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krisek Saint-Louis - A travel report by Krys
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Saint-Louis,  Senegal - flag Senegal -  Saint-Louis
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krisek's travel reports

Saint-Louis, Senegalese chill out zone.

  13 votes
Page: 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16
The Senegalese, and mainly the Wolof, are amongst the most beautiful and exceptionally stunning people I have ever seen in my life. And when they smile they are simply dazzling.

Saint-Louis travelogue picture
When I arrived in Saint-Louis, it looked completely different from what I was imagining it from many descriptions of it. Well, maybe I should have not let my imagination loose like that. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, a significant place for mankind and people should value and protect that. I found it in a state of disrepair. As a French colonial settlement in the 17th century, Saint-Louis was urbanised in the mid-19th century. It was the capital of Senegal from 1872 to 1957 and played an important cultural and economic role in the whole of West Africa. It is an outstanding example of a colonial city, characterised by its particularly natural setting, and it illustrates the development of colonial government in this region. Nevertheless, I think that I misjudged the length of time I would need in Saint-Louis and the surroundings to see everything or appreciate it. I guess overstayed. The town is quite small and there is not an awful lot to do there. I wandered along and across the town several times and I was bored at the end of the day. Weather was good, but the beaches in the town were filthy and the good ones were kilometres away. Apart from the one at the end of the country, were I didn’t feel comfortable staying as I couldn’t see the border and I didn’t have a visa for Mauritania. When I was walking along the waterfront, the range of odours and stench overshot all possible levels of my tolerance for bad smell and I was nearly sick. Someone was painting a boat there and I was ever so happy to be able to recognise for the first time one of the scents – the fresh paint. But, I don’t regret anything, since the slow pace for this very beginning of my holiday was enjoyable and the colonial feel at the more restored parts of the town was a great component of the atmosphere. Saint-Louis is a lovely little place. The architecture is stunning. Once the crumbling buildings are restored it will become West Africa’s prettiest city.

Favourite spots:
Saint-Louis travelogue picture
Although I liked Saint-Louis a lot (and I am struggling to pick a single favourite spot), after a day, I knew I had to do something more, go somewhere more. And yes! Situated in the Senegal River delta, the Djoudj Sanctuary is a large wetland, comprising of a large lake surrounded by streams, ponds and backwaters. It forms a living but fragile sanctuary for some 1.5 million birds, such as the white pelican, the purple heron, the African spoonbill, the great egret and the cormorant. It is officially called Parc National des Oiseaux du Djoudj. It is said to be the world’s third most important birds’ sanctuary. The majority of the birds are migratory and they arrive to Senegal from Europe just before the wintertime. The Park is very near Saint-Louis, about 60 kilometres and the road is quite good. The ride takes bout 45 minutes and it is one of the key escapades organised by all the travel agencies in the town. It is also a UNESCO inscribed site. Visiting is by boat to see the waterfowl.

What's really great:
Saint-Louis travelogue picture
The slow pace and tranquility were the best. I didn’t find the Senegalese amongst the friendliest in Africa, but in Saint-Louis they were OK. A road to Mauritania was being built and the guys building it were very funny and they looked like they enjoyed their work. It was hard but they were smiling. They wanted me to photograph them very much! I must’ve taken twenty. One of the guys gave me his address and asked if I could send them. Back in the old town I discovered a photo lab, which could print pictures from digital memory cards. The printer was of a very good quality but it was painfully slow. I printed ten copies of one photograph and I took them to the guys. They could not believe they got the results so quickly and I could see this must have made them very happy! They wanted even more pictures to be taken, so I took another dozen, but those, I said, would have to be sent to them after my holiday, because the printer in the lab would have taken a week to print them all.

Saint-Louis travelogue picture
There are two, or perhaps even three towns in one in Saint-Louis. The first one is the old town on the island on the river, where the grand colonial buildings are, some beautifully restored, and some still crumbling. This is where the museums, galleries, shops, best restaurants and hotels are. The second town is on the westernmost part of Saint-Louis where it is adjacent to the Atlantic beach. Part of this section of the town there has been described as a colonial version of Paris’s Champs-Elysees, a wide avenue with grand mansions (some larger and taller than in the old town) and planted with palm trees. I had to stretch my imagination to see it, however it was very pleasant. The third town could be the southern section of the second town, south of the fish market. That section is more African than colonial. The household are simple and it is more obvious that the real life in Saint-Louis goes around fishing mainly.

Saint-Louis travelogue picture
After a few unsuccessful attempts to get accommodated, I found a room in rather nice Hotel Residence. It was clean and super-centrally located with a great view from the sun-terrace. I loved that terrace, I could watch the people below stirring, chatting, trading, going about their business, and I could sit at a table and read my book trying to figure out what I could see next in the area. The hotel was not dirt-cheap but for what it was, it was fairly good value. The rooms were clean and air-conditioned, and the service was efficient and friendly. There were other, cheaper places in town, but they were all fully booked. That was odd, since I saw few tourists around.

Saint-Louis travelogue picture
Downstairs at the hotel, they also had a discotheque, which did not get full until wee hours in the morning. The disco’s theme changed every night, revolving from the obvious Senegalese night to generally African to European, Jamaican, etc. It was so-so.

At the front of the Flamingo Restaurant, there was a great Jazz café called Marco Jazz with interior covered by silver graffiti and furnished with hyper comfortable sofas. I will not even begin to try describing Marco’s choice of repertoire. Let’s just say that I simply loved this place. It was popular among the better situated locals, mainly young people, who wanted a romantic evening, lounging in comfy sofas, listening to superb music while the lights were dimmed.

Saint-Louis travelogue picture
One other day, I decided to go far away from the tourist centre of the town and explore more original or traditional town. I wanted to have a look at the households of the people living simultaneously by the Senegal River and the Atlantic Ocean. The walk involved marching by the odouriferous riverbanks or petty fish and meat markets for about twenty minutes. The people in the northern part of the city were so much nicer than in the central island of Saint-Louis. They didn’t jump on you trying to sell you something. The kids didn’t make sad faces asking for CFA 100, pen or a gift. It was different – more pleasant and chilled. I could even play a little with kids on the beach. They didn’t ask for anything. After spending maybe half an hour with them, I took them to a little kiosk and told them that they could pick any type of sweet or biscuit and I would get it for them. This made them even happier and the owner of the shop was in the seventh heaven as well. So much business in one go!

Saint-Louis travelogue picture
The restaurants in the town were also very good. The Casino Restaurant, for example, offered slow service in the first place and then a choice of seafood, of course, and a small range of pizzas. Their delicate red house wine was rather watery but I guess it went down well with their slightly salty pizzas.

Before the Casino, I tried the Flamingo Restaurant right on the Senegal River. They served excellent seafood soup with croutons and cheese, and a fantastic fish fillet. I was in heaven! At least this is what my taste buds and my stomach thought anyway.

Other recommendations:
Saint-Louis travelogue picture
Since the trip to the Djoudj park was so popular, I could not get a trip over there from any of the hotels in the town. I was directed to go to the tourist office, which should provide me with more information. When I got to the office, they told me that they could organise it for me and asked me if I wanted to join either the three French tourists or one Japanese. Joining the French would make the trip of four people, and would reduce the price from CFA 20,000 to CFA 16,000. I said that it would be better to do that. However, I had to agree that the guide would speak French only. That was absolutely fine for me, since I was not going to the park to have deep conversations but to watch the birds. When I turned up in the morning at the indicated location, not only was the car late but also I found myself with the company of the single Japanese tourist, rather than those three French. The guy immediately told me that the French did not want my company. And they have never met me!

Published on Saturday February 23th, 2008

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Mon, Feb 25 2008 - 07:11 PM rating by louis

Excellent report. I was in Saint Louis a year ago, and your report bring me back a lot of memories. I really enjoyed this city. Stunning pictures.

Mon, Feb 25 2008 - 05:12 PM rating by mistybleu

Krzys, thank you very much for publising this report. It was a joy to read and probably a little different than I anticipated. It's really wonderful to see Senegal through your eyes.

Sat, Feb 23 2008 - 11:18 PM rating by jorgesanchez

One more of your precious travel writing gifts. Thanks

Sat, Feb 23 2008 - 09:28 PM rating by rangutan

I always mixed up Surinam with Senegal before but am now better orientated. A great pleasure to read an honest report like this. [4.75]

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