For the seventh post in my series on far-flung France we’re going back to take another look at Réunion, from the perspective of a neighbouring islander, Mauritian blogger Beatrice aka Mademoiselle Nomad.
For those of you just joining the adventure through France’s overseas territories, here’s a quick recap. A few months ago I was struck by the idea that it could be possible to travel around the globe, without leaving “Europe”, without changing money, just using Euros, only speaking French and living off baguettes and camembert. How on earth, you might ask, could this be possible? Well believe it or not France is spread out over 12 time zones with overseas territories and departments in South America, the Caribbean, the Indian Ocean and the South Pacific. Each of these tiny (mostly) islands are part of France, not independent ex-colonies and function much the same as any region in mainland France. Wanting to find out more about these unusual places, having only visited Martinique myself, I came up with the idea of a series of stories, written by people in the know, friends and bloggers who have actually visited or lived in the Dom-Tom*. So having been to Martinique, Mayotte, Réunion, Guadeloupe, St Martin and French Guyana here we are, with the seventh tale of far-flung France….
Guest post by Beatrice at Mademoiselle Nomad
Growing up on an island like Mauritius would mean you never have to travel ever, right? Wrong! Even if the island has a coastline of beautiful pristine white beaches and stunning lagoons, for me, I always wanted to know what was beyond all of that. To see, explore and discover more of the world.
And with that in mind, it was only natural that I would travel whenever I had the opportunity, even when my parents could only afford taking us to the neighbouring island of Réunion. I have been to Réunion Island a couple of times when I was only a toddler and again in my teenage years as well as my adult life. I have great memories of these trips which I will happily share with you.
We commonly refer to this neighbouring island as La Réunion which is also fondly known as our sister island because they are so close to each other. Flying to La Réunion only took a short half hour plane trip. And if you choose to travel with a catamaran, it would take five hours approximately. We, however, have always been by plane as it is more convenient that way.
La Réunion has so much to offer and to me, it was more than a trip to an island. It felt like I could be in France with everyone on the island speaking French. They also spoke a patois but even that sounded French to my ears – so melodious and romantic unlike the creole patois I am familiar with from Mauritius.
Indeed, this French-department has impressed me in many ways. Landing in Saint-Denis, its capital, was a pleasure for my mum and I to go on a shopping spree. There were French clothing brands, the kind of items I often saw in French magazines. We unfortunately could not shop until we dropped because the currency was the same as in France: they used Euros! How could an island be so near to us and yet charge prices that were exactly the same as in France, which was in another hemisphere! We constantly had to keep reminding ourselves of the fact that we had to pay everything in Euros.
To comfort ourselves from not being able to buy the entire shop, we would spoil ourselves with a freshly-baked croissants or waffle (‘gauffres’ with melted chocolate drizzled on top) or we would sit at a Salon de Thé eating patisseries. I love the food of La Réunion, a mixed between Creole cuisine and French cuisine. There would be items on the menu that were so typically from the island, like cassava, bonbons piments (fried chilli balls), rougail (condiment or sauce often served with sausages) and other condiments and yet, we would also be served dishes so reminiscent of the French culture.
We feasted on everything and enjoyed the diversity of the local gastronomy through our tastebuds. We needed all our energy to explore the island after all. La Réunion had so much to offer for us tourists. On each of our trips, we would go for a compulsory visit to La Fournaise, the active volcano. I’ve seen it once just a few weeks after it erupted and it was such an exciting adventure to walk as close as we possibly could to the volcano and feel the hot ash from underneath our feet. Despite the fact that it had stopped blowing out chunks of hot lava, the soil around was steaming hot! It was a fantastic thing to see. Besides this, I love the beaches, especially Saint Gilles les Bains, which is also known by the locals as the little Saint-Tropez where all the rich and famous are often seen sun-bathing or clubbing in the trendy nightclubs in the neighbourhood. My other memories of sight-seeing in La Réunion involved a trip to one of the top attractions in Sainte Rose, an old historic suspension bridge “Le Pont Suspendu”, a trip to Anse les Cascades to admire the majestic waterfall as well as the scenic and winding route (400 bends!) leading to the Cirque de Cilaos, renowned for its thermal baths and hiking trails.
La Réunion is definitely a place I will not remove from my travel list because even if you go there once, there’s always a reason to return as it’s an island filled with adventures and attractions with all the facilities you could expect to find in France – great infrastructure, well-maintained roads and highways and of course everyone drives on the right! I am very privileged to have a lot of family members living there to show me around and also make me feel at home there.
I hope you have enjoyed this post and if you ever have the opportunity to visit this beautiful island, go for it as you will not regret it.
Beatrice describes herself as “a sophisticated digital nomad”, originally from Mauritius, now slowly travelling around the world. She is currently based in Capetown, South Africa, where she writes her blog Mademoiselle Nomad to inspire others to “embrace The Art of Sophisticated Living”. You can find her on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Photos provided by Beatrice, taken by Hubert Chan Kin.
If you enjoyed reading this you might like to read the other posts in the series on French DOM-TOM about Martinique, Mayotte, Réunion, Guadeloupe, St Martin, French Guyana, French Polynesia and Guadeloupe again.
*** Don’t forget I am still looking for bloggers who have visited or lived in any of the French DOM-TOM (particularly South Pacific) and who would like to contribute to this series. Please leave a comment below or get in touch through the contact page ***
* DOM-TOM = Départements/Territoires d’Outre Mer = overseas departments and territories
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