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The largest of the Windward islands (425-square miles), Martinique’s landscape is both rich and varied.

The south is known for the gorgeous white sandy beaches, rolling hills and sugarcane fields, the north for lush, tropical vegetation, banana trees and pineapple plantations, not unlike those found in the South Pacific. But the overall flavor of this French West Indies getaway is Gallic. Franglais is spoken here and Parisian perfume wafts from the boutiques and colorful markets of Fort-de-France, the capital city. Fabulous wine, French cuisine with Caribbean influences, casino action, and Franco-Caribbean pop music complete the cultural picture.

But the great allure of Martinique is all things natural. The Arawak Indians called it “Mandinina” or “island of flowers.” Wild orchids, jade vines and hibiscus litter the landscape. Rain forests, waterfalls and the volcanic cone of Mount Pelee provide a recreational abundance. High season runs from mid-November through May. Martinique’s Carnival is held in January and a popular jazz fest in early-December in odd-numbered years.

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