Oct 252012

Since I’ll be returning to the area again shortly, felt I’d review the few things that came up on my first trip that I know won’t change or be added to on the second. There will be new restaurants, sights to see, etc, but I know I won’t be returning to the first hotel I stayed at, the Pullman Teranga. When I mentioned this to coworkers, I was met with amusement and bewilderment. Seems this is the fifth or sixth choice of hotels in Dakar, and the others were all completely sold out my first nine nights there. Online reviews on TripAdvisor made it seem tolerable, so I decided to go with it…it’s not like I had a choice!  It was #10 of 35 in Dakar, so how bad could it be…right?  It used to be a Sofitel up until a few years ago, when it was rebranded by Accor group as a Pullman.  I’d never heard of the Pullman brand before, but it seems to be quickly growing.  Knowing it was affiliated with Sofitel gave me comfort, so I was pretty ok with it.  Plus, for almost 100,000 CFA a night how bad could it be?


Where do I start with the room review?  The first, second, third, or fourth?  Even at a rate of 100,000 CFA, I was supposed to be relegated to a “city view” room but had been “upgraded” to an ocean view.  This was going to be great…or so I thought.  First room, I lasted all of 10 minutes in.  It was somewhere around 25C in the room, even with the aircon cranked up to the max.  Went to the desk to ask, and they immediately offered to move me.  Ok, second room was just a bit down the hall…and had a broken deadbolt as well as being warm and absolutely reeking of body odour.  No way.  Moved down one floor to room #3 and it was finally tolerable.  Maybe only 22C, semi-functional air conditioning, with only a slight smell of smoke and must.

Of course, after four days, the safe battery died.  They promised for two days they would replace it, but eventually admitted that they didn’t know how, and would I like to move rooms?  Room four was actually just a bit further down the hall, but had the best view of the ocean.  Similar to room three in smell and temperature, it was barely tolerable.  Maybe other rooms are better, but I came to the eventual conclusion that the beds are very comfortable, all the rooms have a musty, smokey, unpleasant smell to them, frequent stains on the carpet, and are barely cool enough to be tolerable.  Overall, if I’d had another choice based on rooms I’d have been out of there in an instant.

Rooms did had a few upsides.  Free bottled water, juice, diet coke, etc in the fridge…when they remembered to restock it.  Plus, all rooms came with complimentary condoms, lol.


Everyone I encountered was very friendly.  There were a few staff at the front desk that were very helpful (which was needed for the frequent room issues that popped up) but there were also several younger people at the front desk with “trainee” tags.  Most of these didn’t even smile, and just gave nods when you asked anything.  Overall, it was pretty typical west Africa where when they tell you they can/will do something, you stand about a 50% chance of it actually happening.  Everyone was friendly though, so I’d say service attempts were above average, but delivery frequently was short.  English skills I didn’t really experience since my French was better than their English, but they did seem to speak enough that they could easily help you in English.


The big plus, I thought.  Walkable to a great grocery store about 5-10 minutes away, lots of taxis, several good restaurants in walking distance, and seemed to be in a pretty safe area.  I walked around a lot, even at night, and didn’t have a single problem or ever feel unsafe in the least.  Also, if you have business with the government, it’s right downtown in the Plateau area near many of the ministries, so very convenient.  A few shots out my window follow and you can see that at least on the “ocean view” side of the hotel it has some pretty great views:

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Oct 242012

Recently, I was asked to head to Dakar, Senegal for the better part of two months for work.  Due to prior commitments, I arranged to do it in two blocks, with two weeks off in between.  I won’t bore you with the flights in between (standard DCA-YOW runs on Air Canada) but thought I’d fill in some of the details on Dakar, Senegal including the hotels, restaurants, a few sights, and the flights to get there.  I’ll go be going back again shortly, and taking pretty much the same route.

There’s actually a non-stop flight on South African between DC and Dakar, which is a bit odd to most people.  Even stranger, is that all but the highest business fares are often sold out months in advance, requiring a full J fare if you want to take it.  Forget D/I/Z/etc.  Just couldn’t justify that, plus, I actually wanted to rack up some extra miles, so settled on this route.  I was going to fly United to Brussels, then Brussels Airlines to Dakar, but wanted to go out of Washington National if possible.  United doesn’t allow this – transatlantic fares almost always require nonstops out of Dulles, however, Lufthansa is cool with it.  However, they only codeshare on the Newark to Brussels flight, thus I ended up going Washington National (DCA) to Chicago (ORD) to Newark (EWR) to Brussels (BRU) on United, connecting to Dakar on Brussels Airlines.  The flight back would be much simpler – nonstop on South African.  I’ll explain why I chose this below in the detailed flight sections.

Later, I’ll make a couple posts about hotels, sights, and restaurants, before I head back for the next trip where I’m hoping to hop around to a couple more countries in the region on weekends if possible.  Fair warning, this post will be very very full of flight geekery.

Got to the airport about 90 minutes before the first flight to check bags, and encountered the typical surly DCA United agents.  I don’t know why, but the United staff here (with the exception of those working the lounge) are always surly.  Dulles can be marginally better, but every time at DCA I have a pretty negative experience.  Once again denied pre-check by TSA (which I understand doesn’t work with international itineraries anyways) and had a little time to kill in the “United Club” aka former Presidents Club.  The agent was very chatty, sharing every thought she had on the merger, how staff were integrating, and basically how senior management wasn’t thinking.  Basic stuff like shuffling flight attendants between DCA and IAD in taxis to fill gaps causing long delays, etc.  It was an interesting chat, and time to board soon!

United Airlines Flight 833
Washington, DC National (DCA) to Chicago (ORD)
Depart 10:23, Arrive 11:20, Flight Time 1:57
Airbus A319, Registration N822UA, Manufactured 1999, Seat 1E

Nothing exciting to say about this flight.  Snack mix, diet coke, and on-time landing.  The fun started in Chicago, with the United International First lounge.  Always good to get filled up on shrimp cocktail and champagne before continuing on.  Pretty standard day, and didn’t have too far to walk to the flight to Newark.

United Airlines Flight 1720
Chicago (ORD) to Newark (EWR)
Depart 13:00, Arrive 16:17, Flight Time 2:17
Boeing 737-800, Registration N77530, Manufactured 2011, Seat 3F

Small snack on this flight, and started off right with a margarita on-board, definitely one of the things from the Continental side of the house that I’m really glad came over to the new United.  Small lunch which is no longer memorable, but was some sort of a deli plate with a few decent things on it.  I wasn’t hungry after the shrimp so just picked at it, and soon we landed.  Boring domestic flights, I know…let’s move onto the prime attraction.  Some slightly less common international segments.

United Airlines Flight 960
Newark (EWR) to Brussels, Belgium (BRU)
Depart 18:12, Arrive 7:45 next day , Flight Time 8:33
Boeing 777-200, Registration N775UA, Manufactured 1996, Seat 1A

Lounge…ug.  Really, you make international first passengers use the dump that is the “United Club” at Newark.  Completely packed with the cattle, it’s hard to get a drink or find somewhere to plug in your computer.  Boarding was at least relatively efficient, and the former Continental gate crew at least seem to know there are three classes finally.  Then, we boarded, and things got a bit exciting.  Earlier in the day, there were only 3 of us in first, with five empty seats.  Of course, all eight ended up being taken.  The crew (ex-United) seemed to know the party of five (all together) who boarded (surprising since they were boarding in EWR, but who knows), and they rather loudly complained that there were six of them, but one “got stuck in the back because SOMEONE took their seat at the last minute.”  Honey, that would be me….on a full business fare upgraded with a global upgrade.  If you want your company to stay in business, please don’t complain when full revenue passengers “stick” #6 in your party in business.  Very unprofessional.  The purser must have seen me make a bit of a pained face, as she actually came over and apologized, and was wonderful the whole flight.

Standard new 777 united first suites, with the standard broken buttons on a couple of the storage compartments.  Nothing a makeshift lever wouldn’t take care of.  People always seem to ask the latest of the meals, so I’ll post with a few pics here.  Started of course with the mixed warm nuts.  Nothing special, but way too many almonds for my liking.

To Begin:  Warm Appetizer – Vegetable and mushroom-filled pastry and beef empanada with Amazon sauce.

I’ll admit, I have no idea what “Amazon sauce” is supposed to be, and even after eating it I wasn’t sure.  Tasty enough, but certainly not what I’d expect in international first.   You’ll also notice some coconut-breaded chicken thing.  Guess the veggie and shroom pastry was a tease as well.  At least there was wine!

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