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Fort-de-France, Martinique

Known as Madinina, or Island of Flowers, Martinique is a little bit of France in the Caribbean. Renowned for its scenic beauty, the island is home to countless varieties of plants, trees and flowers, including nearly 100 species of orchids. The irregular coastline, with it's many bays and intimate coves, provides miles of sandy beaches.

One of the most beautiful spots on the island, the Jardin de Balata is a botanical garden in a rainforest setting. As you wander the many paths that lace through the setting, enjoy the many species of tropical trees and flowers, including lots of ginger, heliconia, anthuriums and bromeliads. Equally interesting is the nearby Balata Church, a scaled-down replica of the Sacré-Coeur Basilica in Paris.

Fort-de-France is the capital and seaport of the island, making it the largest city on Martinique. The feel is decidedly French, with Parisian style bistros serving Creole patisserie, fresh fish and vegetable markets, and small boutiques selling the latest fashions and French perfumes.

Around La Baie, or the bay, of Fort-de-France, are the huge organs at La Cathedrale Saint Louis, and the public gardens of La Savane, featuring a statue of Napoleon's empress, Josephine, the most famous person born on Martinique. Nearby, the Bibliothèque Shoelcher is a stunning library building built in Paris by the architect of the Eiffel Tower and transported to Fort-de-France in 1890.

Sugar cane is cultivated almost everywhere in Martinique, and the conversion of its sugar into alcohol creates agricultural rum, considered among the best in the world. Awarded the prestigious French label appellation d'origine contrôlée, this honor was previously only reserved for French wines. Learn about the process at St. James Distillery and Rum Museum, or sample tastings at the Trois Rivières, La Mauny, Depaz, or Dillon Distilleries.
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