19 Jun 1999Nancy Laleau
Chez Frantz in Gonaives is indeed "quite plausible." In fact, I think it's just about the only place to stay in Gonaives!
When I was with MICIVIH in 1995 in Gonaives, at first most of the Mission was living at "Chez Elias" -- which resembled a Middle Eastern caravansery -- across from the Teleco building. It was two stories with a "dining room" underneath one of the stories (but outdoors), five or six vehicles parked in the same area, and 5 German shepherds running around doing their business. The food was excellent, it is true, because Elias was a good chef. But the place as a whole was kind of a time warp. No electricity, no fans, of course, poor ventilation. I used to have to get up 3-4 times per night to shower off just to lower my body temperature enough to get back to sleep for a couple hours. (At least there was water -- cold, thank god!) The huge corrugated metal gate was locked at dark and you had to rouse the whole house to get someone to open it up for you. One night a thief climbed over the fence and the dogs made short shrift of him -- we heard him shrieking as he clambered bloodily back over the fence. As no body was found, I assume he survived the mauling.
The other residence of choice for MICIVIH was something looking like a more modern motel owned by a character named Eddie, who occasionally drank too much and went out into the courtyard to shoot his gun. The swimming pool in the courtyard looked great for a day or two after it was filled, but as it had no lip, and Gonaives seems to be somewhat below sea level, every time there was a major rainstorm, raw sewage from the open sewers would flood into the pool... bummer! Eddy used to get his feelings hurt when none of the MICIVIHers wanted to swim in the pool, despite his efforts at dumping gallons of chlorine in it to kill the germs. He swore that the Special Forces or CIVPOL or somebody of equally impressive stature regularly tested the water and said it was clean. (I had heard a maxim that if you can't see the bottom of the pool, don't get into it, and abided by that.)
After a month or two at Chez Elias, I finally discovered Chez Frantz -- a little oasis of tranquility in the midst of the ugliest and filthiest town I'd ever lived in. I had a large room with windows on three sides, it was regularly cleaned, I saw flowers in the garden out of the windows, excellent food was available, and instead of Eddy shooting off his gun, if you listened in the evening, you could hear the voices of the elderly owners praying the Rosary.
Most serendipitously, it turned out that these elderly ladies were related to one of the first Haitians I ever met in my life -- Max Thisfeld, a wonderful singer who worked at "The Junkanoo" nightclub on Connecticut Avenue in Washington, a few blocks from my home in 1965... Through them I located Max again, now living in Port-au-Prince...
So my memories of Chez Frantz are wonderful... it was a little respite for me amidst one of the most disgusting towns I ever saw. There are only a few rooms there and they seem to be taken up by long-term people a lot of the time, but when there is a vacancy, it's truly an oasis. The food is great too. The only shortcoming that some people might experience is that (at least when I was there) the electricity went off some time in the evening. I have no idea what their "current" situation is at present. But even without electricity, I was never as hot there as I was at Chez Elias... I would recommend everybody to stay at Chez Elias for at least a couple of days if they have the time, if they are interested in the off-beat. Elias is quite a unique character and the food is terrific. But don't try to change anything around on him or do anything spontaneous! And bring your own toilet-paper, to be on the safe side. (I once asked the maid to please put more in my room. She didn't. Why? "Well, there was still a 'ti cras' there!" (Unfortunately, a ti cras is more than most people usually require...)
There is a new Motel in Hinche (new since 97 anyway) I forget the name of it but the use of the word motel is somewhat remarkable. It's a right turn off LaRoute Nasyonal 3 on the approach to the town from the South. There is a little signboard pointing. All I did was drink a beer there but it looked like a plausible place to stay. Comparable to Chez Frantz in Gonaives, I'd guess.
In 97 I stayed in a hotel in central Hinche. I don't think it had a name at the time. It was under construction. The rooms were sort of grim at that point but they may have been upgraded now. There was a lot of work in progress back then.... The proprietor had his own well in the enclosure which was a nice feature.
There's one VERY basic hotel near Belladere, 5km east of town on the road to the border, called the Hotel Paradis. The people there are quite nice, though. Also, there's a good restaurant with some dancing at night called the Dansant. It's on the village's central square.
The only other hotel option that I know of is to cross the border to Elias Pina in the Dominican Republic, where there are several pretty basic hotels used mostly by Haitian traders that hawk their wares in Elias Pina on Mondays and Fridays. They're all pretty much the same, but Francia does have mosquito nets and pretty nice owners -- it's also on the parque central. Keep in mind, though, that they're usually booked on Sunday and Thursday nights, so don't arrive in town on these evenings and expect to find a room.
I've also stayed in Las Matas de Farfan, which is another 20 minutes east into the Dominican Republic, where there are some quite comfortable places, like the Hotel Independencia right off the highway.
16 Nov 2001
I'm sure you'll get plenty of information on places to stay in North Haiti
but there is one that is not well known but very nice. Located in Labadie
Bay near Royal Caribbean's resort. Most people refer to it as Norm's Place.
Norman bought and restored the old French colonial ruins which were used as
housing by those manning nearby Fort Beli. He has uncovered an old indigo
vat and has restored the largest colonial lime kiln that I've seen. He has
added 5 rooms for additional guests. This is an oasis which I've retreated
to many times. I can vouch for the food and hospitality. The last time I
asked Norman and Angelique said they were still charging $25.00 US a person
plus meals and drinks.
It's not accessable directly by road, you've got to hail a boat and go for a little ride[about 20 minutes].It's a unique piece of history.
He has electricity now! I sold him a diesel generator and he recently bought a solar system. Each room has a fan and all beds have mosquito nets. Each room also has a shower. It's quite a place now, I kid him about building a sea-side Citadel. The most important thing to remind people of is the importance of advance reservations. Food must be bought in advance and while he does his best to store some you can't just show up and expect to get something to eat though you could probably get a room. His meal prices are $7.00 to $11.00 each depending on what meal.
You can write for reservations at this address:
c/o Lynx Air PO Box
Ft. Lauderdale, Fl. 33304.
16 Nov 2001
Dondon: Alternative tourism A French language site for altertative-type tourism in the area of Dondon.
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