We spent our first three nights in Sierra Leone at Home Suites Boutique Hotel in Freetown. Located on the Aberdeen Peninsular, it was an 8-minute drive from the ferry terminal – unfortunately, Lungi airport is located on the northern shore of the estuary, and a 45-minute Seacoach Express ferry is necessary to reach the capital, unless you fancy a 3-hour drive.
The independent hotel, with three floors and a lift, appeared relatively new. Our first-floor junior suite, 107, had a comfortable king size bed with plenty of pillows, bedside tables, lights and sockets with English style plug points and a comfortable seating area, ideal for relaxing with a book. We enjoyed all the amenities you’d expect in a four-star hotel including air conditioning, safe, iron and ironing board, TV, tea and coffee making facilities, complimentary water and an empty fridge.
The good-sized bathroom was well designed with large walk-in shower, plenty of powerful hot water and complimentary toiletries. There was a double sink, good mirror and hairdryer combination, with space for our toiletries. The only downside was no view from the window which had bars presumably because of a nearby flat roof.
The casual style restaurant, The Swan, on the ground floor was open throughout the day.
At breakfast we found a selection of juices, cereals, yoghurts, cold meats, cheeses, breads, etc. Chafing dishes contained a changing selection of hot items ranging from English style bacon and baked beans to African jollof rice and fried plantain, with eggs being cooked to order. Tea and coffee appeared to be self-service, but a young girl offered to make cappuccino which went nicely with a slice of banana cake.
The day time menu had international snacks and more substantial mains and we enjoyed calamari and pizza one night, and a range of Lebanese mezze on another: there is a significant Lebanese population in the country.
There was no wine list, but bottles of both red and white were stored in a random heap in a fridge designed for displaying cakes, and we were told if we pointed to one, they would tell us the price. I quickly realised that the top shelf was the more expensive, but the middle shelf provided South African Sauvignon Blanc for 400 SLE, a reasonable £16.70.
It was whilst in the restaurant that I heard at first hand, a local “hissing” through his teeth – our guide book told us that the way to attract the waiter’s attention is a loud snake like hiss, rather than a discreetly raised hand.
In contrast to the welcoming restaurant, the Vanity Lounge and Bar was chilly with blaring music as Saturday was disco night, whilst the following evening had live jazz. Whilst the music didn’t start until 10pm, and went on past 1pm, the mild noise didn’t disturb two tired tourists.
A quiet spot just outside the restaurant, provided the opportunity for people watching, as the hotel clearly attracts well-heeled, non-resident locals. Saturday night belonged to girls, glammed to the nines in high heels. Their voluptuous figures were squeezed into skimpy glittery tight dresses slashed to the thighs, which were constantly being tugged up to cover their chest, and then down, to cover their legs. Birthdays were being celebrated in the restaurant with cakes, lots of posing for photographs, and a travelling trumpeter. On Sunday, young men adopted a variety of serious poses in front of the striking art work on the walls and on stairs.
The small swimming pool had a couple of loungers around it, but it wasn’t really a sunbathing sort of place, although it was pleasant to sit outside for a drink and snack after sightseeing. A Star Beer and spring rolls with a sweet chilli dipping sauce, are highly recommended.
Whilst there is little in terms of bars, restaurants or shops within walking distance, we found the hotel provided everything we wanted: staff were friendly, spoke good English and, for the more active, there was a large well-equipped gym.