For our cruise, I’d settled on not booking any excursions until we were aboard the ship. Most of the offerings seemed like things we could do on our own (i.e.: different beaches, shopping areas, etc) by way of taxi.*
*And after being candidly told by the excursion desk representative while vacationing in Sint Maarten that one downtown excursion could easily be done by catching the local bus for $2 per person, I scrutinize excursions much harder now.
That said, we ended up booking an excursion for our time in Martinique. This stop had been part of the ship’s revised itinerary, and in way of shopping, they didn’t have too much to offer. While, of course, they had beaches, I figured the other four islands we were stopping at would possibly have beaches, too.*
*Because, you know, we were in the Caribbean, where beaches are abundant.
The tour which caught my eye was for a visit to a rum distillery. While there were two different rum distilleries on the excursion list, Habitation Clément appeared to me the better choice.
Domaine de l’Acajou, as the estate was originally known, was purchased in 1887 during the peak of the sugar crisis. From this humble beginning, Homère Clément turned the grounds into what is now known as the Mecca of Rhum Agricole. Today, Habitation Clément receives an average of 160,000 thousand spirit enthusiasts per year.
The property has been used for many major events. Pictured above is a building which used during the Gulf War in 1991 by French President Francois Mitterrand to host U.S. President George H.W. Bush and State Department delegates as they worked to finalize plans to end the war. The building is now home to a video on the event and several framed newspaper clippings.
The variety of plant life existing on the property is spectacular, making it no wonder that they have their own botanical gardens which visitors can spend time in.
Instead of visiting the gardens, after our tour and tasting of their rums* and liquors, we headed off to Habitation Belfort, a banana plantation.
*Where I learned just how strong straight up rum is and more fully appreciated the beauty of a mixed** drink with rum.
**Keyword: mixed. I prefer never again to burn away my insides with straight up rum, thank you.
I’d chosen the excursion with the banana plantation because the other Habitation Clément excursion option included the botanical gardens. Not that I have anything against beautiful plants, but we’ve already gone to one in Miami, so I couldn’t imagine it would be much different.*
*And I’m sure all botanists out there hate me for uttering such a comment.
I eat bananas, but I dislike banana flavor*, so I didn’t expect to care too much about the banana plantation**, yet as we boarded a small “train” to take a tour of the plantation, I realized my preset thoughts were way off.
*So, basically, if I am not eating a plain old banana, I want nothing with banana in it, on it, or tasting of it.
**But was still intrigued, if that makes any sense.
As we passed this open view of baby banana plants, a man behind me on the train whispered to his wife, “This reminds me of Nam.”
Yup, that basically sent shivers up and down my spine.
I absorbed such an unexpected education on the start to finish process of growing bananas. We watched as workers cut down a banana plant*, hauled it to the truck, and processed it in their factory.
*Learning that each plant will only harvest one grouping of bananas in their life.
I counted somewhere around 17 bunches of bananas that this one plant yielded.
At the plantation, we tasted a sample of their pineapple wine*, banana chips, and dried mango.
*It was supposed to be banana wine, but apparently on Sundays it’s pineapple.**
**And although I sort of wanted to see what banana wine tasted like, the non-banana flavor lover inside of me was grateful.
Aside from this little excursion, the only other island flavors we enjoyed during this vacation were a beach side meal of jerk chicken in Antigua* and this lovely plate in St. Thomas:
*I’m pretty sure this is a required meal any time you enter the Caribbean.
Can you find the nachos in these pork nachos? I swear, they’re there!
I decided there was no way I could post about local flavor without sharing this dish with you. Hubby and I popped into a little cantina in Charlotte Amalie around 11 am* and fell in love with their tacos and nachos.**
*I’m sure you understand, since we weren’t on the ship for second breakfast or first lunch we needed to fill in the gap.
**We definitely could have ordered one or the other, but couldn’t control ourselves.
These nachos have changed nachos for me for ever.