We picked up the rental car about 0930, bought a few supplies (like croissants and champagne) and were on our way by 1030 on the two-lane N1 highway heading east from Saint-Laurent to French Guiana's capital city, Cayenne.
It's not a particularly interesting drive though just getting off the boat and outside the city limits was a small thrill. The road follows the contour of the land, bordered by dense foliage and palms and bananas for mile after mile. Pink morning glories lend a bit of color contrast to the green of the jungle. The area is crisscrossed with “criques” (creeks), small streams that meander back and forth, merge into rivers and empty into the Atlantic. We were surprised to see rest areas along the way, some of which were pretty nice like the Aire Crique Morpio. Note the tannin in the crique renders it a tea-color.
We saw a tiny monkey run across the road and a lizard or two, but otherwise we spotted no significant wildlife. Still, it was exciting to be “on the road again” and the 250km trip went by in a flash. We slowed down for the border patrol about 100 km from Saint-Laurent, but they waved us through without a word.
I'd done my usual travel homework and our first stop was in Sinnamary, an AmerIndian village/town on the Sinnamary River. Right off the bat we were impressed with the larger-than-life scarlet ibis sculpture located in a roundabout, welcoming us to the town.
Unfortunately, that was the highlight of the town. We ordered coffees at a little riverside restaurant, mostly because we were in need of their toilet facilities. When the waitress found out we didn't want a whole meal, she asked us to vacate our table though there were only a couple of other people in the restaurant. Oh, well, at least we'd used the toilet first. We canceled the coffee order.
The town itself was sleepy. A few tourists wandered around the souvenir shop, known for its carvings and Indonesian jewelry. We saw little that captured our fancy and left with our pocketbooks intact. The Catholic church was impressive for such a little town.
As we departed the town, we noticed another cool sculpture and David pulled over and hopped out to get a photo.
Our next stop was Kourou (KOO-roo), noted specifically as the location of Le Centre Spatial Guyanais, the European Space Center. The town has grown up around the space center and it is pretty cosmopolitan. Interestingly, you kind of sneak up on it. We were driving along on the N1 and Maps With Me indicated 10km (6 miles) to the downtown. I knew it must be wrong. We were still in the countryside. I was expecting some suburbia, a little commercialism before arriving in the city, but boom … there was Kourou. The town had some interesting public art scattered around, mostly in the roundabouts. David had to circle a few times so I could get photos. We're heading back through Kourou on our return trip and we'll explore more then.
Then we saw the golden arches of Mickey D's, and we admit it, we succumbed to the siren's song for a quick fast-food lunch. They had David at “Quarter Pounder”.
Kourou is only a 60km (36 mile) drive from Cayenne, but it took us nearly an hour with traffic. Our hotel, Hotel des Palmistes, was touted to be an 1890-vintage Creole mansion sporting a bar, restaurant and nine guest rooms located right on the Place des Palmistes in the center of town. We found a parking place right in front and remarkably, it was everything we thought it would be. We're in Cayenne! That's our little rental car, a white Kia parked in front.
We walked in through the crowded, very-French restaurant...folks chatting animatedly at sidewalk tables, smoking, drinking wine, sipping espresso...light jazz playing in the background. Inside, more people sat in a relaxed atmosphere near the bar and in an interior, open air, gravel-floored courtyard, even more people enjoyed themselves. We climbed the two flights of century-old stairs wondering what we'd gotten ourselves into. The door opened to our spacious European-style suite and the cool of the air-conditioning hit us...and the lovely room and the fridge and the shower.
The ceiling to floor shuttered windows opened directly onto the Place des Palmistes. We can be easily impressed, but this is heaven!
Exploring tomorrow, but for now … showers and then simply enjoying the luxury and the cool.
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