Les Banquettes….

We stepped out in to the dusky light, after the truck pulled up to the front of a beautiful wooden and stone building with ‘Les Banquettes. Bar & Grill’ lettered in gold on the outside. This restaurant is located on Rue Joss, number 96, it is near The American Embassy and also near Echo Bank, I may aswell tell you this now because as soon as I am finished writing about this amazing place you are going to want to visit. 

The air conditioning hit us as we stepped into this amazing clean restaurant, which sometimes is not an easy thing to find in the Centre of Douala. The owner comes straight up to the door and introduces himself as Costa and seats us in a booth looking out over the quiet damp streets.

Immediately he grabs a menu telling us to pick a cocktail off the menu, there was so many so we just told him to surprise us, we also ordered a bottle of champagne. Costa returned with two mojito styled cocktails, one that had a cream base and the other a champagne, zingyness. They were both beautiful and relaxed me even further into the beautiful surroundings of this perfect bar, you could call it one of the best kept secrets, as before now I hadn’t heard about it, I had only read the stunning reviews on TripAdvisor.

The bar is lit up under the spirits in blues and reds making it look modern and inviting and the seating is either booths or traditional wooden tables with matching chairs, I look around admiring the wall art which are black and white pictures of different cities around the world with splashes of color complimenting the decor of the rest of the bar. Everything is so modern, you would think you would be sitting in one of London’s celeb hot spots. 

Costa came by to check on us and offered us some light bites to soak up the tasty cocktails, again he asked if we trusted him and we nodded and he rushed off to the kitchen to place our order… I noticed that with every customer that came through the door, Costa would greet them making them feel welcome, in Douala that is rare, you usually get the stares from the locals and a quiet question of what beer you would like to drink, while your praying its cold….he greets them like old friends and sits them down getting drinks for them quickly. The waitresses and waiters are all dressed fashionably in black with denim accessories which give it a bohemian feel. The service is so fast and reliable. Someone is always around to take your order. 

The food arrived on long plates and I almost laughed out loud with joy. In front of me and D were mozzarella sticks in a breaded batter and chicken dippers with a homemade tomato sauce. It was like America had come to Africa. It also helped that these were me and D’s fave foods. We dived in, and everything was delicious. Thats not all we got, just when we thought that was it, this huge salad with dressing dripping off the fresh wet lettuce was placed in front of us along with a side of warm french bread. The dressing was beautiful and the salad was one of the freshest I had tasted.

We slurped on our cocktails and licked our fingers clean as we chatted away the night, accompanied by the mood enhancing music of James Blunt. It was now time to get some champagne, Costa delivered the champagne in a standard silver bucket and hooked it on to the side of our table. within the bucket was long cocktail sticks pierced with fresh fruit including pineapples and grapes…to compliment our bubbly drink. So far it was perfect we chimed our glasses together and sat back in the smoky bar, people watching and noticing as the night went on the more the bar filled with EXPATS and other workers winding down on a Friday night. The atmosphere was brilliant, it made you feel comfortable and at home. We were only meant to be out for a few but we ended up staying out and meeting people, and the next thing i was being handed shot glasses with jager in it, I think it was time to go….dont need my head minced again. All and all though it was a brilliant night and so reasonably priced considering you feel you are in the hippest bar ever….I will be going back and I’m sure it will it will maybe become my regular Friday night haunt. Maybe see you there? Ill be the one sipping a mojito with sticky fingers from all the delicious food.

If my review isnt enough for you guys to head down there check out TripAdvisor and the amazing reviews yourselves below….

http://www.tripadvisor.fr/Restaurant_Review-g297392-d4063023-Reviews-Les_Banquettes_Grill_Bar-Douala_Littoral_Region.html

If you want me to check out a bar or restaurant or a POI for you please dont hesitate to email me on kirstensm23@hotmail.com or follow me on twitter @KirstenMackay19. 

x K

 

 

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Clubbing, Horse RIding and Music….

Well guys it has been an eventful 10 days for me and I do apologize that I have been behind in sharing it with you all, I keep getting invited out and then I see loads of things, and I promise myself I am going to blog about it. So here I am 10 days later, excluding the picture post. 

 

There is a wee boy at the top of my cul de sac, he stands on the corner everyday with his mum and dad, dressed in an oversized shirt, probably about 2 or 3. He just stands there, no toys, nothing. But he doesnt know any different, he watches the cars wizz by on the busy main road and smiles and waves at passengers in the big trucks and cars. His mum and dad run a corn stall, they sit and pick fresh corn and roast it on a mini open fire with a bent grill over the top, its smells amazing. I havent tried one yet as I usually am in a hurry to get home or been out to eat. But this week I am going to try it. 

I went out with a friend the other day just on a quick stop tour around the hot points of Douala, as me being ill I havent had a chance to experience the important parts of day to day living here in Cameroon. So firstly I went to get my hair done in her salon, it is an expat salon with massage services, waxing and much more. 

After being pampered and feeling beautiful I was ready to explore the city and find out the important things, like maybe…horse riding…okay I know thats not important but I like horse riding, so we headed down to the port, past the markets and the muddy stalls lined together like soldiers selling artifacts from all over Cameroon and might I add some lovely shoes and dresses. The fruit and veg stalls here are amazing, it hits you like an explosion of color, freshly picked that morning, and it is all massive. I think the mushrooms are the size of an average onion. Yes I KNOW! I was told that you have to be confident when you buy from the stalls and dont let them try and take you for a ride, so my advice is that you have an idea of prices in your head, by asking the locals first before going to a street vendor, it also helps if you have someone from Douala with you to help. 

D is in love with Soya which is a fatty meat on a stick roasted over an open fire served with onions and a spicy salsa, it is cooked on the street and smells amazing, I dont eat red meat but D being my guinea pig I feel I can write about it. This is an African traditional meal but it is sometimes made with liver so…be aware….

The port is the business part of the city with all the imports and exports coming off the huge ships and loaded on to rusty trucks with the longest trailers I have ever seen, they bump along the country roads making their own drum beat as they go, you almost feel nervous that the logs or trees are going to come loose off the back as the tarp strains to hold the heavy trunks beneath it. As I have said previously it is Rainy Season which is our ‘WINTER’ if you will, so the terrain is muddy and the roads get ruined with potholes as the rain works away at the sandy ground, leaving almost a childs game of dodge the puddles when driving down the road, most people have 4×4 here as it is rough terrain and the smaller the car the more risk you have of becoming stuck in a ditch, and believe me I have already seen alot of cars stuck, you would not believe how deep some of the holes are, i think the nose of your car visits Australia. I asked the locals why they dont patch up the roads, they told me that because of the volumes of trucks coming in and out of the port it is impossible to maintain. So as we headed down the rough road avoiding trucks and the three manned  bikes that seem to come out of nowhere, and smiling and waving at the workers eating their lunch and chilling in the muggy heat. We turned down a road and came to an immediate halt, there infront of the small car was a huge lake that had been formed over days of rain and trucks using this as a sneaky route to skip traffic, the only way round was the sides and they looked risky at best, we were going to have to balance the car round the edge. There was a small pink stall and a local man came and told us what to do, my friend who was nervous followed his instructions as I planned waited with baited breath as the car rocked over the murky water as bikes sped round it with ease, why didnt i get a bike and why did i wear sandals today? I didnt know I would possibly be swimming. As we revved out of the last ditch I sighed in relief and smiled, then I saw the rest of the road, it was a guessing game and if you picked the wrong route you were stuck, it was like a really mild game of car russian roulette, one wrong ditch it was abandon…sh….CAR….

We eventually after a bumpy ride, pulled up to the horse riding stables and the green rusty gates opened and I saw 50 stables lined up with the horses heads poking out at the new arrivals, I smiled this was beautiful with training arenas, and main show jumping ground and the tack room and shower area was so clean, one of the cleanest stables I have seen, some of the horses were not keen on being touched, I feel like some of the stable hands dont show them respect which makes it harder for new humans to approach them. Unfortunately due to the ground being so muddy and the arena being damaged by the weather you are not allowed to ride until Summer season. Me and the boyfriend are going to visit so he can see it, as its only round the corner from his work. 

After an amazing day seeing Douala and the Port and learning all the places to buy all the fruit and veg and little tokens….we were going clubbing on Saturday night and I was so excited…..

Until later

x K 

 

Being ill SUCKS!

So as you know from my previous blogs I have been very ill, but it is slowly getting better…thank god for that, as it has been two weeks of hell for me and D who in fairness to him as well as going to work he has been looking after me, cute right? So i haven’t really had a chance to explore. I went out to the Doctors and the hospital yesterday, which I was nervous about as I have obviously just seen hospitals in Africa on the TV. The driver picked me up at 9.30am, I cant drive yet as my new license hasn’t come through, but the good news is EXPATS you can drive out here, and the cars are awesome, there are Range Rover garages, Porsche garages and much more and it is easy to switch your Drivers Licenses over. Anyway I digress, we headed to the hospital, which is near the airport, we are coming out of rainy season now so its great to see the puddles drying and the roads not making muddy patterns on the cars. Also it is nice for the stalls and markets to be able to lift their covers and  enjoy the sunshine! Africa looks so different in the sun, like a different country, the lush green trees and the dusty roads contrast to make a really beautiful picture.  

Anyway back to going to the Doctors, I had a jittery feeling in my stomach, as I hate doctors and I really am stubborn when it comes to going, i prefer rest and letting it get better on its own. Also I had heard some hospitals over in West Africa are quite ‘scary’. We pulled up into a damp looking street with a arched entrance. The nurse and the driver turned to me and said this is the hospital, well it looked amazing, it had ivy running up the walls growing unruly out of the faded sandstone bricks. The lobby was tiled and it smelt like bleach and medicine, we walked through the waiting room to the private practice where I waited to be seen. So far so good, nothing scary, everyone was friendly and helpful.

I was seen quickly by a nurse who took my vitals, they were all so professional talking to me about my home country Scotland asking if I knew the people they knew. I know Scotland is small compared to some of your countries readers, but we do not know everyone in Scotland. I digress again….

The doctor was friendly and professional sourcing my illness straightaway and making sure I was keeping up with my Malaria tablets and my Yellow Fever injection hadn’t given me any difficulties.  We laughed and joked and I immediately hoped that if I got ill again this would be the Doctor to look after me. He prescribed me my medicine and then told me I had to go give blood and some swabs for a test, You all know how that works, but I need to reassure you, it is just like any other hospital, clinical, clean and fast. 

I head to the pharmacy and handed over my doctors note, which I couldnt read, I find myself thinking do ALL doctors get taught to write so NO ONE can read it, so be assured you will feel right at home with the Doctors handwriting as they still scribble over here. haha!

The pharmacies just like normal, you go in hand your paper in and wait, then pay. Nothing different. There are no witch doctors or herbs being thrown at you. I am feeling so much better now and thats all thanks to the medical care here in West Africa, I am so impressed with the medical care and the professionalism of everyone involved, so if you are thinking about travelling to Africa there is nothing to be concerned about, but I would recommend to do purchase some health insurance or private medical care as you could end up waiting a while if not.

So expats and people thinking about travelling DO IT. It is an awesome experience here in Africa and now I have just proven if you do fall ill. NO CONCERNS.

I would just like to thank you all for the recent follows, it means so much to me that there is such a diverse crowd WORLDWIDE ….my mind is blown….reading MY BLOG! If you guys do have any questions about my blog, or want me to explore and check out certain things, dont hesitate to email me with questions….kirstensm23@hotmail.com

or tweet me at @KirstenMackay19 

or follow me for pictures on Instagram @KirstenMackay19

Thanks guys 

 

x K

 

‘On The Road Again….”

So as you know from the blogs below I was just visiting Cameroon, so we returned to Scotland and said goodbye to family and friends and bought loads of stuff for our new house in Douala. I wont go into the details as I am sure you lovely readers want to read about Cameroon as that is what this blog is about. So from now on in I am writing about my experiences in West Africa as I have now been here two weeks, but unfortunately due to the change in climate and all the travelling me and D have done, my body gave in and I became very ill, so I was house bound with a severe chest infection and it being the rainy season the mugginess did not help! The second week here has been amazing and thats where I will start, in such a short time I have experienced so so much and I cannot wait to share it with you.

x K 

Where are we again?

Le Boj restaurant was like any other restaurant, with a doorman, nice friendly staff and very modern, I surely had transported myself out of west africa and into New York no? No i hadnt, im not that magic, not yet but Im working on it….

We sat down on the huge plush chairs waiting for our company to arrive, anyone who hasnt been to Africa, like me, would of been shocked, the decor was so modern and upbeat, the staff all dressed in tuxes and the ladies in black skirts and white shirts with a silk black cravat. Immediately we gave our drinks order in broken French ,as the boyfriend and I are still learning French as we have been so used to living in Spain it is a hard habit to break saying Oui instead of Si, but since being here I am finding it easier each day and the locals really help you….

Anyways back to Le Boj. The menu was like a old newspaper with loads of different choices including wood oven pizzas. I was shocked I was expecting something totally different….Like maybe…goat?

We sat and ate and drank the night away, in the air conditioned beautiful restaurant, the only thing I would say is that it is slightly pricey for what it is and as we discovered there are plenty more restaurants that are actually better quality and better value, at the time I didnt believe anything could be better that what I was sitting in right now. Unfortunately I was feeling a case of the ”African Belly” which is apparently what first timers get when they come to Africa due to the change in climate and water etc. So be warned, but it does only last a couple of days so it is ok..

We headed back to the hotel and crashed back upstairs to a channel called African Magic…but dont worry all you EXPATS reading this there is American and UK TV available, but certain hotels only have the limited channels as it does prove expensive.

Our last day in Africa was rushed as our flight on AirFrance left from Douala at 23.05 that night and D still had to go to the office and sort so much out. On the way to the office I passed the local jail and jail truck with a simple cage on the back. It was filled with prisoners pressed against the diamond patterned cage trying to get some room in the muggy heat as head were pressed to chests as the truck rumbled its away to what i assume was court, this shocked me, as you know in the UK and US the trucks are more subtle hiding the identities of the prisoners, here it was like they wanted them to be embarrassed. I then saw a guy being arrested, he was a well dressed young tall bloke and the police officer was short and stocky and looked angry, he was pulling on the mans jeans dragging him to the police station as he dragged his feet in the mud and waved his hands in the air. I knew i shouldnt be staring but its things like that, that make you realize just how different things are in different continents and countries. 

We decided to return to Le Boj for a lunch before we got on our 7 hour flight back to Paris, before going on to Edinburgh. The driver picked us up and hastily dropped us off in the drizzle and we walked to the door. It was closed, we had no phone, and no way of contacting the driver that had already been submerged between the bikes and taxis on the busy main road. There was nothing left to do but walk..

I jumped over yet another cracked pavement and open drain and nearly slid on the moss, as vendors approached us and people stared as we strided back to the hotel, the whole time my heart racing and my eyes darting around like Bambi in a meadow, its okay being behind a car window and looking out and admiring the view, but until you walk the streets you have never felt the heat or the burning stares from the locals. I was talking fast and trying to walk like I belonged while my boyfriend stood on the outside and walked calmly like it was an everyday thing. Surprisingly we got back to the hotel unscathed but very sweaty just in time to have showers and have dinner before making our journey out to the airport.

We arrived at the airport in plenty of time, checked in Priority and made our way through security. We had to fill out another landing card and pay 10000 CFA Airport tax to fly out of the country, but get this…the locals only have to pay 1000CFA…..imagine if it was the other way around?

We got to the gate and heard the mighty roar of the engines pull into the lot…we grabbed a beer and sat on the floor, traveler style taking pictures  and laughing awating our boarding call. I was sad to leave Douala and the more beer I had the more I was truly gutted about it. I got up and went to buy another two beers. Can you believe it, the vendor tried to rip me off? Was it because I looked innocent or another reason but as soon as my man came up it was sorted. So ladies, everyone is very friendly IN Douala but they will not hesitate to use you in making a quick buck and some some extra! 

Anyways that was my visit to West Africa….

Stay tuned as I travel around Scotland and then come back to live here full time…im excited…

 

x K

So how do you like it so far?….

” Its interesting, I have of course never been to West Africa before, well…Africa as a whole, so this is all so so new to me, but I am enjoying it so far”. I smile at another new face in the hazy twilight, clasping on to my plastic wine glass, desperate for people to stop asking the same question….

The BBQ

The metal gates opened and the car pulled up to a damp tall building, attached to the side was a long pool with an outdoor area, with EXPATS already pouring themselves wine and greeting each other and catching up on their lives. I jumped down from the jeep and walked the tiled steps up to the bar area, I stuck close to D like I was a child at a new school, I felt out of my depth and was already paranoid, because of the muginess that I was going to get some mean sweat patches, or glistening beads of sweat would form on my head out of nerves. 

I stood and awaited people to introduce themselves, and I was immediately pulled into a conversation about Cameroon and all its wonders, and how this woman was planning to move over as her husband was a rotator but he never came home as he was so busy.  The terrace filled with in minutes new faces striding toward the bar area with shouts and jokes filling the still, hot night. I looked around at the pool, glistening a dancing silver reflection against the damp rings of the building and nervously swallowed. Then I was approached by so many people who wanted to know exactly what I thought, sometimes D answered for me. I was still so in awe with the past few days I think he knew I was nervous and he effortlessly answered with order and calm like usual. I like the way he does that sometimes.

I swallowed another small Rose and looked for a refill, and hastily looked around for another refill to be told that there was none left, I sighed and joked a sad face at a jolly work colleague of D,’s and shrugged. I had been feeling a bit tipsy but I was really enjoying myself and having a laugh, I could get used to this every Sunday…maybe soon me and the man will be hosting them. The french dont know what a good Scottish party is like yet? But give us time. 

The mugginess eventually gets a hold of you and you body craves air con and a proper seat, D and I called the driver and slid away after a brilliant night of food, jokes and meeting people who were going to be a part of our new life…..

Monday, Monday….

I woke hastily like a kid on Christmas and quickly jumped into a cool shower and washed the nights smoke and wine off me, I wanted to be fresh, today we were seeing our new house. Plus I was allowed to come to the office and see where everyone worked. I dressed in a simple white tee and black jeans with my spiked converse. I knew I was going to be hot, but with any luck the huge drops of rain would splash some cold on to me. 

Our first stop was the office to say hello and sort out things for HR for D’s new job we handed in our IDs and were given some lanyards with VISITOR stamped on it. One thing I have noticed driving around Douala is the security is brilliant, there is police or some sort of uniform not as a threat but just protecting the streets which makes you feel more safe. I honestly thought it was going to be gun clad war torn muddy desert roads…how wrong was I? Never judge a book by its cover is what they say, but it should really be is never judge anyone or anything by a name or what youve heard. Experience it for yourself. Because you never can truly make an opinion until you have experienced it. 

I digress. We pulled up to the same place we had the BBQ the night before and pulled into the opposite driveway and a approached a beautiful tiled building, I could handle this it was beautiful, and for the first time since I had landed it was sunny, which is rare in rainy season. I wont go into detail about the house as that is for later, I still havent covered the rest of my move around the UK before returning permanently….

That night we were invited out to dinner with some work colleagues and their wives and girlfriends, I was looking forward to meeting people again and maybe form some friendships before we took the step of moving….

TBC…..Le Boj Restaurant and Bar

x K