Saturday, March 10, 2018

Port au Prince Airport – Delta waiting area

Waiting upstairs for the Delta flight

The first weekend in March 2018 I flew back to the US on Delta. I arrived 3 hours before departure. When you go in the main door of the Port au Prince airport, go to the right to get to the Delta check-in. After the first stop to show passports and answer questions, continue to the computer kiosk. It was able to process all my info except my credit card for checked luggage, so I did that at the main counter where I dropped off my luggage. The attendant spoke excellent English. After that all airlines proceed to the main security line where you show your passport, go through security, then proceed to the customs booth to have your passport stamped. 

Then it is not clear where to go. I had always taken the escalator upstairs to the American Airlines waiting area. Turns out all other airline passengers wait on the ground floor in a jumble that is not delineated by airline. There is one restaurant and a junk food shop on that floor, but go upstairs and you’ll find a lot of gift shops and more food counters (same place as before the earthquake). All shops take US bills, and of course where I got my cheese sandwich for $4.50US they did not have change for a $5. And they didn’t have juice despite a sign on the counter that said grenadia and cherise juice for $5US.  The counter downstairs did have mango and tamarind juice.  These gift shops have typical Haitian art and crafts, but also maps, books, rum, and Haitian chocolate! So I bought some Askanya chocolate at the corner kiosk in the hallway (it's not marked, look for boxes that look like they have chocolate bars). The rapidou version is kind of gritty with an odd flavor, like rapidou!

After eating I went back downstairs, bought a tamarind juice, found the bathroom by the duty-free shop, found an empty seat, and about 10 minutes later an announcement said that the Delta flight needed to line up for security. This was about 1.5 hours before departure time. Only none in my group heard the initial English version which was muffled, we only heard the French version say Delta, and had to wait for the message to repeat a couple times to know what to do. So amongst the crowd of seated people we formed a line, showed someone at a booth our passports, then walked up a flight of stairs to wait in line again in a sunny hallway for a pat-down and luggage search. Then we boarded! American Airlines has a much calmer waiting area, juice and Rebo counters, and wifi. This other area gave you a last taste of navigating a foreign country.

An upstairs food counter.
The cheese sandwich was good!

The hallway with gift shops, and the yellow kiosk that had chocolate.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Restaurant – Les Jardins du Mupanah

 Behind the Musée du Panthéon National (MUPANAH, National Pantheon Museum) in Port au Prince (near the fallen palace) is the restaurant Les Jardins du Mupanah, on Av. de la Republique near the Palace of Finance being built.  The museum and restaurant both have their own parking lots.  The restaurant looks like a glass box and has a little water garden alongside it.  It is very open and inviting inside, with a bar and museum gift shop.  My 10 students and I used the restaurant as a transfer stop on our way to Furcy.  Our van from the central plateau dropped us off and while we waited for the van to Furcy, the students went to the museum while I waited with our gear that the staff let us pile in the corner of the restaurant.  We ordered lunch as soon as we arrived, and it was served on time when the students returned from the museum.  I drank my cherry juice while I waited with our gear and the waitress gave me some rolls and real butter.  The menu offers traditional Haitian food served in a fusion sort of way.  Being a vegetarian, I ordered the Aztec salad without chicken.  It was like a taco salad, with plantain chips instead of tortilla chips.  See photos of the menu below.  Salads and sandwiches were around $10US, while dinners were $10 - $15US.  Fruit juice was $3US.  Added to the bill was 10% tax and a 10% service fee that the waiter said was for the kitchen, not for him!  I have been to the museum twice and never knew this restaurant was behind it.  I will definitely go again if I can.

English menu
French menu

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Guest house review – O-Zone in Furcy

Morning coffee
Recently I stayed a Saturday night in January 2018 at O-Zone to take my university students to Wynne Farm for the day.  The best thing about O-Zone is that it is up at 4500 ft. in the pine trees and running the entire length of the lodge is a balcony with great views of the forest and excellent birding in the morning.  I saw many species while just sitting and enjoying my morning coffee.  O-Zone is not for the traveler who needs privacy and fancy accommodations (anything more than a bed and shower, and food).  It is more like camping, and there was even a group who pitched their tents on the balcony.  My group of 12 took 4 rooms, and the other 3 rooms were also occupied

If you come prepared to relax for a day up in the trees, need a staging place for hiking, and come prepared for the accommodations and atmosphere with adventure, then you will enjoy it.  Here is what you’ll get:

The rooms are tiny with bunk beds that have pillows, thin blankets, and a comforter.  There are rooms that sleep 1 or 2, and 4 or 5.  All open into the balcony.  There is one room called the Tree House that is elevated and has a large bed and attached bathroom.  If you come in January you must bring a lot of warm clothes for sleeping!  The temperature at night was 55F and with the fog rolling in we were quite cold.  The rooms are airy with open ceiling and boards for walls, so will not protect you from the cold, or music or light, so bring earplugs and eye covers if you need quiet and dark.  You can hear everything going on in the other rooms and balcony/lobby/bar area.  The music was loud, a drunk guy came in from the street, and during the night someone threw rocks on the roof.  It was a Saturday night.

The bathroom, attached to the room withOUT a door, has a toilet, sink, and shower (super cold water in January!).  No towels or toiletries are provided other than toilet paper.  Unfortunately our toilet tank wouldn’t fill so we had to bucket flush.  The floor of the room and bathroom is dirt with rocks and some boards to stand on, so bring flipflops if you shower.  There is a common bathroom off of the lobby if you need more privacy.

If you are on a time schedule, order your food and rides an hour ahead of when you really need them.  O-Zone provided a truck to take us to Wynne Farm.  O-Zone has a decent lunch and dinner menu with salads, chicken, rice etc. but of course not everything on the menu is available.  Tell them if you are vegetarian – they made a salad for me without chicken.  We laughed at the ice in our juice because we were all really cold by the time dinner was served.  They gave us Haitian spaghetti for breakfast, with chicken sauce to pour over.  Coffee was provided.  There is a small bar.

My arrangements were made by Jacqui Lebrom with Voyages Lumiere, so I wasn’t in charge of negotiating a price, which was quoted at a discounted rate of $70 per person that supposedly included 4 meals (breakfast, lunch we weren’t there for, dinner, and hot chocolate that we never saw).  Jacqui was wonderful in arranging logistics for a field trip for my university ecology class (traveling 6 hours from the Central Plateau to Wynne Farm, with stops in Port au Prince), so any frustration I had with O-Zone was no reflection on her.  The Bradt Haiti travel guide gives O-Zone one $ for price.  It also gives several beach hotels where I’ve stayed $$ and $$$ and they cost just a little more and had far superior service and accommodations, so maybe there is room for a lot of negotiation with O-Zone.

Adjust your expectations, bring warm clothes and ear plugs, and enjoy the birds and view from O-Zone.
The Tree House room

Inside the Tree House

Campers on the balcony. Rooms are in the background.

View from below.

Evening entertainment

Tree House visible above, with lodge below.

Black-throated blue warbler on the balcony.

At the big white church in Furcy turn left to take the road down to the O-Zone gate.


Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Navigating the Port au Prince airport

The PurJus stand
With only carry-on and my boarding pass printed at home, I made it through the airport in record time, from curb drop-off to American Airlines waiting area in only 10 minutes. Just walk in the front doors and keep to the left to get through security. A guy at the curb wanting to help me told me the line was very long, pointing to the line of people who were outside waiting for rides or something, not waiting to get into the airport.  There were only 3 people in front of me at both security check points, and an immigration booth was open when I got through first security point.  With time to spare I enjoyed a passion fruit-ginger juice and a spinach pate at the PurJus stand in the upstairs waiting area. The fresh juice was well worth $8US (bottled drinks cost just as much in the Miami airport).  Don't miss the Rebo stand for coffee and hot chocolate croissant!

Spinach pate and a juice

The Bon Voyage menu

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Bird lessons at the new UCC preschool

UCC in Caiman opened a preschool in Bohoc by the market, so the little kids don’t have to walk so far.  I took me 35 minutes to walk to this school from Caiman.  My translator Louiders and I had a 15 minute program for each class, PSI, PSII, and PSIII.  We taught the parts of the birds by having kids act them out, pretending they had beaks, wings, and tails.  As the kids age additional grades will be added to the school.



Tuesday, October 31, 2017

The paving of Route Nationale #3

Facing west, in the direction of Pignon.
In 2008 when I first came to Caiman I flew from Port au Prince on MAF, since the 65 mile drive took 8 hrs.  By the time I started teaching at the university in Caiman in 2014, Route Nationale #3 was paved from Port to Hinche, so the trip took only 4 hrs.  The road had also been graded all the way to Pignon, as the plan had to be to pave it that far, but the money disappeared as it tends to do in Haiti.  Over the years the road deteriorated to the point that the 8 mile trip to Pignon took ½ hr.  Now (2017) the road is graded again in preparation for paving, and only takes 10 minutes (and now a good restaurant is there!).  The road crew is already putting in three bridges between Hinche and Bohoc.  Here are pictures of the one just to the west of the Bohoc market, along with a before photo showing the pedestrian crossing.
Facing east, toward the market.

Nov. 2014

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Chalydath Resto, Pignon

The drive from the university to Pignon is now only 10 minutes since Rt. Nationale 3 has been graded in preparation for paving (as it was 6 years ago before the money and motivation to pave disappeared).  So we went there for Sunday lunch to eat at a new restaurant, Chalydath (219, Ave. Notre Dame), named after the owner's daughters and wife).  It is really good and has a variety of food and drinks, so please help keep it open!  I wanted pizza but that takes an hour, so I had a cheese sandwich grilled in a panini machine.  My friends had fish, goat, and chicken, all served with picklez, fries, veggies, or fried plantain.  They gave us an appetizer of cheese melted on bread, with tomato.  The juice of the day was grenadine (passionfruit).  They even have an espresso maker for Rebo coffee drinks such as mochas, frapacinos, and a funky monkey with peanut butter.  As usual, stay away from the endangered conch.  Chalydath is a large restaurant with an upper level that would be good for a meeting or party.