A Day in the Capital

A couple of days ago we’d met a guy named Vijay who ran trips to Ile Aux Cerfs which is widely known as the cherry on top of the rich exotic cake that is Mauritius, so immediately after breakfast (I’d got myself into a nice routine by this stage which consisted of a granola-ry type thing with pineapple, pomegranate and melon with orange juice and jasmine tea, mainly because it was fresh, and secondly because all other food was annoyingly British/Continental, and you don’t fly to a different hemisphere and culture to eat croissants), I left Loums and went down to the beach to find Vijay and negotiate our trip to Ile Aux Cerfs which was incredibly simple and also to arrange a three course meal at the ‘Tree Tops Restaurant’, as after the meal we’d had at Eureka the day before, we needed another delicious Mauritian meal under our belts.

We then headed to the bus stop to go to the capital of Mauritius, Port Louis. I know I keep saying this but driving through the island is one of my favourite memories from the trip, and I always love, no matter which country it is, the journey from outside of a capital city into it, it’s like you’re going into the heart of the place which is always pretty exciting.

Port Louis
Port Louis

When we arrived in the maHOOsive bus station, we started walking around the stalls and then towards the central fruit and vegetable market which is a lot like Borough Market in London, in that the building which encompasses seems to be an old train station. Honestly my first impression of the capital wasn’t great, not due to the street sellers as that would be like complaining about insects whilst being outside, it was just that I felt very vulnerable. Being part of a minority in the capital led to stares, the fact that I was walking (not holding hands, underlined) next to a man who is Mauritian meant that I was not a-another tourist led to more stares, Loums noticed the stares as well, so we left the market to walk around the outside of it and explore a bit more, when a group of young men stopped and started to follow us, Loums whispered to me and asked if I could do up the flannel shirt over my vest top (a bit of victim blaming yes, he knew this and was aware of what he’d said, I did do up the shirt and he knew that it wasn’t my fault what was happening, but not speaking Créole we were the only people we could reason with).

Umbrellas over the road of Port Louis which are a permanent fixture there.
Umbrellas over the road of Port Louis which are a permanent fixture there.

I then asked if we could go in a different direction and quickly, so headed to the more touristy (and therefore unfortunately, safer) part of the capital which was nearer the waterfront, around which were many containers shipping goods to and from the island, an enormous post office and many eateries. We then stopped for lunch and I ate my first mines frites (the closest equivalent would be chow mein) which Loums had wanted me to eat from the moment we arrived so I finally gave in and they were sooo good, and for desert we ate banana flambéed in rum. From this restaurant you could look in at the city and see the capital surrounded by mountains, with more houses creeping up the side of the mountains, cable cars going between buildings, many of which has pegoda roofs and in the centre of them was the Mauritian National Bank building which was huge!

We then found a shop where I bought my housemate some coffee which she had requested before I left, and then we carried on exploring. We decided to go to Chinatown which took up well over a quarter of the city, and found many many little schools and silk shops and took our time to look around each one, and at around about half 4 we decided to head back to the bus station as it was about an hour’s journey back to Triolet.

When we got back we got ready for dinner, ate light as the lunch we had was very heavy, and after a walk along the beach we decided to watch ‘Game of Thrones’, Epidode 1 Season 1, uh-oh…

I loved the way the city looked and the way it worked, it really is the hub of the country and like any capital city, the best place to get goods sold. Yes, I didn’t feel incredibly safe there, but most capital cities aren’t incredibly safe and really it was nothing worse encountered at the place where I work now, the only main annoyance was that I didn’t and still don’t, know enough Créole to say anything in order to make it stop. I’m glad we went, I loved watching the ships come and go from the docks as it was great to glimpse into seeing how the country worked.

The awesome, awesome sky in the evening.
The awesome, awesome sky in the evening.

 

Road Trip to Old Mauritius

Loums’ aunt Gladys has a friend called Willy who owns a taxi, and she recommended we give him a call when we saw her on Saturday. So after our what shall now be known as our ‘fail day’, we decided to give Willy a call, he was lovely and appreciative that we really wanted to see the island and learn more about it than chill at the beach the whole time (my skin from the back of my neck to my heels now peeling like strips of wallpaper, chilling at any beach of any kind remained very much out of the question).

Christopher Biggins’ hand mould – in Mauritius.

He picked us up at 9 and told us he was going to take us to the Glass Factory in Pheonix which is where they also brewed the island’s beer of the same name. The Glass Factory was weird. When you got past the foyer there was a more-tacky, less accurate (if you believe it), version of the Hollywood Boulevard walk of fame, of ‘celebrities’ of all walks of life who had put their hands into sand and then glass mould were made of it. Some of them were pretty legit for example, Richard Branson, Michael Palin, but there were also less likely candidates, for example Christopher Biggins whose hand mould had the caption of “well recognised TV personality” which I guess is kind of true, he has personality by the shed-load, but then, travesty upon travesty, they had a picture of Dame Judi Dench with the caption “older British actress”, which again, not untrue but for goodness sake she is a dame and one of the shining lights of the entire acting profession in the 20th and 21 century! It is not right that Christopher Biggins has a kinder description than her. We also saw glass being made in the workshop, lots of  glass makers keeping to the fire, sanding, moulding etc. which was pretty interesting, also there was lots of information about how much recycling goes into the making of Mauritian glass and then a HUGE gift shop in which there were ornaments, wine glasses, Christmas decorations, jewellery, you name it, Loums and I bought matching Pheonix beer mugs and I bought a blue and white-vined dodo for my mum.

Eureka – and no, the colour of the grass has not been edited.

Willy then took us past the capital of Port Louis to an old Créole house called Eureka, we decided to get lunch there and we made our food order before we began looking around the house. I chose marlin cari (cari being a very small dish with sauce with lots of turmeric, cinnamon, cumin and stock with either meat or fish, I chose fish), the rest of the meal was all set so off we went! The house was very colonial, thick mahogany floors, high ceilings with lots of moulding, portraits, marble baths, a long oak dining table, French doors and windows, but also there was a lot of Chinese influence dotted around in the form of privacy screens for either decorative or practical use, as well as writing desks, both of which were proudly decorated with Cranes.  There was a veranda behind the house which formed a beautiful frame around it, and in the centre of it before going down the steps to the back garden were wicker chairs and sofas, you could definitely imagine 19th century inhabitants of the house reading there before taking a turn around the vast garden.

One of the best meals I have ever eaten.
One of the best meals I have ever eaten.

We started to walk around it and at the back we found uneven stone steps which we started to venture down, and down, and around, and down, before reaching the bottom where there was a cascade of waterfalls leading to a pool at the bottom and then forming a steady stream through the mountains. Nature is wonderful. After taking it all in for a long while, we were starting to get hungry to up we climbed, explored more of the green garden and then lunch was served! Rice is used mainly as an absorber so very little was served with our meal, but what accompanied it were little dishes for example, the marlin cari, pumpkin purée, mint and coconut paste, sun dried olives, tomato and pistachio purée (which was unreal) and larger lentil dish for if you have any room left. The meal ended with a small helping of vanilla ice-cream garnished with grilled coconut flakes.

 

 

Labourdonnais.
Labourdonnais.

After chatting and letting the food go down, we then met back up with Willy who then drove us to Labourdonnais! I was so so happy we were getting to do it after the disappointment of the day before. After reading about its restoration it was amazing to see how much it still looked like it belonged in 1850 Louisiana. It was just beautiful, marble verandas on both levels, embroidered walls, fountains, the works, we weren’t allowed to take pictures so I’ve only got the one form the front, but that is the most important bit! We then walked around the orchard and found giant tortoises, after looking at them for a while and doing impressions of them eating we then walked round to the distillery where they make the Labourdonnais rum. We got to talking to the woman who was running it, and we found out that she was a good friend of Gladys so bless her, she recommended that if we liked the rum we buy it in SuperU as it is much cheaper there! And like it we did. We tried the white, ambré and brun rum, we both loved the brun, I’m not really a rum drinker, probably because the only rum I’ve had before had been piss-water, and this rum was delicious, no burning sensation, warming, and sweet. So making a note of the bottle we decided to go purchase it the next day. Willy then drove us the long way back through the mountains, telling us stories about each one of them most of the way back to Trou Aux Biches, but most importantly through pineapple plantations. Get this: pineapples do NOT grow on trees. WHO KNEW?! We also discovered during the day that he used to work with Loums’ grandfather and was also a good friend of his brother. We then arrived back at home and asked to see him again on the Friday when he promised to show us the South of the island. We then had dinner, cocktails and again, tried to come to terms with the beauty of the island and how lucky we were to see it.

Mauritian mountains in the background, and pineapple in the foreground.
Mauritian mountains in the background, and pineapple in the foreground.

It was all going so well…

The Spa!

So naturally, as the place we were staying had a spa we just HAD to go and get a massage, darling. It was in this little, tranquil, mud-hut looking, wooden-covered courtyard with little round rooms dotted around with the thatched roofs on the top which looked like meringues. We had a steam for 30 minutes (it’s like steaming your head when you have a cold, only it’s for your body, and it smells like olbas oil, so it’s like telling your entire body it has a cold), I had to lie on my front because the whole of the back of my body was still very much suffering from sunburn. After that you had to go into the pool which is SO cold but so pretty because apparently it ‘has the effect on your body like a blacksmith dunking a hot horseshoe into water.’ – oh okay… Either way the best thing after that is to take a massage apparently, we both went for the ‘Anti-Stress’ massage, because I’m a reluctant Account Manager in IT Sales and he’s a Supply Chain Manager so by ghaaad we needed it. It was oh so lovely, even if we did have to wear what was effectively nappies, but all in all it was an hour of bliss, so blissful in fact that we would return two more times before the trip was up.

Then the less chilled part of the day began. We got ready to go to Chateau de Labourdonnais which, whilst doing research before the trip I found on Tripadvisor, it was an old Creole house which looked like it belonged in Louisiana and also a rum distillery where you could have a tasting and a meal after, HELLO! Anyway it all went wrong, we set off too late, missed our bus, had to wait 30 minutes in Triolet bus station for the next one, when we left the driver said she’d tell where to get off and when she did we realised we forgot the map so had no idea where to go, we asked a couple of people where it was but they had no idea, so we thought ‘oh balls, where are we?’ and after walking over a flyover twice it wasn’t looking good. We then found a very friendly and helpful fruit seller on the side of a road who told us where to go, so we started walking down a dual carriage-way (so safe), after walking for about 45 minutes we realised it was quarter to 4, it shut at 5 and we still had no idea where we were going. This was all in 30 degree heat so we gave each other a look which meant that we’d both had enough, so we carried on walking until we found a school nearby where there were taxis lined up, we asked a driver if he could take us back, he agreed as long as we wouldn’t mind having school children with us which of course we didn’t. The children arrived, were very talkative and sweet, after about an hour-long drive we were back, showered, had dinner and a couple of very large cocktails before agreeing to try again the next day.

You would stop and go back too...
You would stop and go back too…

Lazy Sizzling Sunday – Wear Suncreen.

Today was the day we decided to tackle Trou Aux Biches and its gleaming white beach. After breakfast (easing up on the papaya intake), we got our bags together and set off to find a good spot for reading and swimming.

Trou Aux Biches!
Trou Aux Biches!

We walked for about 15 minutes along the beach, passing many many sun loungers and we came across a really lovely and quiet area in between the sea and palm trees *sigh*. We swam lots, I started writing postcards and reading (I’ve started reading Sherlock Holmes from the beginning), all of which on my front and then I realised I hadn’t put any sun cream on! By which time I had been in the sun for over an hour, in Mauritius, in the middle of the day, bloody moron. After drowning my skin in factor lotion, going in the sea to cool off, applying more sun tan lotion, moving under the shade of the palm trees, more factor 30, starting a letter to Baz Luhrmann telling him he was right, Loums decided that what we really needed was food.

20140608_132043
This boat was pun-derful.

He went for a walk to seek out food and drink and returned with fresh mint and lime water and Marlin Fumé baguettes with chili. One thing I really love about Mauritian food is that lemon is used in the same way we use salt, and therefore all of their food always tastes so fresh! As the day went on, more people arrived on the beach and more vendors shouting ‘Ananas! Coco! Passion Fruit!’ or selling sarongs, bags and bracelets, would walk past. It sounds a bit too busy but it wasn’t loud or invasive, as everyone was there for the same reason and the vendors would never hassle you if no interest was shown (did you hear that, Paris?). We swam some more, the sea water is incredible, you can be up to your chest in the water and still see your toes, there were no rocks, only bits of coral here and there, and it was so warm (the only time we ever went in the pool in our hotel was to do the scuba diving training)!

Eventually and slowly, we started winding out way back to our room, stopping off at the shop to buy Biafine, a cream which Loums knows of, apparently every good French household had it and is used for first and second degree burns. I duly drowned myself in that, also started to look like Ross from ‘Friends’ in the episode where he has no clue how to fake tan and ends up looking like a one man performer of ‘Ebony and Ivory’, but in my case it was half lobster half idiot. After a small dinner as I was feeling a bit woozy, we took a walk down to the beach for a walk as there was a nice cool breeze, we wound our back to the room and watched ‘The Lego Movie’ (which is an uh-mazing film).

The moral of the story.
The moral of the story.