A Travellerspoint blog


15. Harmony in the Indian Ocean

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Mauritius, Mauritius
Wednesday, November 24, 2010

I left the wall of curtains open on my room overnight so that I would be greeted upon awakening with whatever view this spacious suite had to offer. I wasn't disappointed. The sky is blue, the water bluer and the traveler bright as the rising sun.

In my suite one towel is folded into the shape of an elephant and two more are sculpted to create a pair of swans coming together to form a heart. Both are sprinkled with flower blossoms. It doesn’t go with my solo traveler mountain man look but nobody, least of all me, seems to care. It’s fun.

There is a gigantic breakfast buffet and many tours offered but, for me, today is a day to rest and enjoy the beach and the pools and my balcony. I’m going to finish my book before getting back to Kansas City but, at 1166 pages, I need to get moving. The busy schedule I’ve kept up to now has kept me out of the pages and the hectic days have found me falling asleep after fifteen minutes or so of reading. Today, I’ll make up for it.

Matt and Donna Clark, my friends from Edinburgh are here and have invited me to get together. I called them after breakfast, around nine, and I’m afraid I woke them. I later find out that they were out to dinner with other friends last night and didn’t get back to their bed until around three. We agree to meet for lunch. They are a pair of young Brits and delightful conversationalists...something I value highly as a single traveler.

The tropical sun is high and hot after lunch and I am not anxious to get sunburned on my last full day so, even with the availability of 100 SPF sunscreen, I am cautious.3fdf80c0-3015-11ea-8cec-9d4679a1377d.jpg3ff48f60-3015-11ea-b63e-ab448738f224.jpg3f4bcc40-3015-11ea-a024-f1276fa42fbe.jpg3f45ffe0-3015-11ea-b691-c301e4bd3b9d.jpg

I’ve booked a table for one at the seafood restaurant here for eight o’clock tonight...my final night on the ground during this whirlwind tour of Africa and now the Indian Ocean. My hair is a bit too long and my beard is a bit too scruffy (there are those at home who would howl at my outlandishness) but here I’ve no one to please but myself. So, I happily allow those who would wonder about me to, well, wonder. I look a bit like mountain man Jeremiah Johnson, I’m afraid, but my smile seems to reassure skeptics.

The staff here is mostly Indian and all are friendly, offering warm greetings at every encounter. The servers have an interesting method of pouring a bottle of beer that I got to witness with Matt. Davinah, our server, placed a standard glass on the table and then she used the mouth of the beer bottle to tip the glass a few degrees and simultaneously pour the beer down the side of the glass. She’s got it down to knowing how far to tip it so that it doesn’t topple over and how slowly to gingerly right the glass so that the head of the beer is perfect once the bottle is empty and the glass is full. I’ve never seen that done. It’s fun. If you’re interested, I’ll attempt to show you how it works but, please, let’s do it at your house and not mine in case I am not as skilled at the procedure as is Davinah.

The atmosphere here is one virtually devoid of Americans. There are French, British, Indian, Spanish, South African and many others. A multitude of religions easily mix. Sikhs, Hindus and Muslims can be identified by their appearance. Christians and Jews are not so easily identified. But nobody seems to care. The French smile less than everyone else, it seems.

Dining is al fresco. The weather is superb but the staff says it is too hot. I respectfully disagree. It is in the eighties. The humidity is not high. The ocean is beautiful and the grounds are well kept. The sunset promised to be spectacular but a low cloud on the horizon spoiled that at the last minute. From my balcony, I watched ten or twelve photographers anticipate award winning shots only to be foiled at the last moment.

Le Meridien on Mauritius is a fine place. Perfect for honeymooners. Good for families. For me? I may have been the only solo traveler in the place.

I have been asked by a couple of blog readers to include a photo or two of me. I have a tripod and a timer on my Nikon so, for this installment, witness me as a subject in a couple of the photos.

Tomorrow: my final day on "holiday."

Posted by paulej4 14:07 Archived in Mauritius Comments (0)

14. The Airport Grand to Mauritius Le Meridien

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Mauritius, Mauritius
Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Today was mostly occupied by travel. I've seen neither hippo nor elephant. But I have been well entertained, nonetheless. I hope my ramblings will be not boring for you to read. For me, they were fun to write. But, they were even more fun to experience. In this world, fun is where you find it.

Last night at the Airport Grand Hotel in Johannesburg, I worried that all my clean shirts were extraordinarily wrinkled from a very tightly packed suitcase. So, I called reception to request an iron and ironing board. One was promptly delivered to my room. I could locate, however, no electric outlet in the room into which the plug on the iron could be inserted as it was larger and of a different configuration that the plugs for the lamps, coffee “boiler” and television. I called reception and they promised to send someone right up. After a five minute search, the person who came right up called someone else and learned that there was an outlet into which the iron could be plugged in but access to it required moving the large desk/mini bar housing/chest-of-drawers/television stand away from the wall. Enlisting my aid, the two of us did that and I ironed a shirt.

I called reception to inquire if they would like to retrieve the iron and ironing board or if I should place both of them in the hallway. I was asked to simply keep them in the room and housekeeping would fetch them in the morning. Housekeeping did that; promptly at 6:00am.

No matter. The hotel is in the flight path of the Johannesburg International Airport and as soon as it opens in the morning, when the winds dictate use of the appropriate runway, the jets fly immediately over the hotel at an altitude of approximately ten feet. One tends to be rattled out of bed at an early hour. Everyone here is extremely friendly.

In South Africa and environs, dump trucks are referred to as “tippers” and traffic signals at intersections, commonly known as “stop lights” at home, are referred to here as “robots.

At the Air France lounge at the Johannesburg airport, being early for my flight to Mauritius, I asked the reception desk person to please assist me in reconfirming my onward flight from Mauritius to Paris which I was to fly two days in the future. Both verbally and in writing by The World’s Greatest Travel Agent, the earlier mentioned Ms. Sudeikis, and my tour operator, Thompson’s, I have been drilled on the necessity of reconfirming flights 72 hours in advance. This seemed like an opportune time for that exercise because I was at the Air France lounge, having been sent there by Air Mauritius, and because my flight from Mauritius to Paris is to be on Air France. Viola! Magnifique!

The reception staff said they could not help me. But, they said, they would connect me to Air France on their telephone. They did. The kind man to whom I spoke asked for my six digit confirmation number and quickly found my reservation and asked for my e-ticket number. I told him that, for the flight in question, I had a paper ticket. That, he said, would be a problem because, without an e-ticket number, he would be unable to reconfirm the flight. "I have a paper ticket number," I told him. He allowed as how that might possibly work and that he would write it down so he could check with someone later and that I should consider my flight to be reconfirmed and that everything was now in order. I am now resting easy.

The announcement, on 23 November, 2010, aboard Air Mauritius flight number 0852 from Johannesburg, South Africa to the island of Mauritius: “Ladies and Gentlemen, I would like to apologize for all of you. The film you cannot watch because the cassette has become faulty.”

Those who arrived on time for that flight will never know of this because the flight departed a half hour early because of a possible impending storm. Our business class cabin—quite nice as this is an Airbus A340-300—seats 34 but there are only 13 of us. The economy cabin seats 264 and, it too, is only about one third full. I had been told that it was a full flight.

The video monitors in the airport announced that the flight was BOARDING. At the gate, however, they assured me that it was not, as yet, boarding. They were, I was told, testing the video monitors.

And now for a QuikQuiz: The name of the airport on Mauritius is:
A: Mauritius Port-Louis International Airport
B: Swami Vivekananda International Airport
C: Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam International Airport
D: Paathshaaia International Airport

If you answered A that is incorrect as it would be too easy.

If you answered D that, too, is incorrect because Paathshaaia is the name of the inflight movie that you cannot see because the cassette is broken.

If you answered C that, sorry to say, is also incorrect because Swami Vivekananda is the name of the International Convention Centre in Port-Louis, Mauritius, and not the Airport and you can see how easy a mistake to make that would be.

The correct answer, one and only, is C: Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam International Airport! Congratulations if you got that right. I shall endeavour to learn the history of Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam while I am on the island and offer up an explanation of his identity in a later post.

And now, another QuikQuiz: Which of these is NOT a full-page advertisement in the Air Mauritius inflight magazine, The Islander:
A: Hair Grafting Centre in Mauritius
B: Dr. Agarwal’s Eye Hospital
C: dentCare
D: Apollo Bramwell Hospital

If you answered C, you are correct as dentCare only sprung for a quarter of a page. Ah, a trick question.

The following is a quote from the “Once Upon A Time” column in the The Islander. “1810 is one of the most significant years in Mauritius’ history. Although the French victory in the Battle of Vieux Grand Port was something of a military exploit, it turned out to be insignificant in the long run.” The meaning of this, apparent to the writer, eludes me.

Another QuikQuiz: Which of these is or are, according to safety instructions, either in video and printed form, not allowed:
A: Smoking, including smoking of Puffway Electronic Cigarettes
B: Sleeping on the floor
C: Making any claim against the airline if the suggested RelaxFlight
methods shown in the safety video fail to prevent the occurrence of
deep vein thrombosis as Air Mauritius shall not be liable in any way.
D: All of the above.

If you answered D: All of the above, you must have flown Air Mauritius before and heard or seen these various announcements. If you simply guessed correctly, please accept my congratulations. In all my time of flying, I have never before encountered the prohibition, clearly acted out in the safety video, against sleeping on the floor.

The first officer just walked past my row, heading from the cockpit to
somewhere aft. He appears to be in his late teens or early twenties. He
has quickly returned to the cockpit. I do not know whether or not I am

In The Islander, it is also noted that, while in flight, “you should avoid sodas and alcoholic drinks.” And, “As a general rule, beef / veal / pork, and all products derived from these, will not be supplied on our flights. Alcohol will not be used in the cooking methods / products.”

Available on today’s flight in business class are three main courses: fish, chicken and ostrich. Also available are “Tropical Punch made from sugar cane rum, Aperitifs, Spirts, Beer and Soft Drinks, and Cognac & Liqueurs.” Also, “Passengers are not allowed to consume their own liquor.”

After the fine meal service aboard our flight, and after noting the selection of wines including Brio De Cantenac Brown Margaux 2002, Santa Duc Les Garancieres Gigondas 2006, Chablis Saint Martin and Duval-Leroy Brut Champagne, each personally selected by David Biraud, Meilleur Sommelier de France 2002 and Meilleur Jeune Sommelier de France 1998, I asked for a cup of coffee. The coffee aboard? Instant Nescafe.

I love to travel internationally. I love to go to new places. I love to go to new places that most people would never dream of going. Who goes to Mauritius or Namibia? Your friend Paul goes there and he collects experiences that enrich his life and that he will recall—usually fondly—until the day he dies. These experiences give him a unique appreciation for life in America, the place where, one Zimbabwean driver asked me, “Is it true that Mrs. Palin will be your next President? She seems to me to be a nut.”

Upon arrival at Mauritius, where, by now, the sun has set and it is pitch dark, I was met by my driver who took me the hour or so across the island to the Le Meridien. The World’s Greatest Travel Agent said I should ask if an upgrade was available. So, I did. The room is nice but I can't tell about the view just yet.7bf340c0-3014-11ea-b691-c301e4bd3b9d.jpg7bc3cc50-3014-11ea-b691-c301e4bd3b9d.jpg7b2dcde0-3014-11ea-a024-f1276fa42fbe.jpg6e49a220-3014-11ea-a024-f1276fa42fbe.jpg

Posted by paulej4 14:07 Archived in Mauritius Comments (0)

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