Wouldn’t you know it, the day we picked for our first day of wandering dawned cloudy, sunless, and rainy. But not to be deterred, we zipped ashore between showers, almost staying dry, and climbed into the Renault diesel sedan Gary had rented. With its manual transmission and funky feeling clutch, the French auto proved a bit of a challenge. Gary and I each took our turns trying to fathom its idiosyncrasies, and we managed to stall it only a few times!
Shortly after heading west out of Marin, we turned right onto a steep, narrow, winding road that rapidly led us into the mountainous interior where we soon found ourselves at the Balata Cathedral, also called the Martinician Montemartre, a cathedral that sits on a peak above Fort de France. Soon after we arrived the skies cleared for a few minutes granting us stunning views of Fort de France, the harbor, and the valley below. Each year thousands of people visit this landmark, yet in spite of the crowds, the church maintains a busy schedule of services, events, and various community meetings.
Construction on this mini replica of Montematre of Paris began in the early 1920’s. Father Charles De Jaham was named the parish’s first vicar in 1921, and he was given the task of overseeing the construction. On May 20, 1926, the official benediction opening the cathedral to the peoples of the island took place. That this amazing project was completed in such a short period of time was no small task, considered a miracle. Many fervent parishioners contributed in one way or another to the construction and the dedication of this beautiful work of art. Father De Jaham served the parish faithfully for 45 years until his death in 1969 when he was buried on the church property.
From Balata we moved on to a tour of our third distillery, La Mauny, but by the time we arrived at the property, the clouds had opened a major tap dousing us with cold buckets of liquid sunshine. Our tour ended at the tasting room, much to everyone’s disappointment.