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60 Days in Celebration of 60 Years

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Posted: Friday, February 23, 2018 12:30 am

Bob and Meda Jensen are off on another wonderful adventure, in celebration of their 60th wedding anniversary. They share their fantastic voyage with all of us.

E-Postcard from Martinique

Today we visited what must be the pearl of the Caribbean – Martinique. It is prosperous, modern and much like Costa Rica. It is an overseas region of France. It seems like a social democracy. Our guide enthusiastically explained their health care system which covers everyone for 95% of their medical expenses with some employers covering the remaining 5%.

Education is free through the university – there is but one.

The country has about 400,000 people or five times the population of St. Maarten and St. Martin. 90% are of African heritage with the remainder being from Europe, Asia and India. 90% are Catholic with the largest protestant group being Methodist.

Where St. Maarten and St. Martin depend entirely on tourism Martinique has a strong agricultural industry producing sugar cane, bananas for export and a somewhat big hot house vegetable industry to go with its production of fine rums from sugar cane not molasses. Agriculture is about 25% of the economy. Many tropical fruits are grown and many homes have fruit trees and gardens. Flowers are everywhere. Farmers and fishermen sell their products directly to the public at open air markets large and small.

Fishermen have small, commonly designed huts on the beach to sell their daily catch much like the stainless steel version we saw on the French Riviera.

Sugar cane plantations led to slavery for first Europeans, then Asians and East Indians before Africans. Slavery lasted for more than 300 years. We visited a sugar cane plantation which grows cane right on the coast and uses it for highly sought after rums.

Rivers and waterfalls are common and supply fresh water and kinetic energy. One power plant supplies the entire island.

The Humphrey and Lauren Bacall movie “to Have and Have Not” was filmed in Martinique as are the Pirates of the Caribbean movies. The people are very proud that Napoleon’s Empress Josephine was born here.

Less pleasant though is the knowledge that her teeth were blackened by eating so much sugar as she was growing up.

Like its neighbor the St. Maarten and St. Martin the Atlantic Ocean

borders it to the East and the Caribbean Sea to the West. Also like them Martinique was settled by the Arawaks from the Amazon and then the Caribs who ate the people they conquered – yup you read right! Columbus discovered Martinique in 1493, marveled at its beauty but left the same day and Spain showed no interest in it.

This is truly the pearl of the Caribbean as far as we are concerned. It is the polar opposite of Haiti and much different from St. Maarten and St. Martin.

Regards, Meda and Bob

E-Postcard from St Vincent and the Grenadines

St Vincent was discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1498 on his third voyage. Columbus named the island St Vincent after the Portuguese patron saint. He never set foot on the island and did not claim it for Spain. The quest was for gold and silver and the Caribbean Islands had none. Columbus and other explorers did leave goats and pigs on islands so they could replenish their food -supplies.

Thirty three islands and cays make up St Vincent and the Grenadines with just a handful inhabited. The population is about 100,000. The Arawaks and Caribes lived on the island until the French and English colonized it in the 18th century. The capital is Kingstown where our ship tied up for the day.

For a long time agriculture was the factor in the economy with sugar cane, sweet potatoes and bananas the main crop. The market for bananas dried up and farm workers were without jobs. The unemployment rate is 46% as a result.

Education is free. Uniforms are mandatory. There is a trade college and a community college. Higher education requires attending a foreign university.

Our morning tour around the island showed us the main business district of three one mile long streets. We saw many beautiful homes on mountain sides interspersed with poorly maintained or vacant houses. Our bus was a small one – we never saw a typical tourist bus – ours was uses as a school bus and had portraits of the owner on the front. Like the British they drive on the left side of the road. Yesterday our driver was upset about those who were always returning to the bus and drove very fast on narrow twisting roads trying to make up time. Today’s driver had to honk before going around corners because the roads were so narrow. We remembered the cruise tour bus

accident recently in Mexico. We wondered if the Mexican driver was making up time because of thoughtless passengers.

We stopped at a beach on our way home for a drink of coconut sipped through a straw stuck into the stem end of a coconut cut open. Then when we finished drinking the milk the man cut the coconut in two and we scraped out the gel using a sliver he cut from the shell. The milk was good but the gel was better.

Regards, Meda and Bob

E-Postcard from Grenada

It is pronounced gre nay duh not gre nah duh which is in Spain. Like most Caribbean islands it was inhabited by Arawaks and Caribs before the arrival of the Europeans. In 1649 the French began a conflict with natives which

continued until the French subdued them five years later. The island is about 133 square miles and has a population of about 110,000.

For good reason Grenada bills itself as “Spice Isle” because of its spice plantations where nutmeg, vanilla beans, cinnamon, cocoa, and cloves. Grenadians are also proud of a rum distillery where water is still used to power the equipment. St. George’s University is a massive campus of beautiful buildings. It attracts many foreign students.

Grenada looks to be very prosperous. Such international companies as realtors such as Century 21 and ReMaxx, auto manufacturers, fast food chains and to a lesser extent supermarkets. Many luxury resorts dot the coastline with its deep sandy beaches; a couple of massive new ones with foreign owners are under construction. The new international airport attracts charter flights from all over.

Our excursion from the ship was by 15-passenger Nissan van. This sized van is popular because of the narrow, winding mountain roads. With

little level ground homes are built on the sides of mountains where roof lines appear to be at road level and as we first saw on the Portuguese island of Mediera autos are parked on roof tops.

We are sailing with two couples who were on our long European river cruise and a couple from Key Largo.

Tomorrow it is on to Trinidad and Tobago our fifth port in five days before we have at seas again. We really enjoy those at seas days for relaxation.

Regards, Meda and Bob

E-Postcard from Trinidad Tobago

Locals shorten up the name to Trin-agp. Columbus founded Trinidad on his third voyage in 1498. It remained under Spanish rule until 1797 when it as Tobago came under British rule. In 1889 they became a two island British colony. They cover about 1,900 square miles. It is just seven miles off the coast of Venezuela. Its population is about 1,200,000. Our ship docked in Port of Spain the capital.

The country is very prosperous with oil and natural gas – 100,000 barrels per day. There is a financial district, new international airport surrounded by large corporations and luxury hotels.

Trin-ago is one of the highest income countries in the world.

A lineal park – Queen’s Park Savannah - is five kilometers in circumference and a former plantation. The national botanical garden is along that road and includes the presidential home. Seven beautiful Victorian mansions line the park. Historic preservation is very big here. Large, tall sheds are built over the buildings being restored.

A beautiful cultural center reminded us of the Sydney Australia Opera House. We attended a cultural presentation which presented local history in music and dance. Trin–ago claims to be the birthplace of Calypso and the steel drum. We heard both classical music and Frank Sinatra’s “I Did My Way” played on a tenor steel drum. The dancers prepared us for Carnival in Rio de Janeiro. Two Miss Universes have been from Trinidad – a source of great pride.

Early plantations grew sugar cane which led to the importation of indentured workers from China, Syria-Lebanon and India. From there the African slave trade followed. The population is about 40% African, 40% East Indian and 20% European. Citrus, coffee and cocoa are grown now.

Regards, Meda and Bob

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