Columbus was Charmed! Visiting Martinique, the “France of the Caribbean”

An overseas territory of the French Republic, the name Martinique comes from the word Madinina, meaning ‘island of flowers’ or possibly Matinino “island of women”. Explorer and trans-Atlantic voyager Christopher Columbus called this island “the most beautiful place on earth”. Established as an overseas territorial collectivity of the French Republic in 1946, this island is an extension of French territory and is considered the same a France itself. We took a trip to Martinique, a French island located in the Caribbean about 6,800 kilometers from France, to see how France like it is. The ccTLD (country code top level domain) for Martinique is “.mq”.

* This fact-finding mission was undertaken in early February, 2020.

◆Where is Martinique?

Martinique is an island of the Caribbean Sea located between North and South America. It is 1,128 square kilometers. Martinique is a part of France. The main language is French and the currency is the Euro.

= Table of Contents =

◆France of the South Seas with Modern Highways – Is it Better for Island Countries Not to be Independent?

◆Rum – The Only Thing you Can Drink While Saying “He’s Just a Boy”

◆The Food of Martinique – Banana Dishes French Style, etc.

◆How to Purchase a SIM & Test the Internet Speed

◆Finding the “.mq” Domain was More Difficult than Finding Maltese on Malta


◆France of the South Seas with Modern Highways – Is it Better for Island Countries Not to be Independent?

We transferred to an Air Antilles ATR 72 3S 217 in Guadeloupe to get to Martinique.

There is no seat assignment on this plane. You can choose freely where to sit!

We arrived at the Martinique Aimé Césaire International Airport, which uses the “.fr” domain in its homepage address. As Martinique is an overseas territory of France, entering is as easy as entering the EU. There’s no need for immigration documents.

At the airport, there were masks on display, they are used for the yearly carnival, held in early March.

There are also direct flights from Paris, France and Montreal, Canada, as well as the surrounding islands.

We ride a taxi from the airport to the hotel. When I spoke English to talk to the driver, he didn’t understand. He said: “Please use French”. I thought we would drive along a scenic coastline, but actually we took a spacious modern highway. It was more like driving in a large American city than an island, but maybe we just caught the rush hour commute. The highway was very well maintained.

We arrive at the Karibea La Valmenière Hotel, alongside the highway. I was amazed by the modern, big-city hotel, which was like nothing I’d ever seen on an island before.

Inside the hotel, they’ve used wallpaper with a pineapple pattern, yes, its just like a fashionable French hotel.

There are no shops alongside the highway, so its pitch black at night. We tried to walk a little, but it was too dangerous with the cars speeding by.

There was no one else but us. Its only 7:00 pm, but so quiet.

Martinique once had an independence movement but it was unsuccessful in achieving independence, due to opposition from mainland France.
But, is it so bad to stay under French control? Thanks to subsidies from France, the living standards and infrastructure are much better than other Caribbean islands, I was quite impressed. Besides that, residents of Martinique have the rights of French citizens, so they can come and go from mainland France as they please. Saint Lucia, next to Martinique, succeeded in gaining independence from Britain in February, 1979, but it can’t be said that it is very well off.


◆With “He’s Just a Boy” in Mind, We Take a Fast 4-hour Tour Around Martinique, an Island Visited by Columbus

When Christopher Columbus landed on Martinique June 15, 1502, he found it charming and called it the “the most beautiful place on earth”. We take a spin around Martinique in just 4 hours.

There’s a nice modern bus service. Tickets can be purchased at an automatic ticket machine. Credit card payment is OK too.

First, we head to the mountain side, north of the island. It seems there’s a high-class residential area on the hill.


The church is built like a castle on the hill, 7 km from the center of Fort de France, the prefectural capital of Martinique.

Built in a classic retro style, it’s a lovely Catholic church.

Going in, I felt a very solemn atmosphere. Entrance is free.


The Alma River is about 12 km from Balata Cathedral. You can enjoy a bath in the rainforest while listening to the murmur of the river.


Walking about 100m down a steep stair, you come to the Saut Gendarme waterfall.

Taking photos in front of the waterfall. Dad did a cool pose…

Some families were swimming.


Heading to the next spot, we pass through the thick leaves of the rain forest. It seems that it rains here every day, but it didn’t rain when we went.


14km northwest of the Saut Gendarme waterfall is the Distillerie Depaz. This factory uses sugarcane to distill rum. You can visit for free.

You can also sample the rum.

All around the factory were sugarcane fields.

In a famous scene from the “Mobile Suit Gundam” TV Series, (No.12 “Zeon’s Threat”) Char Aznable drinks La Mauny rum while saying: “He’s just a boy.” That “La Mauny” rum is from Martinique.


The ruined remains of the fort of Saint-Pierre Church (L’église du Fort de Saint-Pierre). In May 1902, Mount Pelée on Martinique erupted. The pyroclastic flow killed about 30,000 people in Saint-Pierre, the prefectural capital at the time. Only three people survived the catastrophe, which is called the worst volcanic disaster of the 20th century. The city was completely destroyed and the capital was moved to Fort de France.

Nearby ruins are used as a parking lot.


  • Luxury Cruise Ship

A luxury MSC Cruise ship anchored at the downdown port. There was also an MSC Cruise exhibition booth at the Martinique Aimé Césaire International Airport.


The beautiful waters of Martinique that so charmed Columbus.

The “Herve Beuze Patrick Arneton” totem pole.


  • Downtown

We took a stroll along the Rue Ernest Desproges, near the cruise ship port.

There was a demonstration at the La Savane park. “In France, they wear yellow vests to demonstrate, but here they wear red.” the taxi driver told me.

Children also participate.

The flag of Martinique is officially the three-color flag of France. But actually, there is an informal symbolic flag of a white cross on a blue background. Instead of having four flags, they have four flags in one. The white snake is an endemic species found only on Martinique. It’s similar to Harry Potter’s Slytherin emblem. This time however, I couldn’t find that flag. If independence from France had been achieved, this might have been the official flag.

A devilish handsome taxi driver, who took us on a bullet fast tour of Martinique in just 4 hours.

While driving, he played moody Latin American music, like “Begin the Beguine” which incorporates beguine, a kind of rhythm originating in Martinique.

Martinique is a kind of holiday destination for French people, where they can be refreshed by the ocean and mountains. Sort of like Bali in Asia.


◆The Food of Martinique – Banana Dishes French Style, etc

Martinique cuisine is basically Creole cuisine with a French twist.

We ate at the restaurant in the Karibea La Valmenière Hotel. When I asked for orange juice, I was given Orangina, the national soda of France. The darker one on the left is mango juice. 4.5 euros. It’s a hotel so it’s expensive.

The menu. The courses are all French course meals.
An appetizer and main course costs 29 euros.

The main course incorporates bananas.
The appetizer is “Deep-fried shrimp and green banana hummus”. There’s a deep-fried shrimp on top of green bananas mashed liked potatoes. The green bananas taste like taro potatoes.

The main dish is “Yellow Banana Curry”. A healthy dish with banana curry over couscous. It’s not too spicy and the coconut goes well. When eating, there’s a hint of saffron, with a fragrance that seems to fill the sinuses as well.

The hotel breakfast buffet offered many banana jams. They taste like boiled bananas.

The coffee maker buttons are all in French.


There’s a small food court on the 2nd floor of the airport.

With 6 selections on the menu.

Chicken plate 12 euros

I recommend dried banana chips as a souvenir from Martinique. You can find them in the airport shop. 6.9 and 2 euro respectively


◆How to Purchase a SIM & Test the Internet Speed

The airport Wi-Fi is 2.1 Mbps. I used Glocalme while on the island and I was able to access the internet at the same speed without any difficulty.

Digicel has stores in the airport and in town. However, they don’t sell SIMs.

Martinique also has the largest of France’s five telecommunications carriers; “Orange”.
SIMs bought on the island can also be used in Paris.


◆Finding the “.mq” Domains was More Difficult than Finding Maltese Dogs on Malta

We decided to see how much the Martinique domain “.mq” was being used around the city.

We saw many “.com”,

or the French ccTLD “.fr”.

The telephone directory at the hotel also had only “.fr”.

The bus company used Gmail.

We couldn’t find “.mq” at all. So, we went to the tourist information center to ask about “.mq”. They are also using “.fr” instead of “.mq”. Besides that, there is a “.center” domain used for the center.

When I asked a young lady on staff “We are looking to find a “.mq” domain in use. Have you seen it being used?”, she said, “No, everyone uses “.fr”.
“Are you sure you haven’t seen it anywhere?” I asked again, and another young lady listening in, said: “Doesn’t the power company (eDF) use it?” Thank you! They might think that Japanese people have a strange interest in domain names.

So, we head to the Power Company eDF, about a 5-minute walk from the Tourist Information Center.

When we go inside, the sign says “”. We finally found the one and only “.mq” domain in this island tour!

Currently, the registry that operates “.mq” is Mediaserv. However, when attempting to access the registry site, an error notice “403 Forbidden” pops up and there is no information available. Sometimes when the registry site is hidden the domain is not available, but “.mq” is currently available and there are many sites in operation that use it.

On a previous domain tour to Malta, I had a very hard time finding a Maltese dog
(, but it was even harder to find the “.mq” domain in Martinique.


■ List of Places Visited

■ For access to the Martiniqueclick here

■ For “.mq” domain detailsclick here

Barbados, an Encounter with the Freemasons and the Frightening HARP Project

After flying 40 hours one-way to get to Tuvalu, and exploring American Samoa without any travel information, the 13th stop on the Domain Island Tour is Barbados. The ccTLD (country code top level domain) for Barbados is “.bb”. All dollar notations in the article are Barbadian dollars, unless marked otherwise.

◆Where is Barbados?

Barbados is an island country south of the Lesser Antilles in the Caribbean Sea. To the southwest are Grenada, and the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago. It is also a member of the Commonwealth of the United Kingdom.

= Table of Contents =

◆Barbados is Surrounded by Coral Reefs

◆The Exchange Museum. The Only One in the World?

◆Spur-of-the-Moment visit to the Museum of Freemasonry

◆Rihanna’s Birthplace; Easy to Find

◆A 40-meter Satellite Launcher that Even the Locals Can’t Find

◆Have I Eaten Dolphin …

◆Fast Food from Barbados Not Yet Available in Japan

◆A Visit to the “.bb” Domain Registry

◆How to Purchase a SIM Locally & Test the Internet Speed in Barbados

◆Dinking Rum in the Birthplace of Rum

◆Barbados is Surrounded by Coral Reefs

Barbados has many beaches, and the island itself is surrounded by coral reefs.
Browns Beach is located near the capital Bridgetown.

As I was walking along, watching people enjoy the beach and water activities, I came across a cafe called “Pirates Cove.”

There I found a painted board with the faces cut out, often found in tourist spots in Japan. “JOLLY ROGER” is written in red, which means the pirate flag. The painting is a bit sloppy, but I can’t help myself I really want to put my face in the cut-outs…, my Japanese nature perhaps?

Click here for the 360° camera view.

Browns Beach Barbados – Spherical Image – RICOH THETA

◆The Exchange Museum. The Only One in the World?

I found a very unusual museum in Bridgetown. The Exchange Museum. Perhaps this one in Barbados is the only one in the world, a museum with the word “Exchange” in it. At the counter on the 1st floor, I pay the $20 (about 1,100 Yen) admission fee and then head up the stairs to the 2nd floor.

In the brightly lit exhibition rooms, banknotes and coins from around the world are on display and a history of trade in Barbados.

Unfortunately, there was no Japanese Yen. Also, you cannot exchange currency here.

Commemorative coins from different countries. They are not sold in the museum, but can be purchased at the Central Bank opposite the Exchange Museum.

Since I had put quite a bit of effort into coming here, I decided to buy a commemorative coin. A well-known cricket player from Barbados is on the coin. It’s a $5 US coin, but the selling price was $300 US (approximately 33,000 yen). It was a good memory. By the way, there is a cricket domain called “.cricket”.

◆Spur-of-the-Moment visit to the Museum of Freemasonry

On the 3rd floor of the Exchange Museum, the atmosphere seems different. I’m suddenly in a strange place… Glancing around, I realize I’m not in the Exchange Museum anymore. The 3rd floor has turned into a Freemasonry Museum.

The Freemasons are a mysterious organization that originated in the late 16th / early 17th century. In fiction they are often described as a “secret society.” Historically, members have often been people with social rank, such as nobility and politicians. In Japan, Director General Takasu of the Takasu Clinic professes to be a member.

As my only knowledge of the Freemasons equates them with conspiracies and unknown fears, I admit I was a bit shaken by the sudden turn of events. Although non-members shouldn’t have any trouble, I proceeded with caution anyways. Apparently, the Barbados Freemasons are one of the oldest organizations in the country, which is why there is a museum of their history.

There’s an area with a reproduction of the Grand Lodge (their Headquarters.)

There is no mention the Freemason museum in the Exchange Museum pamphlet. But take a look at the entrance to the museum. Two pillars topped with spheres, and a pyramid.

These are some of the symbols of the Freemasons, don’t you think? The museum itself may be part of the secret society. Of course, you can believe whatever you like.

◆Rihanna’s Birthplace; Easy to Find

Speaking of a super celebrity from Barbados: Rihanna. The birthplace of Rihanna, who has sold more than 250 million albums and singles worldwide, won nine Grammy Awards (with 33 nominations) and is active as an actress and model, can be easily found in the capital city of Bridgetown. Many tourists come to see the house where Rihanna once lived, and the road out front is now called Rihanna Drive.

A monument on Rihanna Drive. This is the hometown of a superstar and the plaque has been engraved with pride. It’s like the most holy place for Rihanna fans.

I left Rihanna’s birthplace behind and went on to Garrison Savannah. This is horse-racing track. As Barbados is part of the British Commonwealth, elements of British culture remain. I visited on a Thursday. Races are held on weekends, so weekdays are very quiet.

In the early morning, the horses are taken out of their stables to the beach, where they are bathed in the ocean near the racetrack.

They get away from the stable boys, and go so deep you can’t see their heads. I was worried they might drown.

A picture of one with his stable boy. After I took a picture, I said thank you, and he asked for a tip, so I gave him a dollar.
Nobody said anything about a tip when I took pictures earlier, but if you come to take pictures it might be wise to prepare some change for tips.

◆A 40-meter Satellite Launcher that Even the Locals Can’t Find

In the 1960s, Canadian scientist Gerald Bull, in collaboration with the US and Canadian Departments of Defense, built a 40-meter satellite launcher in Barbados. This is a 40-meter cannon built to find a solution on how to launch satellites. Called the HARP project (High Altitude Research Project), it succeeded in launching 82kg-weight shells into space, but was discontinued in 1968.

After hearing a rumor that the remains of this project could still be found locally, I went to take a look. Combining my Google search results with a taxi driver’s story resulted in the Rock Hall area near Grantley Adams Airport.

It’s a 40-meter cannon. It should not be hard to find. But it was hard to find, so I asked some locals if they knew the location of the cannon, what I got was “I know about that (but not in detail)” or “Somewhere that way” or “The launch noise was very loud!” etc., not really useful information. Even if it was “somewhere that way” the trees and shrubbery were quite overgrown, and it would have been tough to press on in light clothing. At this point, I was told “the police and military manage it all now, so why not go to the police station near the airport?” This seemed like good advice.

The police station was in the Charnocks area, where the Grantley Adams International Airport is located. When we arrived, it was already dusk.

We found a really old building. But no sign of people. Well, this is Barbados, where Freemasonry museums suddenly pop up, so nothing is a wonder anymore.

We approached the building, but it was all in ruins.

Inside, abandoned equipment is thrown in a great pile.

Maybe this building in ruins is somehow related to the HARP project. If so, the 40-meter cannon could be close by!!! Though I had great hopes, like the Rock Hall area, this area was also overgrown and impossible to pass through in light clothing.

Occupied by these ruins, time passed quickly, it was now night and I could no longer see my feet. Due to scheduling reasons, it was not possible to spend more time on this, and although unfortunate, the search for the 40-meter satellite launcher ended here.
It seems the information on Google map was not correct, which cost us a significant amount of time.

Dr. Bull, who was at the center of the HARP program, was later involved in weapons development for other countries, and was assassinated in 1990. The responsible party has yet to be identified. Are some of those mysteries and lost plans in the police / military facilities near the airport? My captain (the company CEO) was not happy with these results, so we are determined to go back and sort this mystery out.

◆Have I Eaten Dolphin …

In the Caribbean, a lot of fish dishes are available. I went to Oistins Fish Market to find what kind of unique fish are eaten in Barbados. The name on the sign is different, so I kind of wondered why.

Besides buying fish fresh from the ocean, you can go to a restaurant just outside the market.

When I sat down and took a look at the menu, I saw the word “Dolphin.” Dolphin?….. I tried hard to think if this could mean something else, but all that came to my mind were lovely dolphins. I feel a little bad about it, but I have never tried dolphin and maybe this once I’d like to try it. The price was $ 30 (about 1,600 yen).

While waiting for it to be cooked, I tried the local beers “Banks” and “DEPUTY.” Both are lager beers and easy to drink.

The food finally arrives. This is deep-fried dolphin. It looks like fried chicken.

It has a light taste, and the meat is like dense white fish. There’s not much fishy smell and I enjoy it prepared a little spicy. In the end, all that was left was the guilt of having eaten a lovely dolphin. However, it seems that in Barbados they call the Japanese Shiira fish “Dolphin.” In Hawaii, it’s called Mahi-mahi. In other words, this deep-fried fish is not dolphin. I feel slightly relieved.

This cute fish gave a big jump to send me on my way.

◆Fast Food from Barbados Not Yet Available in Japan

In Barbados, there’s no McDonald’s, Lotteria, Mos Burger or Burger King. Instead, there is a fast food chain called “Chefette” that has not yet made it to Japan. It’s very popular and has shops in the heart of Bridgetown and at the Grantley Adams Airport.

First, the menu has plenty of choices. Not only hamburgers, but also pizza and roti.

On the road, a taxi driver told me that “Chefette’s Vegetable Burger is the best in the world! ! “, so I decided to order the best vegetable burger in the world. It was heavier than I expected.

The patty looked just like meat, but is made entirely with vegetables. It tasted quite a lot like meat, so I felt very satisfied. It is definitely worth eating, whether “the best in the world” or not. The price was $ 8.70 (about 470 yen).

I also had fried chicken and then ice cream with rum raisins, and it was all delicious. If you ever come to Barbados give Chefette’s a try.

◆A Visit to “.bb” Domain Registry

The ccTLD for Barbados is “.bb”. I was able to find quite a few even in the local areas. A local political party uses “”.

The email address for an Insurance company, and an electronic retail store are using the “.bb” domain. 

To see the current situation of the domain, I met with the registry manager of “Division of Energy and Telecommunications” that operates “.bb”.

The registry is located in a building that has several government-related agencies.

Since it’s a government building, I’m not allowed to take pictures of the facilities or staff. The manager was interested in how Japanese people feel about the expensive “.bb” domain. I told him that the domain is a bit too pricy and also the registration requirements are very strict (for example, requiring an international trademark matching a local address or domain name), this makes acquisition difficult for Japanese companies. Apparently, there was a time when the “.bb” domain was popular as an abbreviation for the BlackBerry smartphone from Canada. But he sadly commented that when Blackberry crashed so did the popularity of the “.bb” domain.

Finally, as a message for the Japanese people, I was told that “Barbados is a nice place with good weather and good people.”

◆How to Purchase a SIM Locally & Test the Internet Speed in Barbados

Although Wi-Fi rental services for going overseas are on the rise, certain areas are not covered. In such situations, you can buy a local SIM. In Barbados, communication companies “Digicel” and “FLOW” seem to be popular. This time, I checked out “Digicel.”

I bought a plan of 500 MB for 1 day. The price is $ 25 (about 1,300 yen).

After activation, I measured the speed on the test site, the result was 110Mbps. It’s pretty fast compared with some of the other islands I’ve visited on the Domain Island Tour.

When I went to a different area and measured again, it was 170Mbps. I could use it comfortably around town.

◆Dinking Rum in the Birthplace of Rum

Barbados is considered the birthplace of Rum, a distilled liquor made from sugar cane molasses etc. Although there are many brands of Rum, the “Mount Gay” brand boasts the world’s oldest distillery, founded in 1703.

I went on a tasting tour at this historic distillery.

Before the tour started, we were given a “Welcome Rum-punch”. They say that the rum-punch is made by fermenting fruit and spices with the rum, but I felt like it was a mix of rum and fruit juice.

Once the participants of the tour were tipsy, the lady-guide started her explanation. Learn the history of rum and Mount Gay while intoxicated. There was also a mini theater. For Japanese people, please note; rum pronounced with an R is French, but lamb, pronounced with an L is English and means a baby sheep.

I was handed a stick covered in a mysterious black liquid. Apparently, it’s supposed to be tasted. When I, somewhat fearfully, put it in my mouth, it tasted like dark molasses. This is the sugarcane molasses that is the raw material for making rum.

Here is the Distillation Still that used to be used. If the distillation process is repeated several times, it seems to increase the alcohol content to 40 – 50%.
Locally this was called “Kill Devil.” Because it could even kill the devil.

Next, the main event. Where we start tasting all the different brands of rum. However, limited-edition bottles were not included. Too bad.

You can enjoy many different flavors of rum, such as those evocative of vanilla or those evocative of bananas. Depending on the age, the taste seems to change quite dramatically.

After the tour you can order the limited-edition rum and cocktails at the bar attached to the distillery. Small bottles are also sold, which make great souvenirs.

These tours are held several times a day. Admission is $ 20 US per person (approximately ¥ 2,200). There doesn’t seem to be any problem getting in if you show up without reservation, but we wanted to make sure we could go, so we made a reservation in advance on the website.

=List of Places Visited=

■Access to BarbadosClick Here

■For Domain detailsClick here