Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Caleche and Croissant

Saint-Louis, Senegal, was a decent place to stop for a few days. I'd gone off-schedule by a day in Essaouira, then lazed around an extra day in Dakhla, so I didn't hang around more than I'd planned in Saint-Louis. Just two nights, and I didn't really even do anything in this UNESCO site. I was just enjoying the coffee and pastries of the patisserie on the street level of the Hotel du Palais. Breakfast in West Africa had so far been bread and Nescafe. Espresso and chocolate croissants were a godsend.

The flies liked my pastries too. I'd swat them away while drinking coffee and using the café wi-fi. Ah, my tax return showed up! Another month of life without going into my savings. I'd panic when I thought about the inevitable slowdown of cash.

In the afternoon, after I'd tired of pretending to be a customer when mostly I just wanted somewhere to use the wi-fi (by that time the only other "customer" was watching soccer on the television), I opened up my guidebook. Or rather fired up my Kindle. What were the must-sees here in Saint-Louis?

Soaking up the atmosphere was the must-see. Well, I was doing that.

I walked around the old streets and looked at brightly colored, deteriorating buildings. I checked out the bridge, the only one onto the island from the mainland. My taxi had crossed it yesterday, but I'd been too sick to care.

Walking wasn't getting me the tourist thrill I needed, so I decided to go on the tourist circuit in a caleche, or horse and carriage. Sure. Why not? I'd be a little embarrassed, but maybe I'd see something I wouldn't see otherwise.

I went into Tourist Information, since my guidebook said you could hire a caleche there. The woman seemed too busy and inattentive, though she only had one person to speak to, so I went to the hotel where you can hire caleches. They had a lot more people to deal with. I checked out the prices—5000 CFA. That's about $10 or so. Okay.

Then I thought about the caleches I'd just passed a block away. And left the hotel and went to hire a driver directly.

And was glad I did. Before, people had been mistrustful of my camera. Now, they smiled and waved as I clicked. We trotted around the island, then went over into the poor fishing village. I was a little shocked at the squalor, but people there were also friendly.

I was glad I did something touristy. I was finally starting to feel a bit more like I was on a trip and not just on my laptop, finishing up the job I'd left.

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