Marvellous Mauritius

Mauritius is a lovely island in the middle of the Indian Ocean. It is beautiful and its culturally diverse population makes it a fantastic travel destination. The island offers beautiful scenery, spectacular beaches, interesting cultural sights, wildlife and natural parks and an absolutely delicious cuisine. Its people are very friendly and welcoming and it’s very safe to explore the island. Besides being enchanting, Mauritius has a special place in my heart as I got married on this beautiful and romantic island. It was indeed a perfect wedding destination.

The Pearl of Africa

Mauritius is a tiny island nation in the middle of the Indian Ocean. The country belongs to Africa. However, its main island lies 2,000 miles away from the south-east coast of the continent, as part of the Mascarene Islands.

Mauritius is the main island of the country, which also encompasses the islands of Rodrigues and Agaléga, as well as the archipelago of Saint Brandon. I had the good fortune to explore the principal island as well as Rodrigues, which lies 560 kilometres (350 miles) east of Mauritius. (Nonetheless, I did not visit the two smaller dependencies, Agaléga and Saint Brandon. Both of these are very far from the main island: 1,000 kilometres (620 miles) and 430 kilometres (267 miles), respectively. They are tiny and barely inhabited, so I guess there is very little to see there anyway!)

Adrienne Hunt, Pinterest

Island with History

The islands known as Mauritius & Rodrigues today were first discovered by Arab merchant sailors during the Middle Ages. At the time of its discovery, the islands were uninhabited and unknown to the world. The Arab sailors had the privilege of naming these beautiful pieces of land in the middle of the ocean. They chose to call the two islands Dina Arobi and Dina Mozare.

At the beginning of the 1500s, Portuguese sailors were aware of the existence of the islands discovered by the Arabs and launched their own expedition, renaming the island to “Ihla Do Cirne”, i.e. “Swan Island”. Later, at the end of the century, Dutch explorers visited the island and renamed it to “Mauritius” after the Dutch Prince, Maurits van Nassau. The Dutch then claimed ownership over the island, establishing the farming of sugar cane and domestic animals; and logging of ebony trees. However, after just 100 years, the governor and settlers were forced to leave the island after a cyclone had devastated it. Later, the French, who were at that time present in nearby territories that they called Bourbon Island (currently Reunion) and Madagascar, decided to seize Mauritius, renaming it to “Isle de France”.

Under French ownership, colonisation took place at an accelerated pace. The French developed the island, established a significant naval base on it and built the capital city of Port Louis. Thanks to the location of the island being along the Spice Route, the French East India Company established its capital here and was authorised to administer the island. As the island became a significant commercial hub, slaves from Madagascar and Mozambique were brought to the land. Following a peak economic period commercial activity declined, a new governor was appointed.  He launched various projects to revitalise the island. By the late 1700s trade was liberalised with India and the island’s port became busy again.

In 1810 ,the British took over the island and returned to its Dutch name “Mauritius”. Nonetheless, the French settlers were allowed to stay. The French legal system, language, traditions and religious practices remained in place, despite English rule. The English abolished slavery in 1835. The abolishment prompted indentured labourers from India to appear on the island, changing its ethnic profile forever. In the subsequent period, malaria epidemics and industrialisation caused the population to move around the island, which resulted in various residential settlements being established, all over the island.

In 1968 the island gained its independence and the Republic of Mauritius was declared. Nonetheless, it continues to be a member of the Commonwealth. Currently the island nation is the only fully democratic nation in Africa, according to The Economist.

Diverse and Friendly Population

There are roughly 1.3 million inhabitants on the main island, while Rodrigues is occupied by less than 40 thousand people. The two tiny territories of Agaléga and Saint Brandon provide a home to less than 300 people altogether. The country is home to various ethnicities, including Indo-Mauritians, Franco-Mauritians, Creoles and Sino-Mauritians and all cultures and religious are equally respected. The population is very diverse. Various languages are used and several religions are widely practiced. The country is a prime example of peaceful and harmonious co-existence. In order to bridge the diversity of languages, most Mauritians speak English and French is widely spoken, too.

Unbeatable Cuisine 

The cuisine of Mauritius is absolutely unique and delicious. It is unique as it is influenced by Creole, Indian, European and Chinese gastronomies. The combination of flavours has produced something very distinct.

French gastronomy has been popular since the era of French rule on the island. Bouillon, civet de lièvre and coq au vin, amongst others, are popular dishes. The island adds some ingredients and spices, which offer some different flavours to traditional French cuisine. At the time of the arrival of Indians, their particular dishes came with them and their flavours were added into the Mauritian cuisine. Flavours and tastes from several Indian culinary traditions appeared, including various curries, chutneys and rougaille. When Chinese migrants appeared on the island, they brought with them south-eastern Chinese recipes, including rice-based dishes and noodles. Hakien and crispy meats were added to the culinary mix of Mauritius.

The different gastronomic traditions were mixed and matched, adjusted and developed, creating the uniquely flavourful Mauritian cuisine. It is a real treat to eat out in Mauritius, so if you have a chance to go, take a chance to explore the country’s culinary traditions. Also, do try a tot of Mauritian rum, which is fairly famous all around the world.

Paula and Fauvel Pelletier Pinterest
Paula and Fauvel Pelletier, Pinterest

Worth Visiting

Depending on how long you stay in Mauritius, it may be worth splitting your holiday in various locations on Mauritius and potentially visiting Rodrigues. For my own experience, I am happy to recommend staying in Flic en Flac, in the west, and around Mahébourg at the south-east of the island. It is a historic town, which was built where the Dutch first landed on the island.

Take a day trip to Port Louis, where you can wander around this compact city and take a look at some of the remaining colonial architecture. You can also pop in to the Blue Penny Museum, where you may take a look at a dodo skeleton, the famous extinct, indigenous bird of the island. You can also see the world’s first colonial stamp in this museum. You will come across churches, temples, mosques. The port area of the city is charming, it is worth spending some time with a walk along the promenade.

Hannes Wimmer, Pinterest

If you are big into nature, the Casela Nature & Leisure Park is for you. This is a sanctuary for rare birds, but you can walk with lions here, too. Mini-safaris are on offer, too. The Black River Gorges National Park is home to macaque monkeys, as well as to the highest point of the island, where you can trek.

For enthusiasts of colonial history, visiting the French colonial mansion, Eureka, is a real adventure. It used to be owned by the biggest sugar cane plantation owner on the island and was equipped with all the luxuries of the era.

Don’t miss the crater lake of Ganga Talao (or Grand Bassin), which is considered sacred by the Hindus of Mauritius. You can find temples here and you may encounter pilgrims walking bare feet to the lake, from their homes.

If you feel like visiting Rodrigues, you need to take a flight from Mauritius. On doing so, you will encounter a very quiet island where African culture is much stronger than in multicultural Mauritius. It is a charming and quiet island, which you may explore within two or three days. You can’t miss Port Mathurin, the capital city.  It is home to roughly 6,000 people. A tropical Roman Catholic Church is a local attraction, so is the viewpoint of Mount Fanal and the Church of Saint Gabriel. You may explore wonderful, secluded beaches and islets here. If you want to be all on your own, it is the place for you!

David Gervel, Pinterest

I loved Mauritius and Rodrigues and I am hoping that destiny may give me the chance to return to this wonderful country with my husband in future. If you go before I return, let me know what you think!

Splendid San Francisco

San Francisco is one of my favorite cities in America. It is not only home to many globally famous landmarks and sights but it is also famous for its tolerance, culture, cuisine and nightlife. It’s a perfect city, really. Read on to learn more about its life and sights. San Francisco’s world famous landmark, the Golden Gate Bridge, has become one of the symbols of America. Rightfully so. It is not only one of the most beautiful bridges in the world, but it is a manifestation of American history in the 20th Century, too. In the 1930s, during the Great Depression, the famous New Deal provided funds for large-scale construction projects all over the country.  This included funding for the Golden Gate Bridge. At that time, the West underwent an enormous development and urbanization, keeping many employed in construction and projects like the Golden Gate Bridge came into existence.

Papaya Park | Papaya Park
Additionally, the Golden Gate Bridge was a major architectural and engineering achievement at the time of its conception and execution. At the time, it was the longest suspension bridge that had ever been built and it remained such up until 1964. The American Society of Civil Engineers declared the bridge as one of the Wonders of the Modern World. The design of the Bridge includes Art Deco elements (i.e. the tower decorations, lights, railings and walkways). Its color is also special. It is painted with a special orange color called International Orange, which became a signature feature of the bridge. The Bridge connects San Francisco to Marin County on the San Francisco Peninsula. I recommend driving to the Vista Point, at the first exit at the Marin County side, as the view over the bridge, the skyline of the city and Alcatraz is magnificent. If it is not too windy, it is a good idea to walk over the bridge, too. After having seen the magnificent views over San Francisco, I would recommend spending a few days in the city, exploring it on foot. It has an exceptionally pleasant architecture. It is worth wandering across its pleasant streets and alleys. However, be prepared to some uphill treks, as the city is really steep. Nevertheless, its hilly location gives the city a unique character. I would recommend visiting Union Square, the main square of the city. It is quite commercial, with high-end shops around the square. Nonetheless, it is a good starting point to set off on your sightseeing tour. As a plus, you may spot your first cable car, a famous feature of San Francisco, at Union Square. Cable cars have run since the 19th Century and still use their traditional bells to make themselves heard from several blocks away. You may even take a ride on one of the three routes that are operational at the present time.

Papaya Park | Papaya Park
It is a good idea to explore China Town, as it is the oldest Chinese area in North America and the largest Chinese quarter outside Asia. This exciting area is centered around Clay Street, reflecting a fantastic fusion of East and West. The architecture mirrors this fusion well, in my view. The European style buildings in the area intermingle with Chinese-style gates, pagoda-style decorative architectural elements and facades. Street signs are also bilingual. If you like Chinese cuisine, it may be a good idea to try one of the restaurants and eateries in this lovely area. Alternatively, it is a good idea to sample some sushi in Japantown, slightly further afield. Visiting Coit Tower is an essential part of your trip to San Francisco. You need to prepare for some climbing, as it is located at the top of Telegraph Hill. It is another landmark with a history and some great views over the city. The Coit Tower, aka Lillian Coit Memorial Tower, was built from the funds left for the beautification of the city by Lillie Hitchcock Coit after her death. The tower was designed in an Art Deco style and was built in concrete. Some claim that the tower was intentionally designed to resemble a fire hose nozzle, due to the late Ms Coit’s connection to the city’s volunteer fire brigade. However, this is a highly disputed claim. Nonetheless, it is a known fact that Ms Coit had been committed to chasing fires since her teenage years. When she was 15, she witnessed a volunteer fire brigade in action on Telegraph Hill. She then threw her textbooks on the ground and jumped into action to help, calling residents and bystanders to help move the engine up the hill. She was then named the mascot of the brigade and became a regular helper to firefighters. She even received a title of “honorary firefighter”.

David Paul Ohmer, Pinterest
The Coit Tower provides an excellent view over San Francisco Bay, including toward the Golden Gate Bridge and the Bay Bridge, as well as the city’s skyline. The tower’s interior is home to several murals. The murals were prepared by artists and students of the California School of Fine Arts in the 1930s, as part of a New Deal federal employment program for artists. The murals reflect Marxist and leftist political ideas, which is a really interesting feature. Fisherman’s Wharf is another area of interest in San Francisco. It is quite touristy, so it is worth visiting it early, before the crowds turn up. Fisherman’s Wharf provides a vantage point toward Angel Island, Alcatraz and the Bay Bridge. Pier 39 is a favored place of sea lions, where they like to hang around, basking in the sun. If you like cute creatures, that’s a place for you. You can also visit the San Francisco Maritime National Historic Park nearby. Here, you can go on board Eureka, a steamboat built in 1890, which was originally used as a ferry between San Francisco and Tiburon. Later, it was used during the world wars to carry ammunition and troops, and then again as passenger ferry. It was retired in 1941 and later underwent a major refurbishment. Now, it is glowing in its original glory, and it is an awesome example of American shipbuilding, the only remaining ferry with a wooden hull. Don’t miss Eureka, as it is a real experience to board this ship. From Fisherman’s Wharf, you can visit to the famous prison, Alcatraz. The prison, aka ‘The Rock’ used to be operational as a military prison in the 1800s and became a high security federal prison from 1933 to 1963. It was one of the most secure prisons in America. Several inmates tried to escape, but no one succeeded. Day and evening tours are available, so if you are interested in the prison and the circumstances under which inmates were kept here, go and see it yourself. Just don’t forget to book your trip well in advance.

Alсatraz island in San Francisco bay, California
Andriy Kravchenko, Pinterest
Lombard Street is a rather famous wiggly street. It has the reputation of being the crookedest street in the world. Whether it is true or not, it is rather bendy. Its famous one-way section is located on Russian Hill, between Hyde and Leavenworth Streets. Here, the street has eight sharp turns. It wasn’t built due to sheer eccentricity, but due to the fact that the hill was too steep for common vehicles. Thus, the eight turns were planned to decrease the hill’s 27% grade and to make it safer for pedestrians to walk downhill.  Be prepared though that the street is rather touristy. To me, it seemed that every visitor to San Francisco must take a photo at the top of the street, with the bends in background. If you visit all the above-mentioned sights on foot, you will have plenty of chance to admire the Victorian and Edwardian architecture of the city. Approximately 48 thousand buildings were constructed between 1849 and 1915 in these architectural styles. Sadly, the earthquake visited upon San Francisco in 1906 destroyed many of them. Also, some of them were demolished or redesigned, losing their original facades. However, from the 1960s onwards, their preservation and decoration in cheerful, bright colors began. By the 1970s the coloring of the houses became a movement, which endures up to the present day. The beautifully painted houses shown in the picture below are a good example of the style.  They are referred to as “Painted Ladies”.  Fortunately, they are preserved in a good condition and look better than they used to. These most photographed of San Francisco abodes can be found at 710-720 Steiner Street. So if you like architecture do go and take a few snaps of these charming buildings. 

original_Painted Ladies-San Francisco-jondoeforty1
San Francisco is famous for its lively cultural scene, too. It is home to various museums and it’s famous for its opera, symphonic orchestra, ballet and dance companies, too. The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Asian Art Museum, the de Young Museum, the Palace of the Legion of Honor, the Exploratorium and many other thematic museums and galleries await the culture-hungry visitor. You might have heard that San Francisco is (one of) the gay capital(s) of the world. Accordingly, the city is famous for its tolerance of gay/lesbian, bisexual and transgender people. The biggest event of the city is connected to this community, the SF Pride. It is a huge celebration! Just book early if you want to participate in this event, as it is the busiest tourist period each summer. The city is famous for its restaurants, too. Here, you can taste any cuisine you fancy. While the city cherishes all the cuisines of the world, it has a strong culture of using fresh and locally grown ingredients. Prepare your palate, ready yourself for some fantastic culinary experiences here and then dive into the famous nightlife of the city. If you are in San Francisco, spend a few more days in the area exploring the San Francisco Bay and a bit beyond, where you can visit a number of lovely wineries and the famous university town, Berkeley, too.

Buzz in Bangkok

Bangkok is one of the most exciting cities in South-East Asia. It is a busy Asian metropolis, which has both a modern and a traditional face. While the city has modern facilities it is also possible to observe a traditional, truly Asian lifestyle here. It is full of buzz, so no wonder that it gets under the skin of the unsuspecting traveler.

Bangkok has many sights that are worth paying a visit to. The Grand Palace is a must see for visitors. It used to be the official residence of the kings of Siam for more than 200 years. Although the current king of Thailand does not reside at the palace, many government offices are still housed here and it is used for official and diplomatic events. The palace is located on the banks of the Chao Phraya River and it consists of several buildings, pavilions and halls, as well as courtyards and gardens. Its architecture and atmosphere are absolutely amazing!



There are more than four hundred temples in and around Bangkok. Out of these, four hundred temples (known as “wat”-s, literally meaning “school”) three deserves special attention: Wat Pra Kaew, Wat Arun and Wat Pho are definitely worth your time when you are in Bangkok.

Wat Pra Kaew is the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, which is the most famous Buddhist temple in Thailand. The Buddha statue, carved into a block of jade, is an impressive sight. So is the gallery, which is covered with murals featuring scenes of the Ramayana, an epic work of literature. Wat Arun is the “Temple of Dawn”, a famous landmark of Bangkok. It is located on the bank of the Chao Phraya River. Wat Arun is built around a central “prang”, a Khmer-style tower, which is flanked by four lower towers. The temple is nicely decorated with various figures and statues. Wat Pho is known as “The Temple of the Reclining Buddha”. It is one of the largest temples in Bangkok and is famous for its giant Buddha statue, covered in gold leaf.

Once you have visited these fantastic landmarks of Thai culture & architecture, it is worth exploring Bangkok’s vibrant art scene, too. The Bangkok Art and Culture Centre is a new facility, devoted to the display of contemporary arts. The centre offers exhibitions, musical and theatrical performances and cultural events. The Thailand Creative & Design Centre features modern Thai design. Exciting interactive exhibitions display Thai history and culture in the Museum of Siam. If you are interested in unusual and quirky things, the Royal Barges National Museum and the Bangkok Doll Factory & Museum may be a place for you. In the former, the fleet of royal boats can be observed, while the latter features 400 dolls from around the world, as well as handmade dolls, inspired by Thai mythology and history. If you are fan of handcrafts, you may watch dolls being skillfully made on the spot.

Thai markets are fun to visit, too. They are so lively and vibrant, it is easy to soak in their fantastic atmosphere. The Chatuchak Weekend Market, also known as JJ, is an institution in Bangkok, where you can buy absolutely everything! They sell clothes and garments, antiques, souvenirs, books, plants, pets and food, too.  The floating markets are very special, too. The Amphawa Floating Market, which is roughly 90 kms away from Bangkok, offers insights into the traditional, local way of life. It is not too touristy compared to other floating markets in and around Bangkok (e.g. Damnoen Saduak), but offers fantastic insight into how market traders offer their fresh vegetables, fruits and even local food cooked in the floating kitchens or on the boats. It is a great experience, and is definitely worth taking the time to visit one of these exceptional markets and taste the local food made in this special way.


Papaya Park

Thai food is delicious; so don’t hesitate to taste some of the famous triumphs of Thai cuisine. The cuisine often uses meat but one can find vegetarian options or you may ask to substitute meat with tofu. Pad Thai (with tofu, instead of chicken) is an amazing dish, which is made all over Thailand in slightly different variations. Rice and vegetable curries, stir-fry vegetables and soups are on offer to please vegetarians and vegans. Those who eat meat have a wide range of exciting and exotic options when it comes to a good Thai lunch or dinner.

Bangkok is famous for its nightlife, too. It is a good idea to visit one of the rooftop bars, which offer amazing views over the city skyline. Dinner cruises, ladyboy cabaret shows, jazz bars and pubs all await you to show another, unique face of Bangkok.

Bangkok is also a great place to try the famous Thai massage (which may be somewhat of a painful experience) or one of the more gentle oily massages. You may visit a Thai kickboxing match or enroll for a day at a Thai cookery course. Whatever you prefer, this city and its people won’t let you down. The city is ideally located and very well connected for exploring the charming cities and islands of Thailand, or the treasures of the wider South-East Asia.