Habitation Lagrange – Le Marigot, Martinique, Lesser Antilles (French West Indies)

Reliving the Plantation Life

Much of the unspoiled, rain-forested northern corner of this French island looks as it did when Napoleon’s empress, Josephine, was growing up here as a young girl in the late 18th century. The scenic drive along La Trace roadway leads past lush banana and pineapple plantations, avocado groves, and sugarcane fields. The Habitation Lagrange, a former sugar plantation and rum distillery (there were once 200 on the island), has the air of a planter’s French château in the tropics, and actually is still a working banana planta­tion. Today, the gracious seventeen-room inn welcomes guests in its two-story great house, built on the ruins of a much older sugar fac­tory.

Beyond the tall mahogany doors, cool parqueted areas scented with frangipani are flawlessly furnished with Caribbean country- style pieces of cane and rattan, and baldaquin-style pencil-post beds in the guest rooms. The Habitation is also known for its candlelit terrace, a romantic setting for an haute-Creole dinner served by a gracious staff in period costume. Did past plantation owners ever dine on anything as excellent as these plump shrimp flambéed in aged rum? Living with the bananas may not be for everyone – there’s nothing to do here but relax – although the opulent landscape of the surrounding countryside will disappoint no one.

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