Happy GDPR Day! Rather than opting in to stay in touch with those now desperate websites I did business with two years ago, I'm opting for finally getting around to blogging about our 10 day trip to Mauritius over Easter Break.
I totally feel you. I had to google "Where is Mauritius?" too.
Mauritius is an island African country in the middle of the Indian Ocean. Getting there from London is not for the faint of heart, although if you have 18 hours of air travel ahead of you with a mid way stop in Dubai -- Emirates is the airline to do it with. Best airline for a movie hangover. Getting there from the USA is ... well, google it. This may explain why of the 1.3M visitors to Mauritius in 2016, only 10k or less than 1% were from the USA.
We spent the first three days at a resort called the Zilwa Attitude Hotel. It was nice as resorts go but truthfully we aren't good resort people. That was confirmed at check in when they insisted we wait 20 minutes for the golf cart to take us to our rooms because it was "too far to walk" when what we really wanted after a 24 hour travel day was to make a run for the shower. We did rent a car and so were able to leave the compound for a couple of local dinners to call attention to the fact that pasta bolognese isn't exactly a local speciality. I completely appreciate that some people like and want the convenience of an all-inclusive resort and that it can be a lifesaver for weary parents who need a vacation from the little people they are vacationing with.
The second place we stayed however, a partially serviced villa called Villa L'ilot with a Saturday to Saturday rental, was 100% our speed. So much so that we chucked the list of things we wanted to see in Mauritius and decided to simply relax. Mauritius, like so many island cultures, quietly insists (and then reinforces with only two motorways) that you put down your to-do list and kick back.
A few thoughts from our week exploring our own treasure island on Mauritius where reef shoes (and my husband's occasional running shoes) were the only footwear.
Note: In writing this blog, I discovered I lost all my photos (!!) from our trip save for the two above that I posted to Instagram while we were there. While I'm incredibly frustrated by my own technical mistake, I need to let it go and hopefully try to paint a word picture of the trip that doesn't depend on photos. Besides, 200 photos of a family relaxing is only so interesting.
Trading Fumes for Fresh Air
Escaping London or any other big urban area's air pollution isn't necessarily a reason to go to Mauritius (unless you're like my 15 year old son who has oversized anxiety about London pollution) but it certainly is a boast to your mood and immune system. The average American is reported to spend 93% of their lives indoors where indoor air quality can be even worse. A week on an island is sure to turn that metric on it's head when the outdoor space looks like this. There's no better way to shed stress (something my husband needed) and improve your sleep (something I needed) when every window in in the house is inviting you to come out and mingle with the natural world.
The Many Places of Refuge
If you need a reminder about the nature of life's hurricanes, hang out on a small island in the middle of the Indian Ocean that is constantly vulnerable to weather and the elements. The sun is blazing hot, intense rain storms that don't last long regularly pass through and many mosquitoes (though not the malaria carrying kind) call Mauritius home. The inherent caution with the beauty of the natural world is - like the journey of life - we are flimsy in it without places of protection. At Villa L'ilot, we spent the week canvassing all the spots we could find shade from the sun, or a cool breeze from the mosquitoes, or a comfy dry place to sit and watch the rain roll through. So plentiful were the carefully constructed places of refuge that no external element forced us to retreat back inside. And our view never got obstructed.
Where Stillness Meets With Noisy Exuberance
When you first arrive at Villa L'ilot, it's the stillness that strikes you. There's no road noise or human voices you don't recognise. That is until your ears quickly acclimate to another frequency. There's actually a lot of sound going on when you tune in to nature's applause. There are the waves crashing on the rocks, the steady beat of the water gently lapping on the shore, the birds chirping in constant conversation and a 30 minute choral performance by more birds than you can count every evening before sunset. So unchanging and joyful is nature's soundtrack that it makes you want to remember how to listen for the sounds of holiday in the day to day noise.
Catch of the Day
I'm not saying I want to go back to the days when people foraged for their own food but watching the local fisherman out on the rocks every morning and then having them wade through the water to sell you their catch of the day for dinner is kinda awesome. The boys got to know one of the local fisherman named Paul and we bought a carangue (rainbow runner) two of the days to grill up for dinner. Another day we got a moped delivery of some fresh langoustines that had been caught within the hour. Ocean to table, baby.
The Hunt for Thyme
Villas in Mauritius often come with some staff. Our villa was staffed part of the day (9am-3pm) with two wonderful woman - one woman Melini who cooked our lunches and another woman Latta who cleaned. We weren't sure if we were going to like the concept of having help around but their quiet presence, along with easing any stress of responsibility, was so delightful. They have worked at this particular villa for almost 10 years. We got to know Melini especially who was a fabulous cook and introduced us to Mauritian cooking and street food. One of the funny moments of the week was the afternoon Brett and I spent on what could only be called "The Hunt for Thyme."
Early in our week, Melini came with us to the local grocery store and markets to educate us and help us buy food for the week. Towards the end of the week she had run out of fresh thyme (a common herb in Mauritian cuisine) and asked us to go get some for a dish she was preparing. Having seen it in abundance on arrival, we were up for the task. What we didn't know that getting thyme the day before a religious holiday weekend was going to take time (3 towns and 10th stop is a charm!) and would illuminate the kindness of the Mauritian people. The thyme finally came -- at no charge - when one of the farmers at a market stand asked us how much we needed and then said "wait here." Without further explanation, he sped off on his moped, returning 5 minutes later with a small bunch of thyme he had collected from his home garden. Thyme never tasted as good as it did in Melini's prawn eggplant curry that afternoon.
Of all the many pleasures of staying at Villa L'ilot, it was observing the constant presence and action of the water that was so special. The warm, clear ocean invited us to swim, to wade, to look for fish, to kayak, and to watch the tides come in and out. It was like having you own private, giant swimming pool except one that drained on its own every night to reveal hundreds of treasures -- too many starfish to count! -- you didn't know had been underfoot all day. What's hidden becomes clear ... on repeat.
The Band of Angels
Islands give you permission to gorge on reading. The first book I finished in Mauritius was Rabbit: The Autobiography of Ms. Pat by Patricia Williams and Jeannine Amber. It seemed an odd choice to be reading the autobiography of a woman who grew up in the hood while I was comfortably reclining in paradise. Except Ms. Pat's story was a tough, funny and beautiful reminder that hope and bands of angels operate all over the world: "I realize the answer [to how I turned my life around] is really pretty simple. I wanted to turn my life around and what got me there was love."
So whether you make it to Mauritius or your own treasured island one day or not, your Band of Angels will follow wherever you go. And if the tide is too high for you to see it now, I can encourage you -- based on what I saw on repeat - that when the tide goes out -- you may discover more treasure and fortified rock than you knew was there. It just may not include lost digital photos.