Detailed west coast trip report… and a tip for music enthusiasts!

Paul writes:

We’ve just returned from three weeks travelling down the coast of Ghana and
have some comments and recommendations you might like to take note of.

ACCRA
The old Penta hotel on Oxford Street, Osu has been extensively refurbished
and is now the URBANO HOTEL.  Not cheap (around £96 p.n. for a double) but
very comfortable, well appointed rooms and a decent Lebanese snack bar
downstairs.

Just over the road the BYBLOS HOTEL has also had a serious make-over and is
now very smart indeed and worth the £80 for a double.  The Lebanese
restaurant/bar downstairs is higjly recommended. Easily the best coffee in
Accra.

ELMINA
We stayed in the excellent COCONUT GROVE BRIDGE HOUSE HOTEL again and it
didn’t disappoint.  Still excellent value with helpful, friendly staff and a
good restaurant.  Extensive building work outside means that the terrace
seating area overlooking the castle and harbour has gone, to be replaced by
some sort of extension.

The GRAMSDDELL JJ BEACH bar no longer does food although the Spot virtually
next door still does. The restaurant in Elmina Castle has also closed.

Visitors need to know that the beach below the castle and, more importantly
for some, the beaches directly in front of several resorts outside the town
now feature six foot high sea defences made of an unbroken wall of rocks.
This basically means that the Elmina Beach Resort and the Stumble Inn now
have a view of a rock wall, not the sea.  There is no rock wall in front of
the Coconut Grove Beach Resort at present so visitors still have a beach
view for the time being.

Posuban shrines in Elmina are generally in a poor condition although Asafo
Company No. 2’s shrine seems to have received a lick of paint since we last
visited.  Company No. 4’s shrine featuring Adam & Eve has also been repaired
and spruced up however it’s now caged in with a steel fence which makes
viewing and certainly photographs virtually impossible. You can peer through
the six inch gaps between the heavy duty steel fence posts but it’s hardly
an enjoyable experience.

CAPE COAST
This visit we stayed at the I.S GUEST HOUSE at the top of Ashanti Road
opposite the Savoy Hotel. It lacks the restaurant – and much else – listed
on it’s Booking.com page (where was my trouser press?!) but it still comes
highly recommended for it’s spacious, clean rooms (ours with a kitchen),
great views of the sea and the town, it’s central location (10 minute walk
into the centre, 20 to the castle) and it’s very helpful staff.  There are a
few good chop bars and drinking spots just down the street.  The only
drawback for some will be the challengingly steep and wildly irregular steps
up to the hotel from the roadside. I think this has now become our new
favourite place to stay in Cape Coast.

TAKORADI
It didn’t have water when we stayed and was missing a window in the bathroom
but the WINDY QUEENS HOTEL, it’s large tiled rooms having seen better days
maybe (still perfectly acceptable give or take the odd six legged intruder
in that windowless bathroom) is at least well placed some 15 minutes walk
north of the central market and only 5 from the tro-tro station for Cape
Coast (there’s a great drinking spot with food just across the street from
the station). Once again this is a place with very friendly, helpful staff
and when asked where we should eat they recommended the GOD IS LOVE CHOP
BAR. I’m not even sure where this is (west/central Takoradi at a guess)
although it’s certainly not within walking distance of this hotel. We just
took a taxi and the driver knew the place. A large, brightly lit chop bar
with plastic table cloths and a weird flickering light in places due to the
positioning of ceiling fans beneath lights adds a mildly stroboscopic effect
to your dining experience.  The food –  all Ghanaian staples – is excellent:
we had possibly the best groundnut stew with chicken and fufu we’ve ever
eaten.  Huge portions and very cheap too.

ANKOBRA
The ANKOBRA BEACH RESORT is absolutely wonderful. The food is a bit
overpriced maybe but all in all we couldn’t fault this place. There is a
ancient shrine (850 years old) in the grounds, an old abandoned one on the
beach and a newer one further up the hill in the woodlands behind the hotel.
John the caretaker will show you around (not a lot to see to be honest) but
if you want to ask more questions about this shrine and it’s significance he
can arrange for you to speak to the priestess who officiates in bi-annual
ceremonies here.

KAKUM
HANS COTTAGE BOTEL. A bit of a mixed bag this place. The room was
reasonably priced, very clean and comfortable and possibly recently
refurbished but strangely lacked a wardrobe or anywhere to hang clothes (I’m
a scruff anyway so this didn’t bother me unduly). The restaurant built over
the lake is being rebuilt and although they apparently started work on it
last January it will be a while before it’s finished.  Your description of
this place mentions “live music every weekend” but this year at least
there’s only one event with a live band although they seem to hold a pool
party about once a month. Other than that your entertainment will be
supplied by overloud football on the TV battling with music on speakers in
the poolside restaurant. You also might find entertainment in betting on how
long it will take for your food to turn up or whether you’ll even get what
you ordered (so long ago you’ve probably forgotten anyway).  On the whole we
enjoyed staying at this hotel (the gardens, the lake, the wildlife etc) BUT
the service in the restaurant can be truly lamentable and the quality of the
food variable to say the least.  There must be at least 10,000 chop bars in
Ghana that can do better groundnut stew than the awful, watery, tasteless
concoction served up here, an experience not helped by the 80 minute wait
for it to turn up (lukewarm too).

RECORDED MUSIC
Having bought large amounts of recorded music in Ghana over the last 23
years of visiting the place I’ve now discovered that the country has largely
moved into a post-material recording age: it’s now very difficult to find
anywhere selling CDs or cassettes (the latter still popular in some African
countries). I found just one stall in central Takoradi selling CDs and
no-where at all in Cape Coast, Elmina or even Accra doing so.  These days
people download their music and all those music shops I’ve visited over the
years have closed down.  Once upon a time it was easy to find recorded music
and it frequently came to you via street vendors anyway, but now it takes
more effort.

I’m indebted to Ras Kenya in Cape Coast (he’s got a small café near Victoria
Park and also works for the I.S Guest House) for helping me out, sourcing a
pile of superb CDs featuring ‘old man’s music’ (stuff from the ’70’s and
’80’s). Contact him through the guest house for assistance in tracking down
those musical gems you yearn for.  He’s been involved in Ghana-wide searches
for old vinyl too so if that’s what you’re interested in he can probably
help.

All the best (and looking forward to the 8th edition of the Ghana Guidebook)

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