Most tourists leave Cotonou, Benin largest city, straight away, it lacks attractions to speak off. Worth mentioning, a cozy Catholic Cathedral, where people come to prey, sleep, and rest.
Visits to the Dantokpa Market, Benin biggest market with 40 hectares, and the giant second hand market left me irritated and exhausted. Too many people push through the narrow alleys, as the only white person I was stared at and constantly spoken to in unfamiliar languages.
I was able to take a couple of photos with my mobile, since there was no way to fiddle around with a big camera. People did not appreciate having their photos taken, beside only a bird’s eye perspective would give justice to this maze and the enormity of these markets. For people who are interested in where the recycled clothes from Europe ends up, this place might be of interest.
The gigantic shoe section itself is fascinating, piles or neatly lined up, but most surprising they look like new. I watched the vendors scrubbing them clean and dry them on top of large umbrellas.
Oh yes, an artists’ village with lots of handicraft on display, waits for souvenir shoppers. but non of the wood work had the quality I had found in other African countries.
Why I hang around for so long it Cotonou? Well, to begin with, I had not planned my trip well. This had its positive sides - I was flexible. This allowed me to spend some time with Roch Metonou, a most kind Beninois, who my friend Linde Magg got me in touch with only a day before I left for Benin.
Another reason why I returned to Cotonou was Hotel du Lac, an oasis in a city plagued by crazy traffic and not one public place to linger for a while and relax. Besides, without my own transport, trips to Quidah, Ganvie, Puerto Novo were more easily organized from Cotonou.
The clientele of Hotel du Lac is not of the kind that mingles easily with other guests, not the perfect ambience for somebody who travels alone, but the comfort made up for this deficit. The other guests, most of them French couples, large African families, Italian couples with children adopted in Benin, business people, rather stay among themselves. It also did not help that my French is rather poor. Nevertheless Hotel du Lac was the anchor that I needed, travelling by myself. Here I had fast WIFI for those evenings on the terrace, when I was going through my photos, writing my blog and staying in touch with friends.
Hotel du Lac: reservation can be made through booking.com
Price: 44.000 CFA (€66) per day/ per room