I wish everyone could see and experience the Haiti that I’ve come to love – and yes, sometimes hate. This country is so much more than what you see on television; so much more than the dismal statistics and heart-wrenching images often publicized. Of course, there’s lots of work to be done, but there are countless examples of the potential that exists within this country; the potential for Haiti to drop the oft referenced title of poorest country in the Western hemisphere, and regain the moniker Pearl of the Caribbean.
I’ve been fortunate enough to experience many beautiful places in Haiti from Jacmel to Port Salut to Île à Vache. And since moving to Port-au-Prince in August, I’m learning that the capital city, namely Petion-Ville, beholds several treasures of its own.
As I write this blog post, I am sitting in Rebo Expresso, a coffee shop on rue Metellus near Place Boyer. The cafe is very reminiscent of a small, independently-owned coffee shop that you’d find in the United States. It serves locally grown coffee and tea, as well as pastries and sandwiches made by local patisserie Marie Beliard. There’s also free Wi-Fi. It has quickly become one of my favorite places in the city. The only downside to the cafe is that it’s quite small, so it can get crowded (and noisy) quickly.
On lazy Sunday afternoons, you can usually find me at Fior di Latte, an Italian cafe in Choucoune Plaza. The cafe is best known for its pizza and gelato, but it also has a fairly broad selection of salads, sandwiches and pastas. I especially like the lasagna, fettucini with pesto sauce, and pepperoni pizza with olives and capers. A mix of locals and ex-pats, friends, families and colleagues enjoy the food and ambiance at Fior di Latte, which makes it an excellent place to people watch.
Nestled above the city in the mountains of Petion-Ville is Hotel Ibo Lélé. The hotel courtyard and lobby are beautifully decorated with locally-made handicrafts, and black and white photos of Haitian and international stars that frequented the hotel in its heyday. But the best thing about the hotel is the breathtaking view of Port-au-Prince below. An afternoon poolside at the Ibo Lélé makes me instantly relax and feel like I’m on vacation. It’s the perfect escape from the chaos of day-to-day life without having to travel too far.
Another hotel with a fabulous view of the city is the Hotel Montana, located in Bourdon. The Montana may sound familiar as it’s where many people, mainly expats, were either trapped or died during the earthquake. Many of the hotel’s facilities are still being re-built, but the Acajou Restaurant and Bar, along with several meeting spaces, is open. The restaurant has a sleek, modern decor that always makes me feel like I’m in Miami, not Haiti. I have yet to enjoy a meal at the Montana. So far, I’ve been content to just sit with either coffee or juice in hand, and enjoy the view.
When I first moved to Port-au-Prince, I’d often spend afternoons and early evenings at Le Parc Canne a Sucre to flee the stuffy, shabby living quarters I was residing in at the time. As the name suggests, it’s an old sugar cane mill that has been converted into a museum, restaurant and popular venue for concerts. Le Parc Canne a Sucre can be remarkably peaceful and quiet, despite being on the main road near the US Embassy. The drinks (especially the rum punch and freshly made juices) are excellent. The food, mostly Haitian fare, is good, but inconsistently so. The staff is pleasant and attentive without being overbearing, which is perfect for lingering and conversing with friends. Since I moved to Delmas, I rarely go to Le Parc Canne a Sucre. In fact, I’ve only been twice in the last three months. It’s the only thing I miss about living in Tabarre.
There are so many places I’ve yet to explore, as I have limited accessibility to reliable transport. But as I discover new (new to me, anyway) and noteworthy places, I’ll be sure to share. While I don’t want the reality of Haiti’s current situation to be neither forgotten nor overlooked, I do think it’s important for people who’ve never been here to see that it’s not all gloom and doom.