My secret hideaway: foreign correspondent discover all
Foreign correspondents know how to get under the skin “of the worlds countries”. But where do they move when they want to be removed from it all? Here, well-travelled columnists reveal their ultimate holiday escapes
Afua Hirsch on Sao Tome e Principe, Africa
At first I find critical of the many Africans I spoke to who had never heard of Sao Tome e Principe. It is after all an African country, albeit one of the smallest( population 194,000) and remotest an archipelago of minuscule islands nestled in the watery armpit of west and central Africa, deep in the Atlantic, with Gabon to the east and Nigeria to the north.
Then I realised how difficult it was to get there. Back then, in 2002, there was one flight a week from Gabon, and one from Lisbon which ferried the children of Portuguese aristocrats to secretive useds in pristine bays at the hoof of volcanos carpeted in the countrys endless innocent rainforest.
I had graduated from university just a few months ago and in my shiny new NGO job elected Sao Tome as the orientation for an international conference I was organising. But going hundreds of dignitaries there intended chartering planes, qualifying hotel staff members and even having brand-new phone cables laid. I arrived exhausted. My VIP clients were in a strop , not because the plane Id chartered searched ripe for the scrap heap, but because it had no business class sets. I was not in the mood to fall in love.
But I did. Id ever seen volcanoes so alive with grove or the Atlantic such a seductive, sleepy-eyed blue. Ive never appeared so close to a record I thought much older no African language is spoken in Sao Tome, but, rather a creole form of Portuguese. The inmates are all descended from slaves, Portuguese lepers and Jewish brats dumped on small island developing hundreds of years ago.
People lived in the ruinings of rotted colonial palaces as if the orchard had collapsed the day before. It appeared marked at delivery from another part of the world the Caribbean or South America with its stately palms and deteriorating facades, ridgeback mountains and Portuguese towns.
But its Africa all right. Billions of casks of oil have achieved what natural knockout and human appeal never did and placed it securely on the map. The lubricant proletarians have been streaming in since Sao Tome and I had our first encounter: I hope parties endeavouring Africas greatest attractivenes will, too.
Fly to Sao Tome e Principe from London via Lisbon with TAP Portugal from PS457( flytap.com ). Stay at Omali Lodge, redoubles from PS106( omalilodge.com ) Afua Hirsch is the former West Africa correspondent for the Guardian
Lyse Doucet on New Brunswick, Canada
Ive heard it time and time again. New Brunswick? Oh, I drove through it to get to Nova Scotia. Acadians? Hmm Cajuns? Oh Cajun cooking Music Louisiana!
But New Brunswick in east Canada is much more than a place to drive through. And its northeastern coast will not just pleasure but instruct you about a people who subsisted a British colonial removal from here in 1755 and returned to establish a vibrant culture and proud sense of self.
The Acadians are the offsprings of the French who colonised countries of the region from the 17 th century, and if you visit on 15 August, Acadian national date, youll be aloud reminded of that by the tintamarre . At 17.55, on the dot, beings dance in the streets, overpowering pans and blowing horns, to make as much racket as is practicable to tell the world know theyre still here. A dark epoch in imperial record, when thousands were forced to flee south including to Louisiana, where the period Acadian became Cajun is now a vibrant occasion of survival.
A drive along the winding beach takes you through a picturesque landscape of simple-minded cabins hugging the coastline and ramble farmhouses set back on wheeling green battlefields( except in the freezing penetrations of wintertime, when all is snowy lily-white ).
Lobster nets and the Acadian pennant are ubiquitous a tricolour to standing French parentage, with a shining yellowed starring, representing the Stella Maris, the star of the high seas, that navigates sailors in storms.
To know even more about this charming angle on the sea, inspect the Acadian village, a functioning replica of life through the late 18 th to the mid-2 0th centuries. Inside the original wooden houses of the first Acadian households they are carried out under with daily chores, but are never too busy to warmly welcome visitors.
History originates alive in the evening at the luxurious LHotel Chateau Albert, which allows you tuck into an old- fashioned meal while being entertained by a trio of traditional fiddlers. On my last-place visit there, a female fiddler recounted how she had to practise in secret as a young girl. Fiddling was merely for men then.
And do drop by the Doucet farm in the historical village, where you may find them cooking bread.
Fly to Moncton from London via Toronto or Montreal with Air Canada from PS532( aircanada.com ). Stay at LHotel Chateau Albert, redoubles from PS70( villagehistoriqueacadien.com) Lyse Doucet is the BBCs director international reporter
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