|Visiting the Essou "Estate" with Sebastian Essou, our fearless driver and wonderful guide for the week. The lion was the symbol of his great-grandfather who ruled over land outside of Abomey.|
We arrived at Grand Popo just in time to enjoy an afternoon of sunshine on the beach. It was Mom's first real tropical experience and everyone's first glimpse of the Atlantic Ocean from Africa! Despite not being able to swim in the ocean due to rough currents, we all soaked in the gorgeous views and poolside payotes.
|We were all smiles at the beach in Grand Popo|
|Catching up with Mom who enjoyed her first view of the Atlantic from this side of the world|
|They're too cute... I couldn't help myself.|
We spent the night in a little Auberge along the ocean with a restaurant that specialized in seafood.
Day 6: Ouidah and the Point of No Return
We bid farewell to the beach and headed an hour east to the city of Ouidah, a capital of Voodoo and the historic slave port of West Africa. After a tour of the sacred forest, we explored the remains of a Portuguese fort that was used to hold and sell slaves before they were shipped to the New World. After the tour, we drove along the 4 km Route d'esclaves, which connects the forts to the Port, where slaves boarded ships and, according to our guide, left their African spirits behind.
The city of Ouidah was bustling in preparation for the Annual Voodoo festival, which is celebrated on January 10th of each year. We watched as they set up tents and vendors began to unload their wares. Some of us partook in fresh coconut water while others turned away for the machete wielding coconut man.
|The Point of No Return at the Ouidah Port|
Day 7: Ganvie and Farewell!
We woke up in Ouidah to the sound of drums and the beginning of the Voodoo festival. After a quick breakfast, we walked along the beach to the port where dancers were preparing for the festivites and chairs were being set up for all the guests. We took our time in the craft stalls, bartering for earrings, tapestries and a hand carved chair that somehow miraculously fit in my Dad's suitcase for the trip home. Although we didn't get to truly experience the festival, we had other exciting things in store for the day.
Ganvie is a stilt village located in Lake Nakoue, about 30 minutes north of Cotonou. Known as the "Venice of Africa," the city houses about 30,000 people, who make their living harvesting their fresh water environment. We met a guide at the boardwalk and enjoyed a breezy 20 minute boat ride to the heart of the city, passing fisherman and small boats along the way.
While many houses are on stilts, like the one below, we were all surprised to see houses, churches, schools and even a couple hotels built up on man made islands in the middle of the lake!
|Boat with rice sack sail making it's way to Ganvie|
|The houses of Ganvie and the only mode of transport: boat|
Making our way back to the mainland, we hopped back in the car bound for Cotonou. We did a brief tour of the city, complete with drive-bys of Embassy row before enjoying dinner at my favorite Indian restaurant in town.
|Dad and I enjoying an afternoon cruise to Ganvie|
The week-long adventure came to a close when Sebastian and I dropped everyone off at the airport for their red-eye flight back to Paris. I can't begin to tell you how wonderful it was to host my whole family here in my new home, how enlightening it was to see the country through their eyes, and how blessed I feel for their endless love and support.
Now it's time to adjust back to regular life here in Benin, start implementing all my plans for 2016 and getting ready for upcoming February trainings. Stay tuned for some guest blogs as my family (as promised) will reflect back on their visit in Benin!
|The whole family at Grand Popo|
This is such a lovely journal of your family's visit. Thank you for sharing!ReplyDelete