There is an annual cabin trip that my college friend group takes each year that we have coincidentally always missed. This year I was determined not to…. and I suggested we do something tropical since it is the year of many of our 30th birthdays.
One of the girls found flight deals for Norwegian airlines and found round trip flights to Martinique for under $200… so we were sold! We quickly jumped on the flight deals and figured we would worry about the rest later. I grabbed us an additional flight from ATL to BWI just to make sure at least the flights were booked.
Martinique is apart of France … which means that the primary language is French…and of course NONE of us can speak it. WHOOPS.
Later came… and we quickly realized why flights were so inexpensive. We had a group of 21 at the time we began searching for hotels or houses for our dates… and finding comfortable accommodations was like finding a needle in a hay stack. BUT one of the girls found an amazing property that had 2 Villas available for us and we were sold. Villa Palms in Le Vauclin!
My job was to find the best rental car options since the other girls had organized the housing. I was worried! I had found that most of the car rental places had VERY limited numbers of automatic vehicles. Someone from the villas offered us rates that seemed too high so I checked on priceline.com and found that Avis had the best and most reasonable prices so the 4 people that were assigned to be drivers made reservations and we were all set… or so we thought!
As we got closer to the trip one of our planners worked very hard to put together excursion options for us. We had difficulty getting responses and understanding some of the messages because of the language barrier… but we made reservations…. or so we thought!
My next role was to work with one of the guys to make our list to pre-stock our fridge to ensure we would have breakfast foods, water, snacks and at least one dinner. Converted gallons to liters and job was done! … or so we thought! (sensing a pattern??)
We used groupme to pack and get excited for the trip.. and finally it was travel day! We all met in front of the check in desk at BWI ready to go! Our first surprise was that we did not understand the bagged policy of this airline. Our personal item and carry on bag were both weight and if over 12 kilos our carry on was required to be checked… whoops! At least we had prepaid for this in our seat pricing, some had not but luckily it was waived for them.
The flight was only about 4 hours and as soon as we landed immigration was basically non existent… bags picked up! Now to the rental car place… all 17 of us patiently stood in line at Avis for about an hour before our first of the group was up… And then we learned why they were the cheapest. On priceline.com you are given a option for insurance per day and also an amount that is due at pick up. WELL! If you don’t add the rental insurance Avis would like you to put down a 2,000 Euro deposit, oh but don’t worry… if you do choose the insurance… they only want to hold 1,000 Euro. Because that seems logical right?Our rental car was additionally in very poor condition! It had large dents and ants! But it was sorted and all 4 of us had our rentals. We rode a shuttle to pick up the actual cars and come back around to pick up the rest of our 17 deep party.
We opted to drive right to the villa because we knew it was about 45 minutes away and that the fridge was stocked so we could eat dinner. Apple maps in a foreign country with questionable cell signal is REAL fun! after several turn arounds and trying to find our way we made it to a banana patch gravel road that led into the drive of our Villas…. and the rain came, at this point we were all starved, tired, and pretty annoyed. Was all this worth it?
We walked in our Villas and the answer was YES. Our villas were beautiful, comfortable, spacious and had multiple common areas for us all to enjoy. Marilyn was there waiting for our arrival and gave us the keys, codes and showed us the pre-stocked fridge… where we found that some items were missing but no worries! She made a call and we followed her 15 minutes away to a restaurant that stayed open for us so that we could eat…. PIZZA for dinner. At this point it did not matter, we were together and tomorrow was a new day! Luckily the Villa had wifi as well so I had a facetime date with our baby to look forward to in the morning.
After a quick nights sleep in what sounded like a sleep machine turned to the rain forest setting, we were up and ready to go. We knew that we had to be to the excursion by 9am, but had discovered the gentlemen we booked with had us set for Monday when all our emails said Saturday. You have to love language barriers! We also could not find the actual address for where we needed to go! But we loaded up and set off early anyway… and got a bit turned around… and during a 45 minute scramble actually found the address and made it just in the nick of time! Only to discover that half of our group had not been booked and their spaces were given away. Fortunately we were able to split 10 on a catamaran and 7 followed on a fishermen’s boat. They were able to stop at Josephine’s Bay with us, a small island where we visited a former cane plantation and ate lunch and they even got in an extra stop at a beach! Overall it turned out to be an amazing day. Once we docked they had found a restaurant across the street that was willing to open for our group and serve us chicken or shrimp so that we could eat early dinner. This was followed by a shower and a quiet night in for us. I was so sunburnt on the right side of my body I looked like a strip of uncooked bacon!
Sunday morning… 6:30am… Jean has altered my internal alarm clock entirely too much! I got up and did a quick workout with Nike Training Club before anyone else was awake. Then we started a nice group breakfast. Once everyone was awake we decided that maybe we should hit a Rhum Distillery before the beach so that those with sunburn would not be completely red by the time they got home. We picked Habitation Celment, which had a full botanical garden, house, old distillery and storehouse. Many photo ops later we finally made it to our favorite point… the tasting room. For 10 Euro each I would say we all had our fair share. We opted for a pool day instead of beach because the beach was about an hour away and we wanted to have a nice dinner out still. And what is the point of having a sweet pad if you can’t use it?!
After some actual relaxation by the pool and maybe a taco snack for everyone, we got ready for dinner and headed out on our hour long journey to get there. The restaurant had our table set up and it was nice! No air conditioning but busy, great vibes and english speaking staff. We ordered a round of drinks for the table and decided on dinners and then out of nowhere one of the guys stands up to talk, he typically leads our mealtime prayer so that is what we thought he was initiating…. until he got down on one knee and proposed with the most touching words to one of our girls. No one except the photographer with us knew and the room was filled with cheers and happy tears. It was a beautiful moment that made the entire trip worth while.
After our delicious meal came check time… I attempted to organize the process with the bar manager who was in our room behind the bar. He wanted to keep it simple, walk up tell him how much you owed off the bill pay and be on your way. Well… there were 17 of us so needless to say he got a bit frustrated…. but we paid out and have a mini photo session in the street with our newly engaged couple.
Then it was time for goodbye, many of us had booked flights home for Monday not realizing the waste in traveling so far just to turn back around. We hugged and kissed and headed back to the Villas for our final night of sleep. Woke up before the sun and headed back 45 minutes to the airport to turn in our cars. Made it through security and to our gate in time to reflect and mentally prepare for our next 10 hours of travel. Upon landing at BWI we made it to our gate… and were trapped for about 40 minutes because the bridge was not able to work. After another hour wait for our bagged it was a mad dash through the airport to the domestic side for our next flight. Thank God for pre-check because airport chipotle was needed!
Back home now to our babe and so many happy memories with our best friends to hold onto. Even more lessons learned in our travels. And now to the bank to trade in our left over euro!
Overall it was a great trip because of the company we were with, but I don’t think we will be back to Martinique. One of our guys said it best, there are two types of trips: travel and vacation. We were traveling our whole time with little time to relax which created a much more stressful environment. Now… off to plan our next relaxing vacation ❤