PORLWI by nature – the city lit up at night

For the 3rd year, Mauritians and visitors to the island were invited to come to the capital, Port Louis, for a festival emphasising urban regeneration and cultural reconnection.

Wooden pallets were used to make a stage and seats for a giant screen in the harbour. Even some of the lampposts were clad in wood!

As the sun started to set and dusk approached,  a live draw for the Lotto was enthusiastically being performed on another stage.

Porlwi by Nature took place in and around some of the historic streets and buildings of Port Louis. It was an opportunity to to explore how to bring nature into the daily life of Mauritius.

There were three distinct areas to visit joined by streets pedestrianised just for the festival.

Street Art, Street Light, Street Music, Street Performances and of course Street Food were on display for all to enjoy, see and connect to in the unique style of Mauritius.

An excellent example of Wall Art, even the staircase was completely painted.

Japanese music being played at the entrance to the Granary but no sushi for sale.

Now a chance to reconnect with nature within the cool, stone walls of the Granary on a hot, humid December evening.

Who could resist a walk amongst  tropical plants swaying from the warehouse ceiling, bathed in green light?

There were varied exhibits from sculpture, to paintings and illustrations, some of them horticulturally displayed also this figure should have had green fingers.

One of the art exhibits on display, slides lit from behind looking similar to golden brown sugar crystals.

A wedding dress suspended from the ceiling, bathed in spotlights and confetti.

You can store plants and display them in many ways indoors but you always need a watering can nearby!

Walking over to the superb Aapravisi Ghat museum (a blog on this is coming soon) in the Dock and the surrounding buildings, there were more exhibits.

A film was projected on to this building. You just had to stop and look at the moving images and how it completely changed the shape and style of the building. Two separate displays are just visible through the two rectangular openings.

Looking through the window on the left of the previous building, this display showed images of flowers that bloomed whilst changing colour and shape. Technically difficult to photograph!

And through the window on the right, a technicolour collage of images of Mauritius.

Another building had displays about sealife. This was all about humpback whales and explained why they jump out of the water.

Inside one of the large warehouse buildings in the dock. This projection of a light show filmed amongst trees gave an interesting back drop for visitors to mingle with.

Green was a ‘natural’ choice to highlight some of the new buildings.

Surely this old bank building should be lit in black and red? Who has heard of going into the white? (Maybe a billiard player?)

A chance to reflect on the usual view of the port and Caudan Waterfront. Even a cruise liner had moved forward for a better look at the city.

The passengers would have seen the Waterfront and palm trees colourfully lit in front of Place d’Armes.

At Caudan, this dancer in striped trousers with a Zebra head on was entertaining the crowd as they crossed by. Why a zebra head? Because it was a crossing point.

Porlwi by Nature, at night, showed some of the old and new buildings as well as the streets bathed in light with many interesting displays and performances. It certainly gave visitors a chance to think about the history of the city, its culture and, perhaps, the future.

Water colour painting ‘Plein Air’ session

I had read that a group of local water colour artists were going to be by the windmill in Port Louis harbour and you could observe what and how they were painting.

Being a supporter of the arts, I was keen to go. About ten artists were there, quietly going about their work.

The old windmill is not often seen by people who visit the docks as it is on the other side of the main harbour, the working side. The mill and surrounding buildings were good subjects to paint.

The brushes, paints and accessories seemed very similar to those that I have seen before, maybe the sun tans on the artists were a little bit deeper! No cheese or wine to be seen anywhere, only bottles of water.

All the artists were very approachable and happy to discuss their subject and painting methods.

I talked to Riaz Auladin and discovered he is the President of the International Watercolour Society in Mauritius.

He told me that the Society often has days painting outdoors in the ‘open air’.

It was not the sunniest of days but still a warm one. Difficult to flood the paper with water before painting.

Riaz was interested to hear about the Savages, a Bristol, England, based society of members interested in painting, drawing, music and performing arts as well as supporting and enjoying the exceptional talents of their fellow members.

The old buildings at the back of the windmill were a popular subject.

The painting finished, it was now time to dry the brushes.

Only two artists were at the dockside, sheltered from the sun under the watchful eye of customs officers and the occasional passers-by.

Tyre-ink work?

A tug that manoeuvres some of the freight ships in the busy port.

Some detail being applied to the image of the multiple flour mills on the other side of the harbour.

Perhaps this was the view that would have been taken by Frank Shipsides, a famous maritime painter.

I think this painter forgot to pack his things up before leaving for home!

Thank you to all the artists for their conversation and for displaying their work. Everyone who stopped to chat were really interested.

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Photography exhibition at Caudan

Caudan waterfront in Port Louis has an outdoor exhibition of some wonderful photographs from around the island to celebrate 50 years of independence for Mauritius in 2018.

This is a selection of photographs I have taken of the excellent ones taken by talented local photographers.

Watching a sunset after a day on the beach is what many people do at the weekend and sunsets here are spectacular.

Sometimes, the sea just looks like it is on fire.

I am learning how to take better photographs in different lighting conditions; this is a tremendous one.

Some local “Sega” dancers performing on the beach.

The different colour sands at Chamarel can be seen clearly here.

Many of the public beaches are busy with local families at the weekend, most preferring to enjoy their time protected from the sun by the shade from the trees whilst mad dogs (of which there are many) and Englishmen (of which there are few) lay out in the midday sun … and get burnt!

The lagoon is teeming with fish and all you need is a hook, some nylon thread, a stick and a little patience to catch your supper.

Only one black and white photo and it is a great one.

Local ice cream vans are busy at public beaches especially during public holidays and weekends. There are only two songs they play though, “The Teddy Bears’ Picnic” or “Greensleeves”. It just seems out of place!

Kite surfing at Le Morne, one of the best places in the world to do this.

An extraordinary photo of Pieter Both mountain, easily identified by the boulder seemingly perched precariously on the top…. but I can see an elephant ….

The deer are on red alert when anyone comes close … especially in the hunting season.

Some of the photographs show the wonderful life under the turquoise lagoon and on the reef that surrounds the island.

A very clever photo of a diver under Crystal Rock, close to the beach at Le Morne.

Just look at the colours of these ‘Blotcheye Soldier’ fish!

An ‘Indian Lion’ fish seen during a diving session at Flic en Flac.

Exploring at the “Cathedral” dive site, also at Flic en Flac.

A local bus hurrying through the cane fields, recently cut in the foreground, waiting to be cut in the background.

A view of Gunners’ Point at Grand Baie with a flamboyant tree in the foreground.

One of the many colourful birds at Casela Park on the West Coast.

The turtles at Casela move surprisingly fast especially if you offer them something to eat.

And finally, Pieter Both mountain in the background seen from fields of sugar cane with their beautiful flowers bending in the breeze like snow laden Christmas trees.

I go to this outdoor exhibition every time I visit Caudan and enjoy the inspirational photographs.

There will be more of my photographs soon!

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

Natural history of Mauritius

 

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This splendid building houses the Natural History Museum in the centre of Port Louis and, having walked past it at least ten times a week, it was time to pay a visit … although entrance is free. It is open Monday – Friday 0900 -1600 and 0900 – 1200 on Saturday.

This is the oldest museum in Mauritius and contains many animals, birds, insects, reptiles, mammals, fish and of course, the world famous dodo of which there are several models in the garden.

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There are several uniquely decorated life-sized dodos outside

The first exhibits portray what Mauritius was like when it was discovered by the Dutch in 1598. There were hardly any predatory mammals, reptiles or even large insects then. The early human inhabitants brought animals to farm and plants to grow food. This upset the natural balance on the island but made it easier for man to live and develop the land which was almost completely covered with trees.

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The island still has so many beautiful and colourful birds.

Deer thrived in the forests and still do. There are over 10,000 in Mauritius now.

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They giant turtle in the background is one of the survivors of man colonising the island

The fruit bat is not so popular as it, well, eats fruit. It’s population has grown too much recently and as a result increased locally produced fruit market prices! It is why the lychee crop was so poor last December and a cull was introduced to reduce the bat population. Not fair on ants as they are the only native mammal of Mauritius. Deer, pigs, rats and other were introduced by humans settling on the island.

Bats famously hang upside down but baby bats feed upwards.

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Bats fear old age and incontinence

The dodo is well known and forever associated with Mauritius but I had not heard of the Great Elephant Bird which had originated in nearby Madagascar. It stood 3 metres high, weighed just under half a metric tonne and it’s egg was bigger than even a dinosaur egg, measuring 30cm wide.

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Equivalent in volume to 180 chicken eggs

The dodo is the national emblem of Mauritius and appears on bank notes, stamps and coins as well as many other items. It was just under a metre tall and weighed 20kg. It was a friendly, flightless bird and had no predators until humans arrived in Mauritius.  Many dodo bones have been discovered  during excavation work in the last 15 years.

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Almost as soon as the dodo was discovered, it became extinct, its eggs eaten by new predators like imported Macaque monkeys and the dodos themselves eaten by hungry sailors. The fact that the female only laid one egg at a time may have been a physically comforting thought for her but this was not good for future survival of the species. The last sighting of a dodo was sadly in 1662.

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The Dodo. Never to be forgotten in Mauritius.

Now, what was under the sea and in the turquoise lagoons? Let’s start with shellfish. This giant clam shell was a whopper.

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Imagine a dish of Spaghetti Vongole with a few of these in it!

Diving would not be so much fun without a few of these cuddly fish swimming around you.

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Have a whale of a time with these lone sharks

I have not seen too many butterflies in Mauritius, the ones that I have found have all been quite small. This display excited me and I was looking forward to photographing some like this on the island until I read the display was of butterflies only found in the Amazon!

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I look forward to snapping the Brilliant Blue and the Bush Brown on my travels now I have found that they are part of the 39 endemic butterflies in Mauritius.

This was a really interesting and unpretentious museum with free entrance to all.

 

http://www.mauritiusmuseums.mu

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.

Not what I had expected

Last weekend my plans changed from a typical holidaymaker’s view at the beach to what the residents actually see. Some interesting things and some images that struck me. It is not all sandy beaches, luxury hotels and turquoise lagoons!

The Mauritian flag is made up of four bands ; red for bloodshed, blue for the Indian Ocean, green for the lush, tropical vegetation and yellow for independence and golden sunshine. It proudly flies everywhere on the island. I bought a tie with these colours, unwittingly, many years ago. It has come with me.

Les Grandes Bands
Les Grandes Bands

There are a lot of statues in public and historical places, one of the most famous is of Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam, (SSR), ‘The Father of the Nation’, the first Prime Minister of Mauritius,  who led the island to independence in 1968. Many Mauritians on their way to work pass through the road SSR is looking up at.

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SSR looking up at Place d’Armes, in the centre of Port Louis

In the centre there are many offices, banks, local businesses and skyscrapers. Having walked for five minutes or so, the heat and humidity warms your body so much that it can be both a shock and a relief to go into an air conditioned building and see Christmas decorations accompanied by traditional songs referring to snow and winter wonderlands! (I haven’t found any Christmas cards yet but I am looking; six days until the last day to post!)

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‘Let it snow, Let it snow …’

The Mauritius Commercial Bank (MCB) Head Office is a stunning 10 storey, 10,000 square metre building, at a business area in the centre of the island. It uses recycled products in its furniture, harvests rainwater, has low energy lighting and is strategically placed between North and South to virtually remove all direct solar gains. It may remind you of the media centre at the MCC at Lords cricket ground.

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The iconic MCB building at Ebene

In contrast, the local market in Curepipe has a brightly coloured set of chimneys above which advertise one of the best known local brands, a paint producer.

Curepipe market and bus station
Curepipe market and bus station