3guianas travel blog by Mark Berman -
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Take the cultures of France, China, the Caribbean and a touch of Brazil, mix them altogether and you get the city of Cayenne, the vibrant capital of French Guiana!
Cayenne is a pleasant city to spend a day exploring. 1 day is really all you need to see most if not all the sights, I walked around the city twice in this time.
I arrived in town in a taxi-van from the eastern border town of Saint Georges which
cost $30euros and took 2hr 45mins and was dropped off at the cheapest hotel in and around the center. Time for Chinese food and a nights rest.
7 Hour City Walk
I set out to spend the
whole day exploring the city on foot (7hrs of walking, strolling and photo taking). I got to know
Cayenne quite well in this time! It was a rainy morning and I started my day where many of the locals started theirs - in the markets at 8am!
The Central market has the look and feel of Southeast Asia and is located near the foot of the fort and Hotel de Ville
(town hall), just a street away. Aisles and aisles of the freshest fruit and vegetables of all colors and shapes including Chinese lettuce and the
distinctive spiky red fruit called Rambutan
- a native fruit of tropical Southeast Asia. On the walls around the market are African style paintings of men and women
workers. Beside the markets is a grassy plaza (Place du Coq) with a monument of a rooster in the middle and nearby is a statue of Victor Schoelcher
with an African
slave, a Frenchman (1804-1893) who worked for the abolition of slavery.
The most prominent sight you will see
while visiting Cayenne are the abundance of wrought-iron balconies, arched wooden doorways and slatted window shutters, some in perfect condition and others less so.
Place des Palmistes
The centerpiece of the city is Place des Palmistes, this is the large grassy central plaza with rows and rows of palm
trees everywhere. All the best important historical buildings are around here. The monument in the center is of Felix Eboue
(1884-1944), the first black Frenchman appointed as governor in the
French colonies, born in Cayenne. The carved stone sculpture next to the statue of Felix Eboue is quite impressive. Next to the Place des Palmistes is the very
nice area around the Prefecture which has nice lawns and stone pathways and a beautiful fountain. The buildings feature white columns, red tiled roofs, a clock
face and a pair of large ship anchors. This is the most well-kept area of the central city but it's not far from the sea where it roughs-up a bit with a little
graffiti art and more rundown streets and buildings.
Beside the Sea
Beside the sea is a nice park and area with lawns and trees called
Place des Amandiers with lots of green bench seats and picturesque views of the coast - rocky coastline with palms in the distance. Nice even on a cloudy day!
The beach doesn't look bad either but was covered in washed-up driftwood at the time.
Close to China
As you walk around
Cayenne you are never far away from China! I found a pair of Chinese dragons outside a building that had a display of photos from a Chinese festival in the city.
From here I made my way towards the cathedral - Cathedrale Saint Sauveur. It's quite a bright cathedral compared to the dark
and gloomy ones you see sometimes.
Lunch on the Main Street
Nearby on the main street is a huge mural beside an outdoor carpark featuring
various characters and musicians in costume enjoying a party. I ate a nice tuna salad for lunch just across the road from here.
Outside the Center
Street wandering is my favorite way of getting to know a place, I find the best stuff sometimes like this - interesting
odds and ends and snapshots of life. I headed to the other side of the markets, away from the center to see what I could find. I saw the old port with old wooden
boats sitting on the mud along its edge. I then came across some cool murals by artist Abel Adonai
, a group of 5 men plus 2 more beside, not sure who they are though.
I then explored the roughish neighborhood on the other side of the river (Village Chinois), I was attracted by the sight of murals and graffiti art of course! This
is around the area of Avenue de la Liberte where my hotel was, this is also the street where taxi-vans leave from to head east or west. The weather was extremely hot
despite the clouds so I went for a quick shower at my hotel.
Hill, Fort and Views
Afterwards I headed in the direction of the 17th century
fort ruins - Fort Ceperou, at the top of a small hill in the town center. There is nothing worth seeing of the fort, nothing left at all, just derelict buildings
and broken bottles, but the view is most definitely worth seeing.
Time to Move
I walked a while around some of the back streets in the
center to see anything else that I could find before deciding that I had pretty much seen the place and headed back to my hotel and had another Chinese meal for
dinner that night. Early the next morning, around 8am I checked out and walked a few hundred meters down the road to get a taxi-van the 60kms distance to Kourou Space Center
which took 1hr. I enjoyed Cayenne a lot, it's a nice city with a nice mix of people and was my 2nd favorite capital city out of itself, Paramaribo