Travel Weekly Crossroads' associate editor, Judy Koutsky,
took a press tour of Africa's Ivory Coast. She is chronicling her
adventures in regular, on-line travelogues. In this, her final
report, Judy reflects on her journey and finds that, more than the
attractions and scenery, the Ivorians themselves left the most
lasting impression. This is the sixth chapter in the "Judy Goes to
ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast -- It's hard to sum up the Ivory Coast
experience. What resonates strongest in my mind is the friendliness
and warmth of the villagers and their willingness to allow us a
glimpse into their world.
From the dances to the iron extraction demonstrations, from the
weavers to the pottery makers to the children who took our hands
and walked us through their schools, we were made to feel special
and welcome. Also, the feeling of being in Africa, the "real
Africa" as the west coast is often called, was overwhelming. Sure
there are pockets of tourist attractions that are well worth
seeing--namely the Basilica of Our Lady of Peace--but on the whole,
this is an unspoiled destination.
The lack of modern luxuries, limited urbanization and the
Ivorians' simple, yet rewarding way of life, made this trip a
cultural and educational experience, not your average beach-and-sun
extravaganza. With more than 60 ethnic groups represented and no
noticeable political or social strife, the Ivory Coast is a unique,
diverse and viable destination. A trip there will not leave you any
For clients making the trek, here are some things to keep in
* Bring shampoo/conditioner; most hotels only supply the
* Look through your closet for bargaining goods: t-shirts, gym
shoes, lipstick, perfume. You'll save a bundle at the market and
will be a big hit among the villagers.
* Pack some candy for the kids, and, if you're feeling very
altruistic, paper, pens and pencils will be most appreciated.
Chances are you'll stop by a school, and writing supplies are in
* Take an extra bag/suitcase. Everybody on my trip ended up
buying an extra carry-on for their souvenirs. Because many items,
including masks, animal carvings and blankets are relatively cheap
-- once you figure out how to bargain -- you'll be taking home more
than you anticipated. One woman packed a suitcase full of American
goods to trade and then filled the suitcase with African goods she
* Our tour guide was excellent: funny, informative, good natured
and always seeking adventure. I strongly recommend contacting him:
Adji Kadjou, national tour guide, telephone (011) 225 459-165.
* Change money at a bank or hotel in Abidjan, it will become
more difficult the further north or west you go.
* It's not a bad idea to bring a French dictionary. Some English
is spoken at the bigger hotels, but it'll be very useful in the
* Film is outrageously expensive in the Ivory Coast ($9 for a 24
exposure roll of 35 mm), so buy it in the States.
Here's a rundown of the hotels we stayed in:
Golf Hotel Inter-Continental, Abidjan
(011) 225 431-044
Comfortable rooms, wonderful recreational facilities in the back
and a pleasant staff make this hotel worth a visit. They are
refurbishing the outside, so ignore the chipping paint.
President Hotel, Yamoussoukro
(011) 225 641-581
This was the most elegant hotel in the lot. On par with any five
star hotel in the States, complete with swimming pool, golf course,
and "pampering center" (manicure, facials, hair salon, masseuse).
Same day dry cleaning also available. Minutes away from the
basilica, be sure to eat at the rotating restaurant on the 48th
Floor: the view is magnificent.
La Paillote, Tortiya
(011) 225 221-694/654
This hotel, located in the middle of nowhere, was my favorite. The
rooms are clean, spacious and decorated in African motif; you'll
want to buy the wall hangings. Be sure to visit the diamond mines
located just a short distance away. This is a great way to
acclimate yourself to village life.
(011) 225 860-400
Quaint, albeit the rooms are a little cramped. Centrally located
between Fakaha and Tortiya, you can shop all day and come back here
just to sleep.
Goes to Africa, Part 1: "Akwaba to Cote d'Ivoire"
Goes to Africa, Part 2: The Paradox of Our Lady of Peace
Goes to Africa, Part 3: Forgerons, Potiers and
the Dance of the Leopard-Men
Goes to Africa, Part 4: Living on 'African Time'
Goes to Africa, Part 5: No Electricity, but the Men Wear
Judy Goes to Africa, Part 6: Friendliness is Country's Best