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Last night in Washington, DC ...

Article-Last night in Washington, DC ...

(Photo: Anne Kalosh)
A welcome with open arms and wide open hearts - Martinique Tourism Authority's Joëlle Desir, second right, with the winner of a Martinique vacation, holding flowers
Nearly 200 guests, including travel agents, got a taste of Martinique at the impressive French Embassy. Wearing feathered Carnival masks and straw hats, they sipped rum and Champagne cocktails and savored dishes prepared by two Martiniquais chefs, one known as 'Chef Hot Pants.'

Inviting visitors to her island, where the cruise business is thriving, Joëlle Desir, general director for the Martinique Tourism Authority, said: 'You will be welcomed with open arms and wide open hearts.'

'I can't wait to go,' said Arleta Cosby of Cosby Travel Consultants in Alexandria, Virginia, who's taking a group to Martinique aboard a Carnival Fascination cruise from San Juan. She cited big draws as 'the whole island vibe and the fantastic food.'

Wednesday night's occasion previewed 'Martinique Adventures,' a new episode on the PBS series 'Travels with Darley.' It debuts on WHUT-TV, March 16 at 9:30 p.m.

Host Darley Newman shared behind-the-scenes footage including her visit to the village of La Carbet where the community gathers every morning to cast a long fishing net from the black sand beach. There, chef Guy Ferdinand of Le Petibonum is known for his fresh cooking and signature short shorts.

Chef Hot Pants was on hand in Washington to prepare fresh fish for the Martinique event along with dishes by the French Embassy's chef, also a Martiniquais.

Patrick Lachaussée, first counselor of the French Embassy, described Martinique's French flair, and called it the 'sun capital of the world ... an island of tradition and culture, music and dance, gastronomy and the smile.'

Martinique is also known for fine rums, and Rhum Clément, with a 130-year history, provided ample samples including some fine bottles awarded in a drawing. Ben Jones, the great, great grandson of the founder of Rhum Clément, was on hand, and the liqueur Shrubb orange Clément and Champagne went into the Creole Royale, the evening's featured cocktail.

Martinique has been getting a lot of attention in the wider Washington area with new twice weekly seasonal flights on Norwegian Air from Baltimore-Washington International Airport, and this week Darley Newman and Chef Hot Pants cooked for the live CBS morning show 'Great Day Washington.'

'I'm ecstatic,' said Muriel Wiltord-Latamie, director of the Americas for the Martinique Promotion Bureau, about the 'great exposure' the island has been receiving. Together with cruise marketing consultant Roger Blum of Cruise & Port Advisors in Miami, she's planning visits to the cruise lines.

Martinique's growing cruise business has caught the notice of airlines, which are adding capacity from the US. Larry Coleman of Coleman Travel Service in Olney, Maryland, called the $200 fare on Norwegian Air 'beautiful,' and said he will send clients to Martinique for 'exposure to French culture without going to France.' He has cruised to the island with Royal Caribbean.

Brenda Jones of 4 C Travel said the event opened her eyes to the culinary experience Martinique offers, along with everything else travelers can do during a cruise call. She won a bottle of Rhum Clément in the drawing.

Another attendee received the grand prize: a Martinique vacation at Hotel Bakoua in Les Trois-Îlets, flights with Norwegian Air and other goodies for her visit.

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