Stopping to smell the flowers at Martinique's French Coco

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With its rocking chairs, rainforest showers and riot of plant life, French Coco is designed to encourage guests to slow down and commune with nature.
With its rocking chairs, rainforest showers and riot of plant life, French Coco is designed to encourage guests to slow down and commune with nature.
When was the last time you sat in a rocking chair? Really listened to the doves cooing at dawn? Watched the hummingbirds feed on nectar? Heard the tree frogs whistling at sunset


Nestled in the heart of the verdant Caravelle peninsula on Martinique's Atlantic coast, French Coco feels like a luxuriant secret garden in a tropical forest. As soon as guests pass through the discreetly marked portal, they enter into an enchanted realm marked by tranquility and well-being.

A member of Small Luxury Hotels of the World, the all-suite boutique hotel opened in the summer of 2016 along the border of La Caravelle's nature preserve. Nature's embrace is pervasive, thanks to the vision of proprietor Nadege Durand Pellegatta and her husband, Robert, the gracious French couple whose love for Martinique and its Creole heritage fueled the genesis of French Coco.

French Coco is furnished with artworks from painters, photographers, local potters and ceramists — even an artisanal knife-maker — and all of it infused with Pellegatta's original concept. Having viewed the property in an earlier incarnation, Pellegatta imagined a beloved Creole grandmother who ruled her rarefied realm from a rocking chair. Pellegatta and her husband spent nearly a decade transforming the grounds into a four-star luxury property comprising 17 suites.

Pellegatta imparted her vision to landscape designer Frederic Motger who utilized fragrances such as ylang-ylang, patchouli, jasmine and gardenia to create the garden's olfactory character. While the majority of the more than 1,000 plant species are indigenous to the Caravelle peninsula, there are also varieties from around the world, such as the mgambo tree with its velvety indigo black pearl seeds used by locals for jewelry.

Sixteen of the capacious suites feature a private plunge pool, a perfect square of turquoise amid the lush foliage. The sleek teak furnishings on the covered terrace include deep-seated rocking chairs that beckon like a beacon reminding guests to pause and watch the butterflies flit among the hummingbirds.

As showcases of understated elegance, each of the suites is an embodiment of the French philosophy l'art de vivre. Walk-in rainforest showers are lined in tin to replicate the sound of rain on a roof. Bespoke furnishings reflect the owner's regard for Creole artisans: TVs are slipcovered with tailored coffee bags as a reminder that the view onto the covered terrace is equally addictive.

The chef at French Coco’s acclaimed restaurant melds indigenous ingredients with classic French cuisine.
The chef at French Coco’s acclaimed restaurant melds indigenous ingredients with classic French cuisine.

French Coco's acclaimed restaurant is helmed by Martinican chef Nathanael Ducteil, a protege of Alain Ducasse, who melds the indigenous ingredients of his homeland with classic French cuisine. A seafood tartare of the day's catch is flecked with greens from the garden, while desserts include sorbets infused with herbs and edible flowers.

A 32-foot swimming pool shimmers on the terrace below the dining room. A covered lounge provides a perfect perch for an afternoon with a book or a rum tasting with local distillers, such as Rhum A1710.

One of the most remarkable attributes of French Coco is the accommodating concierge and staff, all of whom are unfailingly polite and polished. Unobtrusive yet ever-attentive, they possess an uncanny ability to anticipate your desires, such as a thoughtful breakfast awaiting on the sideboard prior to an early morning departure.

For those wishing to swim in the Caribbean, Surfers' Beach is a short walk off property, as are various hiking trails. At the tip of the peninsula, Le Chateau Dubuc offers the vestiges of a slave plantation, while Martinique's new Fondation Clement is a much-celebrated museum offering world-class exhibitions on the grounds of Habitation Clement, one of the island's most renowned distilleries.

Apart from Martinique's spectacular beauty, what you might remember most is the time you took to smell the flowers from your rocking chair at French Coco — a reminder that simple pleasures are the truest luxury.

Norwegian offers nonstop flights from three U.S. gateways, making Martinique directly accessible from the Northeast for the first time in more than 20 years.

Nightly rates at French Coco begin at about $400. Visit www.slh.com/frenchcoco.

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