Pleasures of the Indian Ocean

August 20, 2010

We are have just started the third and final phase of our long French vacation, after leaving Mauritius we have come to Reunion (a department of France, similar in status as Hawaii in the US).  Midweek next week we head home – and back to normal life.

Both islands are in the Indian ocean, quite a distance off the shore of Africa (closest is Madagascar, also an island, but much bigger). Probably the best-known of the islands in this area is the Seychelles, which is another country (we’re not visiting there).

Pleasures of the Indian Ocean

Crystal clear oceans

Crystal clear water that is 75°F at least every day (in Summer, our Winter, water reaches 85°F)

A housekeeper at your beck and call

Having a house servant who washes the whole house & cooks whatever you ask every day is a real treat to those of us who come from the developed world, where such services exist, but cost a lot of money.  Mauritius is a “developing” nation, which means that labor is cheap, and therefore housekeepers are commonplace – many people have several in fact.  For us it was a nice treat (but mixed with the pleasure is intense guilt from being in the “have” population). Neither my husband nor I are very adept at bossing people around the way the locals do – one day we had lunch with some local friends and they took control and bossed our servant around, saying “it’s her job”… Still, I suspect I could get used to it.  (Reunion, being part of France, does not have the same kind of poverty and doesn’t have the same very low labor costs, so it’s a different story – plus here we’re staying in hotels).

Fresh (from the tree) coconut

One thing I love in tropical countries is a fresh coconut. It’s not exactly diet-friendly in large quantities, but tasting local seasonal produce is one of life’s pleasures I don’t pass up.  The local Mauritian bananas were amazing too, but very fragile & spoil easily, so really a local treat.

Homemade curries

(by the housekeeper who is Indian – you just point to the ingredients you want together & a little back and forth pantomime about what she thinks is a better combination & then you enjoy your lunch or dinner).
photo 3.JPG

Vanilla Tea & Vanilla everything

Agricultural production of vanilla was invented in the Indian ocean (in Reunion) and it’s still a major business. Stores sell everything vanilla (except possibly artificial vanilla flavor!). There is whole vanilla, ground vanilla, vanilla salt, vanilla sugar, of course vanilla rum. The salt is weird (not bad, just weird) and I’ve broken myself of the sugar habit long ago (so I don’t need to play with fire by trying vanilla sugar, do I?), so I concentrate on the lovely Vanilla Tea by Bois Chéri. We’ll of course bring some tea (and vanilla beans) home with us too.
photo 4.JPG

Snorkeling & Fabulous Tropical Fish!

My favorite is the yellow boxfish, but there are so many it’s hard to choose!Yellow Boxfish - Redang
Creative Commons License photo credit: gwylow71

A house on the beach

The house we stayed in at Roches Noires in Mauritius is nothing fancy, but it is a 20 yard walk to the beach. (It’s a friend’s vacation place). We smell the ocean. We hear the ocean. In a few steps, we’re at the ocean. From some of the outdoor living room we see the ocean.  It’s pretty awesome.

Songbirds

I wish I could capture the songbirds in pictures – so far, no luck. I’ve stooped to recording their morning song on my iPhone for my mom who wants pictures (and I found a book).  Even more on the bird side, I wish I could still see a dodo, but I found another great book on them!

Tropical Produce

It’s winter here, so the fruits are not as plentiful as usual (although Victoria pineapples are still to be had, along with local bananas & mango, but the fruit variety is greatly curtailed as in most parts of the world during winter). The veggies apparently are also more restricted but there are so many that are new to me that it hardly matters!

photo.JPG
And a mysterious variety of leafy stuff that the housekeeper makes in a slightly different way each day to accompany that day’s curries. I’m a veggie nut, so I’m loving these veggie varieties!

Crazy color combinations

The first hint that the color sense of the local population is a bit off happened as we stepped onto the plane and saw the colors that didn’t quite harmonize. Later I saw the flag and understood better. Then as we’ve driven around I’ve seen so many crazy color combinations that they start to almost look okay. Rust, lime and mustard yellow? Dusty tangerine with day-glo orange? Baby blue with marroon? It seems every building has these kinds of color combinations – which makes for great fun while driving through towns.
photo 5.JPG
It’s actually considerably more subdued in Reunion, which is a bit of a disappointment, as I really liked the retina-scorching look of things in Mauritius.

Hanging out reading a book

I’ve loved to read since I was a kid, and one think I love about vacation with my husband is that we’ve now found the rhythm that keeps his professional stress under control while still allowing us nice long vacations. It does, however, require him having access to his laptop & an internet connection for about 2 hours a day (except weekends). If he can do that, he can relax the rest of the time, and I have time to go for a swim, a walk, sleep late, blog a little, or read a book. And lately I’ve been doing a lot of the “read a book” aspect.

It’s been a great vacation so far, and I’m looking forward to the last bit of it too.

I haven’t forgotten that my weight goal for this vacation is to come back within one pound of where I left. Not sure I’ll make that, but it’s not a big deal – I know for sure I’ll be on track and strict when I’m back, but it doesn’t make sense to me to travel this far and not experience local foods and treats, and go with the flow sometimes when meals occur. I’ve not been going overboard, but the one pound goal will probably be exceeded – and that’s okay.

Previous post:

Next post: