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Enthusiastic and amiable Martinique tour guide Maurice Ventose is happy to adopt something of a Long John Silver appearance when telling tourists about his treasured island. Ventose — clearly appreciative of his sun-soaked, tropical destination — leads visitors through the capital of Fort de France, at times sporting a pirate’s outfit, a reminder of the buccaneers who once sailed the region.
“When visitors saw me with my costume with locks, right away I got the baptized with the name of Jack Sparrow,” he says, with Jack Sparrow being the name of the Johnny Depp character in the hugely popular Pirates of the Caribbean movie series.”Right away I told them it (my name) is Maurice Sparrow. He (Jack Sparrow) is my brother. I taught him all he knows.”
The Martinique guide also spent much of his life in Saint Lucia before returning to Martinique in 2012, and so is equally at home in English and French when leading people on a walking tour of downtown Fort de France that last around an hour 15 minutes and showcases historical aspects and sites of the longstanding city. Among those historical sites is seaside Fort Saint Louis, a massive structure standing on a site the French began fortifying in the 17th century, and part of which still serves as a French naval base.
“On the tour there are 6 to 8 historical sites we include during the visit but there are other sites that we don’t always see depending on the lateness of the group,which plays with the timing of the tour,” Ventose reports. “I do mention and show the clients by way of a city map, things found in the downtown area that are not on the itinerary. namely the fish market, the craft market and the fort, and the Museum of Ethnography and History of Martinique found on the extreme right.
“To me the highlight of the walking down town historical tour of Fort de France is the Library of Schoelcher, which was reassembled on site in 1893, the Cathedral of Saint Louis, inaugurated in 1895 and the Central Market in 1901, where clients can find local fruits, vegetables crafts , flowers, local juice and local cuisine as there are four restaurants in there as well.”
Ventose hopes to also begin leading visitors on tours of the nearby communities of Schoelcher, Lamentin, Saint Joseph. Air Canada will begin linking Toronto and Fort de France on Dec. 16, something Ventose suggests will give English-speaking Ontario residents an opportunity to brush up on their language skills.
“Martinique gives tourists a taste of the French culture in the Antilles without going all the way to France, and because of her history the Island also offers her guests the French Creole culture typical of the French Caribbean,” he says. “If any of the tourists wants to practice their French, they need not go to Paris. They can simply come to Martinique and stay in the sun.”
Meanwhile, Ventose isn’t ruling out that what Long John Silver once referred to as “gentlemen of fortune” might have left some buried doubloons or pieces of eight on Martinique centuries ago, something he would welcome. “Buried treasure? Yes, I would like to think that there is some hidden on the island. That would be great,” he says.
Ventose can be reached at [email protected].
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