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Day 33: St-Louis

St-Louis, Senegal 
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Hôtel de la Poste, St-Louis. Checking progress on my Michelin map in room 219, the same one in which heroic French aviator Jean Mermoz spent the last night of his life.
Michael Palin - SaharaI've spent the last twenty-four hours in France. It was unadventurous, but it was easy, pottering around the hotel from bar to restaurant to the Piscine Jardin with its wrought-iron flamingos, or just sitting on my hibiscus-clad balcony watching the majestic Sénégal river sweep beneath the majestic seven-span girder bridge built by Louis Faidherbe, Governor of Senegal, in the 1860s. After a bit, the Frenchness became almost suffocating, from the check tablecloths to the endless pictures and models of the colon, the caricature of the Frenchman in Africa, complete with pipe and pith helmet.

The overriding obsession of the Hôtel de la Poste is with the 1920s, when St-Louis was the most important town in French colonial Africa and a company called Aeropostale launched a regular mail service from Toulouse to Dakar. The pilots flew their fragile planes alone, often through the night, without radio or radar, in all weathers. They became national heroes, with one of them, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, writing bestselling books about his experiences. On 12 May 1930, a young man called Jean Mermoz took off from St-Louis and headed out across the Atlantic Ocean to make the first successful airmail connection with South America. The sky was no limit. Soon they were flying as far as Buenos Aires and even over the Andes to Santiago, Chile. Then, in December 1936, Mermoz left St-Louis in his sea-plane 'Croix du Sud' to make his twenty-fourth crossing of the Atlantic. He was never seen again.
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  • Series: Sahara
  • Day: 33
  • Country/sea: Senegal
  • Place: St-Louis
  • Book page no: 106

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