Chez Carole in Fort-de-France, Martinique

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Meet Carole. Her eponymous restaurant, at the far end of Fort-de-France’s Covered Market or Marché Couvert, is an oasis in an otherwise bustling commercial hub.

Past numerous stands displaying rhum punch bottles, vibrant woven beach bags and fragrant spices, Carole’s six-table eatery awaits tired, starved shoppers.

“I love the colors here,” I tell her, noticing the contrast of her caramel skin against the electric blue, rose and lime colored walls of her open kitchen.

Moi aussi, me too,” she confides, smiling wide, “it’s different from everyone else…  .” I knew what she meant–I had noticed the >> classic madras tablecloths at the restaurant tables next door, including a couple of others I had walked past to get to Carole’s.

“I agree,” I whisper, watching her burst into a giggle.

After learning how I came to be fluent in French, it’s my turn to ask about her bilingual skills on a French-speaking island.

She shares that she’s always loved to travel, like her dad. “And I loved learning languages,” Carole adds. “When I was 11, I did a student exchange and went to Barbados.”

Later, she studied in Toulouse, majoring in communication, with a concentration in audiovisual studies. But when she returned to her birthplace of Fort-de-France–Martinique’s capital–jobs were nonexistent.

“I couldn’t find any work,” she said, “so instead, I decided to feed others.”

In her corner of the market, she concocts some of the tastiest Creole dishes–seafood, in particular. Traditional plates like fricassée de chatrou–octopus in a spiced tomato stewor fricassée de lambi, the conch version.

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In a matter of ten minutes, she whips up some accras­ for our small group–fritters, the island’s most famous appetizer and street snack–a welcome boost of energy after a walking tour of the city.

A few days later, I run into Carole at the island’s annual Yole Sailing Festival in St. Anne, south of Martinique.

She rushes toward me with her signature smile, even brighter than the midday sun and diamond-white sand of Plage du Coin, exclaiming, “Lily, ma chérie!”

And we hug like long lost friends.

***

Chez Carole is open Monday to Saturday, 7am-4pm.

 

 

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Lebawit Lily Girma

Lebawit Lily Girma is an award-winning, Ethiopian-American travel writer, photographer and author of several Caribbean guidebooks for Moon Travel Guides, including Moon Belize, Moon Belize Cayes, and Moon Dominican Republic (October 2016). Her work focuses on Caribbean culture and adventure, and has been published in AFAR, CNN Travel, BBC, Delta Sky, The Guardian, Sunday Times Travel Magazine, and Every Day With Rachael Ray, among many others. Lily is also the 2016 recipient of the Marcia Vickery Wallace Award for Excellence in Travel Journalism for her Caribbean coverage, from the Caribbean Tourism Organization. Lily calls herself a “culture-holic”–she speaks four languages fluently and has lived in Cote d’Ivoire, England, Jamaica, Belize, the Dominican Republic and traveled to some 30+ countries around the world. Last but not least, she is a former corporate attorney who ditched her Washington DC office for the road in 2009 to pursue her dream of becoming a storyteller. Lily holds a Bachelor of Arts in French and Spanish (summa cum laude) from the University of Maryland at College Park, and a Juris Doctor from the University of Virginia School of Law.

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