After Mont Pele destroyed the thriving and fabulous St. Pierre, Fort de France emerged as more than just a backwater town with the title of official administrative capital.Â Fort de France is strategically located (as are all pretty much all the capital cities of the Caribbean) on the islandâ€™s leeward side with a naturally protected harbor and the ominous and historically busy Fort St. Louis, established in 1639.
After parking the car, we opted against visiting Fort St. Louis as the walk to get there reminded us both of Frogger.Â Across from the Fort, the Savane is Fort de Franceâ€™s central park, and unfortunately, the whole area was cordoned off with chained-link fence during our tour day.Â This park houses the statue of Josephine, who, as I mentioned previously, is Martiniqueâ€™s famous, but not-so-favorite, daughter.Â Under normal circumstances, the statue would face her beloved home of Trois-Ilets, located across the Fort de France bay to the south.Â However, in 1992, the statue of Josephine was beheaded, her trunk splashed in red paint, and the accompanying signage either covered in angry Creole graffiti or all-out destroyed, in an obvious political statement.Â Josephineâ€™s head has never been recovered and, more relevant to oneâ€™s understanding of Fort de Franceâ€™s vibe, the monument has never been repaired nor removed.Â There she stands, Empress Josephine, wife of Napoleon Bonaparte the Great, cousin of Aimee Dubuc de Rivery (also known as Sultana Valide and adoptive mother of Emperor Mahmoud II), headless and symbolically bleeding and desecrated for more than a decade, and nobody seems to care.Â More Pictures
Near the Savane lies the Schoelcher library, which was built in Paris in 1889 for the Worldâ€™s Fair.Â Â After the exhibition, the entire building, a baroque assortment of iron arches and fretwork, was dismantled, sent to Martinique, and reassembled to house Victor Schoelcherâ€™s personal book collection.Â The old part of this working library is quite beautiful with its floor-to-ceiling stacks of antique books, stained glass domed ceiling, and exhibits of local artists.Â More Pictures
We then headed to the Palais de Justice, which is the Palais de Ugly, and Hotel de Ville, which is mildly interesting.Â Rounding a corner to find the beginning of the famous, and supposedly haute couture, Rue Victor Hugo, we also stumbled onto a nice square with a nice statue of Schoelcher â€¦ and a port-a-potty.
The guidebook says:
Fort de France, the capital of Martinique, is the largest and liveliest city in the Windwards.Â It is a great place for people-watching, and shops and restaurants abound.Â The central Rue de la Republique has been turned into a delightful pedestrian street.
How much time do I get for rebuttal?
Andy and I stood in Martiniqueâ€™s â€œcenter of the universe,â€ the intersection of Rue de la Republique and Rue Victor Hugo (just the names of the streets alone insinuate their importance), blinking and confused. Â No bars anywhere.Â No street musicians.Â No sidewalk cafes.Â No pushcarts selling baguettes and espresso shots.Â Indeed no restaurants of any kind, except one â€¦ KFC.Â Of the very few open shops at 3:30 p.m. on a Wednesday afternoon, not one interested us.
Â Â Â As such, we got in the car and left â€¦ even though we knew it meant another crappy meal at Mangoâ€™s, the marina restaurant.Â Not only was there nothing to do, Fort de France felt threatening, and I didnâ€™t want to see it at night.Â More Pictures