Sunday, April 18, 2010

The 226th good thing about Lagos: More than one way to get out of town

More often than not when we're flying to and from the States, we travel on one of the airlines that goes through Europe. But for our travel home this weekend, Delta happened to have the best prices when we were checking, so we got tickets with them -- and we are certainly glad we did! Never before have we ever considered the volcanic activity in Iceland to be a factor in our travel plans, but it is currently affecting the travel of so many in Europe. We were able to leave Lagos on Friday night, but many who were planning to fly on one of the European airlines were stranded in Lagos after their flights were cancelled with the closure of European airports. Thank you, Delta, for flying a direct route from the States to Lagos and back. We're enjoying the green and flowering beauty of spring in Houston for a few days, with the added attraction of 3 beautiful grandchildren, before heading up to Utah to attend our son's college graduation and a visit there from our other 2 grandchildren and their mother. Yes, I know I've previously counted the opportunity to leave Lagos for family celebrations as one of my good things, but never before has an alternate route around Icelandic volcanic ash factored into the equation!

Friday, April 16, 2010

The 225th good thing about Lagos: An opportunity to see more of West Africa with a trip to Senegal

Living in West Africa gives us opportunities to see places that we would likely never travel to were we living the States. Even from here, Senegal wasn't on our radar screen until we looked at pictures from the trip taken there by a friend and we immediately decided that Dakar would be a great destination for our Easter 4-day weekend. Little did we know when we booked the trip that we would be travelling there on a historic weekend, when Senegal was celebrating 50 years of independence from France. We were there while they celebrated Independence Day.

And it was a special weekend for the country, as they celebrated the inauguration of a new enormous statue which towers over the city. I'm sure this work will become a symbol of the city like the Eiffel Tower is a symbol of Paris. There were already the kitschy souvenier momentos of the statue in the shop at the base. This statue is titled "African Renaissance." There were protests going on about the expense of the work, which is made of copper and huge. To give an idea of the size, in the man's hat, there is a restaurant. Some people also thought the figures were indecent and not "African" enough. But, like it or not, it's there and will be a symbol of Dakar. Many world leaders were in attendance at the ceremony inaugurating the statue. We saw crowds gathering, and traffic building but didn't try to attend, though we did see a report on the ceremony on CNN that evening.

Senegal is majority Muslim and French is the main language spoken, along with Wolof, the tribal language. There are mosques everywhere, the small and simple rug in front of a beach front shack, and this splendid beach front mosque with a great view of the sea.

We enjoyed the markets, they had beautiful fish and produce and African handicrafts at better prices than Lagos.

There were flowers everywhere -- lots of beautiful bougainvillea. This was the view from the corniche right beside our hotel, looking at Goree Island, which was my favorite part of the trip.

We took a short ferry ride out to the island, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. It's a peaceful and beautiful pedestrian island.

The island was used as an exit station for slave trading and there is a small Slave museum.

There is the "door of no return."

Goree island has brightly painted buildings and lovely colonial architecture. When I saw the pictures of this island before our trip, I thought it looked like the south of France.

It was a very charming place -- it looked like France with an African touch.

There were remnants of a castle, and also a French fort on opposite ends of the island, which was easily walkable.

On Easter Sunday, we got a driver for the day and left Dakar for the countryside. I wanted to attend a service at a monastery that was listed in the guidebook as having great music, a combination of chant and African style. After some difficulties finding the place, we arrived late, but still heard some beautiful music at the Keur Moussa monastery. We sat in the overflow area just outside the sanctuary.

The music was accompanied by drum and some large kora, a stringed African instrument.

It was a very memorable Easter Sunday service.

Just down the road was a tortoise sanctuary, where we had an interesting tour and got acquainted with some of the different varieties of tortoises they were trying to breed and protect.

We got up close and personal with some of them.

Then we made a visit to Lac Rose, a salt water lake that gets is name from the pink color it takes on when the light was right.

It was kind of reddish when we were there.

You can get in and float, like in the Dead Sea, but I just got my feet wet.

We took a 4x4 ride around the lake and visited the salt mining activities on one side of the lake. They go out in boats and use tools to break apart the salt on the bottom of the lake and scoop it up.

They sort and clean and bag it.

We then visited an agricultural village where the chief's son took us on a tour.

After buying a few things in the village shop to help support the hospital the village was trying to build, we went dune riding and driving along the beautiful beach, before we returned to Dakar and had a wonderful dinner in a lovely restaurant. What a memorable Easter Sunday!
There were some very nice beaches, as well as restaurants in Dakar. We enjoyed the ocean view while eating some delicious grilled shrimp.

Here I am at the westernmost point of the African continent.

Our final stop before leaving Monday night was at a beach where we were advised to arrive in the early evening when the fishing boats were coming in.

Boats were met by eager people who helped off-load the day's catch and bring the boat up on shore.

There were plenty of boys ready to pose for the camera.

Then fish were dumped in tubs and boxes and right on the sand and crowds gathered to buy and sell.

There were lots of varieties of fish available.

The vibrant color of the boats and clothes and fish were beautiful.

This is part of the beauty of West Africa that I've come to enjoy so much.