Driver was waiting for me right outside the airport, to drive me to my hotel, the Le Meridien Douala. Big bonus points to them – they arrived with a cooler full of cold scented moist towels and cold bottles of water. Definitely a huge plus in my book! The trip to the hotel took maybe 15 to 20 minutes, and we were there. I was upgraded to a slightly larger room, but really nothing too special.
First order of business was to get some lunch, since I hadn’t had anything to eat yet that day. Went to the poolside hotel restaurant, Le Madiba:
…and had what was actually a surprisingly tasty pizza along with a Castel.
Properly fueled, it was early afternoon and time to head out on a walk. I had a rough idea of where I wanted to go, so off I went down the road. Headed out of the hotel a few blocks, and took a left on Avenue General Charles de Gaulle and walked to the Place du Gouvernement. Voila the Palais de Justice:
World War I memorial to those killed in the Cameroon Campaign:
…and the plaza was still in a festive mood just a couple days after Christmas. Brought to you by our friends at Coca Cola:
View from the other side of the square:
Took a turn down Rue Joss where I checked out the place I’d planned for dinner. It looked good, so continued on across a busy highway to the Cathedral of Saint Peters and Paul. Across the street was the local cemetery:
…and the cathedral itself.
I took a peek inside, but there was a wedding going on and I didn’t want to intrude. I swear, every large church I’ve come across in the last couple of years either has a wedding or a funeral going on. Is that all churches are used for these days?
Outside the cathedral there was a “maze” of photographs on small stands, formed so you walked along a corridor of them. Several hundred photos explaining roughly the last 125 years of Cameroon’s history, from the German colonial period, through the French, and then post-independence. They were from the Archdiocese’s collection, and the exhibit was open based on donation. I had no idea how much to give, so I gave a couple thousand CFA, which seemed to be met with a nod of approval from the nun in charge. Somehow, this is the only photo I managed to get of the exhibit….
Walked back a different way, and came across one of a multitude of billboards proclaiming the peoples’ appreciate for the President. Heh!
Got back to my room after walking a few hours, and the management had left a gift. Yum!
This is a good time to talk about the hotel staff. Fantastically nice, although many of them appeared based on what I saw of their interactions with other guests to have somewhat limited english. I can’t really confirm, because they really went out of their way to speak French with me and let me practice…even when I struggled a bit. By the end of my stay they were cracking jokes, and I really enjoyed them. I asked for my 4pm late checkout since I had a late flight the next day, and they said it would be no problem….and I said I would like the hotel shuttle to the airport at 6….is there any chance they could do slightly later? They were happy to offer 6pm checkout as a special platinum favour, in exchange for “saying nice things when you get that e-mail survey.” We got a good laugh, and they really were just eager to do their best when it was possible.
Took a taxi to Les Banquettes for dinner, based on its number one rating on tripadvisor. The staff were incredibly friendly as promised in the reviews, and the owner did stop by my table to make sure everything was satisfactory and ask a bit about what had me in Douala. Had a burger and dessert which was solid, and I’d definitely come back. Fair price, good food, and great service. Only small drawback was that smoking was allowed, but that’s pretty common in French West Africa, so I wouldn’t hold it against them.
Slept in the next morning since it was pouring rain, and when it finally let up around noon went for another walk around many of the same areas, and laid by the pool a bit. The jetlag was catching up with me a bit and a relaxing day was just what I needed. Another late lunch by the pool, before grabbing the hotel shuttle at around six and heading back to the airport for my flight to Gabon!