This is the only place I have ever visited where our tour bus had a police escort and an ambulance, sirens and all. The escort worked like they do at a funeral at home, racing ahead to the next intersection to stop all traffic and then repeat. There was a ton of traffic and I am sure we would not have accomplished our tour to the Grand Bassam area in a timely manner if we had not had a police escort. So I believe it was time rather than safety. It was rather exciting, and the police on motor bikes seemed to be having fun, showing off by racing alongside the bus with no hands, or laying back and smiling all the while. Abidjan is the capital here with a population of over six million. So it is busy and chock-a-block with people and vehicles. I saw a lot of what I would describe as poverty and poor living conditions.

PLACE DE LA PAIX – Place of Peace. A tribute to the 500 (some accounts say 2000) women who marched in small groups so as to not attract attention in 1949 to free their husbands, sons and brothers who were political prisoners. They were beaten and arrested by the French, but the march resulted in these men finally having a fair trial. Many were released and others had their sentences reduced. The dedication on the monument reads, “To our valiant women, who by their historic march on Grand Bassam prison on 24-12-49, wrested the confiscated freedom of men.”

There were two things that struck me here. One was the amount of garbage everywhere. Blown up against fences and walls, or just lying about in the streets and gutters. The other thing was in the historic town and first capital of Côte d’Ivoire, Grand Bassam, where we saw these beautiful old colonial mansions that were built by the French and other Europeans. The area is on the UNESCO World Heritage List and is described as a “colonial urban example that bears witness to the complex social relationships between Europeans and Africans, and to the subsequent independence movement.” Unfortunately today these lovely old buildings are in a sorry state of disrepair but the decaying beauty can still be seen. It was made worse by a serious flood in 2019. We also visited a craft building, an art gallery and had a lovely lunch with local musicians – mostly drummers – right at the beach.

One of the old colonial homes we saw.

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