Monday, February 3, 2014

A Day at the Beach in Cote d'Ivoire

Observations from a recent trip to Grand-Bassam:

Renting a car -- Sheila and I decided to go to the beach a couple of weekends ago.  We’d been once before, but had gotten a ride from an embassy staffer with a car on that occasion.  My bus ride to Yamoussoukro aside, we’d yet to leave Abidjan on our own.  I’d heard that renting a car was the way to go, so I asked a couple of co-workers, and one told me that he had a friend who did car rentals and he could get me a good deal.  I asked whether the car came with a driver and he said that it was customary for it to come with a driver.  I called him the day before to confirm, and he told me that he would bring the car over himself at whatever time we wished.  At 8am the next morning, my coworker did indeed show up with the car, and only then did I realize that he would be serving as our rental car driver for the day.  It’s probably worth noting that this colleague is a mid-level official in our office.  More worryingly, he was also the driver for the return trip from Yamoussoukro, who you may remember from this previous post.  He was surprisingly professional though.  He drove us to Bassam, went off and did his own thing for several hours while Sheila, Will and I lazed about the beach, and then drove us back to Abidjan.  Cote d’Ivoire… a beautiful and strange land where government health official moonlight as rental car drivers. 

La Maison de la Lagune -- The beach itself was quite nice.  We went to La Maison de la Lagune, a few kilometers outside of Grand-Bassam.  La Maison de la Lagune is owned and managed a by sweet, older Frenchwoman named Catherine.  It was beautiful, with views of the lagoon on one side and the Atlantic Ocean/Gulf of Guinea on the other.  Sitting on beach chairs for the day is free so long as you get lunch; and lunch (merou (grouper) brochettes, ratatouille, and Fanta Cocktail) was excellent.  We've been fed a steady diet of stories about ex-pats getting pulled away by the undertow and drowning, so I'm terrified of going in too deep, but we waded out to waist height and even body surfed a bit.  All in all, it was one of the nicer days we've had so far in Abidjan.