SwitSalone Presents THE 2008 SWITLIST
(psssstttt i’m not dead…been hybernatin from the global)
I know that there are loads of you who will be coming soon to crowd my town, and my streets, and fill my country with your “innits” and “whatsups”. Last year i let you take over and i stayed home…this year fat chance….ITS MY TOWN. I understand you may not know better and therefore need advice from the only source that matters on what to expect and how to make sure that your plane ticket is worth every penny. So here is the lowdown, the juice, the word on the street, strictly not from concentrate but through my grapevine.
Number 2: is clearly the #1 beach to visit this year but please bring your own food. Cause the food at the restaurant sucks. Best thing to do is buy your FISH from lumbley beach and take it with u raw and have them grill it in their kitchen….better yet…season it and take it with you. And dont forget to ask for the guy who gives massages…he’s old with tooth missing but his hands are strong
Bureh Beach: Nature’s best and i still my favorite because its virgin and as ecotourism as u could ever get. You’ll have to bring everything, including water with you but its worth the experience of having your own private beach
Sussex (Francos): Tired of Freetown and wanna spend the night on the beach but dont want to give up the luxury of hot water?? Franco’s is a romantic couples friendly spot. And if u need to hide out and do the dirty dirty (which might mean just layin on the beach…..wink wink) then this is it. You dont have to take anything but your good attitude
Lumbley Beach: For no other reason than the fact that its soo bloody close and u dont need and SUV to get there. Since they broke down the beach bars on the sand side i think its gotten a bit better. You probably dont want to get in the water cause its filthy but walk or run on the beach, lay in the sun, and watch people…
Exchange Rate: seems to have settled back on Le3000-$. You Euro and Pound people sorry cant help u but know that its much higher than that. Also, dont bring 20s or 10s or lower denomination of any currency cause they will change it at a lower rate (it makes no sense to u but thats what they do) Also, Some places dont take $100 bills from 1996 or older than 2003…i dont know why but thats how it is
More money: Bring more money than u think you need, do not underestimate Freetown high prices….and if u sound schwen schwen u better beleive u will end up paying more even if u think u know better…Somebodi go pass am pan u
If you run out of money: You can send yourself money via western union online and pick it up via any of the banks that are affiliated. Also if u have a debit visa card….u can take to to Rokel Commercial bank and they will give you cash. I havent tried it but it does work. Only, if u dont have the right connections at the bank…na for ready for tinap na line for a long long long time
Open a Local Account: It might be late by the time u get here to do this but u should consider opening a local account with one of the banks here and u can wire money to your account all year round so that u always have enough waiting for you when u get here
ATM CARDS: Please dont expect for your credit card or debit card to work here. We’re still on paper. Rokel Bank has a point of sale (POS) at different super markets but u need to have an account with them first to use the service. ECOBANK has a functioning ATM at Lumbley Safecon petrol station….and another at Family Kingdom (which is always never working). I hear that UBA, AccessBank and Zenith Bank may have ATMs operational by christmas as well. UBA and AccessBAnk will have ATMs at PAddys but once again u have to have accounts with them to benefit from this.
and If all else fails…..u can sell some of your property to get some cash………:-)
Grafton: Like Tutic a lot people us the brand Grafton for the product. Only problem is that means that sometimes u want the brand Grafton they bring u some saudi, or lebanese bottled water (peeuuuwwww). For my taste, Grafton is the best tasting (meaning no taste) and closest to capturing the memory of tap water that i relished as a kid before i learnt about typhoid and all the reasons why i cant drink it now (though i’m sure i have)….owned by a Sierra Leonean
Magram: Owned i think by a Lebanese (so alot of lebanese owned biznesses will carry it instead of grafton) is my water of preference if there is no Grafton
Luvian: owned my Sherkanders and sons is also salone water (its the one with a woman on the label)
Blue Spring: not sure who owns it buts also Salone water
I have made it a habit to not drink any imported water whether it be from london, lebanon or france (i only make an exception for BADIOS, my favorite water ever…..its mineral water from France)
CAN vs. BOTTLE: I know we’re all used to getting drinks in cans but please remember that we have no waste recycling for cans…though it can be melted to make pots. Some places dont sell bottle drinks so u may not have a choice but when u buy the bottle u support the FREETOWN COLD STORAGE & SL BREWERY who employ locally and support local communities. Canned soft drinks are usually imports from Lebanon….nothing wrong with that but….gotta drink responsibly….i.e for the environment. So ask for the bottle first and the can after. Or even better ask the restaurant what they do with their empty cans…
FOOD: Where to eat???!!!
1. Mamba Point: Yes, there may not be any ambiance (and if u’re from america u might notice all the white people but they’re very friendly so dont be afraid….just think OBAMA :-))) This is the only restaurant that never disappoints me on taste or presentation. Mamba Point consistently delivers on good quality food. Besides the lobster i make at my house…its the best i’ve had so far. Also they have everything from chinese, to pizza, indian food, to japanese. Yes SUSHI!!!! They have a newly opened sushi bar thats pretty good and they freakin have tempura so what else could u ask for?? (Good for Lunch but Best for Dinner)
2. Crown Bakery: Forget the chicken at Crown, sharwama….or any of the other tidbits they have for fastfood takeaway. When you’re at Crown there are two things you order for….Jollof Rice& Stew (its the best i’ve had at a restaurant…so f**k*** delicious.) or u order the SPECIAL….nothing beats the Crown Special. Whatever it is i guarantee that it will be worth every cent and u probably wont even be able to finish it cause the portions are so big. They have this King Prawns they do and oh my GOD…that shit is seafood heaven no lie. Also this is the place u go if you wanna see VIPs: banks MDs, CEOs, and Ministers on a regular day….oh and if u’re lucky u might see me too 🙂 (Best for Lunch)
3. Chinatown Chinese Restaurant (not the one downstairs they have one in the back upstairs to serve the guest house): This is the closest i’ve come to having what i would consider chinese food. They have good sweet and sour tofu and the rice in bamboo shoot with beef is delicious. Also, no one really goes there so u can have privacy and eat in peace. But its good for weekend eating for family. Also they have good shumai….hmmm hmmm my favorite)
4. Diaspora Bookshop Cafe: Best place to eat on a budget and for a snack if you dont mind possibly sharing seating space on the sofa with people you dont know. Worst place to go if you want privacy cause its small. But if u’re new in town and hoping to meet people its the best place to strike a conversation with a stranger. The staff is also quite friendly and they have the best waiter in the country BASHIRU DEEN (i swear he’s the best…any u can also catch Bashiru at Indochine , he works there too). I enjoy the guacamole here and they’re always open to suggestions and u can basically have anything made anyway you like it if its in their kitchen. (owned by a SL returnee)
5. Paddy’s: If you must eat anytime between 1pm and 4am any day of the week and u want Satisfaction Guaranteed…look no further than the grilled barracuda and fried rice or the grilled chicken and fried rice with the hot pepper on the side. It always taste the same and it is da bomb!! A quick tip (keep your reciept from paddy’s) their number is on it and u can call ahead so u dont have to wait when u get there. The paddy’s fried rice is CRACK….try it once and u’re hooked…seriously. Also at paddy’s the ever mysterious roastbeef at night….also CRACK…but not for the weak at stomach…..only for true gangsters like myself
6. SOLAR HOTEL RESTAURANT: When you have dinner outside at solar hotel u know that u’ve finally arrived. The locally made chairs and tables are set up around a pool and the sounds of the night and the stars in the sky make this the most romantic place to have a meal at night. The food though in very small portions is really well seasoned and u will want to lick your plate. Possibly one of the most expensive places to eat in town but once again worth every last cent. Anyway go ahead and lick your plate….no one’s watching. This is my vote for the best kept secret (Better than all else for private dinner for a large or small group of 2)
7. BLISS PATISSERIE: You need a good English Breakfast with all its parts?? Go to bliss. You want a birthday cake or pastry?? Go to Bliss. You want warm chocolate croissant aka pain au chocolat go to Bliss. They open early (closed on mondays) if u need breakfast its the place to go
8. ATLANTIC: The award for best tapas has to go to Atlantic. Also they should also get the award for always seeking out creative activities and events to bring people to the spot and keep them entertained. Its a great place to chill out in a group…They’ve had everything from Barbecue Buffet on Sundays, to live musical performance and a Halloween party for charity. Toofic (or T) if you prefer is really warm and outgoing and he’s doing a good job managing the place as well.
9. Roys: I am not a big fan of this place but if you wanna smoke shisha its a good place to do it. And their chicken wings are good. Just dont like the moot moot flyin by and biting me in weird places…like on my finger
10. Karma: The karma burger is possibly the burger with the most flavor i’ve had since i’ve been here. Also on this list because its really simple and classy on the inside. The owner Tanya is a fabulous hostess but most importantly they have brownies and american pancakes. Need i say more??
11. COUNTRY LODGE & HOTEL BARMOI: Two hotels with amazing views and breakfast buffets. I would say country lodge for sunday breakfast and brunch and Barmoi for saturday breakfast. Which ever you choose….u wont regret it. Country lodge also has descent apple pie…ask them to warm it and add some vanilla ice cream
12. KANKANKAN @ brookfields across from NP: Everyday starting at 5pm till they run out of beef. HMMMMM HMMMMM GOOD
13. VEEGEES Pepper chicken the last right hand turn before u take congo cross bridge heading to town: hot, spicy and to die for
14. LAC’S VILLA: the food at lac’s villa is pretty good but if you want a quiet place to have lunch, that’s green and clean…this is the place to go….owned by a sierra Leonean….Lac’s villa is also on my list for best kept secret. The service is also pretty good…ask for Mr. Daniel one of the waiters…he’s cool. Go to lac’s on Fridays for their African buffet
Honorable mention: Posseh’s Bardorie (been there 3x cause there is so mcuh hype but i’ve been disappoitn each time….but since everyone always says nice things i think maybe its not me. they’re african breakfast is also a killer……but this place is pricey…but i like it cause its owned by a Sierra Leonean. Cafe de la Rose: simply for old time’s sake. Balmaya….i like to get the chicken sandwich its fast and fresh but i find balmaya’s food mostly to be bland but i think thats another word for healthy??Indochine….food sometimes very good…food other times very bland but always clean and crisp and well decorated in east asian motif.
ON MY DONT EAT HERE LIST: CHEZNOUS…hang out here by all means but their food flip flops in taste and they dont have a descent toilet. SPORTSBAR….very small portions…not especially good….overpriced and cause they have a sign that says they reserve the right to throw anyone out….its a good place to drink and watch a game and not see any locals and anywhere with a nasty bathroom. DELICIOUS on siaka stevens street..and finally I regret to put CHILL & GRILL, a new sl owned restaurant on my don’t eat here list as well. The place is clean and decent but its supposed to serve grilled food. I went there with my friend she ordered grilled fish and I ordered grilled chicken. When the food came out….it wasn’t grilled it was steamed. We asked her why this was so and she finally confessed that “way wi kin grill am sontem in kin bon”. I hear they have good groundnut soup though
MUSIC & DANCE
1.Paddys: i have a friend who hates paddys and swears that it is the worst place ever…she wont even get out of the car to enter paddys without being begged and cajoled. For all the kolonkos in the world i believe that paddys is a microcosm of salone. You could see anyone at paddys. All things being equal they have better music than ol skool and lagoonda put together. You can find a corner and sit and just enjoy the sights or actually venture to the dance floor…only thing is the body odors on the dance floor on a crowded night are not for the weak at heart. So when it comes to music and dancing…on the west side, paddys is still the #1 spot. If u wanna experience it on the light side…come on a thursday or sunday…rather than a friday or saturday. The toilet is better than it was but like most toilets in salone running water is an issue sometimes
2.The Lounge @ Ol Skool: The music here is 10X better than the music at the night club. And its more chill and u can dance if u want although there isnt a stage. One of the best parties i went to this year was at the Lounge the DJ was off the hook. They dont have a dj on a regular night but the crowd always tends to be a bit older and mature than those who make it to the club upstairs. The toilet f**k** sucks at this place. They made it a bit better but they never have running water and on a busy night it gets dirty quick
Ol Skool Club: The last time i had a good time at this night club was maybe 6months ago. We had to stop going to the club cause the music is like 3years old and the resident dj plays the exact same songs every friday night which is the only night i ever go to the club. Anyway Sierra Leone is definitely in need of a proper night club as Ol skool has dropped considerably and its a waste of time to drive up there to dance on a friday. I go sporadically now. nasty toilets as well
Soukous Band @ China House in Brookfields: I havent been fortunate enough to make it out to china house on fridays but i hear they have a rather good live african music band on friday nights…though some posh people have complained that the crowd is very very local. Anyway whatever your taste, its good to know u can hear and dance to live music somewhere in this city
Tribes: Reggae and Roast beef all night every night. If you’ve ever driven on aberdeen road u’ve more likely than not heard morgan heritage, lucky dube, or buju banton boom blasting as u drove by Tribes. I’ve been to tribes maybe 2x and its not my cup of tea to hang out at but they keep the roots reggae flavor going and i can appreciate that. You can also stop by tribes to watch your champions and premier league games. Its good for the fellas but not sure a group of ladies will enjoy hangin out at tribes
NP @ Aberdeen Road: Like tribes NP is not place u’d catch me hanging out cause its not my seen but alot of fellas hang out at NP….like a happy hour after work spot…a place to watch football games…and listen to popular music. Its good for the fellas but not sure its lady friendly
Lagoonda: No one i know goes to lagoonda. The music is too 80s. Or maybe its that the crowd is very very lebanese. But some have said that its the only real night club in salone. I dont think so but to each her own.
College Club Parties: for those of you who were fortunate or unfortunate to go to Fouray Bay College or any other college in salone, there is always a college club throwing a party for you to attend. I’ve never been to any college event but i expect its a great way to reunite with old friends and meet some new clubs members and most importantly….young fresh college girls willin, able, looking for a good time or a jc to take home 🙂
Hmmmm….they are all pretty much the same…over priced, stocked with items from Sri Lanka, or Lebanon…brands u may not recognize or brands u recognize with a different taste cause it not made in the same place as what u usually get.
Monoprix, Atsons, St, Marys, Freetown all pretty much the same to me
Essentials is definitely definitely over priced, i dont ever even think of going there.
Payless has a smaller stock but its a bit more reasonable
Select Supermarket has a lot of French products
Choithrams and Sam King and other supermarkets in town tend to have more competitive prices.
My take on the supermarket is simple if u absolutely gotta have it then bring it with you, if not u get fo go buy am na super market na fo bia ya…..na so
SECOND HAND….OR JUNKS….BUTU BUTIK
Whether you’re coming on holidays or coming for a while do not completely knock the junks. Ok so dont buy your panties and other unmentionables from junks but definitely look out for shoes, belts, sunglasses, bags and other accessories. There are alot of brand name designer and good quality accessories that end up in junks. Going to junks is always a cool Saturday activity
The #1 place to look for or buy african fabric is malama thomas street. If you’re new to african textiles remember that there are alot of fakes in the market as well. You can find cheap prints from London and China. But if you want good quality african fabric and u want to support the growth of the african textile industry buy African made. How do u know the fabric is african made??? Well if it is african made most fabric will have the name of the country where its made printed on the edge of the fabric itself….fabric made in Sierra Leone doesn’t have that though
FOR THE LADIES
Dont let the want want get to your head. yes you’re probably very beautiful and he probably does love u after the first day but know that we like new things in salone….dont forget to use a condom…which you can buy from any supermarket. Emergency Contraception (otherwise known as plan B) is available in town at the pharmacy on Wilberforce street….but USE A CONDOM. if you know u wont be comfortable buying condoms here PLEASE PLEASE BRING IT WITH YOU…..i beg. Tampons if u use them are expensive at the supermarket so u should probably bring them with you
FOR THE GUYS
Dont let all the text messages and i love you after day one get to your head. If its sex you want…its very easy to get it free here…..dont forget to use a condom…u can get condoms from any supermarket.
STDS & HIV(AIDS)
We have those here too so please drive responsibly
MARIJUANA: I dont smoke and i think its illegal. But i hear the weed here is very good and very cheap. Can be purchased on the beach and somewhere between paddys and tribes 🙂 and alot of other places as well i’m sure
LIQUOUR: Some hardcore liquour lovers might be disappointed at the lack of Moet, Patrone, or grey goose at the bars. Best place to grab a drink??? Plan B or Atlantic
Choithrams is supposed to be the best local private hospital. But there is also Marie Stopes Clinic for Women’s health issues. If you get sick everyone will say its malaria but it may not be…..do take your malaria pills (but stay away from larium it tends to have some side affects). Bring Preparation H or Immodium and any and all run belleh medecine cause it might happen to you.
If you have asthma and u need an inhaler bring them with you…whatever medical needs/pills/prescriptions etc. fill them before you come and make sure u have whatever you need. There is no guarantee that we have the meds available or that what we have is authentic. So please come prepared.
Cant help the guys here but LADIES….HEADMASTERS on wilkinson road is managed by two guys Obai and TOS Man….it gets really busy every single day and i’m sure over christmas will be no exception. They do really good weaves and hair cuts, and permed styles. if your hair is natural like mine though, they cant really help you…unless if like me u like braids…then they have a girl there MADOLO….who is really neat.
Also for hair, there is KORNYA (been here maybe twice) and AFROMERIC(used to go there years ago but not anymore)
The best hair do though if you’re unsure is if you see it on someone’s head u ask them where they got it done and u make them take u to the person or yet still take a picture if u have a camera on your phone. Also when you’re getting your hair done be afraid to make them take it out and do it over and make sure u monitor everything they’re doing to your head cause otherwise it will come out substandard. I had to learn the hard way.
You can also gat manicure and pedicure’s from Headmasters or Nehneh’s (next to Houda’s supermarket). If you’re used to seating in a massage chair for your pedicure….it aint done like that here…but u can still get it done well. Bring your own nail polish!!
RADIO STATION: If you live in SL u MUST listen to the RADIO
FREE RADIO 95.7: If like me you’re an R&B and hip hop fan and you like to hear the same stuff you’d hear on the radio in the States….and maybe UK. Then this is the station for you. Mr. B the main dj is funny and quirky and he even had his own hot ass garage single a couple months ago. Mr B is super super cool… we like him ALOT…they also play r&B and hip hop from salone and africa’s finest. I heard the Asa (Ahsa) single jailer first on free radio
CAPITOL RADIO 104.9: if you like to hear british or wanna be british accents then this is the station for you. They play whats hot in the UK or what u’d hear on UK radio….and they also only hire people who sound like they’re british. No african or salone sounds or songs….but hey if thats your flavor then its your station. they used to have this dj called DJ pineapple and he was really funny but he’s now at Kalleone i think
RADIO UNITY 94.9: its always nice to hear SLPP on air….listen here for the sounds of the opposition
KALLEONE RADIO: every now and they play good shiiiit!! kalleone is also #1 for sports info
RADIO UNAMSIL, CTN, RADIO DEMOCRACY…..all also available but i rarely listen to them…coming soon to radio in Salone is VOA-Voice of America
Local TV: SLBS TV (govt tv) & privately owned ABC TV (they play good movies in the evenings but u need to get an antenna for your tv to be able to catch the station)
Satellite: GTV (is more stable with reception but only about a handful of channels some of which are not in english), DSTV (ku band reception very poor in bad whether but it has more channels
ArabSat (at alot of lebanese owned spots)
UN GYM ($20/month): but its only for UN staff and NGO staff….(it’s the best value gym, they have Air-conditioning and the trainers are friendly)
Abrasy @ Wilberforce ($35/month): no A/C and the place is fallin apart. They usually only have one or two trainers….Teddy used to be my trainer last year but I had to drop him
Country Lodge Gym ($40)/month): for this much you’re supposed to get access to their gym, and pool. Never been to this gym but I’m sure its there
Gym @ Victoria Street: I think it’s the first that opened after the war but never been there either
Gym @ Campbell Street: A lady I met recently has opened a gym on Campbell street. I need to find her card to get the name right…
I go to my neighbourhood mosque but if u need to pray we have mosques and churches all over the place. Churches of all denomination from Winners Chapel, to Praise Sanctuary, to Mountain of Fire, Mountain of Miracles, Jesus is Lord Ministries, Evangel….and on and on and on and on….we also have the more conservation Methodist/Catholic/Anglican Churches of you’re not of the Evangelical Holy Ghost Fire persuasion
And there is an Indian temple on Wilkinson Road
People will invite to church for thanksgiving this or that but Sierra Leoeneans in generally are not fussy about religion. We are tolerant. Though people tend to be incredibly weirded out if you say you don’t believe in God altogether. We just don’t understand how someone could not believe in God.
Yes u will sit in taxi or poda poda or even in a private car and someone will throw something out the window. Please advise your driver who may not already be doing this to keep a plastic bag in the car for garbage if you eat in streets like me.
Put please don’t throw trash on the street, its already very filthy so don’t make it worse. You may find it difficult walking in the city to identify trash bins but still don’t throw your trash on the street. More likely than not if you’re on holiday or recently moved back people are going to look up to you so u want to be passing along the best habits…no to so?
Don’t take it for granted that people will be always late. Even though 99% of the time they will be, you should try to show up on time
RETURNEE/SL OWNED BUSINESSES
There are some who come back and say they will not patronize Lebanese owned businesses like I once did but, if you actually want to live your life to the fullest and enjoy the best this town to offer more likely than not, u will end up at a Lebanese owned establishment. Yet still there are returnee/sl owned biznesses. I think its always interesting to ask staff about the owners of the establishments I visit.
And finally after much has been said the last thing on this list……
THE STATE OF TOILETS IN SIERRA LEONE
My mother always told me that you know how clean a person is by the condition of their toilet. If the toilets in our homes and businesses are to speak to who we are in this country, one word would fully capture us……NASTY!!!!!
Whether it’s a house or a business people treat the toilets as an after thought. It rarely has running water, hand wash, tissue paper…and all the necessary ingredients for a healthy clean toilet experience. HOW CAN YOU OWN A RESTAURANT AND NOT HAVE WATER IN YOUR TOILETS????!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I understand some places do not have running water but that is no excuse. Labor is very very very very cheap in sierra leone and it would cost close to nothing to hire someone whose job it was to make sure that the toilets always have water. But it is unacceptable that I should go to a restaurant and have to lift and pour a bucket of water into the bowl to flush.
If you’re planning on headin to the center of town please make sure you have previously designated toilets….an office or establishment that you know u always have access to their toilet and that’s clean with running water. If not, you run the risk of being caught out there with no protection. If you happen to be suffering from run belleh….please please stay home…for God’s sake!!!!
Disclaimer: The SwitSalone 2008 Switlist is compiled by yours truly in consultation with no one though I’ve certainly let others’ impression of things influence this list. It contains my personal views, tastes and preferences. It is neither endorsed, nor affiliated, nor promoted by any of the businesses or establishment mentioned on this list. I compiled this list in two sittings over a period of two days. Use at your own discretion but certainly come back and tell me what you think and prove me wrong if u can…or better yet maybe I missed a lot of other stuff that’s worth mentioning. If you have something to add please feel free.….its my birthday tomorrow Nov 14th 🙂 Kisssesss and Huggzz
SEE YOU AROUND MY FREETOWN………..dont forget your mosquito repellent, rechargeable batteries & flash light