrics that they make at Caribelle Batik Studios, for which they became widely acclaimed. They offer demonstrations about batik products' dyeing technique for free for visitors and customers who come and visit. Their batik products are popular sale!

"Batik" is a term they call for a painted cloth made with colorful pattern of different designs. No wonder why visitors love to buy them.

The last and the highlight of the tour is a visit to the 300-year old Brimstone Hill Fortress located on a 40-acre hilltop at 750 ft. above sea level. Its astounding scenic and spectacular views offers high rolling green hills, with brightly-colored villages at the bottom, all surrounded with the sparkling blue ocean. Don't miss visiting the museum, gun ports and bastions of the historic mountainside fortification.






The next 100 years after its first cannons were built in 1690 showed the intermittent construction of an amazing work of architectural and engineering ideas, which is now well-preserved providing scenic views of the coastline, the countryside and the five neighboring islands.