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Touristing in Georgetown, Guyana

National Library, GeorgetownI have been living in Georgetown for almost 5 years now* and I have never really blogged about the city…I think that it is perhaps somewhat normal to take your immediate surroundings for granted. When I travel say, to Grenada for a business trip, I have limited distractions to take me away from pointing my camera at the scenery. In Georgetown, when I am out in town, I am rushing to the bank, or making grocery or wanting to pop in quickly (and unencumbered) into the market, or paying an overdue bill…it’s not that different from my trips home to Trinidad, where I should have more photos than I do, but errands and regular life sometimes take over. But Kaieteur Falls isn’t the only thing worth seeing in Guyana.

Georgetown was planned as a garden city, with wide tree-lined avenues, framing perfectly the canals that are part of living below sea level. The city itself is laid out in a mostly easy-to-navigate grid with main streets, like say, Main Street a perfect place to view those wide roads, old shade trees and the wooden architecture that is characteristic of Georgetown. St George's Cathedral frontOf course, the city is not in its prime now, and people who knew it from say, the 70s, will rave about the beauty that isn’t always readily apparent to a current visitor. But it has good bones. I keep meaning to go around taking photos of the garden city, but I am waiting for that free weekend thing…in the meantime, Nicole of A Caribbean Garden, visited Guyana recently and posted some great photos of the Promenade Gardens.

The photo at the top is of the National Library in Georgetown, on one of the busiest (and complicated) intersections in Georgetown, corner of Main and Church Streets. It’s a nice example of one of the styles of architecture in town, and nicely festooned for Republic Day (in February 2010). Just a little up Church Street is the reason for the street name – the St George’s Cathedral, which is one of the tallest wooden buildings in the world. It is a truly impressive building and I took shots from many different angles as I walked around it. This was one of the rare occasions when I was actually being a tourist in Guyana, courtesy a visiting friend (TB) and having the day off for Old Year’s. I was such a tourist, after this shot, a car stopped for me to cross the road (almost unimaginable on Church Street) and the driver happily called out “Enjoy your holiday!” If only she knew 😉

St George's Cathedral Black and White inside the Cathedral

St. George’s Cathedral is an Anglican church, that is a beautiful building inside and out. There are ornate wood features, ornate metal features – and in black and white it exudes a somewhat gothic look that I quite like. So, I have no pictures of the Clock above the Stabroek Market, but I do have several of the cathedral!

Fruit Vendor Rahaman's Fruit and Vegetable

Speaking of markets, Guyana is also known for these – there are several big markets around town – Stabroek being the most famous, but there’s also Bourda market and others. Markets in Guyana are not just for fresh produce – you can get everything there. And I mean everything. Dry goods. Stationery. Clothes. Souvenirs. Shoes. Anything. On the left is a fruit stall in one of the offshoots of the Bourda market and on the right, a popular (ahem…some say elitist) stand on Church Street…if you don’t want to head into the depths of the market. Nicole also posted on the market fruit. Sea Wall and Clouds

On the north(ish)** side of Georgetown is the Atlantic Ocean and all along the Atlantic Coast in this below sea level country, is the Sea Wall (pronounced WAAH-L).  The Sea Wall is a remnant of the Dutch-designed system for keeping the city safe from the ocean and extends for much of the coast as a wide solid wall upon which the denizens of Georgetown congregrate to walk, run, fly kites for Easter, buy/sell food, have the annual Diwali Motorcade, fete and lime for any occasion and basically spend the weekend nights. Parts of the wall may be less wall like depending on the particular section, and may resemble artfully piled boulders, but it’s all the sea-waahl. And it is to Georgetown what the Savannah is to Port of Spain. These photos of the sea wall were not perhaps taken at its most pristine, as the high tides had been buffeting the wall, sending the silty saltwater over the top and cascading down the sides to the highway.

Flags of the Caribbean CommunityAlong the East Coast (although not quite next to the sea wall) in what is known as Greater Georgetown, is a more recent iconic building of the city – the CARICOM Headquarters. Guyana has been home to the Caribbean Community Secretariat since 1973 and while for much of the last couple decades the Secretariat has been scattered through different buildings in the city, in 2005, the Government opened this new building which looks particularly impressive with all the flags flying. This particular photo was taken in July 2009 while the Heads of Government of CARICOM were meeting.

If you leave Georgetown from the other side of the city, you will soon get to the Demerara Harbour Bridge, which is a 6,074-foot (1,851 m) long floating toll bridge. When you cross this bridge, you get to the West Bank Demerara, and from there you can head to the “West Coast”. The bridge opens for river traffic every day, during which the road traffic lines up on either side waiting. The Demerara isn’t even Guyana’s biggest river, but for those of us from Caribbean islands, it’s impressive enough. Guyanese love to tell us Trinis, “Caroni River? You mean Caroni Trench!” or…”Trinidad could fit inside the Essequibo River!” On a recent drive in Georgetown, where my 2-year old nephew was happily pointing out any and all bodies of water, the 4-year old niece asked of one, “Daddy, is that a trench?” Her Guyanese father replied “Yes…but be careful, in Trinidad they would call that a river.” To which I responded “When you grow up on an island surrounded by oceans and seas, the size of the rivers are inconsequential.” But back to the Guyanese rivers – for a small island girl, the rivers are an incredible natural feature and worth a drive over the bridge. If you can, drive to the stellen to cross the Berbice, or take a ferry from Parika on the Essequibo River.

Demerara Harbour Bridge Demerara Bridge sunset

Georgetown is also home to the National Zoo with (freakishly) unique creatures such as the Harpy Eagle, monkeys, jaguars and very large caimans. The Botanical Gardens are worth a visit. And I hear the National Park has manatees, but I have yet to see them. There are other photos of Georgetown I do not have. The tree-lined streets. The canals and trenches which are filled with the lotus flowers, adding an unexpected touch of beauty to what might otherwise be large murky drains. More of the buildings. And even the herd of apparently wild horses that seem to live outside my apartment complex and roam the sea wall.

See more of Georgetown in my Flickr set, and of other places in Guyana.

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* Well, except for that 5 month posting in Barbados. And the 6 week trip for Hajj. And the 7 week absence during my bout of typhoid fever. And the traveling…You get the idea…

** Guyana’s peculiar geography and it’s notion of “East Coast” and “West Coast” as divided by the Demerara River, are almost as bizarre to my linear-thinking mind as the Trini Geography concept of “East Trinidad”!

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10 Comments so far (Add 1 more)

  1. As someone who has called a few extremely ‘touristy’ areas home, I can relate to not getting out there and doing the tourist thing.

    Guyana looks like a very beautiful place to have landed for a few years… I’m glad you got to get out and enjoy a bit of it. :-)

    1. ewe_are_here on March 18th, 2010 at 6:49 pm
  2. Georgetown has its moments :-) probably not when I try to do long-delayed bank business on a Friday like tomorrow (so no camera-toting then)…but you can see how it was meant to be!

    2. Chennette on March 18th, 2010 at 7:33 pm
  3. What a refreshing read! Unlike one of those write-ups that urge you to get-up-be-gunho-drive-fly-run-to-the-capital-and-take-it in.. this was more of a hey-let-me-tell-you-what-I-like-about-this-place I’ve been calling home for the past few years… Nice!

    3. Tamarind Ball on March 20th, 2010 at 1:58 pm
  4. thanks friend :-) and thanks for visiting and giving me the opportunity to see Georgetown as a visitor!

    4. Chennette on March 21st, 2010 at 1:07 am
  5. It is blog post like this one, which does more for tourism in Guyana than the Tourist Board in Guyana. The photos are extremely professional and travel magazines might be interested. Guyana is unique in that it is a hybrid of the Caribbean and South America.

    5. aka_lol on March 21st, 2010 at 8:41 am
  6. thanks aka – that means alot – especially since I still think back to the days when my idea of scenery shots was take camera point it North, snap, point East, snap etc. :-)

    6. Chennette on March 22nd, 2010 at 12:29 am
  7. I know people like Bryan Peterson or Michale Freeman might get vex when I say this but pointing and clicking isn’t bad and sometimes that is all that is needed to capture a shot worth taking. I am no expert though, so I could be wrong :)

    I am beginning to feel that at times too much “creativity” can distort the point of taking the shot in the first place unless the point was being creative. But you have creative shots and angles in there as well :)

    7. aka_lol on March 24th, 2010 at 7:38 am
  8. I suppose I felt I was a failure at scenery, because things would look beautiful – a mountain and lake scene etc, but then the photos I took just seemed to be random arrangements of greens and blues…when I started paying attention to other people’s photos and more focus on what I was doing before I clicked, the photos came a little closer to reflecting the view I had enjoyed. As with anything, I guess a little effort and application helps!

    8. Chennette on March 24th, 2010 at 1:05 pm
  9. Thanks for sharing, Chennette. I don’t think I’ve ever seen photos of Georgetown before. Lovely!

    9. Liane on March 26th, 2010 at 6:52 pm
  10. thanks Liane – I am going to try to take some more over Easter.

    10. Chennette on March 26th, 2010 at 10:09 pm

3 Trackbacks

  1. […] we’re on the subject of Guyana, maybe you remember when I posted about touristing in Georgetown, I mentioned that I’d been told there were manatees in the National Park, but I hadn’t […]

  2. […] I started 2010 on the seawall in Guyana after some long-overdue touristing around Guyana and then jetted off to Trinidad for some family time. This year was a bit reversed – in […]

  3. […] in Guyana, more or less consistently for the past 5 years. There are things to explore here – Georgetown, Kaieteur Falls, the massive rivers like the Essequibo and the islands in the rivers. And their […]

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