Mountain Maid is located at the Baptist Haiti Mission up the mountain from Petion-Ville. Enjoy the cooler climate and beautiful mountain views while you're there. Plan to eat lunch at their Tea Terrace restaurant and shop for gifts and souvenirs in their crafts outlet. Everything is priced reasonably as Mountain Maid is fair-trade based -- "helping Haitian artisans help themselves" is their motto.
They are open Tuesday - Saturday 8:30AM til 4PM. You can also visit and shop online at http://www.mountainmaid.org.
What to buy: Look for a great selection of carved wood products, metal cutouts made from recycled oil drums, hand-embroidered napkins and tablecloths and more. The restaurant serves American-style food (Cheeseburgers, French Fries, Pizza etc) and is quite good.
What to pay: Lunch will cost you around $5 to $8 US and the crafts are an excellent deal.
The photo is an ad hoc gallery set up on the waterfront in Port-au-Prince. You will see these little galleries everyplace in Haiti, on public fences, in front of stores and markets, inside markets, along the roads, beside the beaches. It seems like all Haitians paint and they all are trying to sell their pictures.
If you want to spend a lot of money, go to a recognized Art Gallery like Nader. If you don't know the artists, visit the Art Gallery at College St. Pierre first and get to know the names.
If you are looking for a bargain or an unknown artist, try a street vendor or the Iron Market downtown. If close crowds make you nervous, hire a guide and he'll fend everyone off and help you shop.
What to buy: Look a lot before you buy. Certain painting "styles" are often overused and after you see the first 100 paintings of a scene inside an egg shape, you realize it is simply a formula and there is no creativity.
On the other hand, if you walk by and a painting reaches out and grabs you, that's your painting. You can find great bargains and you can also buy in bulk. I don't like to bargain because if I like a painting, I know what it is worth to me and I'll offer that. I admit I get "taken" but to me the intrinsic worth of the painting is the joy I get from living with it.
If you just want a Haitian painting, find something that really appeals to you. Bargain if you are comfortable with that. (You can usually get a painting for half price if you work at it.) If you don't want to bargain, don't feel pressed. Just offer the asking price and be done with it. They may think you're crazy . . .but they will really appreciate it.
What to pay: In a commercial gallery, plan to spend a minimum of $500 US.
On the street you can often get an appealing painting for under $25 US.
If you want to shop for local crafts and foods, this is a great place to visit. The drive up from Port-au-Prince is lovely. It's always much cooler up the hill. You can hire a driver or take public transportation . . . or drive if you're brave.
There are two stores at the Baptist Mission in Fermathe. The first sells native crafts and the other store is a food store.
There are some paintings but these are probably better bought elsewhere, including on the street ourtside the mission grounds.
BTW, stop at the Barbancourt Rum Factory on the way up the hill. The historic building is beautiful, the views fabulous and you can taste at least 20 different kinds of rum liquors. This is perhaps not the best introduction to a Baptist Mission, but it is definitely worth the trip . . . unless you're the designated driver.
What to buy: The craft store is a great place to purchase iron work, painted trays, wooden bowls and plates and also wood carvings. They have hand embroidered Haitian clothing, small gift items and toys and trinkets for the kids. There are also weavings and embroidered table linens and rather nice note cards.
The food store next door sells a home baked cinnamon bread that is outstanding! They have their own gardens so there are various fruits and vegetables in season and it's one of the few Haitian sources for pasteurized milk.
What to pay: You honestly can spend as much or as little as you want. You don't bargain for things here, but they have something in every price range so if you have children and they are looking for something inexpensive, they will find it. On the other hand, if you are looking for a special piece of furniture or a huge mirror in a hand-crafted iron frame, you can easily spend a thousand dollars. It will still be a bargain. The crafts and clothing are very honestly and reasonably priced. If you go overboard, it's your own fault!
This bag, shown on my picture, is still in absolutely perfect condition and strong enough to carry even heavy things.
I bought it 20 years ago, and first I was afraid it would not last a long time.
But it is not even a problem, when they get wet.
What to buy: I payed 1 $ each for two bags made of dried banana leaves at a local market in Port-au-Prince.
What to pay: 1 lousy Dollar for a lot of work to be done in order to produce such a bag.
The Haitian currency system is a little bit complicated. They mostly deal in Gourdes and Haitian Dollars. 35 Gourdes is one american dollar and I believe that one Haitian dollar is 8 Gourdes. They accept american everywhere but some places will just round it up to the dollar and not give you any change back.....make sure you keep an eye out.
Little vendors found esily on the side of pretty much every road.
What to buy: If you have a good eye you can find some amazing paintings. If you don't find anything that grasps your attention, don't be dissapointed. Chances are you can find another 100 paintings just around the corner.
What to pay: If the vendor comes to you with an outrageous price don't be directly turned off...They expect you to bargain. And by bargain I mean it is common get them down to about 1/3rd of what they started out at. A strategy I also found usefull was barganing for one painting and then throwing a second into the deal. You can get good deals by buying 2 instead of one. Lastly, don't let yourself be intimidated by them......
What to buy:
You'l find these little stone carvings anywhere! I bought mine at a little art shop. Later I realized that they were much cheaper at any street vendor.
What to pay: I paid 6US$ for both of these carvings.