7 Jun 2014

Remembering Jacmel, Pt. I

Sunset view of Cyvadier Plage from the hotel dining area

It is currently 1.29pm, and I am sitting in my living room finishing off my brunch. As I look out of the windows in anticipation of the impending storm to hit London this evening, I am reminded of the wonderful 28 degrees weather I was experiencing just last week as I was swinging gently in a large hammock overlooking the Cyvadier Hotel beach. Of course, there is nothing quite like being at home, and indeed the ability to call somewhere in this world "home" is a privilege in itself, but I wouldn't mind being back at that hotel for three days again: seeing the sights, meeting the locals and making more great memories.

On Thursday morning I set off to Jacmel, a town in south-east Haiti, for a final short break before leaving for home the following Monday morning. Along with Cap-Haïtien, Jacmel was another area of Haiti that I was told I had to visit, or simply couldn't leave without seeing it. The journey there was by car and took around four hours, but were easily endured as a result of the stunning views of the southern bay. These views, thankfully, also compensated for the seemingly never ending sharp s-shape bends in the mountain roads. I have never had a problem with car journeys or heights. But one thing I don't like so much is the prospect of falling from a vast height, and so whenever I was not peering tentatively at the distance between the outer wheels and each sheer drop, I was seeking solace in that view.

View of the bay. We stopped the car in the middle of the road to get these shots.

The journey was worth it. The Cyvadier Plage Hotel was a beautiful resort with welcome amenities and friendly staff members, and I couldn't wait to get my weekend bag to my room so that I could unpack and visit the pool or beachfront. The hotel rooms were spread out across the grounds in small two-storey buildings which were different to the singular glassy, high rise buildings I have seen in the UK and parts of Europe. Midway through my trip I learned that since 2010 people felt unsafe being in high rises as the effects of collapse were greater than those in lower builds. Thus, 90 percent (if not all) of the reconstruction and new constructs following the earthquake would be built with a maximum of three storeys to minimise the pancake effect.

View from my room at Cyvadier Hotel

After unpacking, spending some time by the pool, exploring the grounds and eventually seeking out the wifi to say hello to friends and family back home, we sat down for dinner. The hotel is well-known in Haiti for specialising in fresh seafood caught by local fisherman on the same day as served (I had seen these same fisherman walking through the grounds with huge sacks of produce as I finished off a novel by the pool), and so I was excited to try out what was on the menu.

Friday morning was an eventful one. I set out immediately after breakfast for a walk around the town.

Above: Photos from Hotel Florita, Jacmel

Papier-mâché plays a large part in the culture of Jacmel. Each year there is a carnival, where participants don large papier-mâché masks similar to the one above. The man on my left (above) owned a small store selling masses of said masks and other papier-mâché crafted items.

Crowded marketplace in Jacmel 

Jacmel is known to many as "Little New Orleans". Like the Louisiana town, which was also hit by a natural disaster in 2005, Jacmel is decorated by bright colours and quaint French-style architecture. We explored a few of the old hotels (some, such as the Hotel Florita, were still functional), art galleries and shops and walked through the packed marketplace (a denser, hotter version of Dalston Market in some ways), learning historical tidbits and taking too many photos in the process. Jacmel was probably my favourite part of Haiti for its art, its architecture, its vibrancy and its beautiful natural landmarks, and I am so glad that I got to see it before I left.

Above: artwork and architecture in Jacmel

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