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St Louis

A street on the island.
St Louis itself is a great place to spend any length of time.

It has a curious geography. A long peninsular, the Langue de Barbarie, runs parallel to the west coast of Africa, through which the River Senegal runs towards the Atlantic Ocean. Sitting in the very north of Senegal the island of St Louis is sandwiched between the peninsular and the mainland, and is now attached to both by bridges. The island is small, a dozen blocks across and around a kilometre in length. Colonial France installed it the capital of their western territory and it grew beyond the confines of the island to the mainland and the peninsular.

The layout means that much of the town is no more than a stone’s throw from the ocean or the river, giving a sense of openness and a cooling breeze. The latter was much appreciated, a few miles inland temperatures would sore into the forties. However the St Louis weather was about perfect, blue skies every day giving way to pleasantly cool evenings. The breeze also keep the insects away, a special bonus in a malarial zone.

Historic cruise liner the Bou El Mogdad, with the Pont Faidherbe in the background.
The city is large enough that there is plenty going on, there were two musical festivals in the four weeks I was there, yet small enough to regularly bump into acquaintances in the street. The various districts have characters of their own. The north of the island is the tourist epicentre, the main drag alternating between bars and shops selling ubiquitous African carvings. The south of the island is quieter, home to faded colonial buildings now variously operating as a hospital, school or museum. The mainland is a largely residential sprawl and hosts the main market. The south of the peninsula is home to a densely packed fishing village, while the north, a more orderly residential area, is where I stayed.
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