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Sandra Scott Travels: Haiti isn’t like everywhere else

Last week I asked: What is the capital of Haiti?

Port-au-Prince.

We totally loved our visit to Haiti.

The restored Iron Market
The restored Iron Market

We found it was less expensive to fly into Santo Domingo then fly to Port-au-Prince from there.

The biggest problem was connecting between the two Santo Domingo airports so hired a nice young man to drive us thus avoiding the taxis.

It was expensive but smooth and easy, which we appreciated.

Port-au-Prince suffered from the 2010 earthquake but we were impressed because everyone seemed busy and things were improving.

We were in Managua twenty years after they suffered a similar earthquake and, except for clearing the ruble away, nothing had been rebuilt.

In Port-au-Prince we stayed at the new Best Western Premier which was lovely and had a lot of Haitian artwork on display and even had a book that described the artwork.

The Observatory's expansive view
The Observatory’s expansive view

Many of the governmental buildings including the Presidential Palace were destroyed but are in the process of being rebuilt.

The restored Iron Market is the bright sign of hope for the future of Port-au-Prince.

Like a vision from the Arabian Nights the beautiful red Iron Market complete with minarets, was restored by John McAslan who has a variety of interests in the area, namely the major internet company.

On Tuesday, January 11, 2011 he joined Bill Clinton for the grand reopening of the market.

The Clinton foundation, which has many programs in support of Haiti, commented that the completed market was a “bright beacon” of hope for the future of Haiti.

Without a doubt it provides employment for many people.

The market is jam packed with everything from handicrafts to pigeons.

Haiti’s history on display
Haiti’s history on display

The building has an interesting history.

It was prefabricated in France and was intended to be the train station in Cairo.

But the plan didn’t work and, as the story goes, Florvil Hyppolite, President of Haiti from 1828 to 1896, was visiting France and decided it was just what Port-au-Prince needed so he bought it and had it shipped to Haiti to serve as the central market.

Every visit to Port-au-Prince should include a visit to The Observatory.

It offers an expansive view of the mountain, sea, and the city.

We visited twice.

Once during the day and then returned in the evening where there is a new restaurant.

The Observatory has great food with a magical view of the city lights far below.

One day we ate at Le Chateaublond, located just a short distance from Port-au-Prince.

It is a sugar cane museum with artifacts and structures that recall the days of sugar cane production a key component in Haiti’s history.

On display are a train, the chimney, vats and other artifacts.

Our meal was hosted by Pierre Richard Moiso who explained typical Haitian food and beverages while sharing his love of Haiti.

Chateublond's Pierre Richard Moiso
Chateublond’s Pierre Richard Moiso

I learned about acra, a favorite appetizer made from a Haitian ground root; Chiquetaille de Lambi, a conch recipe that is a must-have at a Haitian’s first communion celebration; and Clairin, a popular drink similar to moonshine that comes in a variety of flavors.

Dining at Chateublond was a total experience with Pierre Richard Moiso in charge.

We learned about Haitian food and the sugar cane industry.

Moiso said when he looks at the tall brick chimney he thinks of his ancestors who toiled in the cane fields.

He explained, “Haiti has something special. It is not like everywhere else. Yes, there are things I’d like to see changed but I don’t want us to lose our identity.”

Trivia Tease™:  Where is there a great CNY getaway? 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!

2 Comments

  1. As a Haiti earthquake survivor and someone who has been working to promote tourism to the country since then, I greatly appreciated your positive review. Yes, Haiti has a lot of challenges to overcome, but it also has a lot of wonderful tourism assets. Reading your post was uplifting!

  2. “…, Florvil Hyppolite, President of Haiti from 1828 to 1896, was visiting France…”
    This makes it sound like he was president for 68 years. I take it those are his birth and death years rather than his years in office.

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