0250. Old Colonial Capital (Sgl 02--revisit)

Saint-Louis Travel Blog

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Once again, I'm going to take a quick trip through time and add a blog entry from my 2004 visit to Saint-Louis...

SAINT-LOUIS 2004 

It was nearly midnight with I arrived in St Louis--but the streets were alive with activity.  It was an unforgettable thrill the feeling of having arrived in the Subsahara--"true Africa"--especially after the challenges I'd faced after the last couple of days.  Everybody was happy, laughing, chatting--there was music everywhere, bright clothing, picturesque homes--everything I'd imagined Africa would be (I'm just going to call it "Africa"--it gets tedious saying "subsaharan Africa" all the time to distinguish it from North Africa.)  I had very little money, no idea of where to stay--and it's now past midnight--but I'm not the least bit concerned.

  After Mauritania, any difficulty I might face here will be a piece of cake.

Came across a hotel, but 15 dollars a night sounded a bit pricey, so I continued further. To my left was a wide river or lake with lights sparkling on the other side.  And then there it was--just sitting there next to a gas station... an ATM!  With a round the clock security guard!  Of course!  What did you expect?  Actually, it wasnt until months later that I realized how lucky I was.  Almost all ATMs in West Africa don't work with Mastercard... But this one did...

I figured I could save money by getting a cab to take me to a cheaper hotel.  The cab took me across a beautiful bridge to the heart of St Louis to an even pricier hotel--so I figured I'd settle for the first hotel I'd seen.

..

The clerk carrying a bucket of water, took my up a labyrinth of hallways and outdoor stairways to an enormous dirty room.  No running water apparently... But there was a fan and a window overlooking the river....

...This was the Waldorf Astoria as far as I was concerned...

I jumped out of bed early in the morning--not a moment to waste... I headed out to explore the most colorful outdoor market I'd ever seen... sat down in a little stall where a cheerful young fellow brought me breakfast... strolled across the bridge to "downtown" St Louis, a fascinating mix of African vibe with decaying French architecture...

St Louis is divided into three section.  The mainland section, where I'd stayed the night,  the colonial quarter which is actually an island in the middle of the river--and then the really fascinating part.

.. see, the river runs parallel to the ocean shore for miles, and only a narrow sand dune separates the two.  But on this sand dune is the super colorful and very African fishing neighborhood with crowded little markets,  painted boats loaded with fish coming to shore, and scores of eager house wives rushing each boat to get the best deals on very fresh fish...

I tell you, a better welcoming to Africa I could not have imagined.

It's a Friday and St Louis seems to be quite a devout Muslim town. As prayer time approaches, it seems every man and boy in town heads towards the nearest mosque wearing the most magnificent robes.  There the rows of men praying spill out onto the main street and even onto the sandy side streets...

I head back to downtown to a stately colonial building where I enjoyed a delicious meal of rice and Senegalese styled chicken.

..

...Hiked the island from end to end--enjoyed  my first mango in a long time... Back to the mainland... another market... and back to the taxi station...

...An unforgettable first night and day in real Africa...

BACK TO THE PRESENT...

Once again, I arrive late at night to St Louis, with almost no local currency in my pocket... This time I know not to take the bush taxi all the way to the station... I get off not to far from the bridge and head towards downtown. 

The city is hopping... there is big concert going on right near the bridge and everybody is out and about, having a good time.  I find an auberge with a 10 US$ a night dormitory bed--not rock bottom prices, but certainly a good deal here in Saint-Louis.

  Finding a reasonable place to stay and decent food is essential for a town to be an "anchor town"--a place I know I can fall back on if my luck turns south or I just need some place to rest and gather my thoughts.  And Saint-Louis could be make a great anchor town...

Find an ATM, no problem.  A lady is selling grilled steak sandwiches on the corner--she seems to be quite popular with the locals--absolutely delicious... I go on a short walk then come back around for seconds...

I hike around for a bit... soaking in the magical Saint-Louis vibe--then decide to call it a day. I've got a lot to do tomorrow...

Next day...

I start out with a wonderful early morning swim in the ocean...

Since one of the best songs I've written was inspired in part by my last visit to Saint-Louis, I figure I'd better take a lot of photos and video clips, in case I should want to make a music video exclusively about this town--and Saint-Louis certainly has no shortage of photo opportunities.

.. I wander around the French Colonial areas on the western tip with a great view of the fishing boats loading and unloading on the other side...

Once I feel I'd had my fill, I head on towards the bridge that connects the island to the coastal penninsula, for a walk along the shore, hoping I'll be able to see a boat come in, and all the local ladies rushing out to buy very fresh fish.  I’m not disappointed.

This is the paradise that so inspired me on my last trip...

 

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Saint-Louis
photo by: WorldXplorer