One of Unesco's World Heritage Sites since 2000, Saint Louis has a unique and spellbinding atmosphere. French West Africa's former capital, it is now divided into three distinctive parts: the suburbs located on the continent and the two islands linked to the mainland thanks to the emblematic Faidherbe Bridge. You have to cross the latter to get to the historical centre of Saint Louis - it is inspired by the Eiffel Tower, with its beautiful metallic structure, and it is now a symbol of this major trading post, which was also a stopover for the French aviation company Aéropostale. Far from being one of Senegal's clichés, this 'sleeping beauty', as it is nicknamed, is enchanting and can be admired as you roam the right-angled streets with their brightly coloured and pastel façades. The characteristic Saint-Louisian houses all have a patio and they are the more or less well-preserved gems of the colonial era. When leaving Saint Louis island to get to Ndar island, visitors soon forget about the former, exquisitely 'nonchalant' island and soon become immersed in the permanent hustle andbustle of fishermen and their families. The gaudy colours of the pirogues, the sandy streets alive with constant activity, the small and crowded houses, the surprised faces and the piled up dried fish are just some of the striking images of this active area located between the river and the ocean.
We recommend that you start with the tourist office of the city of Saint Louis. Once you have all the necessary documents, you will be spoilt for choice: a visit to the small museum dedicated to Jean Mermoz and the great adventure of the French aviation company Aérospostale; relaxing on the beaches on Langue de Barbarie; a visit to the National Bird Park of Djoudj, a 40,000 acre ornithological reserve, located 40 miles from Saint Louis; various hunting possibilities and big game fishing... the list goes on!
Go up onto the rooftops of Saint Louis to admire the panorama, with its emblematic Faidherbe Bridge, built by Nouguier!
Stroll around the streets of the city and explore the riverbank storehouses and many shops still bearing the names of wealthy French traders, the symbol of a bygone era; the colonial houses, (in particular Maison Rose, the largest one); the military district; the massive and surprising forsaken crane; and the fishermen's district.
You should get yourself vaccinated against yellow fever and follow an anti-malaria treatment before travelling to Senegal. Trousers and long boots are recommended for walking in the bush. As far as haggling is concerned, engage the seller in conversation and after some time the prices should drop.
Driving between Saint Louis and Dakar is easy as the road is better there than in the rest of Senegal.
Always ask if you can take a picture of people before doing so, especially in the fishermen's district of Saint-Louis!
Do not swim in the rivers and only drink sterilised or bottled water. As for shopping, be vigilant! Do not buy bags, shoes and belts made of crocodile skin so as to discourage poaching.
Saint Louis's speciality is stuffed fish 'à la saint-louisienne' and it is one dish that you certainly shouldn't miss out on. The authentic recipe is made with sea mullet, and the stuffing is made with the fish's crumbled up flesh, mixed with bread, chilies, and spring onions, before the mullet's skin is stuffed again, sewn up and roasted. All of it is served with sauce and rice.
As everywhere else in Senegal, beach sellers will present you with their treasures: masks of various origins, numerous wooden objects, jewellery of various types (brass, silver or even bone), a wide range of brightly-coloured fabric, etc.
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