Forum Haiti : Des Idées et des Débats sur l'Avenir d'Haiti
Forum Haiti : Des Idées et des Débats sur l'Avenir d'Haiti
Forum Haiti : Des Idées et des Débats sur l'Avenir d'Haiti
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Forum Haiti : Des Idées et des Débats sur l'Avenir d'Haiti

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 Haiti:Call it a Comeback

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Super Star
Super Star

Nombre de messages : 8252
Localisation : Canada
Opinion politique : Indépendance totale
Loisirs : Arts et Musique, Pale Ayisien
Date d'inscription : 02/03/2007

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Jeu de rôle: Maestro

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MessageSujet: Haiti:Call it a Comeback   Haiti:Call it a Comeback EmptyMer 27 Mai 2015 - 2:42

Last fall, I read Dimitry Leger’s stunning debut novel God Loves Haiti, and at its finish, I was in awe. Leger, a native Haitian, managed to convey the beauty and grandeur of his homeland—the architecture, history and gorgeous terrain— all of which have been nearly forgotten and overlooked by a world more focused on the country’s problems.

But Haiti is and has been a land of prosperity and potential. Celebrities like Marlon Brando flocked to the “Pearl of the Antilles” in the 50s and 60s, and a young Arkansas couple named Bill and Hillary honeymooned in the country in 1975.

Haiti swells with globally-recognized art, music, writing, cuisine and its Creole culture is the backbone of New Orleans (in fact, had Haitian slaves not defeated Napoléon Bonaparte, he would have never sold Louisiana to the United States). As the adage goes: it is a country too rich to be poor. After finishing God Loves Haiti, my first thought was, I must visit this country.

A month later, I was landing in the capital city of Port-Au-Prince.

Priceless in Port-Au-Prince

Walking through Port-Au-Prince is exhilarating (it’s safe: most of the rubble from the massive 7.0 2010 earthquake has been removed; and, despite media paranoia, Haiti is actually one of the safest countries in the Caribbean, according to a 2013 Igarapè Institute study).

Looking into the faces of the men, women and children passing by, I see the resilience and pride; it’s the same strength and courage that allowed their enslaved ancestors to oust Napoléon from their homeland and become the first independent black republic in the Western Hemisphere.

The energy of downtown Port-Au-Prince is frenetic with throngs of Haitians walking—some hurriedly, others with Caribbean leisure, but mostly all with purpose—and sharing the streets with vintage motorcycles and the gaudy Tap Taps.

These colorfully-painted pickup buses are used by Haitian locals for transport and are oftentimes adorned with political slogans or portraits of the famous.).

The Iron Market, a stone’s throw from the Caribbean Sea, is one of the most famous structures in the country. Also known as Marche en Fer and originally built in in Paris in the 1800s, legend says that the market was purposed as a train station in Cairo, but Haitian President Florvil Hyppolite swooped in and purchased it when the deal soured. Nearly destroyed during the quake, the communications company Digicel coughed up $12 million and rebuilt the iconic bazaar to international building code standards, making it resistant to hurricanes and earthquakes. Lots of decorative odes to the original building and several 21st century add-ons were made including solar paneling and free WiFi.

Today, with two major halls— one for food, the other for products—it’s just as vibrant as ever. The garrulous vendors work overtime hawking their goods, that include including everything from veggies to voodoo paraphernalia. It’s exciting, overwhelming and an absolute must-see.

Le Negre Marron

Walking down Champ de Mars is equally heartbreaking and stirring.

The famously majestic National Palace (the home of the Haiti’s president; reportedly twice the size of the White House) once stood near this boulevard. However, directly across from the palace site—in a telling balance (or maybe a empathetic notion from the gods)—the iconic statue Le Negre Marron (The Black Maroon), still stands despite Mother Nature’s destructive tremors.

Created by Haitian sculptor/architect Albert Mangones in 1968, it depicts a former slave with left leg extended, a broken chain on his right hand (symbolizing the defense of independence), and a conch shell to his lips (the trumpet call for the gathering of slaves for battle).

Also located on Champ de Mars is the Musée du Panthéon National Haïtien.

The tomb holding the remains of the legendary Haitian freedom fighter Toussaint L’Ouverture sits at the entrance, and inside, the artifacts are just as deeply historical and priceless. (Cool Factor: the museum is completely underground.)

Pieces include the silver gun that King Henri Christophe used to commit suicide. Christophe gained Haitian independence from France and built both the Citadelle Laferrière  in Cap-Haïtien (the largest fortress in the Western Hemisphere) and the Palace Sans Souci. Hundreds of other items dating back to the 1400s are also on display,

But, perhaps the most remarkable in the collection is the original 13-foot tall, severely rusted anchor from Christopher Columbus’s flagship The Santa Maria. Columbus arrived to Haiti’s northern coast (now the city of Cap-Haïtien) on Christmas Eve in 1492. The anchor is reportedly worth $200 million.

Stay Awhile

Petion-Ville is now Haiti’s commercial and cultural district.

It’s also where the majority of hotels and restaurants are located. Several hotels (including a brand new Marriot in downtown built with the assistance from The Clinton Foundation) are helping in the country’s effort to re-establish itself as a hot spot in Caribbean travel.

The Kinam Hotel, originally built in 1900, is known for its Haitian “Gingerbread” style (a Victorian-era style using wood, stone and clay). However, it now has an additional side with a contemporary upgrade. (Tip: request a room on floors 5-7 and enjoy a view of Port-Au-Prince and the ocean in the distance.) Le Rond Point, the hotel’s popular French/Haitian restaurant, was originally opened to serve as an eatery for the 1949 World’s Fair. Start or end the night at Tipsy Bar and Lounge with cocktails and light bites (Tip: take a drink to the terrace and enjoy a view of the Place Saint Pierre).

haiti tap tap bus

Drink. Dance. Sweat. Repeat.

The Best Western Premier in Petion-Ville is Haiti’s first American affiliated 4-star hotel. The on-site restaurant, le Michel, is a great choice for casual dining with its comfort food dishes (truffled corn grits, goat Creole). The hotel’s Wednesday night happy hour is a popular party among the local young set and it grooves into the late night with DJ –spun reggae sounds. However, the big night to play in Port-Au-Prince is Thursday at the weekly Voodoo Rock Party at the legendary Oluffson Hotel —immortalized in famed writer Graham Greene’s novel The Comedians. The night is led by Richard A. Morse, the hotel’s owner and band leader of rock-in-roots group RAM (derived from his initials). The scene is raucous and loud: the Rara horns, Petwo drums and electric guitars induce the involuntary dirty dancing by most and the jaunty drinking by all. The crowd: a swathe of attractive faces spanning a diverse range of races, classes and political affiliations, all enjoying great music and flowing rum. It’s said that no matter the amount of work during the day, come sundown, Haitians will play. Thank the gods.

Rare Air

80% of Haiti is mountainous, which makes for interesting drives and spectacular scenery. And L’Observatoire provides a breathtaking view of all of Port-Au-Prince and the sea.

A 30-minute drive from downtown (depending on traffic), this restaurant and bar is located atop Mount Boutilliers—3,000 ft. above the city. The local Haitian cuisine is delicious, but the family who owns this remarkable venue has no delusions.
They know that the cinematic view is the star of the show.

Just Coast

The urban hustle of Port-Au-Prince and Petion-Ville is only a modest taste of what Haiti offers. For a completely different, and more tropical, experience, head an hour’s drive south to coastal area of La Côte des Arcadins (where many Haitians vacation). Moulin Sur Mer, once an 18th century sugar cane plantation, is a rustic seaside resort offering 68 rooms, a resto facing the shores of La Gonave and plenty of old-world charm.

The plantation ruins and artifacts are fully recovered and housed at the on-site Ogier- Fombrun Museum. Here, history buffs will appreciate the records, paintings and relics depicting the uncensored brutality and violence perpetrated by Christopher Columbus after he landed on the island. (A telling painting depicts the indigenous people welcoming their future captor with open arms.)

Book a boat trip and spend a day sailing along the coast. Enjoy the sapphire waves surrounding you in infinitum and the heather-hued mountains peaking into the clouds.

Caution: Haiti’s beauty may overwhelm. A few minutes down the coast is Wahoo Bay Beach Club and Resort, a gorgeous, yet completely accessible (and affordable) property tucked between the backdrop of the glorious Matheux Mountains and the shores of La Gonave Bay. Its beauty and welcoming vibe is reflective of what Haiti has to offer.

“Someone that wants to experience great music, art and food, come to Haiti,” says Jenny, who co-owns Wahoo Bay resort with her husband. “Come here for something real, true and different.” I couldn’t agree more.

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