Domaine des Aubineaux

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Pooches on the porch

This colonial house was built in 1872 and is now a museum at the start of the Tea Route in Forest Side, near Curepipe. Yes, there is tea produced on the island.

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The house was the home of the Aubineaux family and originally built in wood.

The guide sends you into the attic via a circular staircase. There is a very casual display of, well, things you would find in an attic in the 1950’s including camera equipment and wind-up gramophone.

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State of the Ark photography and The Joe Loss Orchestra on 78rpm

On the ground floor, you can explore the main parts of the house.

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The house is filled with original period furniture, paintings and photographs.

It was extended and refurbished years ago adding, amongst other things, a wide central corridor by taking space away from the main rooms; this was very unusual at the time. The house was also the first in Mauritius to have electricity installed which must have been a shock.

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The bed was harder than the floor but the room light and airy
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Original wallpaper and some lovely rosewood furniture

The house and its contents give you a very good idea of what life was like in those times on the island.

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They knew how to entertain in those days as this extending table displays

Some of the wood used in the decoration and construction of the house came from shipwrecks.

It has been a long time since these ivories were tinkled
It has been a long time since these ivories were tinkled
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The local Philharmonic Society would play music at the house. (Gramophone was clearly not loud enough).
Plenty of rum from St Aubin distillery to choose from
A great selection of aged and flavoured rums from St Aubin distillery

The stables have been transformed and include an essential oil distillery.

Nice to have a small distillery in the back garden
Nice to have a small distillery in the back garden, this one produces flavours
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South facing side of the house over looking the stables and the stunning garden
The shop has tea and gifts on sale
The shop has tea, rum and other gifts on sale

The Floral Park has many trees endemic to the island and some exotic plants too; well worth a stroll around.  These palms looked amazing, the trunks so neat and tidy.

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Palmier Royal or Roystonia Regia

I will continue the Tea Route at a later date: it may be a bit of a rum do.

http://www.saintaubin.mu/larouteduthe/

Dragon boat racing

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Caudan Waterfront in Port Louis harbour is often used for displays and exhibitions as it is usually well supported. The Chinese Dragon Boat Festival was no exception.

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The Waterfront was looking splendid in the Winter sunshine (yes, it is really Winter). The coastguards had to move their boats to clear the racing area.

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New shiny flags have appeared in Place d’Armes overlooking the harbour
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The latest Bollywood film was a big distraction to many
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A crowd gathered in the sunshine around the Caudan arena to watch Chinese Lion dancing and other displays. It was not raining.
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The Yoo Sin Boat dance
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Horse tail swishing
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Not now Kato!

The first race!

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A clear winner and three tying for second place.
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They all had to turn around, not easy, and bring the boats back for the next teams to race.
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The drummer is vitally important for the rhythm and the dragon for good luck.
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Multi national crowd waiting for the second race
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The four dragon boats are in position … or are they?
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No, not quite. Back a bit.

Yes they were but no sooner than three boats were touching the wall, the fourth would drift away!

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Ready with a starting pistol and a fan

Seconds after this, the Officials’ boat had to be moved away from the wall delaying the start by another twenty minutes.

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And finally they are off!
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Fuelled by desire, spirit, dim sum and chow mein they sprinted to the harbour entrance
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Next stop, Hong Kong!

I love you Sugar Kane

 

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The title of this art exhibition unsurprisingly piqued my interest. I remember this was the name of the ‘dumb blonde’ character that Marilyn Monroe played in the film ‘Some Like It Hot” but it was the reference to sugar as well as a painting in an advert that made me walk to the gallery in Port Louis.

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The entrance was almost prison like with shutters and padlocks covering some windows and doors. Not knowing quite what to expect, I went in, was given a handout guide and was warmly welcomed to the free exhibition.

 “No form of violence can ever be excused in a society that wishes to call itself decent”

Nelson Mandela

The curator’s written introduction wiped the smile off my face, this was more serious than I had expected. She wrote in the notes,

“Violence spoken, and violence underneath the skin are two themes around which the exhibition turns”.

I am not a student of art but know what I like and don’t like, (boats and ships I hear some say!) It does interest me to a degree to know the deeper meanings of a painting or what an artist is trying to represent but here, without the curator’s notes, I would have been completely lost amongst the 23 exhibits.

'The Wolf's Theme'. Simon Gush (b. 1981, South Africa)
‘The Wolf’s Theme’. Simon Gush (b. 1981, South Africa)

The first exhibit. Now what is all this about? I came here to see paintings! Confused? Oui! Now what do we have here? Music stands,  the score from Prokofiev’s ‘Peter and the Wolf’ and some rope. In Prokofiev’s 1936 musical fable, the wolf is represented by the horn section and swallows Peter’s friend the duck. He is caught bravely by Peter who also, despite warnings, catches the wolf with a noose made of rope.

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I could not see a duck in any of the horns

The wolf is seen as a threat in Mauritius and so relates to the shape-shifting werewolf, ‘loup-garou’, which has been sighted on the island after a devastating cyclone.

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‘Untitled Installation’. Prajakta Potnis (b. 1980 India)

This may represent stress and violence erupting from a surface of domestic calm? Others will have their own views as to whether it is art or not. I did actually want to wash my hands before realising it was an exhibit but now I was starting to take this all seriously.

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“Double Date” by Mawande Ka Zenzile (b.1986, South Africa)

This was the artwork used in the advert for the exhibition. It was textured with cow dung and oil paints. Really. It reminded me of the film, “12 years a slave”. Shocking.

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‘Shame’. Penny Siopsis (b. 1953, South Africa)

The shades of red and orange in the faces that make up this hand stamped print have layers and layers that are not obvious in the photograph above. The word ‘shame’ is spelt out over 100 times in the lower right hand corner.

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‘Isililo’. Zane Muholi (b. 1972, South Africa)

This stunning, blackly veiled self-portrait made me stop and look for many minutes. The white of the eyes and the vertical stripe, the contrasting textures. The image stayed with me for days. It commanded my attention, even now as I type this blog. I wanted to know the story behind the photograph and even more about the photographer who I researched later. Maybe you will too.

Walking back to my car whilst pondering ‘what is Art’, I realised how little graffiti there is anywhere in Mauritius. I had hardly seen any and then by chance I came across a small area that had been painted for last year’s PORLWI by light festival.

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A three walled car park had this on the left hand wall
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This was the central colourful exhibit
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A panoramic photograph of the right hand wall

The black and white painting of Mauritian structures on the right hand wall is so clever, amazing street art. Look closely how the bricks and windows blend into the painting.

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Extraordinary street art

Time to drive home. Wait a minute, there is street art everywhere!

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A cheesey photograph!
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Another cheese advert; even the cow is laughing at the photographer

Some of the best advertisements are on buildings; posters don’t survive long in the sun, heat and humidity.

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Even the buses have a bit of art about them

This building gives a clue to what is in the nearby forest, over 60,000 deer.

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Over 60, 000 deer live in the forest in the south

Driving past the turning for Tamarin beach I spotted this on the side of a convenience store wall.

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Tamarin is home for some goats and dolphins.  It is also a good spot for surfing and bodyboarding as this shows!

And finally, this is the art that nature exhibited just a few minutes walk from home.

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Sugar cane flowers, silvery golden in fading sunshine

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Art is everywhere, you just have to open your eyes.

http://www.icaio.org

Wish you were here

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The local newspaper, Le Mauricien, and some free magazines like Kozé are a good source of what is happening on the island. As I am not on Facebook, I was not aware of the local advert for a Pink Floyd tribute band playing at Le Morne Fishing Club until the night before the concert.  I had high hopes of getting a ticket. The venue is only a mile from my home and not surprisingly next to the beach. I never knew it was there and thought the best way to get a ticket is to go down and buy one; “Allons-y!”

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Security was tight!

It was surprisingly well hidden behind the Black River Police Station and I had to work hard at persuading the “Jobsworth” gatekeeper to let me in without a members’ car park pass. “Hey you, over here!” he barked at me with paranoid eyes. Having been guided to park, surely moor, in between two large boats, I walked into the spacious clubhouse bar and enquired about a ticket.

“Sold out completely two days ago, 450 tickets,” I was told firmly by Seamus the barman, “No chance of a ticket for love nor money; the guitarist is as good as Gilmour.”

Seeing my obvious disappointment, a member came over and said I could stop, stay for a drink and watch the rehearsal. I said thanks and I did. If only I had been on Facebook!

The band’s crew were erecting an impressive stage, video and lighting set and the band were getting ready to rehearse. I was really surprised at how professional the whole setup was and felt more than a little sorrow that I was not going to see the show.

I chatted to the member about the fishing club, it’s history and stayed for about half an hour by which time I had not heard a single note of music, only a few dogs barking on the beach. I had watched enviously as the set was built for the next evening’s concert by the sea under a clear night sky not obscured by clouds, a fat old sun or an eclipse.

“Well, you have stayed for half an hour so, well, I know Frederick has a spare ticket, would you like it?”

Agreeing with this obvious logic, I replied “Yes!” Frederick came over and said, “Do you want to speak to me?” “Yes” I replied, “what’s, uh the deal?” I bought the ticket grinning broadly for the princely sum of 450 rupees (£8.33 at a pre-Brexit exchange rate).

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I arrived at the club, parking outside the wall, not quite sure to expect; I was in for a real treat. You had to buy tickets for drinks and food. A few hundred people were already outside in front of the stage having a good time chatting and catching up. Some familiar faces said hello, the ones who could remember me, and introduced me to their friends, even someone’s Mother, but I felt a bit of a lost sheep, one of the few expats there. The bar area was pretty full too resonating to the sound of laughter and the clink of wine glasses.

Clouds of smoke were coming from the food area, I don’t know how the chef could breathe. Chicken, burgers and Boerwors (but no pigs) were being expertly cooked on a flaming BBQ a.k.a. braai. I must do a braai one of these days.

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Fed and watered, there were no empty spaces in the arena in front of the stage.

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Stage lights on, cheers from the crowd, the band walk on, here we go!

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The show was superb, it was just like seeing them in the flesh.

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I was lost for words but not for the songs I knew.

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He is over there on the left, in front of the two backing singers

The lead guitarist was brilliant, fearless, modest and note perfect.

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The sound quality was clear and loud but not so loud to get brain damage and no echoes. The audience loved it, some comfortably numb probably due to the Johnny Walker Red Label on special offer!

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Watching groups of friends, arms around each other, having a great time singing along with the band to songs I know inside out, 7,000 miles from home and where most of Pink Floyd’s music was composed.

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‘Hey Teacher….!’

It was strange I was loving the music but I could not remember a day when I felt more homesick than this. The stage in front of me, the ebb and flow of the sea lapping at the shore to my right, the gentle breeze a pillow of winds, marooned in a sea of happy people to my left and I felt strangely alone in the surreal atmosphere, almost poles apart from the locals.

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The stage was lit with paint box colours, any one you like, competing with the night light, some of the original Pink Floyd videos playing at the back of the stage and the audience rocking along with the band.

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I walked back to my car wishing that one of these days I will get a bike, drove the short distance home, nobody home or signs of life except the odd mosquito but Pink Floyd joined me instantly as I put the ipod on and blasted those so familiar songs again looking out over my balcony at the dark sea. Black River is no Saint Tropez, it is so much better than that and has a saucerful of secrets just like the fishing club.

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Question. How many Pink Floyd song titles did you recognise in the blog?

Answer. 46.

Surprising news!

 

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Man in Mauritius is the expat.com blog of the month! To celebrate this, there was an interview and here it is!

Tell us about yourself.

I am from Bristol, in the West of England. A great city, famous for Concorde having been built there and the birthplace of Isambard Kingdom Brunel, the railway, bridge and ship engineer.

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Clifton Suspension Bridge built by Brunel. It links Clifton village with Leigh Woods and is an iconic view of Bristol and the River Avon

Aardman Animations design and produce Shaun the Sheep and Wallace & Gromit films there too.

Shaun the Sheep
Shaun the Sheep

When and how did you decide to move to Mauritius? Is it complicated to settle down there?

I had an offer to live and work in Mauritius and it seemed an opportunity too good to miss. It is a big challenge to pack up and move home, no matter how small the distance. So, having stored, sold or given to charity all my furniture and other possessions, I packed my remaining  belongings into two suitcases, a rucksack and ten cardboard packing cases, caught the plane and moved 7,000 miles away!

It’s difficult to describe what it feels like to be moving home, country and changing jobs at the same time but, if you do this on your own as I have, you just have to get on with it and be positive! It can be fun to find out where things are, where to shop, park and eat for example but at times you would like it to be a bit easier! My new work colleagues went out of their way to make me welcome and help me when I needed advice or support especially in the first few weeks. The expat.com website was very useful to introduce myself, get some real time advice and to find out some of the basics.

Have you ever lived abroad before? How many countries have you visited?

I have never lived abroad before but I am absolutely loving it and wish I had done it earlier. It is a good question to ask how many countries I have visited! I wrote down a list quite quickly but kept remembering places that I had been to but forgotten about. It is just over forty countries mainly in Europe, Africa and Central and North America.

What do you like the most about Mauritius?

That is a difficult one, there are so many things!  Here is a list, in no particular order.

  1. The people and the many cultures on the island. Everyone has been genuinely friendly and kind to me here; as a visitor it is really appreciated to be welcomed with a warm smile and a friendly introduction. I like the way people greet you everyday with a handshake and real interest in how you are and what you have done since you last saw them.
  1. The climate and the natural beauty of the island – I am stunned by the microclimates here, you can drive for a five minutes and the weather can be completely different! The rainbows, often two together, are wide and the colours strong. The sunsets and sunrises are breathtaking. The views of the mountains, lit up in warm sunshine or silhouetted dark against the sky. The turquoise lagoons, the blue, blue sky. Who can beat what nature provides for you and on Mauritius; it is spectacular.
  1. The food. The spices are amazing and the cooking, a mixture of French, Indian and Chinese, I absolutely love it, the spicier the better. The fish is fresh and fantastic, especially the tuna, which is without doubt the best I have ever tasted. The street food is also delicious and simple, who can resist a fresh dholl puri, farata or some gateaux piments?

How is/was the cultural shock? What are the main differences with your home country?

There are obviously many things that are different here to England, that is obvious. I don’t wear a suit and tie to work, I would die of heat exhaustion if I did! There are less choices for things to do in the evening. There are hardly any coffee bars here, there only seem to be bars in the tourist areas near the beach. Public transport is limited, there are no trains or metro/underground, I am very surprised how many miles I have driven in the seven months I have been here.

There is a huge difference in the cost and choice of food, drink, clothes and entertainment. I absolutely love the fact that all the car parks I have used, except at Caudan Waterfront (before 4:00pm) and the airport, have been free. In the UK this is very expensive (and painful if you overstay and get a penalty!)

Many of the brands in the food shops I do not know and choosing can be difficult but with experience it is fine when they become more familiar. The pace of life here is slower, this takes a while to get accustomed to (like the driving!) but it is actually so much better.

Do you miss anything from your homeland?

I miss my family and my friends the most, also comfort food like ‘Twiglets’, my favourite snack!

Any ‘memories of an expat’ you would like to share with us? Your best souvenir? Or maybe your worst experience?

I have so many good memories already from the time that I have been here from the actual excitement of arriving at the airport, to receiving my ten packing cases, occupation permit and going to the office for my first day at work, first night in my apartment, my new home. Some of the sunsets I have seen, my first day at Champs de Mars watching the horse racing, learning how do dive in the warm waters at Le Morne, a Muslim wedding, exploring the island, making smoothies in the morning from locally produced fruit, walking in the forests in the South. Lots of really good memories and many of them are on the blog but if I had to pick one it would be the sunset on the 19th of January.

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The beach at Tamarin

Getting food poisoning just before a week of travelling in Southern Africa is by far the worst experience!

What does your typical day as an expat in Mauritius look like?

Waking up to sunshine and the occasional dog barking! Getting my Italian expresso pot on the stove to make my morning coffee before taking a shower. Ignoring the 16 suits, 9 jackets and 17 sweaters I have brought to Mauritius and choosing a shirt and light trousers to wear. Making a fruit smoothie with nuts and oats for the best start to the day. Driving to work and listening to news and sport podcasts. Setting a good example to other road users on how to drive well! Then making calls, dealing with emails and attending meetings. Having lunch with colleagues and finding out what they have been doing followed by more meetings or perhaps travelling to the factory.

Then after work, going to the gym or food shopping, perhaps home in time to watch the sunset from the balcony or a swim. After that, as shower, prepare dinner or go out with friends for a meal. Last of all, catch up with friends and family on WhatsApp or Skype, read for a little bit then bed. The weekends are usually filled with lots of outdoor activities; it is great to be out in the sunshine.

When did you start your blog? For what reasons?

In October 2015. The blog is a photo diary of what I have been doing and easy to share. It has also been a nice new hobby and surprised me how much I have enjoyed the writing and photography for it. The feedback has been really great so far.

Did you make new friends with your blog?

I have made no new friends with the blog as yet, but it has certainly kept me in touch with those who are already friends. So, to those who are reading this, get in touch!

Why did you register on Expat.com and what do you think of the website?

I registered for advice, support, local knowledge and the opportunity to meet people on the island who had or were experiencing the same issues as me. The website is so useful, gives instant up-to-date answers from people there and really helps with settling in fast. It’s been invaluable so far.

Which advice would you give to the other Expat.com members who would like to settle in Mauritius?

Find out what you cannot get in Mauritius and do not assume it is going to be the same as the country you currently live in.

Embrace the local culture.

Learn to speak French/Creole.

Keep your eyes open and explore! Mauritius is so much more than the image you see from abroad, the one of 5 star hotels, deserted, white sandy beaches and turquoise lagoons under a beautiful blue sky.

Never turn down an invitation, you never know what you might enjoy, who you might meet and what you might learn, so much better than watching TV!

Explore, dream and discover!

Man in Mauritius

Expat.com © 2016

http://www.expat.com

Music for the soul with Hans Nayna

Hans Nayna is a talented local musician from Mahebourg, 27 years old, who is on tour promoting his first album, a crowd funded CD recorded in Mauritius. Last night, he and his excellent eight-piece band, thoroughly entertained an exhuberant crowd of around 300 at the Institute Francais in Rose Hill.

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Not many concert halls are built around a tree

The local press is a good source of what is happening and I jumped at the chance to go. This was my first visit to this venue, I was there on time, surprised to find yet another free car park in Mauritius! I paid 300 rupees (£6) for a ticket and joined a very relaxed crowd at the bar; speedy service with a smile too! Excellent. I was asked if I had practised my “La … la-la laa’s”. What?

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It started at 8pm … Mauritian time!

With the minimum of fuss, Hans and his band almost apologetically crept around the black curtain to great applause and started their show.

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Hans has a strong singing voice with soul, blues and bags of emotion. He has been compared with Paulo Nutini, a bit of jazz, soul and blues. Let’s see, or rather, hear.

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Talented, unpretentious and likeable

He had been a finalist on RunStar, a version of The Voice, on nearby French island, La Reunion. It must be nerve wracking to perform your own words and music, have your first CD on sale, be up there on stage in front of your family, friends, loyal supporters and others who had heard about you. He went through all the tracks and a few others, the performance growing in confidence as he and the band felt the audience participation, appreciation and pleasure.

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Emanuelle’s violin led many of the songs

There was a lovely rich sound from the brass section especially on “Le King” and “Welcome to Paradise”; Fabien Thomas on trumpet and Bryan Armoogam on trombone. Emmanuelle Ghem was elegance personified with her violin, delicate left hand fingers getting just the right vibrato; Josian Long was, of course, as cool as a Mauritian cucumber on the bass as tradition dictates.

Jann Payet played electric piano and keyboards with sensitivity and distinction especially at the start of “Music for the Soul”, a song which builds slowly The backing vocals supplied with gusto, especially on “Liv” by Christabelle André and Anne-Sophie Paul (her name would be so confusing if it was Sophie-Anne Paul).

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I thought Hans was similar to George Ezra just with a voice not so low, especially on “Liv” and “Music for the Soul”. “Pieces of the World” reminded me a bit of George Benson in the early days. “Welcome to Paradise” had lots of audience participation with more La La’s than in the Teletubbies! (I am la la-la la-ing now as I am writing this). “With You”; impossible to not tap your feet and dance to that one.

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He had to sell all his footwear to pay for the CD

Christophe Bertin showed a great range on the drums through the concert especially in “Feelings”,  (no, not that one!) and “Music for the Soul” .

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Maybe all Mauritian drum kits are fitted with flower holders

At the end, a spontaneous standing ovation was humbly taken and “Mo lam”,  a haunting violin rising above the chorus,  was the standout choice for the popular encore.

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I think it was Hans’ Mum who came on stage to give flowers to him and the ladies

Thank you to Lauryn who told me he was a pretty cool guy and introduced me to his music. She was right; Hans and his band were terrific. The lyrics were sensitive, soulful and uplifting.  The music sort of blues, jazz and a bit of rock, it was just great!

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I left the concert with a big smile on my face,  my soul warmed by the music and looking forward to playing the CD in the car on the way home.

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“La la-la la, La la-la la”.

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Hans Nayna – super connected with a happy audience

Now, here is a real treat for you….

The whole concert is on:

“Gimme love”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ijBlbHX3p0A

“Music for the soul”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E5mmy9zBvmo&list=PLEpthTfasd_sHTBucKVLFCMCnwa2F8Lm8

Chinatown Food & Cultural Festival

The 12th annual festival in the Chinatown sector of Port Louis was held for two days and it was well worth attending. I had been promised that several live Chinese Lions would be attending. Pictures say 1,000 words and here they are!

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The crowds were huge, enticed by the street food, chinese lanterns, live entertainment and music. Now where is that lion? In the Mane Road perhaps?

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I thought you said “Lion Dancing”….

This Line Dancing group had come over with their cowboy hats from Reunion Island, 40 miles away. Quite bizarre to see them dancing to authentic Chinese music rather than Achy Breaky Heart! Now where is the Lion Dancing!

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The troupe may look bored but they had been playing for a few hours and had two more to go…the lion was enjoying it though but where is he?

Here he is!

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This was the first Chinese lion I saw, definitely the most animated, a sort of cross between Rod Hull’s Emu and Animal from the Muppets but bigger and yes, my head did fit in his mouth.

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These guys drummed and clashed cymbals for hours

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Not all the entertainment on offer drew the crowds. This band was really good too!

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The crowd were enthralled by the Magician and his card tricks ably assisted by his two young volunteers: translations supplied by the cheeky female clown below.

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She had been encouraging the crowd to go and watch the 7:00pm magic show,

“Hey, you’re English! Will you come and watch?” she shouted over the crowd at me.

“Yes, of course,” I promised!

“A man keeping to a promise; I will believe it when I see it!”

“It will be magic if I do,” I replied.

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Three princesses selling china. Royal Doulton, perhaps?

Anything and everything was being sold on the streets. No opportunity missed to sell to a packed crowd!

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It was so busy in places you just could not move. That was not bad at all because you could soak in the atmosphere and smell the food too!

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Those crispy things are very filling
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Lai Min restaurant offering their signature dishes for very reasonable prices

The aroma of barbecued pork and duck made me feel ravenous.

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Not sure what any of the snacks are called but they were delicious and I could only get four in my mouth without choking
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No time to haggle over the price, he has the tongs and is going to fill his bag. (A Chinese Tong?)
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Yeo! Naturally I chose to taste several of their excellent products!
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Tamarind is a sour and sweet fruit and a distant relative of the string bean. Surprised that Yeo do not sell milk.

Including this one as all the food had made me thirsty.

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Every home should have one! A painted chicken. I wanted a crispy fried one.

He had another 800 chickens in his checked bag but the Father Christmas dolls in his black bag were not selling well.

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“Anyone seen Chi Chi or the bamboo stall?”

It was so crowded, you couldn’t move at times in the main street.  You never knew who you would bump into, even a panda with a balloon.

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It would not be a Chinese festival without an inflatable dragon, now would it? This one was safely inflated in a quiet side street and reminded more of a Welsh dragon than a Chinese one.

Even mice were on sale! (You just have to go to a field to get one for free!)

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Mice to see you, to see you, mice

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No Norwegian Blues on sale, they are too rare, of course, beautiful plumage.  These colourful birds are also being advertised on Twitter

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Mutant Ninja Turtles taking it easy and waxing lyrical about life.

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No they are not slices of carrot!

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Also extraordinary how a shop that can sell general groceries can also suddenly sell handbags when there is late night shopping going on.

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A relief to get in to a quiet side street
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These balloons were on sale at inflated prices.
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Impossible to predict what you might find for sale on the street.
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If you can’t move, just look up at the lanterns
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Not all the side streets were quiet! Family gatherings and a place for a chat
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Great friendliness and good humour in a lovely atmosphere
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Several places to grab and ice cream or a sorbet; better than the ice cream van outside Chinatown still playing “Three Blind Mice”

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This ice cream vendor on a bicycle took the torch off his forehead so I could take a photograph!

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Every table taken for dinner in one of the many Chinese restaurants open. Fortunately, there was a free table in this one!

Having really enjoyed the evening, I set off home and just outside Chinatown I almost fell over all the street traders selling all sorts of things to passers by.

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T shirts for sale. Any size you can find!

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Another street trader outside the Chinatown festival not missing an opportunity

This was a really happy festival, lots of fun, food and festivities celebrating Chinatown, the local community and its heritage. “Zhùhè!”

I look forward to next year.

Maha Shivaratri

On a Thursday in early March I noted that Monday the 7th was a public holiday for Maha Shivaratri. I wanted to understand what it was for and its significance. There were signs for it all over the island sponsored by local industries.

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It is a Hindu festival celebrated every year in reverence of the God Shiva. There are twelve Shivaratris in the year with the Maha Shivarathri being the most holy.

I was told that in Mauritius Hindus from all over the island will head for the Grande Bassin, the crater, where there is a lake now seen as their major Hindu prayer site.

 

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Pilgrims set off as early as Thursday to walk to the lake where they pray and collect water to bring back to their village.

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Time to carry the flip flops as fresh rain cools tired feet!
Walking during the day was hot work
Walking during the day was hot work

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Many walk in the early evening or at night when it is cooler and even more carry idols of the God Shiva, some blocking the road and causing the odd traffic jam. This could be a 40 mile round trip, and half of it uphill.

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Difficult to overtake on a mountain road !

Some of the structures carried by the pilgrims were amazing. Walking with some of them for a while was a gentle and moving experience.

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This  group had a support car in front playing quite loud music
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Pole essential for moving branches and live cables out of the way of the structure being carried

Along every pavement, through every village, there were people offering food and drink, shelter to sleep, rest, pray or just encouragement to carry on walking.

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Every temple was decorated and open to all visitors with lots of chairs to rest on. Incredibly, almost everyone was walking in flip flops.

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Not a walking boot in sight

Even those caught in traffic jams were offered refreshment to take whilst they were delayed.

 

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Major, minor and village roads were all filled with pilgrims carrying structures to and from the crater

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I was offered enough fruit to open a greengrocery shop when stopping to take photographs in Vacoas.

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What started for some on Thursday finished on Monday night at midnight. Remember, they walked all the way there with their structures and took them all the way back.

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This was a festival that I found very moving and genuinely happy to have experienced a bit of, what a lovely atmosphere.

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Thank you to all the bystanders who gave me food, drink and snacks whilst I watched, photographed and walked. To all those who made it to and from the crater, many congratulations. Next year, I shall walk more, much more… but not in flip flops!

Mountains and Sugar Cane

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Mauritius is surely defined by many as an island with a beautiful lagoon and long sandy beaches but for me it is the people, the lush green sugar cane filled fields and the mountains. Your eye is drawn to the swaying green leaves of sugar cane, growing at up to 2cm per day under the hot sun.

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Every journey taken has a backdrop of the mountains, every swim in the sea has a range to look at. Some islanders take a walk or a bike at sunrise up in the mountains when others are asleep or sweating at the gym. When so many offices and homes are air-conditioned, it is a treat to get out into the fresh air before the day starts to heat up.

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Montagne du Rempart, the Mauritian Matterhorn.
Montagne du Rempart, the Mauritian Matterhorn with the last remnants of a rainbow

Walls of wisdom

There is always something interesting to see as you drive around the island, who knows what is around the corner. A rather weather beaten local school had let the pupils brighten the boundary walls with some colourful and educational illustrations.

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Not just with the name of their school, but with messages for all, young and old.

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Here are selection of some of the best.

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Maybe the students should be allowed to paint the school as well?

P.S. This must be catching on, at St Benoit’s School in Tamarin they have even painted the container permanently sited in the yard.

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