Fort-De-France, Martinique

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Some three centuries after Columbus landed here, the French-speaking island of Martinique had established strong economic and cultural ties to New Orleans, thanks to its sugar and rum production. That came to an abrupt halt when Mount Pelée erupted in 1902, destroying the island's rich trading port of St. Pierre. Tourism led to development in other areas, but Martinique sees far fewer English-speaking visitors than other Caribbean islands.

Like Guadeloupe, Martinique is a French DOM, or Overseas Department, which means that the capital, Fort-de-France, is a good-size French city on a fairly small island. The supermarkets are French, the tourism infrastructure is solid and the roads are well paved, so it's a breeze to get around. Within a short drive of Fort-de-France Bay you'll find beach restaurants where you can enjoy a ti' punch, a cocktail made with rhum agricole (which uses sugarcane juice rather than molasses), while listening to a band perform reggae and the local zouk music. Most visitors head south to see the area where Napoleon's wife, Empress Joséphine, grew up on a plantation. Adventurous types can go up-island to explore a vast volcanic terrain covered with fruit farms, cane fields and all sorts of tropical vegetation.

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