Vicarious Tourism: Bel Air

Now this is the story all about how my life got flipped, turned upside down…

Okay, no, it’s not. It’s a story about how I had a nice long weekend at a beach resort about 4 hours’ drive from Conakry. The Hotel Bel Air was built under the Lansana Conte regime on what must be the only stretch of Guinea’s coastline that has actual sand instead of rocks and mangrove swamps. You should take the use of the word “resort” with a grain of salt – this is still Guinea after all. Power and water availability were erratic and there may or may not have been rats living in the attic of the villa we stayed in, but it was clean and relatively comfortable. They even provided towels and toilet paper! The food is fine, though somewhat lacking in variety; bringing your own supplies in a cooler is a good idea. The swimming pool resembled an experimental aquaculture tank, but the beach and the ocean were clean enough, much better than anything in Conakry besides the islands. There’s no internet and minimal phone coverage, but that’s more of a feature than a bug.

I went up with some friends from the embassy and spent a couple of lazy days lying on the beach, picnicking, floating in the ocean, playing with rocks and sand, taking languorous walks, and toasting marshmallows over a blazing beach bonfire beneath a sky full of stars. Delightful. I hadn’t left Conakry since July’s trip to Dakar and was starting to get stir-crazy, but I now feel considerably more refreshed, albeit a little more sunburned and mosquito-bitten. Worth it.