I already posted about the Le Meridien I stayed at in Libreville. I arrived there a bit after midnight after a long delay, and was supposed to have one full day in Libreville, plus the next day until around mid-afternoon. Unfortunately, not really enough time to get out of the city, so I focused on seeing as much of the city as possible. As it turned out, I had three full days there due to some unfortunate circumstances, so I definitely would have had time to get out had I known. Oh well!
December 29: This was to be my one full day in Libreville, so decided to walk as much as possible before melting in the heat. The centre of the city was only about 1.5 miles from the hotel, so I figured it would be a decent walk to see some stuff. After all, it was 85F but cloudy so how bad could it be?
A view of the Le Meridien from the road:
About halfway to the city, I found oil! Big oil!
A little further down the beach, an interesting statue:
Park bench on the beach:
After absolutely melting, I arrived at the cafe I’d been looking for a hot sweaty mess. Oh well, I was rewarded with pain au chocolate, pain au raisin, and espresso. Life was grand!
After refueling, I continued the hot hot hot walk. Next up was the Cathedral of St Marie:
…the first of many places I was to see on the trip where Pope John Paul II had visited.
Walking another 15 minutes or so, I came upon the restaurant where I was considering dinner that night, a place that did local food called L’Odika. They had reservations, and the menu looked good, so I reserved for later that night. Lovely outdoor setting in the gardens:
I’d been told by colleagues that the Port was one of the most interesting things to see, but unfortunately it’s completely under construction, part of a huge hotel / mall / marina / port complex scheduled to be finished in a few years. So, unfortunately, it was a bit of a mess at the moment:
I was roasting at this point, so decided to seek refuge in what I think is one of the most fascinating parts of any city: the local markets and supermarkets. They really tell a lot about the place, and Libreville was home to the largest Casino supermarket I’ve ever seen!
Walked all the way back to the hotel through some back streets, but was too hot to take any pics along the way. Eventually got back and cooled off for a while before grabbing a taxi to L’Odika for dinner. Only took a pic of the first course, a delicious carpaccio of capitain fish. Yum!
December 30: little bit more than a half day, so I took another route through the city, and along the beach, to grab pastries and coffee at the same cafe. A view out onto the ocean:
Was reading my e-mail on my phone at breakfast, when a friend texted me: “Is what’s going on in Kinshasa going to affect you?” Now, keep in mind, I had an afternoon flight to Kinshasa. I quickly started googling, and the news wasn’t good. Armed “terrorists” (the government’s words) had tried to take control of the state tv station and airport, and dozens were killed. Kinshasa airport was closed, and it appeared flights were being diverted. My flight, however, showed on time still. The funny thing is, my first thought wasn’t “shit, it’s not safe to go there now,” it was “how am I going to salvage my trip.” I swear, if ASKY was going to operate my flight, I was going to go!
I hightailed it back to the hotel to call my travel agent, who had the semi-reassuring words: “it looks like your ticket has been changed. Your flight is not going to Brazenville.” Um, do you mean Brazzaville? “Yes, that place.” Ok, so they were going to still operate the flight, just to Brazzaville instead. Hmmm, I would be missing my stop in Kinshasa, but at least it wouldn’t throw off my entire trip. Decided to quickly check out, get to the airport early, and pray.
Took the airport shuttle to the airport, but checkin for ASKY airlines was nowhere to be found. Asked several dozen official-looking people, and they all heard the flight had been canceled. Hmmm. Kept asking around, and eventually one very helpful lady told me she knew where the ASKY office was, so let’s go ask them what’s going on. Upstairs, bang on their door, no answer. So, she just walked right in…where we found ASKY’s airport manager hiding from the public. Yes, the flight is canceled. No, we don’t have any others for three days, yes, you’re out of luck, GO AWAY.
Just as we walked out, the manager of “Trans Congo Airlines” walked by, and he had a flight at midnight to Brazzaville. Um, yeah, I don’t think I want to fly something called Trans-Congo at midnight and hope I get where I really wasn’t planning to go in the first place. Back to the hotel to plan options, and fortunately when I told them earlier my flight was uncertain they’d held the room for me. Great!
Planned and planned, and everyone was right. There was just nothing at all I was finding. Nothing today for sure, and nothing to either city on tomorrow the 31st either. I was stuck in Libreville another two nights it looked like. Rebooked myself to Brazzaville on January 1 instead, turning two nights in Gabon into four. Called it a night, and got some sleep.
Woke up early on the 31st, and went back to the grocery store to stock up on supplies, including the champagne from the previous picture. I was going to have a decent New Years Eve even if it was just me! Hung around by the pool much of the day, which was nice and relaxing. An amazing final sunset of the year from the pool:
To bed a little after midnight, since I’d have to be up around 7am to hopefully catch my flight to Brazzaville, and get my trip back on track as much as possible!