Where it all started

Last week, as I was on the beach preparing to go swim in the ocean, I started exchanging a few words with an old man who had just come out of the water. I asked him how the water was – although looking at its transparence I had no doubt of his response. A big smile illuminated his whole face as he answered: “Incredible, as usual”.

When we think of the Caribbean, we immediately envision beautiful, post-card like, fine sand beaches and turquoise water. And indeed, if that’s why you come to Martinique, you won’t be disappointed. However, to me, the uniqueness of this island resides in the incredible diversity of such a small territory.

Wild untouched black sand beaches to the north. Idyllic white or even pink sand beaches to the south. Crystal clear water behind the coral reefs on the Atlantic side. On the Caribbean side, deep blue waters where you can dive to observe a multicolor fauna and flora, or see dolphins playing in the waves. Sugar cane plantations, tropical forests, rivers, waterfalls, volcanoes (among which one is still active ). All in 436 square miles – that is just over about 130 square miles than NYC.

This diversity also beautifully reveals itself in the people and their traditions. Indeed, Martinique stands as one of the few French territories in the archipelago and thus possesses a fascinating mix of West Indian and French influences. You can find your perfect baguette for breakfast, but here you’ll enjoy it with a delicious typical guava jam.

Martinique represents a unique experience of ethnic, cultural and natural diversity. No matter how much I travel, how many beautiful places I discover, it will never cease to inspire me with awe. I might very well be biased, but I couldn’t agree more with the old man who later left me saying, “This is the most beautiful island in the world”.


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  • I remember reading about the enchanting Islands of the Caribbean when I was a boy. My uncle was a sailor and he had a library of sailing books that never ceased to amaze me. There was something ethereal and elusive about The Windward Islands, The Leeward Islands, and The Grenadines that always fascinated me. They were like a world apart, always mysterious and never-changing.


  • And so, it had all begun, very precisely, on the morning of the 28th of January 1936, in Arkhangelsk. He had been invited to perform his first piano concerto with the local orchestra under Viktor Kubatsky; the two of them had also played his new cello sonata. It had gone well. The next morning he went to the railway station to buy a copy of Pravda. He had looked at the front page briefly, then turned to the next two. It was, as he would later put it, the most memorable day of his life. And a date he chose to mark each year until his death.
    Except that – as his mind obstinately argued back – nothing ever begins as precisely as that. It began in different places, and in different minds. The true starting point might have been his own fame. Or his opera. Or it might have been Stalin, who, being infallible, was therefore responsible for everything. Or it could have been caused by something as simple as the layout of an orchestra. Indeed, that might finally be the best way of looking at it: a composer first denounced and humiliated, later arrested and shot, all because of the layout of an orchestra.


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