Map of Fort-de-France
Fort-de-France, also known as the Fort of France, lies on Martiniques west coast at the northern entrance to the large Fort-de-France Bay, at the mouth of the Madame River. The city occupies a narrow plain between the hills and the sea but is accessible by road from all parts of the island.
In 1638, Jacques Dyel du Parquet (1606-1658), nephew of Pierre Belain dEsnambuc and first governor of Martinique, decided to have Fort Saint Louis built to protect the city against enemy attacks. The fort was soon destroyed, and rebuilt in 1669, when Louis XIV appointed the Marquis of Baas as governor general. Under his orders and those of his successors, particularly the Count of Blenac, the fort was built with a Vauban design.
Originally named Fort-Royal, the administrative capital of Martinique was over-shadowed by Saint-Pierre, the oldest city in the island, which was renowned for its commercial and cultural vibrancy as "The Paris of the Caribbean".
The name of Fort-Royal was changed to a short-lived "Fort-La-Republique" during the French Revolution, and finally settled as Fort-de-France sometime in the 19th century. The old name of Fort-Royal is still used today familiarly in its Creole language form of "Foyal", with the inhabitants of the city being "Foyalais".
The city had its share of disasters, being partially destroyed by an earthquake in 1839 and in 1890 by fire. At the turn of the 20th century, however, Fort-de-France became economically important after the volcanic eruption of Mount Pelee destroyed the town of Saint-Pierre in 1902.
Until 1918, when its commercial growth began, Fort-de-France had an inadequate water supply, was partly surrounded by swamps, and was notorious for yellow fever. Now the swamps are drained to make room for extensive suburbs.
In addition to Fort Saint Louis, there are three other forts:
Other sites of interest include :
A statue commemorating Martinique-born Empress Josephine, the wife of Napoleon, is in the gardens of La Savane. It was vandalized in the 1990s, presumably by individuals who blamed her for supporting the reestablishment of slavery on the island.
As one would expect, French and Creole cuisine dominate Martiniques culinary landscape. The two styles also combine by using French techniques with local produce, such as breadfruit, cassava, and christophine (chayote). Creole dishes rely heavily on seafood, including curries and fritters. An exception is Boudin, a Creole type of blood sausage. A dash of Chien sauce (made from onions, shallots, peppers, oil, and vinegar) adds a spicy touch to meals. The favored island drink, Ti punch, is a mixture of five parts of white rum to one part sugarcane syrup. Creperies, brasseries, and restaurants featuring cuisine from various French regions can be found all over Martinique.