Friday, March 24, 2017

1980 - Bourg Ste. Anne, Martinique

Diamond Rock (small bump on left) at sunset.  Taken from Bourg Ste. Anne

To go to the beginning of this book, Tropic Moon: Memories, click HERE.

All the churches in the French islands ring their church bells, tolling the hours.  In Fort de France there were two churches within hearing distance, plus a noon siren, as well as our own marine clock, which chimed ships bells.  No two ever sounded at the same time, making the changing of the hour rather noticeable.  On Easter Sunday, at 10:00 a.m., I thought I heard the church bell chime eleven times.  I listened more carefully at 11:00 a.m., and counted twelve bells.  I mentioned this to Ed, and he, (not being one to fool around), glanced across the water to the clock on the church steeple, to verify Fort de France was, indeed, one hour ahead us.  We realized the island had gone on daylight savings time, but decided not to change our clocks, and to live in our very own time zone. 

Ste. Anne's Chapel

We didn't hear any church bells in Anse d'Arlet.  When we reached Ste. Anne, we were surprised to find their church on Tropic Moon time.  We decided it was some sort of independent move on their part.  Some time later, a Martinique student solved our time zone mystery.  We learned that for the first time in ages (maybe forever?), Europe had decided to go on daylight savings time.  Martinique, being a Department of France, had followed suit.  When the clocks were set ahead and everyone had to get up an hour earlier, the students weren't too happy about it.  After a week of protests, and student demonstrations, the government had returned the island to Atlantic Standard Time.

The Calvary is at the top of the hill

Ste. Anne was a small, pleasant village, and the people were friendly.  A beautiful Calvary, with stone monuments, climbs the steep hill behind Ste. Anne's church.  The Calvary formed the Stations of the Cross, marking the fourteen steps on Christ's journey to his death.  There were stone steps, and gradual inclines, zigzagging between the Stations, as they wound their way up the hill.  My Catholic upbringing came in handy, because I could explain to Ed the background behind the religious statues and monuments.  I told Ed that people are supposed to stop and pray at each Station, and what they pray for is the strength to make it up to the next one!  That wasn't such a joke in Ed's case.  Because of his pains, he stopped several times to stretch out on the walls, to relieve the cramps in his leg.  It was the week after Easter, and each marble monument was covered with partially burned candles. 

Station of the Cross, with burned candles

The view from the top of the Calvary was magnificent; you could see miles of island and seas in several directions.  The beauty was enhanced by the contrast between the white marbles and stone steps, and the bright reds, oranges and purples of the bougainvillea and flamboyant trees.  I had brought the camera along and took several pictures, including some of a miniature Tropic Moon floating far below us.

The view from the Calvary.  Tropic Moon is the second boat out.
Diamond Rock is the small bump on the horizon.

We moved the boat again, this time to the mile-long beach to the north of Ste. Anne.  The beach was lovely, and usually deserted.  It was part of a park and campground; cars paid a fee to come into the area.  I walked in and out several times with no one paying me any attention.  When Sunday came around, our beach really sprang to life.  Cars and buses arrived in the park, disgorging crowds of people onto the beaches.  Wind surfers and sunfish zipped across the water, making colorful patchwork against the blue green of the sea.  Tropic Moon became the tacking buoy in a sailboat race, giving us a grandstand view.  Snorkelers risked life and limb, finning their ways facedown through all the activity; some trailed bright balloons as warnings to the boaters.  Music and laughter wafted out to us across the water.

Three young women swam out to Tropic Moon, and were complimenting Ed on his "pretty boat."  I came on deck and invited them aboard.  They told us they were French language exchange students from Wellesley, Massachusetts.  They were highly flattered when we mistook them for Wellesley College students.  They explained they were mere "enfants" from the high school.  The young women were part of a coed group of fifteen exchange students.  They were at the beach with the fifteen Martinique students who had visited them in Wellesley a few weeks before.  Over the course of the day about twenty of the thirty young people visited Tropic Moon.  It was fun at first, but we did get a little tired of answering the same questions over and over.  One of the young women asked our ages, and I told her we were in our thirties.  It was a little disconcerting when she replied, "So are my parents"!  They enjoyed being on the boat, were very polite, and apologized for imposing on us (which they weren't, really).  Most asked to dive off the bow (the highest point of Tropic Moon's deck), when they headed back to the beach.

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