The morning after we made the decision to cross the Pacific Ocean, I had an emotional meltdown. I was not thinking about the nautical miles, I was not thinking about crossing the Panama, I was not thinking about being alone with my husband for months on end. I Was thinking about shopping. Everything I read on the internet told me to buy big, before you cross the Pacific Ocean. Regular readers will know I hate shopping, supermarket shopping in particular.
The internet story of a box of wine costing $80 US in the Pacific, was enough to motivate me into a shopping tizz.
To cross the Pacific we need to be organised. It will take 6 months to cross and in between there is no major supermarkets for restocking, I have been told the shops available charge you prices that make your teeth hurt, $80 for a box of wine. Geezz. So yes, day one all thoughts turned to shopping. Because we were in the perfect place for hard to get, only available in France and Martinique, I was feeling lucky we had changed our mind not to go further south.
Yet coming to Martinique, I had to reacquaint myself with the joys of French manners. The Captain says I shouldn’t tell tales but of course it is the bliss of difference that makes travel interesting.
Morning one in Port Marin, I went to the local café and asked for a cup of tea with milk as well as the internet password. I need to assure you that for the most part my French is very ordinary, however ordering tea with milk I’m practically a French speaking pro. So I was surprised when the answer was black tea yes, white tea no. I was then duly informed that in this café although they serve tea, they do not serve with milk, as this is not the correct way to drink tea. My response of, “can I have milk for this one occasion” (yes there was milk in the fridge) and I wouldn’t tell, if she didn’t, was met with that look the French have mastered. The look that tells me I am being ridiculous. Regardless of what I said the girl said tea was not to be served with milk. My options were black tea or coffee, including coffee with milk.
I left and went to café two that served the worst tea possible but at least they gave me hot milk to go with my strange green flowery tasting tea bag. The following day being the smarty pants fix it girl that I am, I rocked up to café two with a travel mug, tea bag inside and asked for boiling water and small jug of milk. I was hopeful as the prior day meant I knew they would give me the milk and how hard is boiling water? The young woman returned with my empty mug, a small pot of hot water, and a cup and saucer with sugar. Here boiling water and tea apparently don’t go together.
It took minutes to explain I wanted boiling water on top of my tea bag, in my cup which they could charge normal prices for, and no I did not need the pissy little pot containing non boiled water, even though the water was now sitting on the table. I tried to explain how tea needs to be infused and boiling water is an essential ingredient for success. As to the hot milk that was not leaving my table, I know when I’m on a good thing, I expressed my thanks for this part of the tea puzzle going so well.
Perseverance paid off, when the waitresses returned I had boiled water in my mug and I was happy. How could a girl not be happy? I had good internet, I had maps downloading for my backup GPS program, Navionics, I was researching info, downloading books, audio books and finding out from those who had gone before us.
In fact I was a Miss piglet in poo.
I Must Have Looked Too Happy…
Because about an hour later the owner of the cafe came over and told me I had to close my computer.
Pardon (said with a French accent of course)
I was informed I was allowed to keep using my iPad, but the computer was a banned item at lunch service. Computers upset the lunch atmosphere and other customers. Picture this: I was in a café with 4 staff and there are three customers, two sailors and myself. The sailors were using their iPhones, no interest in me.
Yes I was shocked.
Though I didn’t argue, I knew I was defeated before I even began. Then to make sure I complied with the request, the waitress took one of the small tables close to mine, and left me with a tiny table, enough room for a dinner plate and wine glass only. Did I walk away in protest? No I stayed. I am now used to the oddity that is French service, plus this little café has the best internet I have found, who I am I to argue. Like a man who sells his soul I even stayed and had a small salad for lunch. I really wanted the internet.
A lesson learnt very early whilst living in France, is you have to really pick your battles when you are going to argue with the French.
In case you are wondering why I haven’t purchased a local sim card to use at my boat the answer is I did. Yet 3 GB for 50 euro means downloading charts, books or music for our journey is out of the question. In my prior life I used to have 300 GB per month for less than what those 3 GB cost me. Leaving expensive internet will be something I will not miss when I eventually get home. Still I can’t see a 4 day carnival like we did all of last week sitting at home!
The Big Advantage Of Being In French Martinique
Martinique is my last and wonderful chance to go shopping in French shops. Essential must buy items include:
1. Butter in a Can
2. Duck in a Can
3. French wine in a box
4. French Gas that fits
5. French cheese that smells and tastes divine
6. The best stocked chandleries EVER!
Martinique and the Port of Marin has the largest fleet of charter boats and catamaran I have ever seen. This port has thousands of boats in the harbour and thousands more at anchor. The stores that cater to the boat industries, even though at times expensive, have everything and more than we needed.
So good food, good prices, good chandleries, good wine, gas and internet make this a great launching pad for our trip homeward. There is roughly 9,5000 nautical miles to our home port of Hobart Tasmania. If I say it quickly I feel better. Tomorrow we start the journey south via the ABC islands and then Cartegena Colombia. As to our last post, re paying crew we have had a few interested in our offer to sail with us, we are still negotiating details, pick up points and contribution costs.
PS I have purchased 700 tea bags in France just in case they are hard to buy in Panama.