Saturday, 27 June 2009

Mt. Pelee puts and end to Rum Punch

La Favorite Rum Distillery, Le Lamentin, still using steam.

The islands of the Caribbean certainly have a love affair with rum, dating back to the 17th century.  February to June is rum-making season and in Martinique there are many opportunities to tour distilleries.  Melanie, Robert and I took a "non-tour"of one of the oldest, La Favorite Distillery in Le Lamentin.  It remains steam driven and family owned.  According to the local guide book, the boilers of the hundred year old machinery are fed by water from a dyke built in 1842 and fueled by the canes from which the sugar juice is extracted.

Robert's first job out of school was in a sugar mill owned by Colonial Sugar Refinery (CSR) near his home town of Murwillumbah.  As an electrician his job was to keep the mill running.  The company also had distilleries and produced the legendary Inner Circle rum - not for the general public but for the company directors!  Check out the official website.  Not surprisingly, Robert has a real fondness for sugar mills.

There's something romantic and rhythmic about steam power.  Ask a train buff.

So back to La Favorite, in the absence of any kind of organized tour, Robert guided us as we wandered over the grounds and into the sugar mill, viewing the cane crushing process from the noisy observation floor above.  It was the best "non-tour" we've ever done.

Advertising in St. Pierre.  Today there are 11 distilleries producing 17 varieties of rum.

The La Mauny distillery, north of Le Marin, was established in 1749.  Saint-Pierre was the center of the rum trade until the eruption of Mt. Pelee on May 8, 1902 when the town was completely destroyed.  26,000 people were killed, almost the entire population of the town.  The ships in the harbor caught fire and sank and the 16 rum distilleries in the area were ruined.  I can highly recommend the St. Pierre museum for photographs, artifacts and information.

Cane fields on the slopes of Mt. Pelee.  Rum still rules!

At anchor St. Pierre, right - left, Anthem, Bristol Rose, Night Hawk, Inspiration Lady, Jackster

The Cathedral in St. Pierre.

The eruption of Mt. Pelee destroyed most of the cathedral.  

We can only imagine how grand the theatre must have been.

Melanie and Pat under the arches in the theatre.

This sculpture, a woman rising from the ashes, signifies the will of the city to rebuild after the eruption.  There are reminders of what was once an architecturally significant city with many modern buildings utilizing a wall or two of a pre-1902 structure in their re-building.

Carambola or star fruit for sale in St. Pierre, 1 euro for a large bag.

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