National Geographic : 1965 Dec
called St. Pierre "the quaintest, queerest, and the prettiest withal, among West Indian cities." In seconds it was re duced to ruins. Except for one criminal confined in a hill side cell, all the people in the city-some 30,000-perished. At the museum of St. Pierre I met the curator, Joseph Bonnet-Durival, 74 years old, who told me about the erup tion. Through his cataract-blinded eyes I had some vision of what the awesome moment might have been like. "I was 11 years old and remember it well," he said, as he tapped his way between display cases with a cane. "My father had moved us out of town, toward Le Carbet. I saw the cloud of steam coming down toward St. Pierre with a dreadful noise, carrying ashes and stone but no lava, mov ing with terrific speed. The ships in the harbor were over whelmed and sunk, all except the Roddam, which was torn from her anchors and crept to St. Lucia with the news." The museum cases held grim relics: nails fused into a blob, a bunch of keys welded into a mass, cinders that once were books or food, the poor box from a church with the coins run together. Walking the still-scarred streets, I felt the town contained memories that could never be erased, even by the shouts of children playing among the ruins. FinisterreTakes on a Savory Cargo For a while the cosmopolitan aspects of Fort de France obscured the fact that Martinique basically is a planter isle. We dined in the true French manner at small bistros, having our choice of such continental delicacies as escargots, the snails beloved by Gallic gourmets, and caneton a l'orange, duck roasted with an orange sauce. From vintners' well-stocked shelves I filled Finisterre's cellar-the bilge under the cabin table-with the rich red wines of Bordeaux and Burgundy and the whites of Alsace. Other shops yielded grappe,a creamy white cheese protected by a thick layer of grape seeds, Camembert, and blocks of chevre made from the milk of goats. We gratefully accepted an invitation to luncheon at Aca jou Estate, and on our way passed through the town of Le Francois. There fishermen sailed in from the sea to offer freshly caught langoustes, clawless lobsters. Acajou was exactly as I remembered it, a 200-year-old mansion set on a terrace of faded-rose bricks, surrounded by giant trees. The wide mahogany boards from which the house was built have turned silver-gray with age, and ivy covers much of the walls. A jalousied porch surrounds a Shimmering with eternal summer, Martinique bursts with blooms. Customers at this mart in Fort de France, the capital, select waxy anthuriums, or flamingo flowers. Many of the women wear traditional madras headcloths. Forced ashore by a squall, village fishermen beach their boats in pelting rain. Waters lapping Martinique teem with snapper, mullet, grouper, and others with more exotic names like balarou and coulihou. Popular island dish es include octopus stew, baked flying fish, and crabs cooked with spinach, green bananas, and lime juice.