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Discovering A Caribbean Gem

Most people know that the Caribbean is famous for its white sandy beaches and beautiful blue seas. But destinations such as the French West Indies island of Martinique also offer a variety of delightful activities, surprising sites and more. To get there, American Airlines and Air France could be good places to start researching travel information. Here's a closer look:

A Walk To Remember

Fort-de-France, Martinique's capital, is fascinating to explore on foot. Among its attractions is the city's architectural masterpiece, the Bibliothèque Schoelcher (or Schoelcher Library). The Romanesque-Byzantine gem was built more than 100 years ago for the Paris Exposition of 1889. It was then dismantled and shipped to Martinique, mosaic by mosaic. Named for Victor Schoelcher, the French abolitionist whose work helped end slavery on the island in 1848, it sits just off La Savane, the central park.

Unexpected Sites

Further inland, you'll find Morne Rouge. The unique town offers a comfortable and cooler climate, and is home to MacIntosh Plantation, named for the renowned cultivator of Martinique's best-known flower, the anthurium.

Tropical Tours

Nearby is Route de la Trace, a dazzling road through the rain forest. This mountainous region in the northern half of the island is lush with banana and pineapple plantations, avocado groves, cane fields, and lovely old island inns such as  the 19th century Le Domaine Saint Aubin.

Visiting Villages

Other noteworthy communities in the northern part of Martinique include Le Prêcheur, known for hot springs of volcanic origin and the Tomb of the Carib Indians. There's also Ajoupa-Bouillon, an enchanting flower-lined town.

Local Flavor

Rum distilleries abound in Martinique and all of them welcome visitors. The St. James Distillery at Sainte-Marie in the north operates the Musée du Rhum, a particularly popular attraction. And at Le François on the east coast, Rhum Clément has tours of its 18th-century Domaine Acajou. Martinique has seven active distilleries and 15 rum brands.

Museum Musings

Turin Cove, between Carbet and St. Pierre, is the home of the Centre d'Art Musée Paul Gaugin, a memorial to the work this noted French painter completed in Martinique during his five-month stay in 1887. The simple hut where he lived is nearby. This memorial to Gaugin was designed to encompass the surroundings of natural beauty that inspired him.

Make A Splash

Of course, if you're looking for beaches lapped by crystal-clear, turquoise waters, Martinique has plenty-whether you hit the beaches along the southern coast for a day in the ocean or prefer the isolated and pristine views at Cap Chevalier and Anse Trabaud. You'll even find silver-blue beaches along the northern Caribbean coast, at places like Le Carbet.

The island is also home to some of the best sailing and yachting in the world. Fort-de-France, for instance, has long been the yachtsman's favorite port of call. But other marinas have opened as well, including Pointe du Bout in Les Trois-Ilets, and Le Robert and Le François on the Atlantic coast.

Planning A Trip

To learn more, contact the Martinique Promotion Bureau/CMT USA located at 825 Third Avenue, 29th floor, New York, NY 10022. You can also call (212) 838-7800, ext. 981 or visit  . (NAPSA)

      Editor's Note: From the southeast United States, you can fly from Miami to Martinique