A Visit to Les Trois-Ilets

Marie-Josephe-Rose Tascher de la Pagerie was born here in 1763. As Joséphine, she was to become the wife of Napoleon I and empress of France from 1804 to 1809. Six years older than Napoleon, she pretended that she'd lost her birth certificate so he wouldn't find out her true age. Although many historians call her ruthless and selfish, she is still revered by some on Martinique as an uncommonly gracious lady. Others have less kind words for her -- Napoleon is said by some historians to have "reinvented" slavery, and they cite Joséphine's influence.

Thirty kilometers (19 miles) south of Fort-de-France, you reach Les Trois-Ilets, a charming little village. Two kilometers (1 1/4 miles) outside the village, turn left to La Pagerie, where the small Musée de La Pagerie (tel. 596/68-33-06) has been installed in the former estate kitchen, where Joséphine gossiped with her slaves and played the guitar. Regrettably, most of the other buildings associated with this once-thriving plantation were destroyed in a hurricane. Visitors today can see mementos of Joséphine's childhood, including the bed she slept in as a teenager and a passionate letter from Napoleon. The collection was compiled by Dr. Robert Rose-Rosette. Still remaining are the partially restored ruins of the Pagerie sugar mill and the church (in the village itself) where she was christened in 1763. The museum is open Tuesday to Friday 9am to 5:30pm, and Saturday and Sunday 9:30am to 12:30pm and 3 to 5pm; it's closed in September. Admission is 5€ for adults, 1.50€ for children 12 and under.

Modern artists and local potters banded together in 2005 to form a cooperative of shops, galleries, and studios at Trois-Ilets Pottery (tel. 596/63-03-44), at La Pagerie, next to the Musée de La Pagerie. You can shop for one-of-a-kind items such as a clay lamp hand painted in Creole colors.

Maison de la Canne, Pointe Vatable (tel. 596/68-32-04), is on the road to Trois-Ilets. Located on the premises of an 18th-century distillery, its permanent exhibitions demonstrate the sweeping role sugar cane played in the economic and cultural development of Martinique. It's open Tuesday to Thursday 8:30am to 5:30pm; Friday to Saturday 8:30am to 5pm; Sunday 9am to 5pm. Admission is 3€ for adults, .75€ for children 5 to 12, and free for children 4 and under.

The marina complex has a number of fashionable boutiques; several sell handicrafts and curios from Martinique. They're sometimes of good quality but are quite expensive, particularly the enameled jewel boxes and some of the batiks of natural silk.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.