Amuse-bouches

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The view from the top of Le Morne Brabant

I have not posted a blog for two months now but I have been busy photographing and enjoying so many things that Mauritius has to offer. Here is a little selection of images to whet your appetite for the many blogs that will follow.

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Tamarind Falls
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Cane fields at Souillac
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Quatre Bornes Saturday Market
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Red whiskered bulbul in a coconut palm on the beach
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Pont Naturel
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Lord Shiva at Grand Bassin
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An offering at Grand Bassin
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Idols at Grand Bassin
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Kestrel Valley
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Crystal Rock
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Dolphins at Tamarin

It has been amazing!

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/

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.

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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

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.

Life in Mauritius has started!

After a few hectic weeks of packing, clearing, goodbyes and mild panic, Mauritian immigration greeted me warmly on my arrival at Plaisance airport. I am finally here, I thought. During my first few days on the island it has been a pleasure to meet so many friendly people who could not have done more to make me feel so welcome.

I have only had one real challenge so far that vexed me a little! I brought two suitcases with me and having opened the first at my temporary address (I move to Tamarin on the West Coast in December) I tried to open the second. The combination lock had jammed! Rather than resort to brute force I decided to leave it for the moment and manage with the clothes I had. I tried again a few days later and voila it opened as if by magic.

The weather has been splendid, the food delicious and the views amazing. You know you are in Mauritius when you see a view like I did in the wing mirror of my car on the first day I drove it from the dealer’s showroom.

Mauritius unexpectedly mirrored

Caudan waterfront was not too busy when I went for a walk and a cool drink in the afternoon. The shops were diverse and interesting and one walkway showed that umbrellas are not just there to keep the rain off! I am also looking forward to the freshly prepared vegetarian wraps at the Kauai restaurant.

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Fresh and tasty wraps, salads and smoothies
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A Walkway in the Caudan waterfront
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Caudan waterfront looking up at Port Louis

I have had walks on the beach in Grand Baie, Pereybere, La Preneuse and Belle Mare  and obviously had to enjoy the sea; is the water really 25 degrees all year around?

Pereybere beach, near Grand Baie
Sunset on La Preneuse beach
Belle Mare beach in the afternoon

I managed to have an hour’s snorkelling in Blue Bay where I was amazed to see so many colourful fish so close to the beach.

Snorkelling in Blue Bay

This is a wonderful island with so much to explore, discover and enjoy.