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PORT-AU-PRINCE   288                                                                         ...
Dominican rep-haiti-4-port-au-prince-preview
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Dominican rep-haiti-4-port-au-prince-preview

  1. 1. © Lonely Planet Publications PORT-AU-PRINCE 288 lonelyplanet.com P O R T- AU - P R I N C E • • H i s t o r y 289 PORT-AU-PRINCE HISTORY cal movements like Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s Port-au-Prince Port-au-Prince was founded in 1742 during the boom years of French rule, when it was de- cided that St-Domingue needed a new central Lavalas, and the armed gangs that prospered in the period preceding and following his 2001 ouster. The presence of UN troops, while not port, and was given its royal charter as capital without controversy, has at least brought a seven years later. The broad bay in the Golfe semblance of order back to the streets. de la Gonâve was the ideal location; its name taken from the French ship Prince that had ORIENTATION Let’s admit the obvious: Port-au-Prince doesn’t have the image of somewhere you’d visit purely first moored there in 1706. Port-au-Prince’s unrestricted growth, its During the slave revolution Port-au- hilly position and lack of street-grid system for fun. A true Third World city just one hour by air from Miami, the city has a reputation for Prince was a key strategic target. Jean-Jaques means that getting your bearings can take a impoverished chaos that precedes it. But look behind this and something altogether different Dessalines rejected it as his new capital, seeing while for first-time visitors. To add confusion, is revealed: one of the most vibrant and exciting cities in the Caribbean, with a fantastic arts it as a mulatto stronghold (Pétionville, in par- many streets have two names (see the boxed scene, good restaurants and live music, and an irrepressible spirit. Like a bottle of local klerin rum, ticular), and was assassinated on its outskirts text, p292). Port-au-Prince takes all the raw energy of Haiti and distils it down into one buzzing shot. in 1806. When Haiti was reunited in 1820, The old commercial centre, Centre Ville Port-au-Prince returned to its capital status (or downtown), lies east of the dockside area, You should be prepared, however. Port-au-Prince’s infrastructure has never kept pace with and has dominated the country ever since. Bicentenaire, bisected north–south by Blvd its rapid growth. Electricity supply and garbage collection are massively inadequate, and The initial site of the city was confined Jean-Jacques Dessalines (Grand Rue). A cen- whole districts flood whenever a hurricane blows through the Caribbean. The gap between to the modern Bel Air district. In 1831 tral reference point for visitors is Champs de Pétionville, located in the cleaner hills above Mars. A large park area (and the cleanest, most the haves and have-nots is remarkable, with the poorest slums in the Americas overlooked the city, was considered as a possible alterna- open part of Port-au-Prince), this is where from the cool hills of Haiti’s richest suburbs. you’ll find the Palais National, museums, tive capital but the idea never stuck. During Amid all this, the streets are mobbed with colorful painted buses, street vendors, impromptu the 19th century Port-au-Prince grew rapidly, and most of the downtown hotels and res- its expansion only occasionally halted by the taurants. Just north of here is the cathedral, art galleries and music. The calm heart of the city is the Champs de Mars district, with its parks, Sainte Trinité Episcopalian Cathedral, and the periodic fires that razed it to the ground. The museums and memorials to the country’s turbulent history. Nearby, many streets are still lined wealthier residents moved to the rural east of Marché de Fer (Iron Market). with instantly recognizable ‘gingerbread’ houses, while even the cathedrals stand as painted the city, creating the suburbs of Turgeau and Grand Rue runs the length of Port-au- monuments to a rich artistic heritage. In the markets and cemeteries, the older spirits of Vodou Bois Verna, where many of Port-au-Prince’s Prince, joining Rte National 1 to Cap Haïtien come to the fore. Away from the hustle of the center is the suburb of Pétionville, where you’ll best gingerbread houses can now be found. and other points north, and to the south Rte find another Port-au-Prince altogether with expensive restaurants and five-star hotels. The poor found themselves pushed to the less National 2 to Jacmel and Les Cayes, through salubrious marshy areas of La Saline in the the chaotic Carrefour suburb. Two main roads Port-au-Prince has many faces. Its poverty can be distressing, but witnessing the self- north, the beginning of the city’s bidonvilles runs southeast from Grand Rue, both ulti- sufficiency and spirit of its people might be the most life-affirming experience you will (shanty towns). mately leading to Pétionville: Ave John Brown The 20th century saw a push for mod- (Lalue) and Rte de Delmas. Several hotels are have on your travels. It’s a chaotic, exhilarating and compelling place. We’d encourage you found off Lalue, which skirts the Nazon and ernization. The US occupation of 1915 im- to jump right in. proved the city’s infrastructure and hygiene Bourdon districts before changing its name through its drain-building program. In 1948 to Ave Pan Américaine before it arrives in the Estimé government built a link road to Pétionville. All of the side roads that join Rte HIGHLIGHTS Pétionville, spurring the growth of the Delmas de Delmas are numbered sequentially, odd to People-watch amid the parks, avenues and suburb. A year later the waterfront area just the north and even to the south, increasing statues of Champs de Mars (p293) south of the docks was remodeled to celebrate toward Pétionville. Delmas 13 is an important the city’s bicentennial. During the Duvalier junction – south is Ave Martin Luther King Stand in awe at the Haitian art masterpieces period anarchic growth was more the order (Nazon), which joins Delmas to Lalue, while decorating the interior of Sainte Trinité of the day, as vast numbers of country dwell- Blvd Toussaint Louverture (Rte de l’Aéroport) Episcopalian Cathedral (p295) Marché ers flocked to the city. The model develop- is the main road to the airport. de Fer Look for arts and crafts bargains at the Sainte Trinité ment of Cité Simone (named for Papa Doc’s A third route to Pétionville is along Ave Episcopalian Marché de Fer (p296), Port-au-Prince’s Cathedral wife) soon lapsed into slums, and was subse- Lamartinière (Bois Verna), via Canapé Vert. splendidly chaotic covered market Champs de Mars quently renamed Cité Soleil, while the sprawl Pétionville itself is relatively easy to navigate, Visit the Grand Rue artists (p297) to see Grand Rue Artists of Carrefour similarly lacked state services as it has both a grid system and street signs. where the Haitian art of the past collides or infrastructure. with the art of the future Hôtel Oloffson Port-au-Prince continues to grow like a Maps wild plant. The rich have largely retreated to Guides Panorama produces the best up-to- Dance late into the night at a RAM concert Pétionville and other upscale suburbs, while the date map of Port-au-Prince (US$5). A decent (p304) at the Hôtel Oloffson poorest areas such as Cité Soleil have proved alternative is the street map produced by the the breeding ground for both popular politi- Association of Haitian Hoteliers, which is