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Sandra Scott Travels: Explore The Citadel In Cap-Haitian

Last week I asked: What is there to do in Cap-Haitian?

Visit the Citadel.

The Citadel
The Citadel

Cap-Haitien is in the northern part of Haiti near Labadee where the Royal Caribbean makes a port call.

Sadly, the cruise passengers do not get to see one of the world’s most incredible forts and other interesting places nearby. They are not allowed to leave the site leased by the Royal Caribbean.

About 17 miles from Cap-Haitien and five miles uphill – really uphill on a twisty-turny road – is the largest fortress in the Americas.

The Citadel is located on a high mountain and intentionally extremely difficult to get to because it was to serve as a place of last resort should they be attacked.

Some hike to the top but we went by car and then the last part in a four-wheeler.

The Citadel was built at the behest of Henri Christophe who was a key leader of the slave rebellion that led to the world’s first independent black-led republic in the world having successfully ousted the French.

Sans Souci Palace
Sans Souci Palace

Fearful that the French would try to recapture the island the massive fort was constructed by 20,000 workers between 1805 and 1820.

After our visit our guide, Maurice, took us to his place that is a cultural center in the making.

His wife had prepared an incredible lunch from ingredients made from ingredients grown on his property.

On the way to the Citadel was one of the most unexpected sites in Haiti – the ruins of Sans Souci Palace that brings to mind the palaces of France.

Sans Souci was the royal residence of King Henry I.

Yes, there was once a king of Haiti but he is better known as Henri Christophe.

Construction began in 1810 and it only took two years to build the massive complex complete with gardens, fountains and pools.

It was Christophe’s plan to show foreigners, particularly Europeans and Americans, the power and capability of the black race.

Petroglyphs near Ste. Suzanne
Petroglyphs near Ste. Suzanne

A major earthquake in 1842 destroyed a major part of the Versailles-like palace and it was never rebuilt.

When Europeans arrived on the island of Hispaniola, now home to Haiti and the Dominican Republic, they were met by the Taino people, a seafaring group found in the Caribbean islands.

Contact with the Europeans spelled the beginning of the end for the native people as smallpox epidemics in the early 1500s killed 90% of the Taino who had no natural immunity.

Diseases and other causes led to their virtual extinction by the beginning of the 1600s.

Near Ste. Suzanne there are petroglyphs accredited to the Taino people.

On the way we stopped at a house to see some Taino artifacts a man has collected.

We continue on to where a moderately-difficult path led to a stream where the petroglyphs were carved on the rocks many a long year ago.

Amazingly hundreds and hundreds of years of water washing over the have not completely eroded them.

One night we stayed at Habitation Jouissant, a luxury boutique hotel on the hillside with panoramic views of the sea and the city that once was a private residence.

Cormier Beach Resort
Cormier Beach Resort

The window in our room had a perfect view of the full moon and then the sun rising in the morning.

We spent a couple nights at Cormier Beach Resort, a long-established, family-owned resort situated on a sandy beach with five-acres of beautiful flowers and trees.

All of our accommodations in Haiti had free internet and included breakfast which we really appreciate.

Trivia Tease™:  What the first permanent European settlement in the Americas?

Look for the answer next week.

Sandra and her husband, John, have been exploring the world for decades, always on the lookout for something new and unique to experience. We have sailed down the Nile for a week on a felucca, stayed with the Pesch Indians in La Mosquitia, visited schools in a variety of countries, and — to add balance to our life — stayed at some of the most luxurious hotels in the world. Let the fun continue!