Sunday, October 20, 2013

Day 2 – Moulin sur Mer and Musee Ogier-Fombrun

This continues my 3 day road trip around Port au Prince and the Artibonite Valley.  After church on Sunday Day 2 we hit the road around 2pm and drove National Route 1 which follows the southern coast of Haiti’s northern peninsula.  From Tabarre PAP it took us about 2 hours to get to the resort Moulin sur Mer.  There’s a sign right along the highway pointing the way to the resort, just keep driving til you reach the resort gate.  You park inside the gate then a little cart comes and takes you to the check-in booth.  Riding the little cart made me feel like I was at Disney World!  A room for 2 with 2 beds was $156, an affordable splurge to relax at a clean beach.  That price came with a great breakfast of fruit, rolls, omelet, and juice (with real butter!).  There is a higher price that includes dinner.

The room was great – nothing fancy but it did have hot water!  The grounds had a lot to look at - a pond with geese and giant land crabs which entertained people like me and Rhoda.  Miniature golf, a swimming pool, a cage with two monkeys (!), a small playground, racketball court, and a giant chess game.  There is a little gift shop with mainly swimwear, toiletries, and medicines.  But we were there for the beach!

There are several mini-beach areas.  At the edge of the roped off swimming area next to the man-made ‘island’ are rocks with sea urchins and fish, but jet skiers were going back and forth just beyond us, churning up the water and making it difficult not to get sloshed up against the rocks.  Why couldn’t they go farther out?  They have the entire bay!  The hotel offers kayaks and snorkeling gear to rent, and there’s a marina right next to it to rent jet skis, store boats, etc.  We swam, had dinner, then the best part came after dark when we were hanging out on the little ‘island’ where fish were attracted to the lights!  It was so exciting to see all the fish, clear water, no jet skiers.  Next time I’ll try night snorkeling.

Food was Haitian restaurant fare, a bit more upscale I suppose, but since I am a vegetarian I can’t comment on how it compared to other places.  For vegetarians I recommend a cheese sandwich with mushrooms and onions on the side to put on the sandwich which came on a great baguette.  Even better was the dessert, Twa Let, which caused some confusion.  Twalet – a toilet?  Or Twa Let – 3 milk?  Fortunately it was cream-based desserts (see photo).
We got up for a sunrise swim.  No jet skiers!  Clear water!  And then a great breakfast.  We checked out at 10 am and went to the plantation museum right across from the main gate.  This Musee Ogier-Fombrun was closed for renovation, but we were able to walk around the grounds and see some of the exhibits in the entrance way (and oddly there is a small pool and a bar – I suppose for the hotel patrons?).  With my museum studies degree, I was horrified to see letters written by Toussaint Louverture, Haiti’s revolutionary leader – in the entrance way – under glass but still exposed to light and humidity.  Here is a photo to preserve the letters for all eternity (or until the end of computers).

We left the museum around noon and traveled to Petite Riviere via Saint Marc.  Stayed tuned for the next posting about that journey.

The turn from Route 1 to Moulin sur Mer.

The island lights attract fish at night!

A good place to do some light snorkeling - sea urchins and fish.
And you can do some light birding - sandwich terns!
The marina next to Moulin sur Mer.

Historic letters.

Letter by Toussaint Louverture!

Friday, October 18, 2013

Day 1 – Apparent Project and Art Fair

This continues my 3-day road trip post.  On Saturday Day 1 we went to Papillon Enterprises, the boutique of the Apparent Project which strives to prevent orphanages by teaching job skills to its employees who create jewelry and art.  Thus the employees have income and don’t need to put their kids in orphanages which are big business in Haiti (even I was encouraged to start one as a business venture).  Many ‘orphans’ are really kids whose parents were desperate enough that they gave them to strangers at an ‘orphanage’ to be cared for.  There are even people who go around collecting kids for these orphanages, where the kids essentially work as slaves and may be sold to other people, while the person running it collects all the donated money.  I know this from a friend who reunites these kids with their families.

Workers at the Apparent Project make their own beads out of Haitian clay.  It is a refreshing change from all the rolled bead projects that have become popular (which they also make).  Last year here in Les Cayes I met a woman selling jewelry she had made through this program.  It was nice to see that the store and woman who runs the business actually exist!  (I’ll have to do another post on all the foundations that I’ve been asked to support!).

We then spent the afternoon at the art fair at the Parc Historique de la Canne a Sucre (Sugar Cane Museum).  It cost 300 gds (~$7US) to get in, and the ticket came with a free pop, 50gds in digicel minutes, and 150gds to use at any booth.  

There were the typical metal art, ash(?) sculpture, and food/syrupy alcohol product booths.  But new to me were the handcrafted fashion products.  The Apparent Project had a booth there.  Others included variations of beaded purses and sandals, scarves and dresses, and crocheted dresses, sandals, and bathing suits.  The clothing was quite expensive, >$100US for some items.

Our best find was a paper mache barn owl which Rhoda bought for me!  I will use it in teaching and fill it with candy so kids have a good association with owls (which most people seem to associate with demons).

We ended our outing with a trip to the grocery store which deserves its own post, as I live in Les Cayes which seems to have slim pickings compared to the Port grocery stores.  Stay tuned for Day 2 at  the beach!

Look for the pink gate to go to the Apparent Project boutique.

Beads made and sold at the Apparent Project boutique.

Entrance to art fair was across from the US Embassy.
Too much metal art - if anyone who runs the art fair reads this, contact me for suggestions!

Fashion booths

Pressing sugar cane for fresh juice.
Apparent Project gifts.  A new bag that isn't so long it hits the moto wheels!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Port au Prince and Artibonite Valley in 3 days

I recently took a mini-vacation to see my friend Rhoda in Port au Prince and we took a road trip up the south coast of the north peninsula, and back down through the Artibonite Valley, Haiti’s rice basket.  I’ll blog about each place we stopped so others can visit these places.  Paul Clammer’s Bradt Haiti guide was a great help providing background information about the places we saw.

Saturday Day 1 – Lunch at Epi D’Or, stop at the Apparent Project gift shop (which should be added to the guide book), spend the afternoon at the Art Fair at the Parc Historique de la Canne a Sucre (Sugar Cane Museum), followed by grocery shopping in awe at the things the store carries (stores where I live in Cayes have fewer choices).  Wonderful dinner at home.

Sunday Day 2 – Leave Port at 2pm to begin our road trip.  Arrive at the beach hotel Moulin Sur de Mer at 4pm.  Spend the night.  

Monday Day 3 – Check out at 10 am and visit the plantation museum Musee Colonial Ogier-Fombrun next door.  Hit the road around 11am, stop at the St. Marc’s grocery store for lunch, arrive at Petit Riviere around 1pm to visit the bird artist Larimer.  Spend the afternoon visiting Larimer’s studio, the Palais de 365 Portes (Palace of 365 Doors built in 1816), Fort Crete-a-Pierrot that Napoleon’s army attacked in 1802, and a hotel (for potential visitors).  Hit the road around 5pm, visit a friend of Rhoda and pick up another friend, arrive home in Port at 9:30pm.

An extra day could be built into the trip to visit the waterfall Saut D’Eau and find a birding spot.

Stay tuned for details and more photos!