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Travel Logs January 2014

Compulsive Traveler

Things Not to Miss in Haiti

By Sandra Scott

The market is jam-packed with everything from handicrafts to pigeons. The building was prefabricated in France to be the train station in Cairo. But that didn’t happen so Florvil Hyppolite, president of Haiti from 1828 to 1896, had it shipped to Haiti to serve as a central market.

Haiti is recovering from the devastating 2010 earthquake and is now ready to welcome tourists. In the late 1700s Haiti was the glory of the French colonies and one of the richest colonies in the world. The economy relied on slave trade and labor which led to a successful slave revolt. In 1804 Haiti became the first black independent nation.

  1. Iron Market: Like a vision from the Arabian Nights, the beautiful red Iron Market in Port-au-Prince is a symbol of the future of Haiti. The market is jam-packed with everything from handicrafts to pigeons. The building was prefabricated in France to be the train station in Cairo. But that didn’t happen so Florvil Hyppolite, president of Haiti from 1828 to 1896, had it shipped to Haiti to serve as a central market.
  2. Balcony: High on a hill in one of the suburbs of Port-au-Prince that should be visited late in the afternoon to see the panoramic view of Port-au-Prince, the bay, mountains and the Arcadin Coast. Plan to stay for dinner at the new Observatoire Restaurant and watch the view turn magical when the city lights come on.
  3. Le Chateaublond: Le Chateaublond is a museum with a popular restaurant located in a Port-au-Prince suburb. On display is a train, the chimney, vats and other artifacts from the sugar producing days. Make arrangements for lunch hosted by Pierre Richard Moiso who is passionate about his love for Haiti and its culture. Pierre explains that, “Food is part of culture” and throughout the meal regales guests with information about food, rum, and the history of the park.
  4. Citadel: About 17 miles from Cap-Haitien and five miles uphill is the largest fortress in the Americas. Truly there is nothing like it. Designated a World Heritage site, the fort also has the largest collection of cannons in the Western Hemisphere. There are several ways to get to the fort. From Milot visitors can hike four hours or take a vehicle to the second parking lot where they can hike one-hour or ride a horse or hop in a four-wheeler to the top.
  5. Sans Souci Palace: One of the most unexpected sites in Haiti is Sans Souci Palace not far from the northern city of Cap-Haitien. It is easy to see why UNESCO declared it a World Heritage Site. The ruins bring to mind the palaces of France as was the intention. Sans Souci was the royal residence of King Henry I better known as Henri Christophe.
  6. Ste. Suzanne: Before the Europeans arrived, the Taino indigenous people, numbered in the millions but they nearly disappeared through mistreatment and disease. Near the town of Sainte Suzanne there is a small creek where the Taino petroglyphs can be found. In Sainte Suzanne ask where Fritz lives and he will show you Taino artifacts he has collected. A great example of Haitian hospitality.
  7. Arcadin Coast: The beautiful beaches have been drawing beach lovers for decades. There are small boutique resorts like Wahoo Beach Bay, midsize ones like Kaliko Beach and the former Club Med is now Indigo Beach. For a break from the beach, visitors can book a walking tour of a local village or visit the Ogier Fombrun Museum to learn about the area’s history from pre-Colombian times to Haiti’s colonial era.
  8. Nouailles: Nouailles is a cottage industry town where people are making beautiful art objects from scrape metal, some of which are museum quality others are more whimsical. Wander the streets where hundreds of craftsmen are at work and have their creations on display. Every artist is unique and every creation has its own special story to tell.
  9. Jacmel: In the south of Haiti the coastal city of Jacmel is the handicraft capital of Haiti. Most of the bright one-of-a-kind crafts are made from recycled materials. One artist, Moro, offers unique items he personally designed, and nearby is Charlotte, a small shop bursting with bright faces painted on calabashes, many of which are framed with a straw hat.
  10. The people: The people of Haiti are hard-working and friendly. Most of the people in the hospitality industry speak English but French and Creole are the most common languages. Learn a few basic words in French and Creole and it will bring a broad smile to the faces of locals.

 

Sandra Scott travels the globe recording the top attractions at every destination.

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