Alexx Thompson captures the heartbeat, rhythm and pulse of Haiti on our Dec 2013 Adventure to Jacmel. Neil Young’s Song + Poolside Remix + Alexx’s Art with Haitian Imagery = Pure Magic. Experience It Nov 2014!
EXCITED TO SAY…..
Our HAITI ADVENTURE TEAM for APRIL has pooled our dollars collectively so that we will be able to Donate $1500 directly to the ACFFC!!!
It’s the PERFECT amount, as it will Sponsor ONE Student’s EDUCATION, FOOD, ART AND MEDICAL COSTS for a FULL YEAR.
Ahhhh, that feels GOOD.
If you’d like to help us DO even more good, you’re invited to join our Satellite-Donor- Team!
Here’s What We Could Use Some Help With… Art Supplies, Clothes & Cash!
Do You Have Any of These Items??
Art Supplies- Acrylic Paints, Canvas Board, Quality Paint Brushes
Second Hand JEANS and Sunglasses
French Books and Soccer Balls
Pen Pal, Artsy Letters from your Kids to the Art Students at the ACFFC in Jacmel, Haiti
Stained glass for ACFFC ART Projects: Red, Black, Blue, Yellow, Pastels, Opaque (no clear) In Florida, McMow Art Glass in Lake Worth is one source.
Rather Donate Money? Send your Cash on a Tax Deductible, Caribbean Vacation!!
Donate Now at http://www.Crowdrise.Com/LetsGotoHaiti
As they say in Haiti, Mesi Anpil!! Thanks A Lot!
Haiti Adventure Itinerary | April 21st to 26th, 2014
Mon, Day One: Catch 6:20am Jet Blue flight to Port Au Prince. Our guide, Cyril, and driver will meet us and pick us up at the airport. First stop, Haiti Communitiere. Visit their Ubuntu Home model and other eco-friendly housing models. Lunch in PAP w/Lizandra Vidal of Zen Empowerment Yoga Outreach Program. Drive to beautiful Jacmel and get settled into Cap LaMandou Hotel, Dinner. (L, D)
Tues, Day Two: Visit our Friends at the ACFFC, Art Creation Foundation for Children. (http://www.acffc.org ) Bring Donations. ART & Happy in Haiti Video project. Lunch. City Mosaic Wall Tour. Artisan Shops. Beach/Swim. Dinner at Hotel Florita. (B,L,D)
Wed, Day Three: Visit to Cine Institute. Lunch in Marigot. Adventure to Bassin Bleu waterfalls. (B,L,D)
Thurs, Day Four: Visit & Bring Donations to Faith & Love Orphanage. Photo Shoot w/the kids for their website. Lunch. Afternoon Paint Homes of the ACFFC Families. Pool time. Dinner at Hotel. (B,L,D)
Friday, Day Five: Morning trip to Angel Wings Medical Clinic & ACFFC. Return to PAP. Visit Iron Market and Haitian Art Collective Shops. Check into Le Perroquet Hotel. Wrap Dinner at our favorite Latin Quartier!! (B,L,D)
Saturday, Day Six: Departure for Airport as you Dream of your NEXT trip.:)
Next Fall Trip – November 3rd to Jacmel
Montreal Gazette’s latest article, “Take Another Look at Haiti”
MILOT, Haiti – It took a ride on a minibus, a transfer to a flatbed truck and then a horseback trek up a rocky mountainside to get here.
We arrive jostled and sweaty and unprepared for the very thing we came for: La Citadelle Laferrière, a spectacular 200-year-old stone and brick fortress built by the freed slaves who forced out their powerful French colonizers. It sits atop a 3,500-foot-high peak in northern Haiti, surrounded in all directions by velvet-green mountains. If this were Tuscany or Andalusia, or even the Dominican Republic next door, this UNESCO heritage site would be filled with tourists.
But it’s quiet and almost deserted. On a clear, sunny day, there are only a dozen of us here, not including horses and guides, in what may be one of the most captivating places on Earth.
That’s because Haiti is not anywhere near the top of most people’s bucket list. When they think Haiti, they don’t imagine glorious scenery or proud historic monuments — they picture poverty and despair. They remember the television footage of the 2010 earthquake that toppled thousands of buildings in Port-au-Prince and surrounding cities and killed an estimated 300,000 people.
But while the rest of us have been feeling sorry for Haiti, Haiti’s been busy getting back on its feet. Though much remains to be done, most of the earthquake debris and tent camps have been cleared away and the government has embarked on an ambitious campaign to bolster tourism.
In Port-au-Prince on the Champ de Mars, the sprawling plaza outside the ruined National Palace, a 5,000-seat amphitheatre, surrounded by artisan booths and cafés, is expected to be ready this summer. A 175-room Marriott Hotel will open downtown in 2015, one of several new international luxury hotels. In January 2013, Air Transat began offering weekly direct flights and travel packages from Montreal to Haiti.
At the airport in Port-au-Prince, the whole 100-car taxi fleet is being replaced, and the government has flown in Haitian-born taxi drivers from Montreal to give the locals dispatch and customer-service lessons. Teachers from Montreal’s hotel and restaurant school have come to train a new generation of chefs, waiters and hotel workers.
“We have history, culture and natural beauty, and we have done colossal work to get ready to welcome tourists back to Haiti,” Tourism Minister Stéphanie Villedrouin explained after lunch at Parc Historique de la canne à sucre, an old sugar cane plantation converted into a museum and restaurant. “We don’t want charity. We want people to come to Haiti and eat and drink with us, listen to our music and be our guests.”
Villedrouin knows she can’t compete with the large, well-developed resorts in Cuba and the Dominican Republic. What she wants is for Haiti to become a different kind of destination, one for “cultural explorers” interested in food, history, art and music, or adventurers looking for something more than an all-inclusive week on the beach.
It’s not an impossible dream. Haiti was once known as the pearl of the Antilles. Movie stars and millionaires used to come to buy art, drink rum and soak up the sun. Air France flew twice a week from Paris to Port-au-Prince. Canadians and Americans filled the hotels.
One of Club Med’s most beautiful resorts was built along the Côte des Arcadins, a stretch of sandy white beaches and hidden coves nestled under steep mountains, a 45-minute drive south of the capital. But the brutal dictatorship of Papa Doc Duvalier and successive decades of political unrest put an end to the golden era. The Club Med closed, and the tourists stayed away.
Slowly, visitors are returning, many of them expatriates, business people, the sons and daughters of those who left in droves in the 1960s and ’70s. The old Club Med, with its fabulous modernist architecture, has reopened as a less luxurious Haitian-owned resort called Club Indigo, with the same exquisite beaches and grounds. Not far away, the Wahoo Bay Beach Club and Resort offers boutique-hotel-style rooms set amid lush gardens overlooking the turquoise sea.
Still, a vacation in Haiti isn’t for the faint-hearted. The roads are potholed and garbage-strewn. Protests erupt sporadically and sometimes turn violent, and there’s no overlooking the extreme poverty in which large segments of the population live. The best way to visit Haiti is on an organized tour or with a local guide, such as Tour Haiti.
Jean Cyril Pressoir, who has lived all his life in Port-au-Prince, except for three years in Montreal studying anthropology, runs Tour Haiti with his father, offering tailor-made private and group tours all over the country. A swashbuckler of a guide who wears beaded bracelets and a madras shirt, Pressoir has a way of making a place come alive.
He takes visitors into his favourite restaurants and bars and sneaks them into hidden home distilleries for a shot. He organizes bike tours, museum visits and hikes to distant waterfalls. He knows where there’s voodoo rock playing on Thursday night and which street seller makes the best griot pork.
“We may have tons of problems, but we have soul. We have magic. Haiti is authentic,” Pressoir says.
The writer flew courtesy of Air Transat and was a guest of Occidental Hotels, Club Indigo and Habitation Jouissant. Neither the organization nor the hotels reviewed or approved this story.
Six reasons to go to Haiti
1: The colour. Haiti is one continuous swirl of pattern and colour. Children in green-, blue- or red-checked gingham uniforms gather for an after-school snack. Pink and turquoise plastic kitchen utensils are piled for sale next to mountains of orange, yellow and green citrus fruits at the market. Lottery kiosks, store signs and wall murals are painted with stencilled letters and crazy patterns straight out of a pop art show. In Cap-Haïtien, Haiti’s second-largest city, the houses are all turquoise and apricot, with white gingerbread trim.
2: Street life. Everything in Haiti happens in the street. Every square inch of sidewalk and roadside is taken up by food carts and street sellers. Women carry coolers of soft drinks, baskets of fruit, even potted plants, on their heads as they weave their way between tap tap buses. Carpenters, shoemakers and hairdressers set their tools on makeshift tables in front of their houses and go about their day’s work. At the corner, there’s a lineup for barbecue chicken sizzling on a drum-can grill. It winds past an ad hoc antique store selling armchairs in the style of Louis XV.
3: The beach. Haiti’s north and south coasts boast some of the most pristine white-sand beaches in the Caribbean, some accessible only by boat. Walk for miles and miles and never see another soul. In the north, outside Cap-Haïtien, take a water taxi to one of Labadee’s secluded coves or head for Cormier Plage, a beautiful private resort with two hectares of beachfront and an extraordinary beachside bar. In the south, the historic coffee-export town of Jacmel features Haiti’s most scenic swimming spots. And along the Côte des Arcadins, not far from Port-au-Prince, miles and miles of untouched beaches are dotted with small family owned resorts that offer boat rides, snorkelling, deepsea fishing and other water sports.
4: The rum. Rum is Haiti’s national drink, and Barbancourt is the rum of rums. The Haitian cocktail of choice is the lime-intense rum sour. Taste the five-star Barbancourt reserve special on ice with a zest of lemon, or sip 15-year-old Réserve du Domaine from a snifter, as you would cognac. (Just remember to spill out a few drops before taking your first sip, as Haitians do. A gift to the spirits.) Visit the Barbancourt Distillery, built in the middle of a sugar cane plantation in Damiens, 16 kilometres outside of Port-au-Prince. A mecca for serious rum drinkers, it has been run by the same family since it opened in 1862. Watch the truckloads of sugar cane come in for mashing, fermenting, distilling and bottling, then relax on the terrasse out back and sample the end result. Group tours are available by prior arrangement. Individual visitors are welcome Monday to Friday between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m.
5: The art. Haitian art is bold, colourful, shocking. Some of Haiti’s best-known modern artists were members of the Saint-Soleil school, which revived and reinterpreted primitive art. It’s a style Pétion-Ville art dealer Georges Nader describes as “a little voodoo, a little mystical, a little political commentary.” Their work commands thousands of dollars and is sold in galleries around the world and at Galerie Nader, which is the largest art gallery in the Caribbean. But at the Iron Market in Port-au-Prince and on just about every bend in the road, naïf landscapes, abstract portraits and voodoo-inspired wood and stone masks and sculptures sell for much, much less. In Village de Noailles, northeast of Port-au-Prince, hammers hitting metal provide the ambient sound. The 60 or so blacksmiths and metal workers who live and work here create carved iron sculptures from oil drums, car parts and recycled sheet metal, taking their inspiration from voodoo and Christian religious symbols and from nature.
6: The food. Haiti’s culinary heritage is a source of great pride. The food is bold and zesty, a mix of Creole and French cooking that makes liberal use of garlic, hot chili peppers and citrus.
IF YOU GO
Getting there: Air Transat (airtransat.ca) offers packages that include airfare to and from Montreal and two nights in Port-au-Prince or its suburb of Pétion-Ville, with visits to museums, restaurants and art galleries, followed by three nights at the beach on the Côte des Arcadins, or five nights on the coast.
Getting around: Haiti is complicated. It’s best to hire a local guide who can also act as Creole interpreter and driver. Tour Haiti (tourhaiti.net) offers tailor-made group and individual tours.
Where to stay: The pace in Port-au-Prince can be furious; the suburb of Pétion-Ville offers respite, with a number of hotels. For sleek, modern décor, there’s the five-star Royal Oasis hotel (oasishaiti.com), which opened last year and is part of the Occidental chain. Villa Thérèse (villatherese.com) is a charming, low-key 23-room colonial-style hotel that was rebuilt after it was destroyed in the earthquake.
On the beach along the Côte des Arcadins, the former Club Med is now a less luxurious Haitian-owned resort called Club Indigo (clubindigo.net). Not far away is the Wahoo Bay Beach Club and Resort (www.wahoobaybeach.com), a family owned business with rooms decorated in chic boutique-hotel style set around a pool, with exquisitely tended gardens and grounds.
In Cap-Haïtien, Haiti’s second-largest city, Habitation Jouissant (habitationjouissant.com) is a small boutique hotel that has just been renovated and enlarged. It sits perched on a hillside above the city, with a pool and glorious views over the cathedral to one side and the Atlantic Ocean to the other. Sip a rum sour at the bar during cocktail hour while the pianist plays a little jazz or swing. The highlight is the sprawling veranda, with its green-painted wrought-iron tables and chairs.
Growing up in Seattle, I’m quite familiar with the fact that once stereotypes get attached to something, they’re hard to shake. If I only had a Barbancourt Rum Sour for every time I heard, “Doesn’t it Rain ALL the TIME Seattle?”
Yes, it rains in Seattle, yet not ALL THE TIME, just MOST of the Time….and it’s more of a DRIZZLE. ;)
It actually ranks 44th in US cities for amount of rainfall, yet it just so happens that we have more rainy days with less accumulation. It seems all those extra days of precipitation equals a direct link to increased caffeine AND character. Coffee reigns and book clubs thrive. Amazing people. Exceptional City. Seattle is a place rich in culture and beautiful BEYOND imagination, once you give it a chance and actually go visit!
Next, meet Haiti. Seattle’s Caribbean Cousin in a world of Stereotypes. More than rain and drizzle, when Haiti comes up in conversation, all sorts of topics start buzzing around the room. Poverty, Corruption, Foreign Aid, Crime, Natural Disaster- you name it. Did you realize that Haiti is one of the SAFEST Islands in the Americas?!” Let’s all shout that from a mountaintop! Or if you’re in a state like Florida, perhaps a rooftop, pool bar- that works too.
Brilliant minds from Haiti and All Around the world are combining forces to create sustainable solutions for a better future- one where Haiti can overcome her obstacles- and begin to stand and shine on her own, independently. It is not our duty to go fix or change the country, yet we can collaborate and support the evolution, and even more importantly, we can celebrate what’s GOOD and BEAUTIFUL in Haiti right now.
Elsewhere in the Caribbean, tourism is a huge industry, attracting millions of tourists and pumping billions of dollars into island economies. Haiti shares the same island of Hispanolia with the Dominican Republic to the east. Last year, the DR had 4.5 million visitors. Haiti had 900,00 yet mostly in Labadee, a gated off corner of Haiti- exclusively for cruise ships. Haiti is ready to share more than just Labadee, the country is investing in new airports, hotels & a hospitality school to encourage more tourism on the mainland.
“My goal is to reposition Haiti as a tourism destination and attract the leisure tourism,” says Stephanie Villedrouin, Haiti’s minister of tourism. “The product is there,” she says. “Haiti was a tourism destination in the past — before the Dominican Republic, before Cuba. The natural sites, the spirit of the people, the culture is all still there. ” (NPR Source)
So, go ahead, ADD Haiti to the top of your TRAVEL list!!
If you need more inspiration, check out this video below. Watch for our Guide, Cyril too. You will get a cameo glimpse of him at the Bassin Bleu Waterfalls and Diving into the tourquoise ocean!!
Put some extra adventure in your travel. Book a trip to Seattle AND Haiti this year…
Open your mind, change your life.
“Haiti brings out every emotion you have – despair, compassion, love and hope – as well as the excitement of what’s possible with some heartfelt connection and creative collaboration.”
- Donna Karan
So true DK! Thanks for all your collaboration and contributions in Haiti and for sharing your impressions from an artistic perspective. Enjoy this excerpt from Day 4 of her Haiti Blog on Urban Zen. Photo Credit Above to Urban Zen.
“Today we go to Jacmel, my favorite place in Haiti. I could move there tomorrow. Very colonial with a Caribbean beach flair. And very much like New Orleans, bursting with creativity and style. John goes to work at the bamboo farm, which is my dream come true. He says there is a lot of work to be done, but he is very hopeful, as am I.
We meet with Sylvince Jean Paul and his girlfriend Yvette Celistin, artisans who work with tobacco leaves, something I have been dying to see, and I can’t wait to take it to another level. Really inspired, we buy their entire collection. We also go to David Bell’s Cine Institute, an incredible film school that offers a two year program to local artisan students.
Then way up the hill to the amazing home and art studio of Philippe Dodar, the artisan/architect from the day before who is also a sculptor and painter and has rebuilt the iron market which was destroyed in the earthquake. I adore Philippe. Everywhere you look in his environment is another piece of his art. Artistically, he shares so many parallels with my husband Stephan, including building a circular metal staircase just like Stephan did in our home. If we didn’t have enough in common already, Philippe is also a yogi and Reiki master.
That night, we have a reunion dinner with my favorite women of Haiti: Maryse Kedar, who I’d vote tomorrow for president, Lunes, who runs an amazing orphanage and shelter and the inspirational Claire Pierre who works with Dr. Paul Farmer and Partners in Health. These women are the lifeblood of Haiti, with them behind you, any vision can be manifested.”
Read more about Donna’s experiences in Haiti, at http://www.urbanzen.org/news/return-haiti-art-soul-day-1/
Fox News says GREEN light on Haiti!!
“On Last year’s To Go or Not to Go List, Haiti was designated as a “Don’t go.” This year, we are thrilled to change the country’s status to “Go,” citing the island nation’s recent foray into international tourism that resulted in new flight service to Port-au-Prince from New York City and Fort Lauderdale via JetBlue. Several major international hotel chains have also returned to Haiti–the Best Western Premier Petionville- opened in December 2013, and the Royal Oasis, owned by Occidental Hotel & Resorts, is also a new addition. Marriott International has also started construction in the Port-au-Prince area and is expected to open a new hotel in 2015.” - Fox News
Join us for our next trip, Wed April 30th to Tues May 6th, 2014. Pack your bags, grab your passport, Let’s Go!
International Jazz Festival in Port Au Prince, Haiti- Jan 18th to 25th, 2014
George Gershwin, said it best, “Life is a lot like Jazz…. It’s Best when you Improvise.”
Haiti agrees, especially this week as the Annual International Jazz Festival of Port Au Prince, now in it’s 8th year, kicks off this Saturday, January 18th. More than two dozen Jazz musicians from France, Germany, Canada, Switzerland, Cameroon, Mexico, Spain, Belgium, New Orleans and beyond will be dazzling the audiences with their newest musical inspirations, creations and yes, improvisations.
It’s an inspiring event as visiting artists will be holding workshops for local Haitian musicians and students by DAY and then perform in various local venues and restaurants by NIGHT. As people throughout Europe, the US and Canada are battling icy cold temps, the streets of Port Au Prince will be heating up with all sorts of lovely, international jazz beats and rhythms.
Jacqueline Charles- the Caribbean correspondent for the Miami Herald- wrote, “If New Orleans is the city where jazz was born, then Haiti is the place where it is being reborn but with a distinct, Caribbean flavor. Called Creole Jazz, it often joins traditional Vodou rhythms, Conga drums & Classical Jazz Chords.”
All this and it’s accessible and affordable to all, ready to be shared and celebrated. Aside from the two concerts that will be held at Parc Historique de la Canne-à-Sucre and the El Rancho Hotel, which cost 800 gourdes each (about $20/each), all the other concerts are FREE. International visitors and locals alike will be able to enjoy the wide range of jazz talent, as they sip on their Barbancourt rums & dine on delicious local cuisine. It’s a win win for both appreciative jazz lovers and much welcomed tourism for Haiti.
After the 2010 earthquake, Mikaelle Cartwright and her group KAYEL came together to create music that could both excite and heal. During these past three years, they have truly grown as musicians. Their rich interpretations of vocal jazz standards, funk, R & B, Bossa Nova, and Latin tunes, along with their jazzy renditions of traditional Haitian tunes set them apart in a country where the music scene is divided between Kompa, Rap Kreyol and Roots music.
Mikaelle & Kayel will be playing at the Latin Quartier, one of the best restaurants in Petionville with a gorgeous outdoor patio, Saturday January 18th, starting at 8pm.
Also as part of the After Hours program, local Haitian artist, Darline Desca, will be performing at the Yanvalou Cafe & Bar on Tues, Jan 21st at 8pm. After the 2010 earthquake, Darline received international recognition for her song “Pa Lage” (Don’t Give Up). This past June, she released her first studio album, “A Plein Temps”.
Take a listen to Darline Desca’s sultry, island infused, jazzy beats:
Ok, all you adventurous jazz lovers, it’s time to improvise a little extra this week, hop a flight and go bee bop and skee-dat your way through this fabulous festival!
Jon Bougher is a documentary filmmaker based in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. He has served as a producer, videographer and editor on projects in Haiti, Afghanistan, Nicaragua and Armenia. His documentary work has been screened at film festivals around the world and has featured on CNN International, NBC’s The Today Show and MSNBC.
While living in Haiti, he has taught documentary filmmaking to Haitian students with Haiti Reporters. Jon earned his M.F.A. in Documentary Film from Wake Forest University.
Take a Look at this Exquisite Haiti Footage created by Jon & his team at Artefact Haiti-