Tue09162014

News

Council approves directional signs for Los Altos' Woodland Plaza

Council approves directional signs for Los Altos' Woodland Plaza


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
The Los Altos City Council last week approved the installation of two new directional signs on Foothill Expressway pointing motorists to the Woodland Plaza Shopping District.

The Los Altos City Council voted unanimou...

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Schools

New head of curriculum’s ideologies align with LASD

New head of curriculum’s ideologies align with LASD


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Edsel Clark, new Los Altos School District assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, above, facilitates a junior high mathematics curriculum meeting last week.

Edsel Clark, Ed.D., new assistant superintend...

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Community

Closing reception caps Foothill photo show on rural China

Closing reception caps Foothill photo show on rural China


From IncredibleTravelPhotos.com
Jacque Kae’s “Mischievous” is one of the many photographs on display at Foothill College this month.

Photographs of the land and culture of Huangshan and Zhangjiajie, China, are on exhibit through Sept. 26 at t...

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Sports

Spartans shine in opener

Spartans shine in opener


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Mountain View High’s Frank Kapp snares a touchdown pass from quarterback Owen Mountford in Friday’s win.

Leading by a point at halftime, the Mountain View High football team outscored visiting Del Mar 20-0 the rest of...

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Comment

A look ahead to the Nov. 4 election: Editorial

Election season is upon us. In Los Altos, we have three major local races ahead – two seats on the Los Altos City Council, and three seats each on the Los Altos School District and Mountain View-Los Altos Union High School District boards of tr...

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Special Sections

Renovation complete,  Villa Siena looks to future

Renovation complete, Villa Siena looks to future


Above and Below Photos Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier; Left Photo Courtesy of Villa Siena
Villa Siena in Mountain View recently underwent a $35 million face-lift. The five-year project expanded their senior living community’s space and ability to serv...

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Business

Transitioning from postage to pets

Transitioning from postage to pets


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
A new Pet Food Express store is scheduled to open at the Blossom Valley Shopping Center this month.

A site that previously existed to meet postal service needs will soon have an entirely different purpose – serving pe...

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Books

‘The Humans’ transcends alien genre to glean human insights

‘The Humans’ transcends alien genre to glean human insights


A good story about aliens is always great fun to read – after all, it’s only by attempting to understand the human race from another perspective that we can see ourselves more objectively.

But readers who might be tempted to dismiss ye...

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People

JEANNE PACKARD

After suffering a stroke in May, Jeanne Packard died August 10, 2014 at age 83. She was born in 1931 in Berlin, Germany, the only child of Emily Channel and Frank Howe Packard of Chicago, IL. Jeanne is survived by 5 great grandchildren. She was a lon...

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Travel

LA photographer spends a night with cranes – and moose – in Alaska

LA photographer spends a night with cranes – and moose – in Alaska


Sandy Powell/Special to the Town Crier
Los Altos resident and bird photographer Sandy Powell recently visited Homer, Alaska, to photograph Sandhill cranes, below. While there, Powell also encountered moose, left.

Los Altos resident Sandy Powell, a...

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Stepping Out

'Trailer Park' opens in Los Altos

'Trailer Park' opens in Los Altos


Courtesy of Los
The cast of Los Altos Stage Company’s “The Great American Trailer Park Musical” includes, from left, Mylissa Malley as Lin, Vanessa Alvarez as Betty, and Christina Bolognini as Pickles. Altos Stage Company

Los Altos Stage Company...

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Spiritual Life

9/11 survivor Michael Hingson finds purpose

Imagine walking down 78 flights of stairs – 1,463 individual steps. You are in imminent danger as you walk, unsure whether you can make it out of the building before it collapses or explodes. Struggling for each breath, you smell the heavy sten...

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Magazine

Los Altos Hills home showcases resort-inspired living

Los Altos Hills home showcases resort-inspired living


Courtesy of Spectrum Interior Design
In place of a more traditional fireplace, this modern living room features a linear-flame firebox that emits heat while offering a sculpturelike design element.

After traveling the world and visiting a host...

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Haiti offers elevated experience at Citadelle

TRAVEL HAITI2012 Citad fmt
Photos by Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Perched on a hilltop 3,000 feet above sea level, the Citadelle Laferrière is among Haiti’s national treasures.

TRAVEL haitiphotos

Far above Haiti’s creviced island landscape, a magnificent architectural wonder balances atop a hill almost as if hovering in the heavens. The Citadelle Laferrière is a fortress so grand that it earns a spot on the UNESCO World Heritage site list.

My travel in Haiti primarily involved studying and documenting small cities near Fort-Liberté and coastal stretches of the northeast in 2012. But it was my time at the Citadelle that left me with a perspective on Haiti that dramatically contrasted with the post-2010 earthquake imagery seen by much of the world.

National treasure

Perched high above the fertile coastal hillsides lush with sugarcane plants and coffee trees, the Citadelle sits like a ship sailing away. But unlike a ship that gets lost at sea, this monument has endured as a proud symbol of Haiti’s independence since Haitian Army Gen. Henri Christophe directed its construction in the early 1800s to help defend the country from French resettlement.

Although weathered by nature and neglect, the Citadelle still offers glimpses of the Spanish and French influence that colors the contemporary look of Haiti. The Citadelle, perhaps the country’s greatest national treasure, remains a destination well worth the toil involved in reaching it.

There is only one way to reach the Citadelle, and those accustomed to the convenience of made-for-tourist attractions will either admire the monument from afar or embrace the undeveloped nature of the attraction with enthusiasm.

Even the journey by tap-tap (bus), from Cap-Haïtien – northern Haiti’s largest city – is a rocky ride, so difficult by Western standards that the major cruiseline that owns a private island 22 miles away cannot risk bringing passengers to the Citadelle for day trips. But that is due to change.

With support from the Haiti Ministry of Tourism, the World Bank and the Clinton Foundation, local roadways are undergoing renovations to improve accessibility. Although there are perils involved in exploiting national treasures – as proven with the Taj Mahal in India, which faces closure due to natural and tourist-induced erosion – preserving the Citadelle could provide much-needed economic stimulus for the Haitian economy.

Hilltop climb

A visitor’s journey to the Citadelle begins in the small town of Milot, where the Sans-Souci Palace beckons. First-time visitors may mistakenly believe that Christophe’s former residence is the final destination. Unlike the Citadelle, which survived the 1842 earthquake, the palace suffered damage, as evidenced by the cracks and rubble. Even so, the inviting formal staircase, tall arches and marble statues lure visitors into the inner terraces. Sans-Souci Palace may have a reputation as the “Versailles of the Caribbean,” but its scale and architecture pale in comparison to the mystery that awaits visitors uphill.

The route to the Citadelle officially begins at the palace, where a small ticket station offers admission for $5. Physically fit visitors equipped with water and walking sticks disembark for the 8-mile uphill climb from the palace. Many visitors opt to catch a ride to the end of the access road, where only a few miles of hiking remain.

By foot, visitors must navigate a narrow and steep meandering cobblestone pathway that hugs the hillside as it wends past colorful dwellings and affords striking views into green valleys.

As the higher altitude takes effect, legs may begin to fatigue, but the reward at the journey’s finish propels climbers upward. The final inclines of the ascent are the most exhausting yet exhilarating moments of the climb.

If you haven’t already succumbed to the services of a local touting a horse for hire, this is the point where you might hand over $12 for a creature comfort. Spotting the fort’s solid walls of rock rising above like a ship’s bow will make your heart race.

Vertical vistas

The massive walls that extend 130 feet high make visitors feel small. An estimated 20,000 slaves built the structure, which seems realistic when surveying the scale and complexity of the structure.

There is no formal path or tour through the fort. This is a particular luxury for historians, photographers or artists who enjoy viewing at their own pace and letting their imaginations run wild. They can poke into dark spaces, now overgrown with moss and plants, and envision them as they were in days when Christophe and 5,000 defenders occupied the Citadelle.

Entering through a giant wooden door with metal bolts, visitors step into a mazelike series of interior and exterior spaces, passing across cisterns and through dungeons and other storage rooms filled with cannons as if ready for battle.

A favorite lookout is positioned atop the building. There are no guardrails to protect tourists from the vertical drop. Proceed at your own risk – there is no safety net.

From 3,000 feet above sea level, you can take in the trail of tourists arriving and departing the Citadelle and admire the view of Haiti’s northern coast as it touches the Atlantic Ocean.

By late afternoon, clouds obscure the warm light of the sun and whispering winds make already dark corridors appear even eerier. The cool air against your back is a refreshing treat as you descend the dusty roads that lead back to the traffic jams of Cap-Haïtien.

TRAVEL Sidenotes

• Regular flights travel from Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince, to
 Cap-Haïtien for approximately $200 round-trip. During the
25-minute flight, the planes fly low, offering panoramic vistas of the
Haitian landscape and even the Citadelle on clear days. A word of
warning: Travel light, as luggage space is limited.
    • The best lodging in northern Haiti can be found in and around Cap-Haïtien. Hotel Mont Joli (hotelmontjoli.net) is a solid urban choice featuring a pool, restaurant and magnificent views of the city in all directions. For a more isolated beachside experience, consider Cormier Plage Resort (cormierhaiti.com).
    • In addition to indulging in the local freshly caught fish, sample the native Tasso et Banane Pézé – fried goat and plantains. For an extra kick of spice, enjoy the plantains with pickled vegetables.
    • For an interesting day trip, hire a car to visit the city of Fort-Liberté, northern Haiti’s administrative capital and home to much original French architecture. Although not as polished as some tourist destinations, Fort-Liberté boasts a seaside fort, the Cathedral of St. Joseph, Fort Dauphin and picturesque fishing boats.

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