The sweeping balconies, hipped roofs and paper-white stucco walls of the Colonial Quarter recall films such as Gone With the Wind.

When the Nobel Prize-winning author VS Naipaul visited Bassam in 1982, he noticed its mixture of ‘concrete and corrugated iron … streets of thick dust … and thatched Sunday restaurants on the sea.’ These days there isn’t much concrete as most buildings – from hair salons to nightclubs, art galleries to launderettes – are timber shacks. There’s still an assortment of laidback resorts and eateries along the alluring beach though, which were then as now a popular weekend hangout for Abidjanais. Come the summer holidays, the speakers are wheeled out on to the sand for late-night, open-air parties.

Grand-Bassam Ivory Coast by Alex SebleyGrand-Bassam's French-period neighbourhood of crumbling manors makes for an intriguing wander © Alex Sebley 

If that wasn’t enough, Bassam has more history in its Quartier Colonial (Colonial Quarter) – now a UNESCO World Heritage Site – than the rest of the country combined. Ranged along a network of floral boulevards, these romantic old French buildings were erected between the 1890s and the 1930s. The sweeping balconies, hipped roofs and paper-white stucco walls recall films such as Gone With the Wind. Amid the atmospheric architecture are quill-shaped banana leaves and the giant carapaces of papaya trees. Natty flowerbeds add colour to expansive backyards and driveways.

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