Rodrigues Island … Part II

BlogRod_BordDeMer_2011

Rodrigues is a volcanic island rising from a ridge along the edge of the Mascarene Plateau. It is about 18 kilometres long and 6.5 kilometres wide with an area of 108 km2.A large fringing reef surrounds the island forming a lagoon within which lie eighteen small islets.

The coral reef of Rodrigues is of particular interest as it is self-seeding – it receives no coral zooplankton from elsewhere. This has led to an overall species-poor but highly adapted ecosystem. The isolation and location of the island give a micro climate specific to Rodrigues, with two seasons. Rodrigues enjoys a mild tropical maritime climate with persistent trade winds blowing throughout the year.

ile-rodrigues-plongee.jpg

Getting There

By Plane

Air Mauritius operates daily flights connecting Plaisance Airport and Rodrigues (flight time – 1 hour 15 minutes).

By Boat

Coraline sails once a week to Rodrigues Island and to Reunion island from Port Louis Harbour.

The beaches are beyond beautiful too. The local dialect is Rodriguan Creole, with French and English as second languages, and the food is a sort of creole too – curries and chutneys and rice, local sausage and fish dishes all served with the ubiquitous green chilli paste called mazavaroo.

Rodrigues island is very peaceful and has never had any political, social or ethnic upheaval. In fact, the place if one of the quietest inhabited island I have ever visited. Time seem to have taken a halt and ‘haste’ is a word most Rodrigues inhabitants are very upset about. They believe and preach a zen way of life in its true sense without knowing the word itself. Public transport is more of a casual lift by a passing car, so most people walk to the few small villages strew across the island. The locals are very honest in a naive sense as living in such a secluded piece of rock in the middle of nowhere. The British Royal family, especially the younger princes are regular visitors to the island.

As a Mauritian, I am washed by the hotels, beaches, outdoor sights, culture and food of the island, but my sight of Rodrigues was ‘Wow!’ … I fell in love head over heels. I thought Mauritius was paradise, but Rodrigues is paradise next to paradise. Tranquil, unstressed, friendly, welcoming…  and easy to get lost!  Rodrigues Island is a lovely, surprising stop-over on any journey from or to Mauritius. If I describe it, you might say but that sounds like the Seychelles … nope! it is eons better than the sticky humid crazily developed, shark infested lagoons of the Seychelles. Steep green sides reach down to tiny beaches; these and a few small uninhabited islands are completely protected by a broad reef around the island: the scenery is beautiful, rustic,peaceful. With this island geography, the Creole islanders (of mixed African and French descent) have a difficult task feeding their population of 36000, but wherever they can the locals manage small market gardens, All organic, as buying and flying fertilisers is costly from Mauritius. People live simply in a sustainable way.

Don’t miss it, visit it !

116621-ile-rodrigues-boutique-d-artisanat

Where is Rodrigues Island?… Part I

5d3a7cc679ed2ae69b92e4715c2d2b90

One of the most remote of the Mascarene Islands, some 350 miles beyond Mauritius, is Africa’s most easterly point. A tiny nut shaped gem sat in pristine emerald and turquoise sea, Rodrigues is often quoted as being the Cinderella of Mauritius. The island is a well hidden gem and only royalty tread the green grass and white sandy beaches there …. if not for the local goats and fisherman. A 3hr flight from Mauritius reaches you there on board of an Air Mauritius ATR plane, the only having access to the island!

07e02ab10cf5cfb117af00d6b092a2fe a620e61848c765a9f306335feb313cfc

True to any island in the Mascarenes, as you now are accustomed to Mauritius by now, you can expect spectacular clear shallow lagoons, blaring sun which shines really bright in a non polluted sky. As you land on the tiny airport and pass the Customs counter with a greeting, you are just on your own. Quietness is all you can hear here. The island is barely populated, and high buildings are not to be seen. Only a wide azure sky, and lush tropical green and all the hues of turquoise you can fathom.

Anse aux Anglais is one of the island’s livelier locations. Yet, as sleeping dogs lie in the shade, chickens peck speculatively in the dust and pretty girls at the thresholds of their open, airy homes ‘ case creoles’ with that air of a Sunday afternoon. At the beach, a few fragile fishing boats with a single sail, languidly drift across the lagoon. While on the sand you see lines of splayed out freshly fished octopuses drying out in the sun. A big local delicacy ‘ ourite sec,’ dry octopus, is exported to Mauritius, where the islanders relish this leathery dry creature resuscitating its plump tenderness by boiling it and turning it into delicious salads, stews, ‘vindayes’ and curries.

744786d5fb9369c8d8011fa16d1043d0

Small B&Bs and lodges welcome travellers who venture out to see this tiny forgotten island in the Indian Ocean. In the warm evening air, condensation glistened reassuringly on bottles of cold Phoenix beer are the most welcomed as their caps are magically levered off for a sip of the beverage while watching the sun go down in its fiery orange down the immuable horizon of the lagoon.

This is ‘that moment’ when you feel you are alive!

Just while dinner is cooking on the simple stove, evokes the promise of a good hearty Rodriguan meal : octopus stew, black lentils and rice. Lights flickers then dims in the distance, fans wind lazily to a halt and for a moment, silence becomes deafening. Electricity cut. Unfazed, the host quickly lights up a white hurricane (here, cyclone) white candle. And all gets back to normal. Then, the lights come on. Marie-Louise extinguishes the candles as fat raindrops start to land on the corrugated iron roof making a rhythmic sound.  You are safe and sound, and about to eat the most delicious meal cooked in the most honest way with the freshest produce you can think of, and you will watch a trillion of stars before going to sleep tonight.

Welcome to Rodrigues! Check out my paintings on Rodrigues here

Vegan tray bake Brownies … yummilicious!

3f573ff8-de75-4d37-ac6d-0f0004def044

Vegan brownies anyone?!
Baked a tray full … gluten free, sugarless, with bananas, cranberries, almonds, and orange peels… wicked and yummy 😋

Soft, gooey, and completely vegan friendly, these chocolate brownies have no egg, sugar or dairy but are still as tasty as ever. This brownie recipe includes instructions on how to make a prune mixture, but for a little shortcut you can use pureed prune baby food instead. Why? It stops the brownies getting too dry – trust us on this one.

  • Recipe serves: 16
  • Prep Time 25 mins
  • Cook Time 30 mins

Ingredients

  • 75 g dried pitted dates
  • 75 g veg oil
  • 150 g xylitol sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla essence
  • 175 g almond meal
  • 25 g cocoa powder
  • 1 level teaspoon baking powder
  • 100 ml soya milk
  • 50 g dark chocolate, roughly chopped

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 180° C, 160° C fan, Gas mark 4.
  2. Place dates in a heatproof bowl, pour over 5 tablespoons of boiling water and leave to stand for 15-20 minutes.
  3. Liquidize the mixture using a hand blender until smooth and pour into a large mixing bowl.
  4. Sieve the flour into a bowl, then add the remaining ingredients, except the chocolate, and mix well together.
  5. Stir through half of the chocolate then spoon the mixture into a greased and lined 20cm square tin.
  6. Sprinkle the remaining chopped chocolate over the top and bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes until well risen.
  7. Check to see if your cake is cooked by inserting a skewer into the centre of each half.
  8. If it comes out clean, leave the cakes in the tins for 5 minutes before turning out and cooling on a wire rack. Cut into 16 squares.
Image may contain: dessert and food

Lotus blooms in Tay Ho, Hanoi

This pic I borrowed from a friend’s post reminds me so much of the early sunrises on balmy mornings in TayHo, Hanoi by the lake round our house …. such memories when lilies burst themselves open in Summer

Image may contain: plant, flower, nature and outdoor

Timor Leste,of beaches and sunsets

East Timor, or Timor Leste. Most visitors never see beyond the area’s few popular beaches, but this province spreads across ancient rainforests and unruffled shores. I take a walk. The clouds, the sea, the sand all shimmer in the same slate gray. Children graze the water, chest-deep in waves. Dinner is nigh.

aN3RlRMwo_840w_v1.jpg

I love the hour when sunlight turns to butter cream. Sometimes the setting surpasses the menu—eight modest tables in the sand, a mild breeze, flickering candles, and flapping palms. It’s one of those tropical nights when the temperature of skin and air harmonize as though two notes to a consonant song. We order a whole red snapper with a bed of crispy fried garlic chips and a tomato salsa. Choose your Snapper, Parrot fish or other catch of the day from the old battered freezer who breathed its last, so the fishes sit on a bed of ice. Your order done, catch a beer and wait for your fish being grilled with garlic, butter and salt over a beachside flame. It is among the simplest of fish, but it is hard to imagine anything better. Dinner is the same everyday when you eat out. Weekends are spent looking at the changing skies and the tide pulling out from the small bay in Dili.

Nothing extraordinary, but everything lovely.

It is low tide. Some women still look for crabs and other edible sea creatures along the exposed reef, but with the setting sun, they also disappear.

431992_10151142869485926_1316908381_n.jpg

BigFishRS.jpg  Laos1.jpg

Extraordinary scenes lie up the road several miles ahead, past rubber trees and oil palms, in a smattering of village cafés with recipes revolving in local simple fare made to feed lunch and dinner . No signs, just a shack with plastic chairs and collapsible tables. No menu, just a finger point and a nod to the vendors. The women behind these tables wear simple knit Tais sarongs denoting their clan as per the row of Ikat woven patterns and colours.

Meninas de Timor.jpg

Wander a beach at sunset, and you’ll hear the children frail voices matching their moves into a karate jump. Militia is all they have seen since they left their mother’s breast. Walk the streets, and you’ll meet more goats than dogs. Cultural roots tend toward Indonesia, and kitchen habits hail from what is available in the daily forage.

download (1).jpeg  images (2).jpeg

Why is there no cultivation in Dili?. A driver from UNICEF once told me during one of my initial travels to the inner highlands , a certain saying about farmers throughout the region: some of them plant the rice, others watch it grow, and some simply listen to it grow. It’s meant to be a commentary on stereotypes, ethnic relations and workmanship.

We ate a feast of bananas, bread and unsalted butter, drank coconut juice, indulged in palm fruit, then took a walk among the umbrella palms. The tree gives fruit and juice for sustenance (and alcohol for celebration), leaves for thatching and basketry and sturdy wood for furniture. Jorge, our translator, stops the car, he hails a guy in Tetum. The latter complies instantly and transforms into a langur with agile moves, he reaches the cluster of leaves at the top. He starts dropping the nuts, Jorge brings me some and shows me how to open one. Slice open the hard softball-sized shell and inside you will find three peanut-shaped segments filled with gelatinous flesh sitting in puddles of light, sugary syrup.I love the fruit. I love its consistency and its unusual shape.

Palm-Fruit.jpg  fo13.jpgplam-tree.jpg

All around us were radiant fields of rice, fed by recent rains. Coffee vegations make a nice canopy everywhere are we climbed higher on tortuous roads. From there, the road climbs up and winds its way to Baucau, the second largest city in Timor-Leste, passing some simple thatched houses, sometimes surrounded with beautiful multicolored bougainvilleas. Plenty bundles of wood are for sale along the road – as if there wasn’t already enough logging done. But everybody tries to earn some money to survive somehow. When we reach Baucau, lying on an altitude of 1’000 ft., it is pouring. Reaching our destination in the middle of the night. Silence and darkness greeted us.We listened. Not a lot moved in the thick, still air.  Plenty of frogs croaked from the soupy glug in which all that rice grows. We found a house with a voice, as Jorge, thanks to his excellent sense for orientation, finds it in the darkness. It was going to be our night B&B. Our guesthouse is very basic though: A tiny room with two bunk beds, a wall that doesn’t go right up to the ceiling, a shared washroom where there is not enough water in the balay, a water reserve like a mini tub in concrete, promising a good wash with the plastic tumbler … mosquitoes buzz excitedly at the new meal they have for the night. Nevertheless, we are happy to have a roof over our heads and that our LandCruiser is safely parked in the compound.Breakfast is another story, it will unfold itself with light.

fo04.jpg

fo06.jpg

For 24 years, the Timorese people lived under a brutal occupation, which led to the deaths of some 200,000 people—a third of the population back then. In the early years, Indonesian forces bombed the interior of the island from land, sea and air. Thousands of civilians fled their villages to the mountains, where they camped in caves.

For years, Edwina and her family, like many, ate whatever they could find: wild beans, dried potatoes, roots and tubers. Indonesians shot thousands of Timorese. Many more died of starvation and thirst. Small graveyards are scattered across the mountain today—red crosses mark those who died fighting; white crosses denote many more who died of disease and hunger. “Sometimes seven, eight people in one family died,” Edwina told me. Sometimes children and parents died on the same day. There wasn’t time or means to bury them all.

These are the memories that shaped Edwina’s childhood, and these are the memories she still carries today. Indonesian-backed militias retaliated in a rampage of rapes, massacres and fires that destroyed much of the country. The UN intervened, and Timor-Leste became fully independent in 2002.

Surviving the past has given Edwina an unbridled will to live in peace. And that will for peace may well be the final triumph over terror.

fo12.jpg

086-P1120193.jpg

056-P1120401.jpg

Once a busy beach of Areis Branca on Sundays by UN missions staff, now it lays empty. The SUVs bring backpackers tourists instead. A cheap destination for a beautiful country.

43969617.jpg

096-P1120285.jpg

Rougaille, Mauritian Provencal Tomato stew

Harvest-3-01.jpg

Mauritius, where I grew up, spells stretches of beautiful beaches in the Indian Ocean. But what you probably do not know is that the islander’s staple foods  run into two : rice, and rougaille, a delicious tomato stew in Provencal herbs and garlic. It is the base for many sauces, carrying meat, sausage, salted fish, paneer, octopus, peas, crabs and even ‘gateaux piments’ … you name it, rougaille is game !

92950915 So, tomatoes hold high estime to me and my basket never runs empty of them. Seasonal tomatoes, and recent Vintage varieties turns me into a compulsive buyer when they peak at the local green grocer. Chillies is part of the rougaille, the hotter the better.

Harvest-3-02.jpg

Harvest-2-01.jpg

Harvest-2-02.jpg

Harvest-1-04.jpg

d7d0512e-ba9e-4c98-a814-38c0c982b836-2060x1236.jpeg

This is a typical ‘Mauritian Creole’ sauce using plum tomatoes, garlic, thyme and chilli, completely compliments the delicate flavours of the prawns.
Recipe: 1 medium white onion finely chopped
1 red birds eye chilli finely chopped
2cm of peeled and grated ginger
2 cloves of garlic peeled and grated
4 sprigs of fresh thyme
1 400g tin of plum tomatoes, the best quality you can afford
200g of king prawns de shelled and de-veined

Method

In a big frying pan, heat some vegetable oil on a medium heat. Add the white onions and cook until you get a slight colour on them, add the ginger, garlic, chilli and thyme and cook and stir for approximately 3-4 minutes, then finally add the chopped coriander stalk. Add the tin of plum tomatoes including the juice and cook down for around 10 – 15 minutes until the tomatoes are cooked all the way through. At this point season with salt.. Add the king prawns and let them rest on top of the rougaille, do not stir, cook for approximately 1 minutes, turn the heat off and let it steam for about 5 minutes in the pan. This prevents the prawns from over-cooking and drying out. Serve with hot steam rice and a broth of greens

cornedbeef.jpg

 

Fresh Watermelon Salad

Watermelon_Salad_001-682x1024.jpg

download.jpeg  images.jpeg

Watermelon salad

It is so refreshing! The watermelon has such a beautiful sweetness to it, the pilipili (scotch bonnet) give it some heat, the feta cheese adds the necessary creaminess, and the cilantro adds the special flavour.

Totally addictive! I promise.

The recipe is super easy:

1/8 of a watermelon
1/2 of a green apple
1/2 of a cucumber
1/2 of a pilipili (depending on how hot you like it!)
juice of 1 lime
1/2 block of feta cheese
a few cilantro leaves

Chop up the watermelon, apple and cucumber into bite size cubes. Cut the jalapeno into tiny pieces. Drizzle the lemon juice on top of everything. Finish up with the minced cilantro. Eat all by yourself.

642x361-The_5_Best_Watermelon_Seed_Benefits.jpg

Easter Gift wrapping and IKEA

zazzle_giftwrap_1.jpg

I Love all things paper and textile.

When I studied Packaging as one component in my BFA course, a new world unfolded to me. Years later, I still get attracted to pretty wrapping papers, and I do admit I like IKEA’s designs. Never short of pulling a couple as I pass by the aisle on a shopping tour. If time permits, I do like making my own when having to do a gift for a friend. I prefer natural colours with black and white drawings supported by a complimentary colour like yellow, red, electric blue or baby pink.

The possibilies  are enormous if you want to unleash your creative side matching and wrapping, and of course some of the products like the boxes, tapes and giftwrap. I’ve cut and pasted my favorite products below for you to see. Spring looks good for these pressies to be made!

9064696351_6e1299d31d_c.jpg

9064696837_1e4f604929_z.jpg

9064697391_d7e556e000_c

9064697415_4f2eb6e9c7_z.jpg

9067099986_ff770f2090_b.jpg

9066925118_1f38e8aaaf_z.jpg

9066925040_ed8c783609_z.jpg

9064697753_3ece95f972_c

zazzle_giftwrap_7.jpg

zazzle_giftwrap_8

zazzle_giftwrap_12.jpg

 

 

For a Pretty Pink Easter!

fantas-tisch-march-8

How will you spend your Easter holidays, dear readers? I’m afraid I will be away from home working – I had some Easter spirit already when decorating

It makes us feel excited because when Easter comes we know that SPRING is in sight, which is so exciting, isn’t it? Easter lends a pretty good reason to set a Spring-like table in tender colors. And speaking of color, did you read that rose quartz is one of the two Pantone colors of the year for 2016?  “As consumers seek mindfulness and well-being as an antidote to modern day stresses, welcoming colors that psychologically fulfill our yearning for reassurance and security are becoming more prominent.” I have to agree, rose is such a serene color and perfect for the spring tabletop. Leave your stress and worry behind, sit down, relax and enjoy…  I hope that it inspires you to try a little rose quartz at home, too.

fantas-tisch-march-9.jpg

 

Styled some pretty flowers, hard-boiled eggs and a simple handmade wreath on the wall. ….  loose arrangement of ranunculus, tulips, pussy willow, white anemones, wax flowers, eucalyptus and catkin branches.

 

wax flower is a dream candidate when it comes to crafting with flowers. The fine branches are very flexible and the flowers durable. You will find them in white and pink and in my opinion, nothing is easier than making tiny wreaths out of wax flowers!

fantas-tisch-march-15 (1).jpg

fantas-tisch-march-7 (1).jpg

 

As Easter breakfast may be more opulent than usual I thought Raspberry-Cream and Almond Sponge Cake might be a good idea! On top you see fresh raspberries and sugar-coated nougat eggs. This candy is very popular in Germany at Easter, they are called Möveneier (seagull eggs) and I love their speckled surface. The plates are simple white ceramic, just as I like them. For an simple, quick and classy Easter decoration place some edible white eggs over a simple white linen tablecloth. The eggs are hard-boiled and I cleaned the shell with pure household vinegar.

fantas-tisch-march-14 (1).jpg

 

 

 

 

 

Lemon Drizzle Cake

This Lemon Drizzle Cake comes from Nigella Lawson, whose recipes  I have been cooking from for over 10 years. Some of the recipes are so good that I have made them over and over repeatedly to the detriment of trying out new recipes, asking friends who are more successful than me. But I was happy to have had a greedy excuse to try this Lemon Syrup Loaf Cake. I love this cake probably because it reminds me of my childhood favourite “Massepin,”  a shy cousin from Mauritius.  A couple of years ago, I was given a birthday cake by an ace baker friend of mine who never misses to surprise her clients by her pretty creations, Alicia Aslett ( luxurycakecreations ), and she made this most sumptious Lemon Drizzle cake. A close reminder of the one I like from Nigella.

The cake itself is very simple to put together and stays deliciously moist from the syrup which soaks into the cake. And due to the lovely moistness of this cake, it keeps for quite some time, staying fresh for even up to a week. (I think hubby was on a self-imposed diet which meant I was the only one tucking into this cake for morning tea each day.) I actually think the cake tastes best after a few days once the syrup has had time to do its work.

And if I were to make this cake again (which is very likely), I think I would reduce the amount of icing sugar in the syrup next time; I found the syrup to be a little too sweet for my liking and would prefer something a bit more tart. Or, as Nigella suggests, I might try a version with limes or even grapefruit next time.

lemon-syrup-loaf-cake-2.jpg

lemon-syrup-loaf-cake-ingredients.jpg

lemon-syrup-loaf-cake-recipe-1.jpg

lemon-syrup-loaf-cake-recipe-2.jpg

lemon-syrup-loaf-cake-recipe-3.jpg

lemon-syrup-loaf-cake-recipe-4.jpg

lemon-syrup-loaf-cake-recipe-5.jpg

lemon-syrup-loaf-cake-recipe-6.jpg

lemon-syrup-loaf-cake-3.jpg

WALES AND WELSH CAKES

140905mum31.jpg

261110005_hols_sw_ThreeCliffsBay_16x9.jpg

As a traditional tea-time snack, they are lovely with a cup of tea and will do wonders in helping you to unwind. That and the fresh, country air. Welsh to be precise …

I happen to really love afternoon tea, that time when the day starts to wind down but isn’t quite over yet, that one cuppa and sweet treat to get you through until it’s time to shut-down your computer. Enjoy a sweep of fresh air, numb ear lobes, cold nose, all screaming for hot Welsh cakes! Well, this is exactly how it feels in South Wales.

The next time you think about making scones, perhaps you might like to try your hand at these Welsh cakes. Both recipes require more or less the same ingredients but, with Welsh cakes, you make something more like a shortcrust pastry which is then pan-fried on the stove. The texture is somewhat like a scone, but a bit more crumbly like a shortbread biscuit. They are wonderful served warm from the pan with just a sprinkling of sugar or even with some jam, but they also taste great cold.

I was rather surprised that I didn’t have a recipe for Welsh cakes in any of my cookbooks, but thankfully I picked up a postcard in Wales which had a recipe for it on the front, and I adapted accordingly.

download (1).jpegimages (6).jpeg

welsh-cakes3-680x1024.jpg

Cannelés, Bordeaux style

5254672cdbfa3f2cda00f049._w.540_h.405_s.fit_.jpg

4-astuces-pour-reussir-des-canneles-a-tous-les-coups.jpg

I recall one Summer in France, we bought loads of these dainty little cake, a speciality of Bordeaux, and we chomped non stop on them driving across the countryside. It is a compelling pick me again taste which border a sticky gummy muffin like but tastes like a baba-au-rhum.

A few years ago, I came across this blog by Chez Pim, who recounts the complexity of making cannelés at home and gives her insider tips on how to make the perfect cannelés, such as using the right amount of beeswax to coat the moulds, freezing the copper moulds before use, and adjusting the oven temperature three times during the baking process. Despite feeling better informed about these finicky cakes, when I was done reading Pim’s post, I was exhausted and couldn’t face the idea of actually attempting the recipe; there were too many variables and I didn’t feel confident with a recipe which was so fraught with failure.

So not only was I surprised to find a recipe for cannelés in Rachel Khoo’s latest cookbook, My Little French Kitchen, but she claimed to have a foolproof recipe using … cheap silicone moulds.

canneles-4.jpg

CANNELÉS
Prep time
20 mins
Cook time
1 hour 15 mins
Total time
1 hour 35 mins
Recipe adapted from My Little French Kitchen by Rachel Khoo
Serves: 16 cakes
Method

Hong Kong … city of millionaires!

hk-millionaires

According to Forbes,  12% of Hong Kong’s adult population are millionaires, with HK$1 million or more in liquid assets, such as stocks and bonds.Most of Hong Kong’s super-rich earned his or her first million at the age of 33. “These investment-savvy people, with diversified investment portfolios, regard stocks as the most preferred investment vehicle and are willing to take relatively bigger risks than those in the lower tier of affluence”.

Hong Kong is endlessly fascinating — it’s impossible to get bored here.

Our first trip there was not eventless. It started with my fainting during the flight on board of Virgin Atlantic (our first ever) … followed by my husband’s one, which I discovered an hour later, passing him by on teh way to the ladies, when I saw him sat flanked by two gorgeous cabin crew girls. I didn’t stop to ask him why he suddenly was letting out his dark fancy, as I thought, Well, … let him enjoy it … Surely something must have been wrong with that ultra sleek and comfortable flight as it has never happened to us before to faint during a flight. And we do fly a lot!

Hong-Kong-street-food-001.jpg

maxresdefault.jpg

 

Hong Kong came as a mirage of skyscrapers, congested roads, an Asian counter part of Geneva with its multitude of Neon hoardings with shimmering lights over its sheltered bay instead of Lake Leman. But here, it all seemed smog gloomy compared to the Swiss clear azure sky. Afetr a sudden cold which threw us both in shivers and high temperature, we braved the winds blowing over the city to search for a place to eat. None gave us a place. Vegetarians have a rough time in Hong Kong. Do not forget this, if you are one of the breed. Unless, you cross to the mega crowded, noisy Indian quarter of Kowloon for a roti and curry. We saw more pig trotters and hanging roast ducks in a square mile than any other place in SE Asia. If you are a meat eater, you will be in food heaven, sampling many varieties of noodles and other delicacies you would not outside of the country. Somehow, in my head I kept thinking where is the British influence ? I found my answer in a Egg Waffle, also known as Eggette or Gai Daan Jai, is a unique egg-based waffle popular in Hong Kong and Macao area. It is ranked as one of the most popular “street snacks” in the city.

top-10-most-popular-street-food-in-hong-kong-02.jpg

With juice, pour in the middle of the two pieces of special metal honeycomb template, baked on the fire. Pour the eggs are golden, there is the fragrance of the cake, and the middle is half empty, bite when special taste. The making of egg waffle is quite simple. Batter leavened by eggs, sugar, flour and evaporated milk is baked between two plates of semi-spherical cells. When is finished, Egg Waffle looks in golden color with flavor of cake. Now some shops may add chocolate, coconut, sesame, etc. in the batter to create different taste. They are best served hot, and often eaten plain. They can also be served with fruit and flavors such as strawberry, coconut or chocolate.

top-10-most-popular-street-food-in-hong-kong-03.jpg

Egg Tart is a kind of food influenced by British culture. It is a must-have in Hong Kong’s bakery. Authentic Hong Kong egg tarts are divided into two kinds according to the crispy outer crust. One is Puff pastry and the other is shortcrust pastry. They are traditionally made with lard rather than butter or shortening. They are both filled with rich custard that is much eggier and less creamy than English custard tarts.

o.jpg

But I found a dessert almost each country in SE Asia has its own version of, it is the Chilled Mango Sago Cream with Pomelo, also known as Mango Pomelo Sago, is a Hong Kong style dessert. It is composed of mango, pomelo, sago, coconut milk, cream and sugar. It is not only a dessert or drink, it is also a flavor for cake, ice-cream, ice pop and mooncake. It is said that it invented in 1984 by the Hong Kong Lee Yuan Restaurant.

The making process of it is not complicate. Puree the mango in a food processor; boil the water with rock sugar to make a syrup, tear the pomelo segments into small pieces, mix all the ingredients together and chill in the refrigerator. Then finally serve cold in a bowl.

Another desser which caught our attention after a long walk with a cold, wasthe delicate velvety ginger milk curd at Yee Shun Dairy Company, 506 Lockhart Road, Causeway Bay, Hong Kong. In a cool breezy city, when you just want to plonk yourself in a cosy place and have a nice hot comforting delight. We found just the right thing there!   

download (1) hk-milk-company-steamed-egg.jpg

Caprice-ALTB.jpg

download   10895309_1544189612514423_1961328792_n.jpgSettled for French Cuisine, we were not disappointed at Caprice, three Michelin stars for a few seasons running, making it arguably the hottest (European) spot in town. A particular highlight is the restaurant’s selection of cheeses and its cheese trolley, which brings diners back on a frequent basis. Its wine list is also of note, as is the restaurant’s famed silver service. Beautiful”décor feutré“.

hk_library.jpg

During our wanderings, we discovered the unmissable  public library, which is one of its kind. Hong Kong Central library is pretty amazing. The Library was open to the public on 17 May 2001 and it is now the largest public library in Hong Kong with a capacity of holding 2 million items of library materials. Equipped with state-of-the-art technologies and digital library facilities so really none of the books are very old and they have an extensive travel section in English. In fact they have quite a large selection of books in English. The most interesting thing about it is the type of people who are here and how into the books they are. People are so involved in their books that they hardly look up during loud distractions. The children are in quantity and seem ready to soak up what ever the white little pages have to offer, they even bring carts from home in which to wheel the books around behind them. It really is a breath of fresh air to find such a relaxing place with a great ambiance and an amazing view of the skyline!

Victoria-Peak-Tower-44435.jpg

76043366-antique-shop.jpg

DSC_2913 - Version 2.jpg

 

DSC_2918 - Version 2.jpg

Apart from all the corners which got our views, treading on some touristy spots like Mount Victoria, I found magnificent antique shops on Hollywood street and Antique and Cat streets. It can be quite daunting an area though, we found it wet, stinky, slippery slopes which gives to untidy shops selling Mao memorabilia, posters…Walking along we observed there were also funky looking movie posters, starring Bruce Lee amongst other Asian stars. I did not recognize most of them except for the martial arts instructor himself, although I was delighted to see them on display. It reminded me of the China Town back home, close to which I grew up. I noticed the row shops selling more expensive antiques on the sidewalk. Imprisoned behind lighted glass shelves were collector’s items from various dynasties, whereas more affordable goods of teapots and jade pieces were displayed out in the open. A close up of a shop’s display, some lovely looking hand painted blue and white vases on the top row, intricately carved wooden sculptures amidst glazed porcelain.

DSC_2923 - Version 2

All crowded together they all demanded equal attention, which one should I bring home? … I did not know.

 

 

 

Apollon – Shiva veneration

apo2.jpg

Apollon himself manifests, like Zeus with Cronos, as heir of Koios through his mother Leto. His very own most sacred image found at every home was that of a tall upright (usually black, but I am uncertain if it was of a natural pigmentation of stone or if it was coated with substance to give it a black appearance) where Apollon was worshiped. Where temples adored Apollon in various forms, his most ancient and common household form continued to be the simple stone where he bestowed his protection upon the household and where he received daily and monthly offerings and offering of any auspicious occasion, poured over his form and garlands draped from this simple aniconic form.

Shiva_lingam

kavd-kavaran-yatra-lordd-shiva.jpg

While there have been plaques and other simple images to of the god, the common appearance of the god as a stone through Hellas and into Rome and throughout Europe by Rome, has to be the most universal and most worshiped and beloved form of the god. It is the god without containment into true form, he who is formless and ancient. He who delights in the pouring streams and fountains with which a number of them are sacred to them, he who is the uplifting column of light illuminating all things, he who is the pole around which all of the heavens and the turn of seasons and years turns O lord of time who is both as the sun and the beauty of the moon, he who is the kithara player—and as such the leader of the holy dance of time as each song he plays summons for the seasons in their ageless dances. This is both his generative form and his destructive form this manner. He is both as the erect spear (and the miniature form as arrows) that his very column like form bears at Amyclaeus, the column of fire uplifting, the column of life bringing forth generation for which people may imagine that it is has a slight phallic resemblance even though it is not phallus. This simple form, the healing lord of the springs, the fiery destroyer/protector, the generator and protector of young, the upright leader of the dance and pole of the turning heavens, in this form he is all these things at once and more. There has too been some argument that the doorway offerings to Hekate or Artemis Prothyria may have been offered in the base of the lingam as to which in Rome it makes sense especially to see a youth and maiden on a temple plague attending both on the adornment of the Agyieus stone. Although we do not find any direct reference to either of these goddesses with the base of the Agyieus of Apollon, although perhaps a vague reference to Hekate and two great pillars (Hermes and Apollon Agyeius respectively) it is easy to see how these goddesses can be so associated. Especially when we see imagery of Artemis as pouring offering to the bowl of her twin and their inseperable union with each other. Understanding the stone as a column of light and Artemis as a torch bearer, that which bears the light, is perhaps a very significant metaphor for the imagery of the stone secured.

081208-021

In the Hindu narrative likewise we find Siva, the lord of the column of which is his true form, and of which Brahma and Vishnu competed to scale its great height to remove a flower from the top, a top that is infinite and unreachable except to those that by grace he allows. Although, like Apollon in Hellas, Siva has many beautiful images throughout India, we still find the most common and sacred is the formless god as the lingam. Large beautiful lingams grace the temples transfixed and unmoveable, and small ones in the households blessing the householder and wife, blessing the children. He to dwells inseparable from his union with Sakti/Parvati. It is to this form that his offerings are provided, ghee, water poured, honey, milk. Garlands of rudraska beads and flowers adorn his form. His blessing pour forth, O great column and lord of time. At his winter festival we find this form symbolically replicated as its true form as a column of light of which the stone form is but a stable permanent reflection. At this festival a great bon fire is created which spires to the heavens. Videos can be found online of this and it is an awe inspiring sight to behold this great shift of light connection the heavens and earth. Massive and uncontainable, without beginning or end. The upright column is continuous without limit.

Brett-Cole-India-07184_medium.jpg

And so my lingam/Agyieus stone is to me the most beautiful image of my god. My lord Siv-Apollon free form limitation, ever dancing, ever churning, rotating forth all things, from who the coolest blessed water gush forth by his headed is rooted in the heavens even as the hottest of fires of illumination emanate from him at every point as arrows shooting from him. Siv-Apollon is greatest of archers, shooting forth the greatest distances from afar, he is both motionless and in motion, he is leading forth the motion of all life and living beings, of beasts and men, and reuniting them again.

canonball-flowers.jpg

Chant-Om-Namah-Shivai.jpg

Offering-Milk-On-Shivlang

images (1).jpeg

Grand Bassin, Mauritius – Pilgrimage place for Shiva

Most blessed lord, I will ever give most devout reverence to this form of yours O Siv-Apollon! I will dress you with flowers, and pour offerings to run upon you for your delight, perfume you with sweet smoke of incense. You are the door to all things blessed lord and with adoration will always bow before you!

Breton Delicious pastries

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

images (1)  images

2486289609_52157ca3c0_z

Gâteau Breton

The moment we arrive in Brittany, we look for the next pâtisserie to pick up a local delicacy, which usually sums up in the round Gâteau Breton. ‘It makes the coffee speak’ says my husband whose sweet tooth is known to one and all. Pretending to be like an Ostrich is the best way to handle the gateau, as it is ladden with the highest load of butter next to the Gache of Vendee, I suppose. I don’t count the kilos I could gain on my hips, as it makes me feel like a plump goose ready for the ‘confit’.  Glad to find the beloved ‘Becassine’ of my childhood, Brittany and Butter rhyme an endearing tune to me…amidst the Celtic ‘cornemuse‘.

download (1).jpeg

In Brittany, local salted butter is used for absolutely everything including patisserie. A way of extolling how well fed the cows are and the quality of their milk can only win them a ‘Label Rouge’. Respect. Bow. It is exceptional.

The butter follows suit, another set of ‘Label Rouge’ again. I like my Breton butter with the ‘sel de Guerande’, smothered over a fresh baguette tradi slice with a hot cuppa. Nothing can beak that savouring those simple pleasures of life. But that this one is one of the highest quality. When you are in Brittany, you have to appreciate butter. Forget what the media pumps to us, butter is bad for us. On a high quantity, anything is disastrous. I take my butter with an appreciative attitude, thanking nature  and feeding my brain of one food, it likes best – fat. A happy and healthy brain makes a happy and smart man!

download30-minute-crusty-baguettes-with-homemade-butter

Just savvy shopping for the best salted butter you can find – the resulting flavour depends on it and is well worth the extra expense and effort – is all that’s required for making the hands-down, will-make-you-weep, most butter-rich, splendidly short, shortbread. Ever.

2119759603_cc7a017482

kouign_amann_patisserie_bretagne_dr

Kouign Amann

The literal meaning of the name in Breton is “butter cake” (kouign is “cake” and amann is “butter”). When made properly, the kouign amann’s seemingly simple and humble appearance belies sensational flavour and texture. Deeply caramelized and buttery, crisp without and tenderly flaky within, it is utterly addictive.

Kenyan Safari … in Nairobi

IMG_6097.JPG

Hello from Africa! I’m back in civilization for a brief moment and thought I would give you a quick update from our last trip to Kenya’s National park and Sheldrick’s Wild Life Trust.

Africa is wonderful.

Africa is God’s zoo. To be so close to so many animals really gives you an appreciation of nature and the wild. For once, me and my husband have ditched our professional cameras and carry only our IPhones. But instead took more pleasure in watching the animals, birds with our view finders’ zooms. Much better. I particularly loved keeping silent without the ‘click’ of the camera. It’s hard not to take photos. The landscape here is primal.

IMG_6116.JPG

IMG_6110.JPG

kenya-safari

A ‘Nyati’ water buffalo, stopped short by the road and looked at us for a while. A tacit understanding between man and animal … you go your way and I go mine. For an animal, which would usually charge, we had a peaceful parting. Behind was visible a big rock like mound, a white rhino. Compared to all the other places I’ve visited in the world, Africa seems untouched. Animals roam freely, and for miles upon miles, you see few signs of humans as you barrel down unkept dirt roads. Once in a while, you pass people walking along the road and wonder, as you notice the emptiness around you, “where on Earth they could be going?” However, at the back of my mind, was the question, about why man is killing those peaceful and majestic animals? They walk for miles for food and water. Life is not easy in the wild.

461719ad02

55009793

nyati-hill-cottages (1)

giraffes-in-Samburu-National-Park-Kenya

Each sunset and sunrise only gets better with each passing day. I’ve never seen so many vivid colors in one place. Taking our morning cuppa looking at the hundreds of antilopes, elans, ostriches, gazelles, buffaloes, and birds waking to the working worked like a balm to our long urbanised dry selves.

This trip has given me a lot to think about, and while I’ll save those deep thoughts for another post.

I like beds, pillows, and other creature comforts. And we had the opportunity of staying in a place right in the national park, a set of african huts with swimming pool, internet, and a kitchen! We would go to the nearest town and get some fruits and bread, and we had our dinners under the heavily starred sky each night, sleeping afterwards with the hyanaes, crickets, and a couple of roars in the distance. Did big Simba come to drink by the river ?

But here in Africa, I have to worry about black mambas, scorpions, baboons, and being eaten by hyenas if I decide to get out in the middle of the night. The keeper assured me that there was no snake, but you never know. If a giraffe or a buffalo can come wandering in the garden eating the bougainvillea, why not a snake entering by the window sniffing my coconut soap?

After all, this is Africa.

nyati-hill-cottages (2)

images

French Wines .. Understanding them

  frances-world-famous-wine-culture-originally-came-from-italy
    loire1  loire
What makes France such a great wine nation?
Many things contribute, including climates, soils, the people and their culture, the monks and the church’s early role. Soil also rates high on the list of factors. France is blessed with an inordinately large share of limestone-based soils, which most grapevines love.
LOIRE VALLEY has France’s longest river, which supports many wine regions as it winds its way from the Massif Central to the Atlantic. Highest, and coolest, are the sauvignon-blanc regions of Sancerre, Pouilly-Fume, Menetou-Salon, Reuilly and Quincy. The central Loire region of Touraine also grows good, inexpensive sauvignon blanc as well as light reds from gamay and pinot noir. Near Tours, Vouvray and Montlouis are pure chenin blanc wines of varying grades of quality and sweetness from sec (dry) to demi-sec to doux (sweet) to moelleux (very sweet and botrytised). Chinon and Bourgueil are light- to medium-bodied reds made from cabernet franc. Towards the lower end, cabernet franc is used in oceans of Anjou rose´. The central Loire is also a huge sparkling wine source. Its Cremant de Loire and Vouvray, Montlouis and Touraine Mousseux are made mostly from chenin blanc and cabernet franc.
slide3
NORTH of Rhone is Beaujolais, a region that produces a light-bodied, early-drinking red made from the gamay grape. In ascending order of quality and price are Beaujolais Nouveau, Beaujolais and Beaujolais Villages. Above Villages there are 10 crus (growths) or superior sub-regions, including Morgon, Fleurie, Brouilly and Moulin-a-Vent. Some are very good and the best vintages can also age.
OYSTERS: the best wine to drink with oysters comes from Muscadet, where the Loire Valley nears the ocean. It is bone dry and made from melon de bourgogne grapes.
PROVENCE is famous for its rosé, but also makes red wines including Bandol, which is principally mourvedre. Other appellations of note are Cassis, Palette, Bellet, Cotes de Provence and Coteaux Varois. The cepages are grenache, mourvedre, cabernet sauvignon, cinsault, carignan. A famous cabernet shiraz blend (Domaine de Trevallon) comes from Les Baux-de-Provence.
wine
QUALITY LEVELS in French wines are categorised three ways: Vin de table is basic and non-regional; IGP (indication geographique protegee) indicates a wine from a designated region. It replaced vin de pays in 2009. Above that is AOC (appellation d’origine controlee): the highest quality wines from specific vineyards and localities.
VALUE FOR MONEY: the Languedoc produces some of France’s most inexpensive wines. They come under the IGP of Pays d’Oc. Most wines are varietally labelled: look for chardonnay, syrah, cabernet sauvignon, merlot, sauvignon blanc, grenache and blends. Minervois can be very good and Picpoul de Pinet is a specialty seafood white. Other reds of note include Corbieres, Faugeres, Fitou and Costieres de Nimes.
ALSACE is a cold northern region that specialises in aromatic whites, such as riesling, pinot gris, gewurztraminer and pinot blanc. There, Vendange Tardive denotes a late-harvested and often semi-sweet wine; Selection de Grains Nobles (SGN) denotes a sweet, botrytis-affected and often expensive wine. Regular Alsace whites are normally dry or near-dry, but not always.
timthumb
BURGUNDY seldom has the grape variety on the label, but it is chardonnay if white, pinot noir if red. Frustratingly, the labels often don’t say ”Burgundy” or ”Bourgogne” either, so you have no choice but to learn how to recognise them. The most famous part is the Cote d’Or, whose wines are benchmarks for chardonnay and pinot noir. It’s a real crowd-pleaser whether it’s subtle or sassy, and goes with nearly everything.
CHABLIS is a light-bodied, racy, usually unwooded white wine, always made from chardonnay. Considered part of Burgundy but actually closer to Champagne.
DRY WHITE Bordeaux and the sweet wines of Sauternes and Barsac are made from semillon and sauvignon blanc, sometimes with a touch of muscadelle. Semillon dominates in sweet wines, sauvignon blanc in dry.
EVERYONE’S favourite dessert wines, Sauternes and Barsac are full-bodied, rich sweet wines from the Bordeaux region made from botrytis-affected grapes. Other less-expensive but similar wines from neighbouring areas are Cadillac, Loupiac and Sainte-Croix-du-Mont.
MERLOT is Bordeaux’s most widely planted grape, though many think of cabernet sauvignon first. Many regions make up Bordeaux; the Medoc and Graves/Pessac-Leognan on the left bank of the Gironde River; St Emilion and Pomerol on the right. Right-bank wines are strong on merlot and cabernet franc; left-bank wines are usually dominated by cabernet sauvignon, with merlot, cabernet franc and petit verdot as supporting varieties.
GRAND CRU is the top of the quality pyramid in Burgundy, Chablis, Champagne, Alsace and some other regions. Premier cru is the second level in Burgundy, Chablis and Champagne although, confusingly, it sounds like the first.
IMG_4308

French Wine… how to choose the best?

wine

While a wine’s flavour can be quite complex, its origins shouldn’t be.

Go simple, clear your senses, and you will get it!

But how to understand the label, to a novice it will all seem the same.

French wine classification systems exist to inform consumers of the process used to make each bottle and indicate its quality. (Although your enjoyment of a given bottle depends on your palate… and, quite possibly, how many glasses you’ve already had!)

classication18551

French-Wine-Label

Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC)

As with all products that claim some portion of their notoriety from their region of origin (e.g. Roquefort cheese that comes only from the caves of Roquefort, or Evian water sourced at its namesake springs) there exists a regulatory body to oversee the production of French wine. Factors regulated by the AOC include grape variety and the location of each vineyard.

The Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (or AOC) sets the rules on all French wines. This regulatory commission makes sure that producers who wish to use a certain name for their wine (Champagne, for example) must follow a certain set of rules in making their product.

Formulated in 1919 and finalized in 1934, the AOC’s laws are an effort to incorporate a wide range of disparate factors into a single, comprehensive classification system. Factors regulated by AOC laws include terroir, grape variety, production style, the geographical location of the vineyards used for growing the grapes, the types of grapes used, the maximum yield of grapes that the producers can take from a certain plot of land and the minimum amount of time a wine must spend aging before it’s sold. They also determine minimum alcohol levels.

The result of all this regulation is that a named AOC wine should always have certain recognizable characteristics. In effect, the AOC gives a stamp of approval to the wine so the consumer can be sure the bottle they’ve purchased contains the wine that the label indicates. It can be understood as a sort of regional copyright.

bourgogne  beaujolais

 

French markets … an institution!

download (5)  download (6)

To understand a country’s people and culture, you need to get a glimpse of their cuisine. And to get to the bottom of it is to head to the local market. Visiting French markets when we are on holidays, is a must for me. Just like many foreign visitors might tell you, the market day is in itself an institution, it is not to be missed at any cost. We tend to collect the markets’ list from the various Tourist Offices across the small and big towns we pass by or stay close to. Now, that we have our ‘own’ market in Fontenay le Comte, our Saturday mornings are never dull.
Fontenay, Vendée

If you don’t know Fontenay, then the first thing I need to explain (apart from the fact that it’s a beautiful historic town with lots of intriguing places to explore), is that the large square which doubles up as a car park, boule pitch and all round shady retreat, sits at the top of the town, affording great views of the long, straight high street as it stretches away and which is home to some of its twice weekly market. And the square, like the town, is quintessentially French in every way with the ubiquitous Plane trees, water fountains and the higgledy, piggledy kind of parking which would torment any English parking inspector.

And as we squeezed our car into the shade of a tree and into the last inch of space left amongst the packed cars in the upper parking area, our gentle stroll down past the 10th century church, we are  greeted by the sounds of a French accordeon drifting up from the streets below along and the smell of  paella and baking and all things nice to eat, we instantly knew it was going to be a morning of heady indulgence.

download (7)  2485461637_5ca46164e7

The guilty pleasure of every Francophile

The French market is a thoroughly sensory experience as you all know. There’s the African traders who have a charm of their own with their cheap trinkets and leather belts and the queue of mature ladies at the “unfeasibly  elasticated pant” and inside garb stall which will never cease to amaze me. Then there’s the compulsory tour of the inside market, with its hushed bustle, fish hall stacked high with langoustine, escaping snails and yawning fish, eyeing you from a stack of ice. While downstairs, sweet pastries, local breads and an eye startling array of cheese and cold meats quietly call you to take them home. Just outside is parked the lone fresh goat cheese seller. My husband never misses a chance to stock his alrealdy high stock at home. Probably, it makes him feel so ‘French’ to buy the quintessential goat cheese to feel he has done his bit of shopping!

560_IMAGE_45

images (17)  images (16)

Outside, the stalls mingle with the pavement cafés, there are vegetables with more charisma than their British counterpart, spoons dripping with honey and vast vats of steaming delights which you can’t avoid lusting after, the Canbodian and Vietnamese sellers are getting bolder by their offerings, all swathed in late summer sunshine and a heady rush of bright colours, from fruits to scarves, spices, bright pottery, flowers to hand woven baskets from Madagascar.

The basket or panier is very French, one has to have one on the arm when you go to the market. Any other bag, least a supermarket plastic shopping bag would be simply sacrilege. Women and men carried or pulled them with the practiced air that comes from shopping for food at the peak of freshness, season after season. Staples are rows of traditional baskets with leather handles. Fancier styles come in bright colors of various sizes and shapes. Some have cloth drawstrings inside – perfect for use as a summer purse. I have added several of both types to my collection over the years and love how each one reminds me of a wonderful trip or of the marvelous market goods that were carried in it. Being in Dar es Salaam these days, I have not refrained myself from buying more …

Not far are some Brits quietly displaying the Indian spices, bottled pickles, ready made Indian sauces, Roghan Ghosh, Dopiaza, Tikka Masala, Marmite, Mustard and others, while large packets of Popaddums get crisper under the French sun, aligned are also some home baked cakes and muffins which say why the lady is not present at the stall. Too early labour, she is now catching up on her sleep.

Madagascar-Analakely-Market-Antananarivo

08_07_09_hand_basket Market-basket-2-300x225

 

Our foot in the Vendée !

IMG_3065

After buying and selling two times in France, we hope that this third one proves to be lucky!  …. Somewhere, I can almost hear the famous statement ‘ Jamais deux sans trois‘ – never twice wihout the third time … I shudder.

After visiting properties in a close 100+ during our search in the 35 departments, we bought the one we did not look for, in a twist of fate, when our friend Olivier sent us an email. It ticked all the boxes and was perfect for us, just as we imagined it to be. Not too big, not too small, enough for the two of us and plenty of space to receive friends and visitors.

Although, it came to us in a perfectably habitable state, we needed to ‘mettre à notre goût‘ as the French would say – to put to our taste. A good splash of white everywhere was my chosen strategy, and new kitchen and bathroom, with some en-suite plans to go. My pins on my board have been getting plumped each day. Soon, all to be set up. Exciting!

 

vacances-plage-vendee (1)

vendee3_1464418c

images  vendee3

Before dwelling further into the property details, which is a humble maison de maitre in its elegant vast square rooms layout, a glimpse into the place is important to locate this habitation in a country of 551,500 square kilometres. The Vendée  is in the west-central part of France on the Atlantic Ocean. The coast of the Vendée extends over 200 kilometres (120 mi) of mostly sandy beaches, dunes and pine woods. Tourists from overseas and locally frequent them. Some resorts include les Sables D’Olonne, La Tranche-sur-Mer and Saint Jean des Monts.  Most of beaches are “blue flagged” for their cleanliness offering calm waters which qualify for a baby bath with soft white sand, and sheltered ‘criques‘.

images (1)   chh

The department also boasts of its medieval churches and abbeys, museums, and for nature lovers—thousands of marked footpaths, with signposted bicycle routes running along the coastal mudflats, and marshes with a huge network of canals,  attracting unusual birds. It is a peaceful haven for this piece of sheltered land from the harsh winds from the Atlantic Ocean and offers a beautiful mild Mediterranean climate.

images (3)

balade en barque le long d'une conche

balade en barque le long d’une conche

Inland, the chief attractions include the Marais Poitevin (an area of marshlands famed for wildlife), the forested area around the village of Mervent and the rolling countryside of the Bocage. It is criss-crossed with canals and punctuated by pretty little towns which straddle the rivers and canals of the area. In the north of the department, the historical theme park Puy du Fou attracts more than 1.45 million of visitors per year.

download (2)

Nature lovers will find Fontenay-Le-Comte an ideal base, with its major town,
Fontenay-le-Comte. The Renaissance town of Fontenay-le-Comte is often referred to as the prettiest town in the Vendée and is surely one of the prettiest in France being listed in the “Plus Beau detours de France“.
Sitting astride the River Vendée this former port was a fording town on the old Roman coastal road from Les Sables D’Olonne to Niort. Many of the villages through which the road passes, though now miles from the sea, still have streets named quay road and signposts for the port. The reason for this is that as the Marshes gradually silted up, and the land was drained by the Benedictine monks the sea receded and by the end of the 19th century the town was all but finished as a port…

 

download

download (3)  images (1)

It was the capital of the Vendée department from 1790 to 1806 and was only stripped of the title by Napoleon as a punishment for its part in the French Revolutionary Wars.

images (13)

Having enjoyed the historic aspect of the town you can also delight in the more modern pleasures afforded by the numerous excellent restaurants and cafés. The former train station, situated in the Avenue de la Gare at the top of the Rue de la République, has become a cultural centre and now houses exhibitions, musical performances and many other functions. There are excellent shops and other leisure facilities and Fontenay-le-Comte is justly proud of being called “the cultural and sporting town of France”.

Fontenay-le-Comte purportedly provides more cultural and sporting events, per capita, than any other town in France and held the World Crocket Championships on the superb lawns alongside the river Vendée . It also boasts an equestrian centre and the best karting circuit in the Vendée, and has vibrant clubs for tennis, football, rugby, squash and many other sports. There is a website specifically dedicated to the numerous and varied sports clubs and facilities in Fontenay-le-Comte.

Do you know about the Griffon Vendee ? It is a very handsome  dog which makes excellent companions and guard dogs.

basset-s-breed
download (4)

World Wild Life Day

zebra.JPG
My recent trip to visit baby elephants we have been fostering for many years now at Sheldrick Wild Life Trust in Nairobi, Kenya, proved to be more than a confirmation to what I believe in – nature and wildlife conservancy is more needed than ever.
World Wildlife Day is an opportunity to celebrate the many beautiful and varied forms of wild fauna and flora and to raise awareness of the multitude of benefits that conservation provides to people. At the same time, the Day reminds us of the urgent need to step up the fight against wildlife crime, which has wide-ranging economic, environmental and social impacts.
Wildlife has an intrinsic value and contributes to the ecological, genetic, social, economic, scientific, educational, cultural, recreational and aesthetic aspects of sustainable development and human well-being. For these reasons, all member States, the United Nations system and other international organizations, as well as civil society, non-governmental organizations and individuals, are invited to observe and to get involved in this global celebration of wildlife. Local communities can play a positive role in helping to curb illegal wildlife trade.
The theme “The future of wildlife is in our hands” reinforces the inextricable link between wildlife, people and sustainable development. It is the responsibility of each generation to safeguard wildlife for the following generation. It also imparts the pressing need for national action to ensure the survival in the wild of both charismatic and lesser known species.
The secretariat of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), in collaboration with other relevant United Nations organizations, facilitates the implementation of World Wildlife Day.
With 182 Member States, CITES remains one of the world’s most powerful tools for biodiversity conservation through the regulation of trade in wild fauna and flora.

Seychelles .. island of the Coco Fesse

our-trip-to-the-beautiful-seychelles-islands-sipping-coconut-water-at-la-digue

coco   cocofesses

My visit to Seychelles was not a touristy one. I was Advisor to the Ministry of Women’s Affairs on a UNDP assignment, and travelled to the island to visit Micro-Finance projects. Reading reports and meeting stakeholders took most of my time. But did I mention that I had previously visited the island with a filming crew? as an acting Director, and my mission was to bag raw footage for a corporate film for the the Ministry of Industry and Commerce. The crew members were my long time friends in the Advertsing industry where I started my career.

For both missions, I have to admit that as a Mauritian, I wanted to see for myself how do the beaches cut in beauty as compared to those of my island.

our-trip-to-the-beautiful-seychelles-islands-beautiful-beaches-on-curieuse-island

You know you have arrived by the strong glare you get as soon as you set foot out of the plane. On a clear day, you can see at least four shades of blue in the water, and when you walk closer on the soft white sand, you can see the base of the sea. The blues of the Indian Ocean can cure any other kind of blues, I tell you. When I faced the granite boulders on Praslin and La Digue beaches, probably the most photographed ones in the world, I knew that Mauritius hit a minus point there! The tantalising hues of the sky and the ocean  with its powder white impeccable beaches, crashing waves, fringed by supermodel tall palms and Takamaka trees, the beach is a crescent shaped moon of paradise … just deliver!

However, I felt my head melting under the fierce sun as I sweated under the heavy humidity, hmm… not as cool as Mauritius.

At first glance, Seychelles can seem like a sibbling of Mauritius, but there’s so much that sets them apart. Seychelles feels a bit more rustic, a bit more adventurous, with so many islands to hop to, the forests and birds in its interiors, the dramatic hilly backdrops, and the contagious susagade lifestyle of the locals. It reminded me a bit of Sri Lanka, Goa and Rodrigues. Not much available if yo are a creature loving your comforts, but in the big hotels. The rest of the island has not witnessened much or urbanisation, nor industrialisation.

our-trip-to-the-beautiful-seychelles-islands-crossing-the-sea-by-boat-to-arrive-to-the-curieuse-island

When the British gained control of the islands during the Napoleonic Wars, they allowed the French upper class to retain their land. Both the French and British settlers used enslaved Africans, and although the British prohibited slavery in 1835, African workers continued to come. Thus the Gran blan (“big whites”) of French origin dominated economic and political life. The Indians, like a similar minority of Chinese, were confined to a merchant class.

President Albert René ousted James Mancham with a coup d’etat in 1977 discouraged over-dependence on tourism and declared that he wanted “to keep the Seychelles for the Seychellois”, in fact he wanted the island to himself. Control the people and allow no foreigners he did not like. During his tenure, he was accused of involvement in criminal activity, among which money laundering and murder. The island knew mercenaries coups, and other political turmoils that kept the island closed from the rest of the world for lack of security.

our-trip-to-the-beautiful-seychelles-islands-crazy-anse-lazio-beach-at-praslin

private

Good news is that with passing years and new policies under different political powers, the island grew in popularity when it opened its first world class hotel. Environmental legislation is very strict, and every tourism project must undergo an environmental review and a lengthy process of consultations with the public and conservationists.

Education was given priority after tourism. Literacy rate for school-age children rose to more than 90% by the late 1980s. Many older Seychellois had not been taught to read or write in their childhood; adult education classes helped raise adult literacy from 60% to a claimed 100% in 2014. Due to its British history, despite being a despot in late days, English was much encouraged among the Seychelles Creole and French. Here, should I add that the 3 Patois Creoles of the Mascarene islands are quite very different from each other. The Patois Seychellois is very singy songy and charming. People are polite and very friendly.

seychelles-island-490x250

seychelles-turtle-640x400

If you’re planning a paradise island holiday then you’ve probably got palm-fringed beaches and warm turquoise water in mind. You’ll want beachfront accommodation, delicious seafood and opportunities to both relax and explore.With fewer visitors spread out over many islands, it’s the Seychelles that offers more exclusivity and privacy. A hotel with more than 25 beds is described as ‘large’ in the Seychelles and the archipelago is justly famous for its deserted beaches. Mauritius is a single island, ringed by reefs and beaches; the Seychelles Archipelago comprises 115 islands – some large and developed, others tiny and deserted. Many are marine reserves and several are privately owned. Mauritius attracts four times the number of annual visitors. There is exclusive world class 5-star hotels of course but Mauritius is mostly about got-it-all resorts, exotic live entertainment, superb food, safety,  18-hole golf courses and water sports.

maxresdefault

This isn’t to say there’s nothing to do in the Seychelles. Although all motorised sports are banned in Seychelles for so called onservation reasons, this means the diving and snorkelling is fantastic.The Seychelles is also home to world class big-game and salt-water fly-fishing …. isn’t that against conservation rule, in any way? … there are  activities like windsurfing and sailing. The Inner Islands rest on an easy-to-access shallow plateau and the pristine Outer Islands offer experienced divers barely explored reefs.

maia_seychelles_mahe_1

However, there’s no mistaking the greater privacy and exclusivity of the Seychelles as well as its different natural beauty. Its beaches often also make it into top beaches of the world surveys like Mauritius,  but as a guest on one of the archipelago’s private islands , you can enjoy an azure corner of the Indian Ocean all to yourself. I have heard accounts of people who boast about having an island in the Seychelles, but from close quarters as an islander and knowing some of  the ins and outs, we have not heard about sale of islands except to a couple of billionaires and royalty. Unlike the island of Moyenne which was sold to an ordinary Brit for £8000, but that was very long ago. The island policy abides by state land under strict conservancy laws.

FREGATE-infinity_pool_2_1498x996

The Seychelles is all about highly personalised service  due to its tiny tourist population and number of hotels – think a low-key private butler anticipating your every need – while Mauritius has a fantastic hospitality ethos that includes big smiles and highly trained staff. With a long tradition of conservation behind it, the Seychelles is home to several marine parks as well as forest and mountain reserves. Swim with the plankton-eating whale shark – the world’s largest fish – in the protected waters of the Seychelles; visit Cousine Island, its entire 27 hectares a designated bird and turtle nature reserve; and head for far flung Aldabra Island where a 150 000-strong colony of giant tortoises can be found.

Mauritius has always been known for its world-class hotels and the island is home to several astonishingly decadent resorts and Michelin-starred chefs but the Seychelles has caught up with Mauritius in terms of exclusive luxury accommodation.

Resorts in the Seychelles tend to be smaller and the lodgings more luxurious. Private islands such as Denis and North island are completely exclusive to their guests while sole-use beachfront villas across the archipelago offer the ultimate in private living. Beautiful North Island is where Prince William and Kate Middleton chose to spent their honeymoon.

Does it not say enough? royalty, honeymoon luxury … I believe given the opportunity, you should sample both islands !

Ao Dai … Vietnamese Dress

After many years living in Vietnam, I came to take the ‘AwZai’- Ao Dai for granted until I stumbled upon Benny Hanigal’s photos.  They brought memories back, dear friends, busy and noisy Hanoi, the Old Quarters, my haunts in Don Xuan market for silk, weddings with fairy like decorations amidst chaos, balmy evenings at Uncle Ho’s Mausoleum, detour from the tourist infected Temple of Literature, tranquil waters of Tay Ho, friendly faces on To Ngoc Van street, street food mecca, ‘you can get anything you want’ in Hanoi, stilettoe perched on bike ladies, and above all the Ao Dai.

Quintessentially Vietnamese, although not worn as often these days as in the past. The classic white Ao Dai is still popular as a school uniform in some areas, while red, yellow, pink and other colors are worn on special and more formal occasions.

Embroidered, silky, gauzy, satiny, or plain white, the Ao Dai is not na easy garb to adopt to your daily runs but is sure a stunningly elegant view on the gracefully slim Hanoiians.

Flower Girl – Hanoi

Ladies Descending – Emperor Minh Mang Mausoleum Grounds, Hue

Flower Girl 2 – Hanoi

Under the Banyan Tree – Temple of Literature – Hanoi

Friends – Temple of Literature, Hanoi

Lovely with Incense – Temple of Literature – Hanoi

Mekong Taxi – Mekong Delta

Mekong Girls at Floating Market

Mekong Girls at Floating Market 2

Delta Girl – Soc Trang Province

Ancient Arch – Imperial City of Hue

The Girl and the Emperor – Minh Mang Mausoleum – Hue

Minh Mang Mausoleum Grounds – Hue

Visions in Red & Yellow – Ha Long Bay

Visions in Red & Yellow 2 – Ha Long Bay

Two Ladies Holding “Non La”- Imperial City of Hue

The Emperor’s Forest – Hue

Hanoi Model – Temple of Literature

High School Girls in Uniform – Nha Nam

The Gaze – Temple of Literature – Hanoi

Day Dream Bridge – Hue

Reflections – Temple & Tomb of Lê Văn Duyệt – Saigon

Lady in Red – Temple & Tomb of Lê Văn Duyệt – Saigon

Strolling the Imperial City – Hue

Green Living … Decor

green-design-ideas-inspired-by-nature-2-2-1

Living in an urban environment certainly has its many advantages, but most of us city folk still pine for the great outdoors. And if weekend or vacation outings just aren’t enough, there are plenty of designers out there who have created ingenious green designs that bring tiny little pieces of nature into our homes and urban settings.

green-design-ideas-inspired-by-nature-2-13-2

green-design-ideas-inspired-by-nature-2-13-1

Some of these are simply creative home products designed to mimic nature in clever ways, but some of them are the real deal. After all, the feel of a plastic plant can’t compare to that of a real, living and breathing one. Whether it’s moss or grass planted onto a moist and nutrient-rich sponge or a clever arrangement of soil and grass, these products and design elements are sure to help sate your hankering for nature until your next vacation or weekend trip into the great outdoors.

green-design-ideas-inspired-by-nature-2-25-1

moss-walls-green-interior-design-trend-12__700

 

Paul & Virginie, the world forgot this love story

A5490.jpg

big_14142682613935_3749

Unknown to the world but elevated to lofty heights in the world of French Classical Literature, is the love story Paul and Virginie set in the lush tropical background of the island of Mauritius, then named Île de France. Today, all that remains is a stack of rocks and a concrete plaque facing the sea in the village of Poudre d’Or where one can see Ile Dambre, where the final note took place.

1581_537665962_bild_181_H121629_L.jpg

To any tourist, it looks just a perfect piece of beach with a black volcanic basalt rocky band which forms a flat island. From the shade of the casuarina trees on the beach, it spells calm tropical dream paradise. But it once had a fierce storm which not only broke a formidable ship under the name of St Geran, but also broke hearts.

Flaubert in Madame Bovary (1856) described how Emma’s experience of literature formed her imagination: “She had read Paul et Virginie, and she had fantasized about the little bamboo cottage, the Negro Domingo, the dog Fidèle, but even more the sweet friendship of some good little brother who would go and gather ripe fruits for you from great trees taller than spires, or who would run barefoot in the sand, bringing you a bird’s nest.”

In Un Cœur simple (A Simple Heart) (1877), he used the names Paul and Virginie for the two children of Madame Aubain, Félicité’s employer. Guy de Maupassant, Honore de Balzac and many others giants of French literature did not fail to mention Paul and Virginie in their works.

download (2)

gal-2748492 download  download (2)

Paul et Virginie, a novel by Bernardin de Saint Pierre, was first published in 1788.  Written on the eve of the French Revolution,  the novel is recognized as Bernardin’s finest work. It records the fate of a child of nature corrupted by the artificial sentimentality of the French upper classes in the late eighteenth century. Bernardin de Saint-Pierre lived on the island for a time and based part of the novel on a shipwreck he witnessed there.

390px-Bernardin_saint-pierre_jardin_plantes

Bernardin de Saint Pierre, Jardin des Plantes, Paris

Bernardin de Saint-Pierre’s novel criticizes the social class divisions found in eighteenth-century French society. He describes the perfect equality of social relations on Mauritius, whose inhabitants share their possessions, have equal amounts of land, and all work to cultivate it. They live in harmony, without violence or unrest. The author’s beliefs echo those of Enlightment philosophers such as Jean-Jacques Rousseau.

RTEmagicC_mahe-de-la-bourdonnais_01.jpg

Mahe de Labourdonnais

Today, it remains a beautiful love story in the minds of Mauritians, and a statue of the lovers are present in the main parks across the island.

But, if you havre read this post, please grab a copy of this alluring classic and make voyage to the time of innocence and pure love. It happened once, on an island thsy still call paradise.

download (4)  41iCSGUHJQL._SX307_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg

 

Timor Leste … Christ’s beach

beaches-in-East-Timor

timor-leste-600x450.jpg

Staying in Dili, Timor Leste working for the UN after the referendum was an eye opener for me. I discovered what a ravaged country by conflict looks like, I realised that each child I saw was an orphan. Beach shacks were not fanciful dwellings but real homes. I understood that the sea we take for granted gives the only food the local people could find apart from foraging. I became friends with childrens who practically spend all their time on the beach with some lucky dogs who wee alive, and some bold pigs who crossed roads with their cute tiny piglets.

Life came to a stall, we lived in a different bubble from the outside world.

fac1 horizont

In front of the hotel we stayed in, was the beach. My first cognition with a black sand one. It felt strange, unreal. Me, so used to my native island’s fine white sandy beaches.

However, we built our days over challenges and had our delightful time going to the white sandy stretches by Jesus, as everybody calls it. It became our Sunday R&R spot.

DSCN9211.jpg

Now, where do you find white sandy beaches in Dili?

timor

Heading east out of Dili you can either go over the hill and far away or you can continue on the Metiaut road until it falls into the ocean at the feet of Jesus.

christ

Cristo Rei is a giant statue of Christ on top of the hill at Cape Fatucama (the furthest point north of Dili’s bay). He stands with open arms on top of a globe. It was given to Timor by the Indonesians during occupation. Not wanting to lose the chance to squeeze some symbolism in, the 27m of the statue’s height was supposed to represent the 27 provinces of Indonesia, including what was then East Timor and now Timor-Leste. Also noted symbolically is the fact that Christ holds his arms open towards Jakarta rather than Timor.

Timor-Leste_4W-PE7T_4W-N1YC_DX-News.jpg

At the base of the hill there is a car park, amphitheatre and small shelters for picnics and gatherings. The initial path climbs past the 14 Stations of the Cross in long gradual steps. You reach the saddle of the hill where you can see west to the Cristo Rei beach and east to what most people call ‘back beach’. There is another wide set of stairs that takes you to a level area with an altar for public masses. The final climb is up a series of short steep steps that may require a pause in conversation to hide any shortness of breath.

At the top there is an observation area with 360 degree views and the copper height of Christ watching down on you. You’ll see tourists taking photos, joggers stretching, walkers wiping sweat from their brows and highly pregnant women hoping to get things started. At the right time of year you can see whales and every day you can watch the show-off sunset that doesn’t lose any of its beauty, no matter how many times you see it.

This strip has a coastal walkway, some sun shelters, trees, a few cafes and even accommodation. The water is warm and shallow for 10-15m before it drops off to become darker, cooler and occasionally corralled. The water is full of people swimming, splashing and paddling surf skis. The shore is lined with forts, sandcastles, younger siblings and watchful parents. Most people head home around 5pm but those who stay reposition their seats so that nothing comes between them and another perfect sunset.

On a clear night the changing reds, oranges and pinks glow on and on. Then for a moment you turn away and when you look back the show is over for another day.

quiet-contemplations.jpg  images (3)

Migration .. a crisis?

Lampedusa migration

Migration barriers have complex effects, among which is a cost to global economic efficiency. A recent research literature has asserted that, far from having an economic cost, migration barriers may in fact enrich the world economy. It is claimed that barriers do this by stopping the spread of impoverishing ‘culture’ or ‘institutions’ from poor to rich countries. This is the new economic case for migration restrictions. We assess the economy theory and evidence behind this claim. While it is possible in principle for such effects to arise, they would occur at orders of magnitude higher migration rates than presently observed. That is, the new efficiency case for some migration restrictions is empirically a case against the stringency of current restrictions.

Globalisation is not just for goods, services and capital. It is also for people. High-income countries are not only richer, but also less corrupt and more stable than others. Nothing is less surprising than the desire to emigrate to the West.

A few argue that gaps in real wages across the world are the biggest of all economic distortions. Movement of people, they say, should be seen as identical to trade; humanity would benefit from the elimination of barriers. The movement of people might be vast and the impact on high-income economies, with only one-seventh of the world’s population, correspondingly huge. But it would maximise wealth.

mig

Yet such cosmopolitanism is incompatible with the organisation of our politics into self-governing territorial jurisdictions. It is incompatible, too, with the right of citizens to decide who may share the benefits of living alongside them.

If countries are entitled to control immigration, the criterion for immigration becomes the benefits to existing citizens and their descendants. Benefits to would-be immigrants, which are the bulk of those generated by migration, count for less.

images

Banksy, Bristol

What then are the benefits of immigration to citizens and their descendants? The arguments divide into those relating to the numbers and, more importantly, those relating to the differing characteristics.

Is it important to increase population? The answer surely is no. Merely increasing the population of a prosperous small country, such as Denmark, would not increase the standard of living of its citizens. But it would impose sizeable investment and congestion costs. The argument for size can only be that it makes defence cheaper.

Last year, there were 29 dependants aged 65 and over for every 100 people of working age. According to the United Nations, keeping this ratio below a third would require immigration of 154 million between 1995 and 2050, with far more thereafter: Immigrants age, too, after all.

Consequently, a big reduction in dependency ratios demands huge inflows. One might argue that a continent with so few children must accept such a transformation of its population.

Finally, the main beneficiaries are always the immigrants themselves.

Yet migration is not just about economics. Immigrants are people. They bring in families, for example. Over time, large-scale immigration will transform the cultures of recipient countries in complex ways. Immigrants bring diversity and cultural dynamism. At the same time, as Nobel laureate Thomas Schelling notes, substantial segregation might naturally emerge. People might then live quite separately, without many shared loyalties.

Immigration has economic effects. But it also affects the current and future values of a country, including its concern for foreigners. People may legitimately differ on the correct policies.

Brighton, Son Pier et ses Lanes

brighton-pier.jpg

Impossible de ne pas tomber sous le charme de Brighton. C’est une ville pleine de charme, surprenante, au style très anglais et excentrique.

Décalée et cosmopolite, avec ses étudiants du monde entier qui viennent y apprendre l’anglais et ses retraités anglais qui viennent y profiter d’un temps plus clément que sur le reste de l’île. Un déluge de pluie le matin peut laisser la place à une sublime après-midi ensoleillée. C’est aussi la ville où l’on trouve la plus forte population gay du pays. Une des raisons sûrement pour laquelle Brighton est si gaie et colorée.

brighton_2472753b

brighton_3170137b

Quand il fait beau, la balade est sublime! On peut partir du Brighton Pier, près duquel se trouve aussi la grande roue de Brighton, et longer la mer vers l’Ouest. On passe devant un très beau kiosque à musique, puis devant les restes du deuxième Pier, le West Pier, qui s’est écroulé à cause des vagues en 2002 et a subi plusieurs incendies.

Il faut marcher jusqu’à Hove (la ville voisine, mais qui fait partie de Brighton administrativement) avec les cabanes de plages colorées de l’esplanade du Roi (King’s Esplanade). On a presque l’impression de faire un voyage au siècle dernier lorsque les Anglais découvraient les plaisirs des bords de mer.

brighton-hove-cabanes-plage.jpg

Le Pavillon Royal – C’est un bâtiment unique en son genre. Grisâtre au premier coup d’oeil, on dirait un immense décor de carton de pâte hollywoodien.

Résidence balnéaire du roi George IV, elle mélange à l’intérieur (photos interdites…) les styles indiens et chinois dans une invraisemblable extravagance architecturale. D’immenses lustres dragons illuminent les salles de bals ou de banquet. Les appartement sud roi sont plus modestes, mais cachent de nombreux passages secrets qui permettaient au souverain de se déplacer discrètement, notamment vers les appartements de sa maitresse.

brighton-pavilion

A l’intérieur de Brighton, il faut se perdre dans le dédale de petites ruelles des Lanes. Minuscules petites rues commerçantes et décorées avec des drapeaux multicolores. Plein de pubs avec de belles enseignes. Des petits magasins de brocantes, des librairies avec des vitrines entasses de vieilles cartes, des estampes anciennes, des aquarelles aux encadrements recouverts de feuilles d’or anciens, des vieux joailleries avec des bijoux anciens serties de rubis, de diamants et de l’or rose Gallois.

brighton_the_lanes

Mon quartier préféré à Brighton: North Lane, avec ses fresques de street-art (surtout Regent Street et Trafalgar Lane) et ses boutiques vintage et originales (surtout Gardner Street et Sydney Street). Pleines de belles surprises à découvrir!

ls

 

brighton-lanes

brighton-palace

brighton-rain

Mes visites a Brighton ont toujours été ponctuées de pluie.  Une fois en hiver avec un orage comme j’en ai rarement vu. Qui semblait ne vouloir jamais s’arrêter. Et comme mon moral est directement branché sur le thermomètre, je me suis mise à maudire dame météo, maudire les Anglais et leur climat, maudire mon ciré pas étanche, maudire mon parapluie qui s’est retourné. Le temps de trouver un endroit où prendre un bon chocolat chaud, ou je pouvais oublier les maux du temps de chien au sens propre qu’il peut faire a Brighton…

Ca m’énerve encore de voir ces photos grises parce que Brighton c’est justement la petite station balnéaire sympa où il fait bon vivre SOUS LE SOLEIL!

Sinon, le Brighton Crescent qui est une enfilade de maison collées les unes contres les autres en cercle, peintes en blanc. Face a la mer aux vagues déferlant toutes leurs fougues. C’est un beau spectacle.

Brighton en vaut le détour!

brighton-building

 

 

 

Global Brands?

Global-Brand-Website-Design-InForm-Web-Design-Lancashire.png

What is it about being a true global brand these days? Do we still have to think global and act local? Or has the web changed all that, bringing the world together more than ever before?

Globalization has always been something that the advertising industry has struggled with. In the past, the main role of a global agency has been to manage execution across borders. Today the significant opportunity in brand building is to maximize one idea across the globe, to create an inspirational rallying cry for a global consumer movement.

It isn’t easy to communicate across different cultures and countries while having one overall brand that really makes an impact.

Coke’s edge is its global brand. It has always done well, building strong relationships with people in multiple countries, based on one idea. It understands that globally, you have to build a brand that has its core values at the very heart whilst locally – you have to tailor your marketing accordingly. See Coke ads in Germany or in Sweden, Dubai or Downtown New York – and its the same global idea.

Few brands act this way. Corporate culture, cultural differences, and different usage habits have stopped many a brand from realizing their global potential. There always seems to be a reason why a brand shouldn’t have one idea around the world.

Since the Internet overtook our lives, this ‘global against local’ way of advertising is becoming increasingly difficult for brands. Like never before, people are communicating and engaging with the entire world. Borders and boundaries have ceased to exist as people tweet, blog and chat online in real-time, 24 hours a day, seven days a week with just about every country on the planet.

Facebook, Google, Apple, technology, the web — the frontier is opening up for global brand building. If you can build brands that understand this new media landscape, you’ll have the whole world in your hands.

download (2)

Swedish fashion company H&M is one brand that’s getting it right in a digital age. Because of the web, it doesn’t see the advertising industry as highly localized anymore. It carries out global campaigns that span multiple countries, languages and cultures. And it works well for them. Everything from their huge outdoor boards to their website carries the same marketing messages, making the same clever impact. Some say that fashion, luxury or retail brands have it easier when it comes to building a global brand.

Recently, Heineken launched an ambitious new global platform called ‘Open your world’ and is executing truly global campaigns for the very first time. As expected, it created adverts for television and cinemas but also spent millions of dollars to advertize with Google and Facebook. A large proportion of its target market is online, so it made complete sense to go down the social media route with a globally unifying campaign… something that everyone – no matter where they’re from or where they’re based – can identify with.

download (3)

The opportunity for global brands is new markets where consumer demand is exploding such as Brazil, Dubai, Indonesia, Nigeria, Russia, Vietnam and all points in between. The global brand hits the ground faster and makes an impact harder because it’s figured out its global idea before it enters markets. And more often than not, the local consumers have already heard or seen the brand idea on YouTube.

As marketers see more brands globalizing and as economics pushes companies to think about brand building in a smarter, more efficient and more universal way– global brand building will rise in importance.

Here is a quote from Massimo F. d’Amore , Chief Executive Officer of PepsiCo Beverages Americas, reinforcing this point in a recent article from Ad Age:

“[Before] it was more of a global coordination as opposed to a global management,” Mr. d’Amore said. “Technology, both social networks and mobile platforms, have created this global generation. We really want to connect our global brands with the global generation, and the best way to do that is with global management.”

Yet as the world becomes increasingly interconnected and as more and more consumers engage with brands, brand building could take on another dimension. The winning formula seems to be a brand wrapped in a movement, which can transcend geography and language, and which instils values and a way of living that is simple, inspiring and easy to align with.

H&M, Heineken, Apple and Coke know this and spend loads of dollars every year, ensuring we never forget them.

Today, building successful global brands is about thinking globally. It’s about understanding your company’s core culture and values and communicating that in everything you do. It’s where Movement Marketing comes into play. No longer are we throwing out one-way, localized messages with one global look and feel. Today, the digital revolution is about getting people to love your brand, no matter where they are in the world.

One thing is certain; it’s not easy respecting so many different cultures when Facebook has brought everyone together. But if you can get it right, you’ll become one of the elite global brands that everyone wants to buy in to.

Branding ? Eh …

branding

It is no secret that if you want people to love your brand these days. Adriana Lima’s Teleflora’s TV commercial aside, you’ve got to generate lust for the brand that leads to deep love. And I don’t mean David Beckham‘s HUGE skyscraper poster of him in his underwear for H&M overlooking 7th Avenue in New York.

David-Beckahm-HM-mural

Creating love for the brand is a vital yet bloody emotional thing. In the old days, when you were interested in someone, you called, sent flowers and a card, and then asked them on a date. Today, when you meet someone you have all the complexities of social media. When do you respond? How and how often? Not easy. Brand lovin’ is sort of the same.

You can no longer deliver a simple emotive message. Forget about shouting what you’re selling. Today’s savvy consumers want something more meaningful. They want to feel real love. Because if they don’t… they won’t trust or want to be associated with you.

Technology and the Internet have made all this possible. They have brought brands and customers closer together through high impact social media and the digital revolution. People can now talk directly to brands and vice versa. It has created a new kind of relationship. It’s a direct connection that’s built on trust and loyalty.

How you grab people’s love is by igniting their passions and sparking a movement that tickles them daily? One that listens to them, makes them laugh, or shows them that you care. You have to be transparent, trustworthy and honest. And if you say you believe in something, you have to mean it right from the very heart of your operation. Otherwise, people will see through your insincerity.

download (1)

There are plenty of examples where brands are struggling with brand love. Some used to understand the importance of love but have since forgotten. Some are doing better than others. Bud Light and its new Rescue Dog campaign makes us smile. Hyundai inspires and plays on people’s love of Rocky with its latest commercial. And Toyota talks about our emotional ‘connections’ with its Camry model and asks ‘What’s your story?’.

images (13)

But real brand love, like in life, is reserved for a special level of brand engagement and emotional impact. Chrysler’s Clint Eastwood movement comes to mind. It’s bigger than the category. It talks to everyone about themselves, his or her individual plight, challenge, and opportunity and stimulates a lust for a relationship that stirs you deep within.

What other brands have taken it there?

How do you think Audi did with its recent attempt to capitalize on the famous Twilight saga? Did it connect with its audience?

Or what about GoDaddy.co? Its ‘Body Paint’ and ‘The Cloud’ adverts were supposed to be sexy and provocative but did they connect with a huge percentage of its market, i.e. women?

Or what about Coca Cola’s advertisement where two polar bears enjoy the soft drink in a cave?

But there are those times when people can break up with your brand because they’ve fallen out of love with you. Something might’ve damaged your reputation or put you in a bad light. For example, brands like Starbucks have gone through interesting times over the years. Starbucks is now rekindling our love for their brand experience with all sorts of initiatives…doing rather than simply talking.

Above all, brands have got to accept that they’re now in a relationship with their customers. And like any successful relationship, it has to be built on love, trust and loyalty. If you don’t have that, then you’ll suffer much heartbreak to come.

Tendances Déco 2016

b1c58ea8cfde5f1c2711702ee70cb9ce.jpg

La tendance prône le mélange des styles modernes et traditionnels. La décoration de demain compte sur des tons naturels et subtils combinés avec des objets décoratifs tape-à-l’œil. La fonctionnalité de l’habitat reste un point majeur de la décoration actuelle.. ci-dessous les tendances de l’année 2016.

6de3e40ae7cd978da0a3b9223419c0b1

c925ae63d4954a5f11c9dafc8789562f

Tout comme l’année passée, la tendance de décoration intérieure est dirigée vers la nature avec un design soit sobre et naturel et des couleurs qui apportent de la chaleur et permettent de rehausser les meubles. Quelques objets de décoration mis en avant assurent le petit plus qui fait toute la différence.

6f4cd0f050fd0b4cdc438adfa6bde3f3.jpg

c5f99492632c462793852988e22c5b73

0bc1c3f91d79c0d6e6a3fd0338dbb67c

Les meubles particulièrement appréciés pour la beauté de leur grain et leur texture.. On retrouve un univers proche de la nature avec des matériaux naturels et authentiques. En plus, les tons chauds du bois contribuent au charme de l’intérieur. La nouvelle tendance met en avant les meubles en bois «nature», mais qui bénéficient d’une esthétique et de finitions soignées. Les surfaces en bois rustiques et rugueuses ne font pas partie de cette tendance.

La même chose s’applique aux tissus (rideaux, tissus d’ameublement, tapis et autres textiles). Le lin, la laine et le coton s’intègrent dans le décor. Cousu, tricoté ou tissé, c’est une question de goût. L’ancien et le contemporain se côtoient harmonieusement.

6267f76396e85b6f30806c2229c92a57

9981cf1f41055680bd65554b6459a378

Présentés sur les grands salons de décoration l’année passée, la tendance est aux séparateurs de chambres. Les nombreuses chambres prédéfinies laissent la place à des espaces plus grands et plus ouverts. Les séparateurs de chambre délimitent les différentes zones de l’appartement ..

Le séparateur peut être un meuble (canapés, étagères…), ou d’éléments décoratifs comme par exemple des rideaux.. Puisque votre pièce comporte plusieurs zones, vous pouvez décorer chacune de ces zones séparément. Vous pouvez facilement créer un coin de lecture dans votre salon, par exemple en accrochant simplement un rideau.

Dans cet univers léger et fonctionnel, les meubles massifs disparaissent et le téléviseur se retrouve au milieu de la pièce.

Les dessins et formes géométriques tape-à-l’œil ne sont pas en reste. Les motifs triangulaires sur les textiles ou les boîtes hexagonales et les horloges sont un must-have. Vous pouvez ajouter des vases, des abat-jours ou des plaids: jouez avec les formes pour créer un design naturel et unique dans votre appartement.

30411b9f73df680c732f01fa4d70ddd1.jpg

1d192441ae6a975a9fa1f2114d4897f9

90f328a2fb8b7b212bd5ff7cb23a5ff3

Tendances … Décor?

56b7c43b38569952a714bf43e77166b4  14846adc7d35712827e4d5404fd41053

Les tendances passent, se suivent, se renouvellent parfois ou changent tout simplement de nomination. Elles se mélangent et se superposent le plus souvent.

cd95371538d3c31ae50c2475dc1c5147  61ef32c3d9a736896cbfdab4871e714f

Une tendance en décoration n’annule pas la dernière, il est rare d’avoir une véritable rupture de genre, et comme toujours, c’est le temps qui nous dira quelle elle était vraiment LA tendance des années 2000. Je pencherais pour une forte influence scandinave, mais aussi industrielle, rétro, bohème, mais il y a aussi le style new rural ou rustique, ethnique… bref, la liste est longue. Et oui, on s’y perd, et pour se perdre un peu plus, très souvent un intérieur emprunte un peu à chaque tendance. Je m’emprunte sur l’ethnique ces jours ci, chiner dans les petits marchés de Dar es Salaam est un pur plaisir, sauf la chaleur si elle n’était pas aussi présente!

6462ecdd49d114e436f48e11c698ba3d  440dda02713aa7d4cf18d41271c5fb64

Mais au fond, ça n’a aucune importance, les tendances ne sont-elles pas faites pour ne pas être suivies ?

Je remarque au passage que le style contemporain est moins visible dans les magazines [ou je ne lis pas ceux qui en parlent, ce qui est possible], cependant quand je regarde les sites des architectes ou des agences immobilières, certains hôtels, il est ultra-plébiscité ! Je n’en parle pas vraiment, car personnellement, je trouve ce style assez froid et sans personnalité [c’est dit]. Comme quoi, les tendances… on n’en fait bien ce que l’on en veut.

110b8cfaa62ea0e807e8c227e4a79e38  c1d676e32f17dafe1a10c7e31b5ddd8c

c941ef7217b275cae35695ef6959abb5 cf81fb8886381408192b3dcad7df60b9.jpg

A day in Port Louis, street food Galore!

download

Markets in Mauritius are feasts for all senses. Hustle and bustle; vendors calling out their wares and prices in Creole; the smell of sweat, incense, salted fish and sweet pineapples; bargains and rip-offs. My favourite part of any market is the fresh fruit and vegetable section. Having grown up in Port Louis, I would know all the nooks and crannies of the place.

images (1)

I loved watching the symmetrically stacked plump, red tomatoes, green beans, big plum orange pumpkins, ‘margoze’, ‘pipengaille’, ‘callebasse’,  the piles of cassava; baskets full of herbs for making creole curry; and a multitude of other colourful things which add to the atmosphere and show the variety that the Mauritian consumes on a daily basis. Rice and baguette being the staple carbs, Mauritians cooks along 3 to 4 different vegetables for a single meal, along side might come the fried fish or the meat daube. Not to forget that no meal is complete without its ‘cravate’ as per the local adage – a chutney and pickle should always be present. My Brit husband now is used to it, and totally demands his coco chutney or a ‘chatini cotomili’, coriander and tomato chutney.

port-louis-market-view

The touristic parts of  market requires a wide berth though. The last thing you need is some vendor trying to convince you that you need a plastic dodo made in China, or a frilly sega dress for your child. A medley of Mauritian and Madagascan, Indonesian, Indian, African crafts await the naive tourist who can easily get ripped off, if not attentive. However, a large variety awaits you, if you are in for a search, the Mauritian travels a lot and is very entrepreneurial. Beware of the touts, unlike the passive shop owners, get your price from teh man behind the counter.

images (3)

Central-Market-Port-Louis

all-sorts-of-artefacts

The market in Port Louis is tourist heaven and hell at the same time. You will definitely get hustled here, but the fresh produce section is the best (and most photogenic) on the whole island. Unless you are looking to buy (and haggle for) cheap souvenirs, give the tourist section a miss. Instead, take your time soaking up the atmosphere in the large fruit and vegetable hall where the locals come to shop for dinner. If you can handle the smell of unrefrigerated, raw meat take a look in the various halls opposite the road from the vegetable section, each dedicated to a particular product (beef, goat, poultry, fish etc.).

images (5)

Textile used to be one of the Mauritian economy’s Three Pillars together with sugar and tourism. Although IT and commerce have now overtaken the traditional industries, there is still high quality clothes and textiles produced here that can be bought at real bargain prices. A block of several streets sell textiles at knock out prices. The only hic is finding a tailor in situ to match the bargain buy. Mauritians are used to get their curtains changed almost two or once each year for the New Year or some festival. Buying linen is a hobby, and getting your trousseau done is still prevalent, apart from the bride dresses made from scratch. Habberdashry shops would put your regular UK’s John Lewis departmental shops to shame by their variety and price.

15-textiles-shopping-mauritius

For a more hassle-free experience, take a stroll along the streets leading up to Chinatown and the Muslim quarters around Jumma Masjid (one of the largest mosques in Mauritius). The road between the Chinese gates (Royal Road, between Dr Joseph Riviere and La Paix streets) is mostly hardware shops but the side streets are bustling with little shops and stalls selling everything from roasted peanuts to Chinese medicine and Muslim prayer beads and (caps).

I love street food. Little bite-sized morsels that give you a real taste of the place that you are visiting. At the market, on a street corner or at the beach; anywhere you go in Mauritius you’ll find delectable snacks. With such a diverse population, you’ll always find something new and interesting. Here are some of my favourites:

mauritius2

Chana Puri

This is a little deep fried dough ball, filled with lentils. If you want to (and I strongly recommend you do), the vendor will break it open and drizzle a chutney over it. . Street stalls that sell Chana Puri also sell all sorts of other deep fried snacks, go wild and taste one of each! An assortment of chutneys wre present for generous dousing, on your ‘dipain frire’ battered deep fried toast, samousa, ‘gato arouille’ yam fritters, ‘bajia’ plain fritters, ‘gato brizelle’ aubergine slices in batter and fried … delicious ! It is a regular affair for Mauritians who snack on them for a quick bite or afternoon tea. Not good if you are watching your waistline. But hey! you need to taste them for once!

Local Food Stall, Port Louis, Mauritius

Local Creole Food at a road side stall, Port Louis Market, Port Louis, Mauritius

mauritius3

Boulettes

Similar to a Chinese dim sum, ‘boulettes’ are little dumplings made with fish, pork, vegetables or meat, served in a tasty broth and drizzled with spring onion and green chili paste. Sometimes, you also have the option of adding noodles. Another Chinese style food. More a full meal than a snack, but too good not to include here. You can chose between fried or boiled noodles (the fried ones are drier whereas the boiled ones are served in a broth), and then you select your ingredients (chicken, egg, beef etc.). Personally, I really like the vegetarian  made of chatotes called ‘saw mai’,  ‘mine frire’ fried noodles, ‘teo kon’ stuffed Tofu, and crispy wontons roughly complet the  Chinese street food tabelau. Not to forget the unmissable  dash of  homemade Chinese chili sauce (beware, the Mauritian chili is HOT). Drive to the beach, watch the turquoise lagoon, white crested waves, surfers, and sometimes dolphins…. isn’t this a good life?

gatopima.jpg

Gateaux Piments – Gato Pima

Another little deep fried snack, and probably one of the most famous ones. It’s a small  ball, made with ray chick pea paste, chili and herbs. Although the name means chili cake, they are not very hot but that can always be cured by dipping them in chili paste. Make sure you get them fresh and still warm, as they tend to get dry fairly quickly. My husband has become an afficionado now, and a ‘gato pima’ moment is always a happy moment in our home in the UK. Chilly Winters marry well with chilli fritters, ‘c’est bon pour le moral’ as we say in French. It is good for the mood, indeed true! Not me says so, but the doctors.

mauritius12

My favourite beach snack! The Victoria pineapple is world famous for its fine flavour, I paid a fortune for one in an Asia store in France. Small, incredibly sweet Victoria pineapples are peeled and quartered, then doused with a chili sauce and drizzled with chili salt. The combination of sweet, hot and salty is phenomenal, and totally worth the red, burning lips you inevitably will have afterwards. Nevermind, just take a dip in the sea to rinse sticky fingers and cool down your lips!

The pickle vendor might also be selling  pickled mango, cucumber, and other tropical fruits along. Try them, they are a surprise !

con

14-800x530

Di pain frire

‘Di pan frire’ served with tomato, coriander chilli paste is a favourite. The chilli paste is served with everything. I even had them in a Mauritian restaurant in Paris XI out of home sickness, they were phenomenal, and it seemed that they had a wide pool of followers by what I saw on the tables.

Can we finish by the no. 1 national street food ? The Dhal Puri. An institution in itself. It is a fine pancake made of flour and Gram Dhal with spices. It is baked upon the iron cast tawa and is completed by its filling consisted of ‘carri Gros Pois’ butter beans and potato curry, ‘Rougaille’ tomato sauce Mauritian style, an optional ‘carri Bredes Songes’ taro greens cooked in the callalou manner, ‘achard legumes’ mix vegetables pickles, green chilli chutney …. folded and eaten on the side of road, as it should not even get warm, it is best eaten hot ….. a blast !

images (11)  images (10)

Here you go, …. apart from the Michelin starred Chefs who work for the 30 five stars,(Mauritius has the highest number of luxury 5-star hotels in the world) hotels of the island, displaying their culinary wonders to you, there is the best to be discovered on the streets of the island.

heritage-le-telfair-golf-spa-resort_014698_full

Alooda or Falouda?

alouda-ile-maurice-boisson

To bring the cliche forth, each and every habitant of Mauritius has the Alooda in his/her DNA … sounds cheeky, right?

But True.

Alouda is a Mauritian drink made with milk, evaporated milk, sugar, agar agar (grass jelly) and basil seeds. It is sweet, but cold and refreshing, and the agar agar and basil seeds make it a little “slimey-chewy” which makes it feel like a little meal in itself. You can buy Alouda in the supermarket, but the best way is to get it straight from a street vendor, specially in the central market in Port Louis. The most common flavours are vanilla, plain and almond. I prefer plain vanilla. At some places, it will be “assembled” on the spot whereas others are in big containers. It is generally assembled in front of you, and topped with a generous dollop of vanilla ice cream. A posh milkshake looks pale in front of this street wonder food.

alooda  f

Discovering new things, learning new knowledge is always of value, for me at least. I am fortunate enough to have a vast circle of interests and to hold them in high regard. It wasn’t always like that. Even I had my times were I lived in a narrow mind, eyes shut, praising only the commercial, “cool”world. Eski, Coke, Sprite, and Fanta rated high in my cooling beverages list. However, there were the Saturdays when I had to accompany Mother to the ‘Gran Bazar’ for the week’s green grocery shopping. It would always end at Anay’s shop of ‘Alouda’… or rather he would hail us persistently to stop and have a glass. For me it was laways an embarassment to stand in the moving hectic crowd, all sweaty and red at the cheeks to take in the mega tall glass ice chilly Alouda, realising that having a sudden brain freeze from rushing the drinking did not arrange matters.

la mousse

 

One needs to take his time to savour this devilishly delicious refreshing drink which transports you in an instant to an unknown world of sweetness, milkiness, coolness, when the cream and the rose grass jelly throttle down your throat in an ecstatic explosion. Annay kept a close watch, he would top our glass as soon as it was mid empty. Such was his love to please, and share his highly rated Alouda. He almost revered Mother, so I got many top ups. Annay sadly passed away, now his son has taken over the Pillay shop.

Otayo_Alouda_Pillay_(6)

But what created the wonder of the Alooda were the tiny black seeds we call ‘tookmaria’ in Mauritius. They are basil seeds which are present in every household and dirt cheap. As the mercury goes up, we would soak those seeds and drink chilled toukmaria glasses of water to ward off the heat.

TUKMARIA-BASIL-SEEDS  11902124_f496

basil-seed-sabja-seeds-tukmaria-seeds-500x500

tuk

What I didn’t know for a while was that in south Asia it was common to use the seeds in foods and when health issues would occur (digestion problems). Interestingly those seeds are not just simple grains. Add them into some drinking water and you will witness a strange  change. After just a minute in the water, a transparent jelly layer “grows” around the black seed which might remind one of tapioca. They are jelly outside and crunchy inside. One could easily fool somebody by pretending those where frog spawns. I am not sure if the same works with the common Basil like the one in Europe but there seem to be different types and sizes with some having more jelly around them then others. Nowadays, many are calling it the Chia seeds with the label of a wonder food. But from what I know, the Chia seeds looks much smaller …

al

On a second thought, what if both were related? Could the Mauritian have been drinking a wonder drink for centuries now not knowing about its properties? Could it be why the country achieved so much without having any natural resources …? How they kept cool under a tropical sun in a multi-ethnic mix ?. Matter to be reflected upon.

Amen.

showimage  generic1

 

 

L’Ile de Raja Empat en Indonésie

raja-ampat-vuduciel

Une région encore vièrge et préservée

Des mes voyages, j’en ai retenu notre séjour de 3 ans en Indonésie. Le plus sauvage, le plus isolé et le plus insolite de toutes nos reconnaissance avec la nature. Survolant l’archipel, le trés fameux Merpati, mieux connu pour ses annulations et retards que pour ses vols réguliers aux quatres coins des 17,508 iles, comptabilisées à ce jour, il s’agit du plus grand archipel  au monde. Vous etes sur de toujours decouvrir un petit recoin vierge tout a vous … Moi, je me rafollais des petits gateaux sucrés Indonesiéns aux couleurs chattoyants faits  de farine de riz et du sucre de palme que Merpati offre a ses voyageurs avec une barre de chocolat KitKat dans une boite de carton rudimentaire estampe de son logo ‘Get the Feeling!’.

image

merpati

 

Raja Ampat, Raja (roi en hindi) et (ampat- quatre en Bahasa Indonesien) signifie « Les quatre rois ». Composé d’une multitude d’îlots couverts de jungle, c’est un archipel situé dans le fameux triangle de corail de la zone Indo-Pacifique.

La nature y est encore préservée, car ces îles sont isolées, encore pas trop connues et difficiles à atteindre. Raja Ampat est exceptionnel, pour sa beauté et sa biodiversité, sur terre comme en mer.

La plupart des voyageurs accèdent à Raja Ampat via l’aéroport de Sorong, en face des îles. La ville compte environ 220 000 habitants, c’est un port minier et industriel, sans grand charme.

blue-mangrove-R4-009

raja-ampat-008

Sorong est située sur le « bec » de la pointe occidentale de la partie indonésienne de la Papouasie, joliment surnommée « Péninsule de la tête d’oiseau » (Bird’s Head Peninsula)en raison de sa forme.

L’archipel est pour l’instant à l’écart du tourisme dit « de masse », mais le nombre de voyageurs étrangers croît d’année en année. Raja Ampat va forcément se développer et le tourisme prendre de l’ampleur dans les années qui viennent.

Espérons, en tout cas, que cela se fera autant que possible dans le respect des gens et de l’environnement.

raja-ampat-017

images

Dol de Bretagne … milles visites

Une chapelle, un croix et un calvaire plantés là, sur la falaise, face à la mer. Cette chapelle c’est la dénommée St Samson, construite en 1785. A cette époque, alors que la grande route « touristique » qui la longe n’existait pas, elle devait vraiment être au milieu de nulle part. Sa fontaine était bien connue pour ces vertus miraculeuses. Elle avait la réputation de guérir les maux d’yeux et les rhumatismes. On y plongeait également les enfants pour leur donner de la vigueur. St Samson quant à lui n’a pas grand chose à voir avec cet endroit. Il nous vient du Pays de Galle et il aurait évangéliser l’Irlande. Il débarquera ensuite en Armorique et s’établira à Dol de Bretagne. Il fait partie des sept saints fondateurs de la Bretagne.

galets

port

maison_lampaul_plouarzel

bateaux

Chocolatiers en Bretagne

Je vous partage aujourd’hui 3 bonnes adresses de chocolatiers en Bretagne. Ils font partie de mes préférés mais il y en aurait tellement d’autres à citer …

Les nénettes – Vannes

Les_nénettes
©LesNénettes
Les Nénettes c’est une histoire de chocolat mère/fille qui créent leur entreprise en janvier 2011 à Vannes avec un concept innovant et féminin.
Ève est pâtissière chocolatière formée à l’école française de gastronomie Grégoire Ferrandi à Paris, et Sylvie, ancienne graphiste, s’est formée également au métier de chocolatier au CFA de Ploufragan. A elles deux elles lanceront leurs produits phares : des petits chocolats en forme de cônes de 5 grammes et dont chaque parfum est associé à une couleur et à un prénom féminin.
cônes_nénettesLes Nénettes ce sont aussi des pâtisseries puisque l’entreprise s’est agrandie et qu’elles ont ouvert cet été un laboratoire/point de vente à Plescop où l’on peut prendre le temps de déguster leurs merveilleux gâteaux accompagné d’un café.
11403156_1117972671550502_4033844514943464311_n

LES NENETTES
Le labo : 4 rue Marguerite Perey 56890 Plescop
Boutique : 4 Place des Lices 56000 Vannes

La Fée Cabosse – Rennes
Concernant ce chocolatier autant vous le dire je ne suis pas toujours très fan de leur univers et de leur esthétique qui pour moi frôle parfois un peu le kitschouille… Néanmoins ils ont inventé l’un des meilleurs barre chocolatée au monde selon moi ! Le genre de mélange que l’on ne trouve pas ailleurs et qui pourrait même paraître assez osé pour certains… Je vous présente la bien nommée Poivre et sel :
Poivre_et_sel_fée_cabosse
Un mélange de chocolat blanc et noir avec de la fleur de sel. Hummmmm !
La dernière fois j’ai tenté une nouveauté appelée Fraisier, du chocolat blanc avec des fraises dedans ! :
Fée_cabosse

LA FÉE CABOSSE
2, Rue Poullain Duparc
35000 RENNES
feecabosse.fr

C Chocolats – Brest
LA chocolaterie design made in Brest !
Pierre-Yves Hénaff lance sa boutique dans la cité du Ponant début 2006 et innove par son côté épuré et branché.
Ses magasins sont tellement design d’ailleurs qu’on se croirait presque à Paris. Mais non, tout ceci a bien débuté en Finistère, avec beaucoup de passion et de travail.
J’aime y faire un tour, pour les chocolats mais aussi de plus en plus pour ses gâteaux dignes des plus grands pâtissiers.
C_Chocolat_Brest
©CChocolat

Impossible de résister…..
Gâteaux_C_Chocolat

C CHOCOLAT
6 rue duquesne à Brest
et 41 rue Jean Jaurès à Brest
www.cchocolat.com
Page Facebook

 

L’Ile Rodrigues … Destination Surprenante!

 

6K8C4875

Petite Rodriguaise, Aquarelle, Sita Harris, 2015

On connait l’Ile Maurice comme une destination avec une des plus belles plages du monde, mais qu’en est-il de sa …. petite soeur cachée?

Rodrigues joyau de l’Océan Indien, ile sœur de l’Ile Maurice dont elle dépend administrativement, peuplée par seulement  38 000 habitants reste une destination encore méconnue du monde entier. Ile montagneuse, elle exhibe une multitude de vallons et de vallées qui plongent vers un lagon de 300 km², le long d’un littoral préservé de 80 km.

L’Ile montre ses couleurs à tous ceux qui la rendent visite. D’un calme reposant, loin des brouhahas, de son peuple qui vous rappellent les écrits de Flaubert d’Un Coeur Simple, elle cache beaucoup de secrets merveilleux… pirates, boucaniers y abondent.  Des habitants des derniers colons Français avec des esclaves Bantous du Mozambique, elle a su tisser une joie de vivre à l’écart du jacassement des hommes du nouveau monde. Je retrouve avec amusement et plaisir les ‘ti’ étymologiques Bretons, aussi bien que dans la note et l’instrument du sega local, des sons et tons dans l’accordéon, instrument central de la musique traditionnelle de Bretagne. La cuisine  y reflete  aussi son influence, les fars Bretons sont aujourd’hui des tourtes.

a1jpg_1

A l’écart du tourbillon  du monde moderne, son charme vient d’une beauté sauvage et sans apprêt et dans l’accueil humble et chaleureux de ses habitants. Voir Ici : Sega Rodriguais

Idéale pour des randonnées entre collines entaillées de profondes vallées, Rodrigues présente un récif corallien superbe avec des îles qui font rêver les ornithologues ainsi que quelques plages de rêve dans un superbe isolement.

Ile aux Cocos Rodrigues (2)

Quelques hôtels avec de très belles plages offrent tout le confort moderne tout en étant bien intégrés et vous permettront de découvrir l’hospitalité locale typique de l’île Rodrigue.

Destination rêvée des voyageurs avertis à la recherche de destinations authentiques, Rodrigues se conjugue en combiné avec l’Ile Maurice à laquelle elle appartient et mieux encore, dans un combiné Reunion Maurice Rodrigues, unissant les 3 Mascareignes, îles sœurs complètement différentes dans un superbe voyage francophone, dans le seul Océan des mers chaudes, l’Océan Indien.

 

citrons et piments

Ma Tante, Aquarelle, Sita Harris, 2015

DSCF0662

Une île rattachée à  l’île Maurice, mais autonome (enfin… plus ou moins, d’après les dires des rodriguais, le gouvernement doit constamment  référer à  Maurice pour prendre les décisions…  ), mais qui n’a rien à  voir avec sa grande sœur très touristique, avec ses grands hôtels de luxe bordant leurs propres plages privées. Ici, la nature garde ses droits. Pas grand chose sur ce rocher volcanique, entourée d’un immense lagon de plus de 2 fois sa taille. Le vert de la végétation se mêle au bleu du ciel tandis que le lagon arbore des couleurs variant du turquoise au vert émeraude selon la nature du fond. L’arrivée se fait sur une piste miniature, sur lequel l’ATR d’Air Mauritius, un avion à  hélice de 72 places, est le seul type d’avion à  pouvoir se poser. Les avions à  réactions ont besoin d’une piste plus longue.

Port-Mathurin

La capitale de Rodrigues, la seule véritable petite ville de l’île… mais attention, il ne faut pas s’attendre à  une ville moderne, Port-Mathurin reste une petite bourgade très traditionnelle.

ourites3juin

Piqueuse-dourites

On ne peut non plus passer à  côté des fameux zourites ! Pour le coup, on en mange à  toutes les sauces. L’ourite, c’est le poulpe, qui est pêché ici dans le lagon à  marée basse, souvent par les femmes, appelées « piqueuses d’ourites ». Une grande partie de cette pêche est séchée sur des piquets en bois, au soleil. Vous en trouverez au marché à  Port-Mathurin. Une fois réhydraté, l’ourite se prépare en salade ou en carri.

achards-rodrigues-ile-maurice-mondoblog-1024x683

A goûter absolument  : la cuisine familiale créole des petits restaurants, les poulpes ‘Zourites‘ et poissons grillés et les délicieux carris créoles, les grains, et l’incontournable tourte garnies de patates douces et d’autres fruits tropicaux. Un petit detour aux alentour de son marche et vous trouverez des bocaux et bouteilles de piments confits, les ‘ti pima pétard’ comme disent les Mauriciens, des achards de limons, et des produits artisanaux. L’ambiance est très amicale, tout le monde sourit. Les vendeurs (euses) de fruits et légumes discutent, souvent un chapeau de paille traditionnel sur la tête. Vous en trouverez de nombreux modèles ainsi que des sacs et quelques bibelots… se  succèdent les pots d’Achards déclinés en de multiples recettes s’empilent: coco, limon, ourite, goyave, piment… Il faut choisir, mais ce n’est pas facile !

Enfin, une bonne adresse pour manger de la bonne cuisine traditionnelle, Chez Madame Larose, juste avant d’arriver sur la pointe Coton à  l’est de l’île.

 

L’hôtel  Le Cotton Bay

Situé sur la pointe Coton à  l’est de l’île, sur une des plus belles plages, le Cotton Bay saura vous accueillir avec la chaleur et le sourire créole !

hotel-ile-rodrigues-cotton-bay-gazebo-plage

 

L’hôtel  dispose de 40 chambres supérieures, 6 chambres de luxe, et 2 suites privées. Toutes font face au lagon avec ses vagues aux allures des nymphes miroitantes de milles couleurs éclatantes du bleu, ciel et mer se conjuguent en un appel subjuguant.

1488-grandecaverne

La réserve des tortues et les grottes

A quelques pas de l’aéroport, dans le sud-ouest de l’île , un canyon, formé par  l’effondrement  d’anciennes grottes, abrite désormais une réserve de tortues géantes, avec pour l’heure plus de 300 individus. Rodrigues était habité, bien avant sa colonisation par les hommes, par ces fameuses tortues, qui furent exterminées par les marins qui les emmenait comme « garde-manger » vivant. La réserve produit un travail formidable, avec des tortues évoluant dans un enclos naturel. D’ailleurs, lorsqu’on passe dans le canyon, un ambiance étrange apparaît, on se croirait un peu dans un décors de Jurassik Parc.

download (1)   download (2)

Savez-vous que Rodrigues est maintenant une destination pour les Kite-Surfers? et que l’année dernire, s’y est tenu le championnat mondial du kite surfing ?Rodrigues est une destination de choix pour le Kitesurf pendant la saison hivernale. Un lagon immense profond d’à  peine plus d’un mètre, et du vent constant rendent les conditions idéales.

kite-rodrigues-initiation-M-J12

maxresdefault

 

 

Chinese Mauritians …Smiling Buddhas?

download

 

Mauritius was first named Ilha do Cisne, then Mauritius, then Ile de France, then again Mauritius. The Portuguese never settled the island, so you can blame the Dutch (or their rats and dogs) for the fate of the dodo. But the Dutch, after two stints plagued by endless troubles, left of their own accord, and the French and then British swooped in from there. Attractive thanks to her convenient position on the Indies trade route, Mauritius became a rest and refueling stop for ships the world over.

Sugar cane became one of the island’s defining features by the 19th century and explains the ethnic hodgepodge that characterizes the island today. Under the British, almost half a million indentured servants were brought to work on the plantations after the abolition of slavery. They were mostly Indian, but they also came from Mozambique, Madagascar, China, and off captured ships.

Most of the Chinese who sailed to Mauritius were voluntary migrants, to the extent that they were driven from their homeland not by white colonialists but by local economic or political hardship. Few of these first migrants, or those who came during the Japanese invasion of China, intended to stay. But for one reason or another — poverty and famine in their native counties, or later, the rise of Communism in China,  — many ended up on the island for good, little more than refugees and with only the clothes on their back. They quickly set up chains of retail shops, securing all the best spots in the capital of Port Louis by 1843. In 1860, when emigration from China was legalized, the number of Chinese arrivals in Mauritius spiked — at 379 that year — and continued to rise: between 1895 and 1900, over 7,000 Chinese came into the country, mostly men.

By 1860, the Chinese dominated the retail market and became “the most popular personality of the village,” writes Huguette Ly-Tio-Fane-Dineo in her French doctoral thesis, Chinese Diaspora in the Western Indian Ocean, published in 1985. Since the incomes of indentured laborers depended on the harvest and planting cycles, the Chinese shopkeepers introduced a system based on mutual trust that allowed laborers to purchase on credit. Governor Pope Hennessy, who took charge from 1883 to 1889, even stated, “The community that contributes the most to the revenue of the country, proportionally to their numbers, is the Chinese community.”

The Chinese gradually left the exhausting work of retail trade and spread to other professions. In 1901, over 80 percent of the population was traders; by the 1980s, the percentage had dropped below 20. The younger generations of Chinese-Mauritians worked their way up into banking, education, business, and politics, while their parents and grandparents continued to look after a shrinking number of retail shops. These days, Chinatown is growing rundown, and most of its shopkeepers are well beyond retirement age. With new malls and supermarkets offering the same wares, more and more of the shops are closing down or being sold. Even if they weren’t, there are no children around to take over the business — they are all leaving.

Extinction is the end product of a simple population equation: Number dying > Number being born. But when it comes to an adaptable niche population, like the Sino-Mauritians, one must append a second equation: Number leaving > Number staying.

First off, Chinese parents are choosing to have fewer children. While the families of Ping’s parents’ generation generally had eight to 10 offspring, Ping and his coevals have between one and three. Secondly, his children and their generation are nearly all going abroad. The basic reasons are threefold: One: the island’s small size and limited economy offer little to no opportunity for students interested in pursuing study of more advanced academic and professional fields. Two: in a political system and economy dominated by the Indo-Mauritian community, Indo-Mauritians are often favored for coveted positions, limiting the window for career advancement for members of other ethnic groups. Three: the inhabitants of any remote and bite-size principality are prey to island syndrome: The world is elsewhere. Indo-Mauritians, Afro-Mauritians, and Euro-Mauritians alike are drawn to more advantageous opportunities (or simply new scenery) abroad.

 

During a visit in 1836 to Mauritius on the Beagle, Charles Darwin remarked how “the various races of men walking in the streets afford the most interesting spectacle.”

Darwin’s words could be repeated verbatim today. On the streets of Mauritius you can see women in black burqas, Muslim worshipers in thobes, ladies in sparkly pink saris, youngsters in checkered Catholic school uniforms, Chinese tourists in Hello Kitty T-shirts, professionals of all skin tones in sleek business attire, and then folks like me, looking bland in a crewneck and jeans. It has that special feel of New York City — that you’re in a microcosm of the world — but here, most people are brown, not white, and here, many people still wear their culture on their sleeve, rather than beneath their business suits or hipster exteriors.

A few streets beyond the crowded Bazar Central, or central market in Kreol, you’ll spot the white towers and bright turquoise trim of Jummah Mosque. Walk a few meters beyond the mosque and you’ll find yourself under the red and gold arched gateway to CHINA TOWN.  Chinese food stores sell Ginseng Royal Jelly and buckets of bamboo shoots; medicine shops hand out herbal pain relief remedies to locals of all creed and color; restaurants dish out “mine frite” (fried noodles) and dim sum; and trinket shops display sitting Buddhas and those charms you hang on rearview mirrors. Chinese shops in the area, and across Port Louis, also sell hardware, clothing, glassware, snacks, and wholesale items, their signs easy to spot with the Chinese characters above English or French lettering.

If you flip through the Chinese phonebook of Mauritius (or the regular phonebook — the whole country fits in just one), you’ll find over four pages of Li’s, over three pages of Chan’s, 12 Smiths, and zero Holmeses. “Li” and “Chan” are clan names, signifying families that come from the same progenitor, village, or even province. Thanks to this clan-centric system, Chinese arrivals just off the boats (to the surprise of the Brits) were immediately taken in by their fellow clan members, given food and shelter, and guided into the retail business. The clan-based community centers both provided a free roof for the most recent arrivals, and for the traders coming into the city from other parts of the island as they restocked their goods.

These community centers still exist today, but they function now as gathering places for big celebrations, Chinese language classes, and games of ping-pong. Bigger societies like Nam Shoon Foy Koon offer daily activities such as Taichi and line dancing, frequented by the retired folk of the community. If you ask one of the retirees about her relationship with the Chinese culture, she’ll likely tell you about the many Chinese festivals, the worshiping of ancestors, the pagoda and its Chinese deities, and the importance of Chinese customs and values.

images (7)

It is largely thanks to Robert Townsend Farquhar, the first British governor of Mauritius, that these customs and values have endured with such strength in the island community. Several decades before Farquhar’s arrival, in 1783, the French brought over 3,000 Chinese to then Isle de France to work as agricultural laborers. The French held them under strict local laws that prevented the practice of their native customs, and the disgruntled Chinese immediately demanded repatriation, a request the French government was forced by law to respect.

images (6)

Farquhar in contrast, leading what must be one of the most peaceful colonial transitions in history, encouraged the different races living on the island to preserve the language, habits, and cultures of their mother countries. He prescribed a government treatment “best calculated to secure their attachment” and more specifically, encourage the Chinese “spirit of enterprise,” as he wrote at the time. He emphasized the Chinese migrants’ equal right to purchase land and practice their religion and selected a Chinese “Captain” to further recruit Chinese to Mauritius and to serve as intermediary between them and the British. Farquhar even exempted the Chinese immigrants from local taxes and granted them a piece of land for burial purposes.

10_1

The Chinese-Mauritian community still has a core of people who look after the preservation of their mother culture. Most of the septuagenarians remember their parents’ insistence on adhering to their roots while also adopting local ways. When Chinese-Mauritians visit China, they now often find that their tiny island community has maintained many of the Chinese traditions more closely than their mainland comrades.

Late Sir Moi Lin Jean Ah Chuen, whose father arrived in 1887 from Guangdong, China. In 1931, Ah Chuen set up his own retail shop, the ABC Store, on a main street in Port Louis, which soon grew into an island-wide wholesale business. He spoke fluent Hakka, Cantonese, Mandarin, English, and French, began the Chinese Daily News in Mauritius, founded the Chinese Contingent Home Guard that participated in the defense of the island in WWII, took part in constitutional conferences in London, and was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1980.

Donald Ah Chuen, one of Sir Moi Lin Jean’s 11 children, he has taken over as director of what is now the ABC Group, one of the island’s largest conglomerates, handling business in auto, food, banking, financial services, and shipping and logistics.

In Mauritius, the Chinese — socially, culturally, politically — have rightfully earned their place, Ah Chuen says, and they are well esteemed by the Mauritian community. Two things can happen in the future — an influx of Chinese businesspeople and entrepreneurs, and/or an increase in marriages with Chinese mainlanders. Ah Chuen is optimistic about Mauritius’ potential as a China-Africa platform, allowing Chinese companies to team up with ones in Mauritius to access exclusive African markets. Such enterprises would, ostensibly, bring a new wave of migrants to headquarter businesses on the island. As for marriages, Ah Chuen is referring to the Sino-Mauritians who stay on the island and find Chinese wives abroad to come join them — “because Chinese men seek Chinese wife.”

Ah Chuen forgot possibility number three: Sino-Mauritians go extinct.  He, like the other Sino-Mauritians, is fiercely proud of his Chinese heritage and values, which include honesty, discretion, and respect for elders.

“We are all Mauritians first, then Chinese. You have your culture, but you are Mauritian,” he says firmly. “Mauritius belongs to all. There is no indigenous population, except the birds and animals. But even the birds and animals — the horse, the dog, the rat — they were brought in too.” His eyes crinkle in a smile. “Even they are migrants.”

Donald Ah Chuen reminds me that we are all, ultimately, some form of migrant. Except maybe for the dodo.

dodo

And I realize that Sino-Mauritians, after all, are not dodos. While the fat island fowl (RIP) is infamous for its stupidity, flightlessness, and large rump, the Chinese Mauritians, and Chinese across the world, are known for their work ethic, adaptability, and mobility. Like any competent bird, they will migrate elsewhere. They won’t go extinct; they will simply change form.

IMG_0419_700x335

 

Reunion Island

IMG_0063

Reunion island is mostly know to Francophones, after which they it link it to Mauritius. In fact, it is the other way round, being the only sister island to Mauritius in their volcanic history, both islands share a common mama of lava and eruption …. until Maurtius decided it wanted to close down its smoking crater. Reunion, still spews hot ash, smoke and lava every now and then.

Me and to-be hubby visited the island in 1999, and we particularly loved every minute of our stay there. My visits had so far been on a work basis, and enjoying freedom to wake up to the incredibly beautiful landscapes on the hilly Cilaos, always makes me want to shout out loud ‘Hey! Come and visit this place! this is as close to paradise you can get.’

IMG_0210 img_9927_marchc3a9_st_paul_vanille marché-réunion-524x350 121027-StPierreMarché-47-w-1600x1200

St Denis is a small cosmopolitan capital city with beautiful colonial houses and modern business quarter. It has a quaint ‘bazar’ where you can pick your exotic fruits, vegetables and souvenirs. Most of it coming from Madasgacar, pretty woven raffia baskets, white embroidered table cloths, and spices. I specially love its unique gourmet artisan chocolate collection housed in a tiny ‘case creole’. Close your eyes, you would feel like being in an ethnic quarter in Paris. The chic gentry mixes with the laid back Creoles in a peaceful and romantic atmosphere.

The mountainy areas in the middle of the island is a totally different story. The cirques as they are called comes abruptly after a  long winding road up steep turns, climbing and dipping in a roller coaster ride, we got to the down into the caldera, …. The feeling was unlike anything I have experienced and I did let out I shriek I must admit!

It was a beautiful sight with all the green on either side of us but what waited at the end we really didn’t expect and it literally took my breath away.  An absolutely magical waterfall cascading down the mountains and into crystal pools. Reaching the second most active volcano in the world Piton de la Fournaise after a simple but copious local cuisine lunch in a nearby case, where Dominique welcomed us with generous pourings of his Rhum Arranges, we had to take a little nap, the cocktail of fruits, alcohol, exciting adventure and probably love are just too heady to take in !

bungalowIMG_0149

fournaise_010009 images

Payal … Indian Anklets

When I got married, my mother gave me the silver and gold payal adornment she had been keeping for me preciously. Like any other Hindu bride, I was entitled my share of feeling ‘precious’ on my special day. My White Brit husband had to bend by the rules of Indian jewelry in its bling and yellow lustre. I spent the whole week walking in my new pair of payals and toe rings. Far from creating furtive moments when we could carry on the spell of being newly married, I felt like a piece of cattle with my merry anklet bells. They were sweetly noisy. I have never worn them again …

But my fascination into the refined Indian jewelry craftsmanship hold my devotion steadfast to allow the yellow precious metal be hanging close to my body.

Why do Indian women wear gold and silver jewelry around their ankles and toes?

ANTIQUE SILVER JEWELRY

Payal … a piece of traditional Indian jewelry and now also a popular name for girls. A name that conjures up images of soft pleasant melodious tinkling bells as a woman sways around the home going about her daily life.The fashion of the day is in keeping with the prices of silver that has gone up 3 times in the past decade. So girls today wear delicate chains that are usually less than a millimeter in diameter.

images (2) copy

1. In the olden days women were considered ‘property’. Upon marriage, these pieces of jewelry were put on by the groom’s family and signified ownership or bondage. They announce to the world that this woman is taken – just as the wedding band on a Western person’s hand does.

2. In a world where a woman’s inaccessibility adds to her enigma and is considered a virtue, it is carefully cultivated through shyness and other social mechanisms. The tinkling bells of a payal are one such device. So this is how it works : Payals announce the steps of the woman and social decorum, in those days demanded that the males of the joint family either move away from her path or avert their eyes, so as to not make her uncomfortable in their presence.

And the tinkling bells offered the announcement service.

3. Being an expensive piece, the payal along with the other bridal ornaments were also considered an investment of wealth that was made into the woman. If the gifts came from the groom’s side, it is a measure of how much she is valued assuming affordability, and given from the father’s side it is her inheritance from her parents.

Indian law also views this as ‘Stree Dhan’ – the wealth of a woman, whose entitlement to property inheritance is a matter of the parent’s discretion. (Although recently I have heard that the law has changed in some states.)

4. It was also known that no one except Goddess laxmi is allowed to wear Gold – a holy metal – on their feet – which are considered dirty, hence the choice of the metal silver.

Today gold payals are available in gold shops in India … so either Goddess Laxmi has begun shopping again or the traditional lifestyle of Indians is changing.

Tropical Raspberries ?

Yesterday saw local raspberries in Dar … very happy, so I bought some. They reminded me of my island’s ones which I have not seen for the last decade or so.
Alas! reaching home, I realised that the taste was … far far not what I expected. So had to chuck them away. Sad.
Sweet, delicate, tangy, they melt in the mouth as I remember them from Mauritius. They make their appearance in Winter (yes, the island has a Winter!) , around the capital with some sellers stocking them up in the glass boxes on bicycles. A sprinkle of sugar, and voila !
Winter brings also goyaves de chine, picking them becomes an outing for many families . It was not my favourite, I preferred being served the sweetest and plumpest with some nice salt and chillies … no effort, in the vain way!

Tropical Fruits

Ces fruits rares et bizarres des tropiques qui ont peuplé mon enfance, vavangue, santol, combava, noni, tamarin, carambole, bergamot, bilimbi, jacque, bibasse, atte, coronsole, roussaille …

Some of these rare and bizarre tropical fruits I grew up with …

Do you still remember them?

The Last Jews of India

04sm_kochijews7_JPG_940368g

When we visited Cochin, spices and art were mostly what we wanted to see. But arriving there, we saw the dilapidated Jewish quarter reduced to the state of decay and negligence and salty brine air from the sea. Each seemed to conjure to bury a past which took a millennia to build. The strong whiff of the heady pepper, cloves, cinnamon could not cover up a sad history that Jews feeling from persecution, found a safe haven to rest and repare their scarred souls.

Mauritius_Cemetery_1

The history of the Jews in India interest me closely as we have had a very quiet Jewish community in Mauritius too. Everyday, when I passed in front of the leafy secluded gardens of the State House in Reduit to reach Teacher Training Institute and the University when I taught, I had to pass in front of a tiny but beautiful synogogue and a cemetry by its side. I have never seen anyone there. But a dear friend whose great grand mother was a direct descent from a Jewish family who had taken refuge on the island. Were they from Zanzibar, or Cochin, no one would know but teh chest she had inherited bore only their name, and a date on it. Truly Jewish. If it traced by the mass of Indians who came to the island, then one thing is sure, Cochin must have been their last port of origin.

untitled

If census are to be believed, it is quite a feat considering there are only 5,000 Jews out of 1.3 billion Indians, cosidering the formidable history. Of these, 3,000 lived in Bombay and the rest in 9 other communities.   Probably the Muslim population is low because most moved to Pakistan which was carved out of British India on August 14, 1947.  Many of the Jews have gone into the film industry in India. DNA testing shows that many of the men are descended from Aaron, Moses’s brother, as they carry the Ydna haplogroup J1. Since the Y does not show up in a female’s test, this has to be their father’s haplgroup.  There is a female mtdna haplgroup and J1 is in that, but with different meaning.  “7% of Jewish women are found to be J1, (Jasmine) which originated about 40,000-45,000 years ago in central Asia and is associated with the spread of farming and herding in Europe during the Neolithic Period beginning 10,000 years ago. It’s common in the Middle East and among Jews.”

Cochin_Jewish_InscriptionIn 1947, Esther Victoria Abraham was chosen Miss India.  She was Jewish from Baghdadi and was a film actress known as Pramila.  “In the late 18th century, Arabic-speaking Jews, who became known as Baghdadi,  immigrated to southern India, constituting what became known as a third community.

Bene Israel(sons of Israel) claim to be one of the Lost Tribes of Israel.  It is a historic Jewish community in India.  Assyria had attacked the Jews of Israel and had taken away many of 10 of the  12 tribes in 721 BCE which is when they might have made it to India.  “It is estimated that there were 6,000 Bene Israel in the 1830s; 10,000 at the turn of the 20th century; and in 1948—their peak in India—they numbered 20,000.  Many have now moved to Israel. Ethnically, they are Indian, and their origin is uncertain until DNA testing can uncover their origin.  By the 18th century their Jewish observance was at a low ebb, but they have since returned to a whole-hearted observance of Judaism.  Some of them, such as the Sassoon family, have attained great prominence.  There were 3,00 Bene Israel in 1948.  European Jews including German refugees settled in some numbers during the late period of British rule.  During the Middle Ages there were Jewish communities in Calicut and other places.  In the 16th century, hidden Jews (ex-Marranos, an unacceptable name) and their descendants came to live there through London or Amsterdam.  Jews even migrated to Madras where there was an organized congregation.

Jews were in Cochin, India and said they originated from the time of King Solomon in 950 BCE.   Their emigration is recorded from the time of 70CE with the fall of Jerusalem.  “They settled in the state of Kerala. Becoming known as the Malabari Jews, they built synagogues in Kerala beginning in the 12th and 13th centuries and developed Judeo-Malayalam, a dialect of Malayalam language.

Following the expulsion from Iberia in 1492, a few families of Sephardic Jews eventually made their way to Cochin in the 16th century. They became known as Paradesi Jews (or White Jews). The European Jews maintained some trade connections to Europe, and their language skills were useful. Although the Sephardim spoke Ladino, in India they learned Judeo-Malayalam from the Malabar Jews.[4] The two communities retained their ethnic distinctions. After India gained its independence in 1947 and Israel was established as a nation, most Cochin Jews emigrated from Kerala to Israel in the mid-1950s. Most of their synagogues have been sold and adapted for other uses. The Paradesi Synagogue in still has a congregation and also attracts tourists as an historic site.”

It may well be that the Cochin Jews have lived for two millennia on the fertile Malabar Coast of southwest India. This tropical area is now the modern Indian state of Kerala, named for the kera, or coconut palm tree, that is so basic to its landscape and economy. Though tradition has it that there were once many thousands of Jews in Malabar, no more than 2,500 were recorded in recent centuries, and only about 60 remain there today.

Early History

Varied traditions about the origin of the Cochin Jews appear in travelers’ accounts and in Hebrew chronicles from Malabar, some written as early as the 17th century. Some records say the first Jews sailed to South India on the ships of King Salomon; others say they came during the Babylonian exile; others that they fled to Malabar after the destruction of the Second Temple; and others refer to a fourth-century migration from Majorca. Most of these stories revolve around the existence of a Jewish community in the ancient trade center of Cranganore (which the Jews called Shingly), north of Cochin. One chronicle tells how a group of Jews descended from the Assyrian exile made their way to Calicut (further up the coast) by way of Yemen, and a Malayalam Jewish song suggests that the Jews of the ancient town of Palur may have come from Yemen.

download

The oldest documentary evidence of a Jewish community in Kerala dates from 1000 CE, when a Jewish leader named Joseph Rabban received a set of engraved copper plates from the Hindu ruler of Cranganore. These plates, which are still preserved in the Cochin Paradesi synagogue, list economic and ceremonial privileges including exemption from paying taxes, the right to collect tolls, and the honor of using particular lamps, umbrellas, drums, and trumpets associated with high ritual status. It is clear that by this time the Jews were firmly established in the area.

Jewish merchants known as Radanites began traveling by sea and land between the Mediterranean and China in the ninth century, stopping at ports along the Malabar coast. Commercial documents from the Cairo Genizah give glimpses of Jewish trade with India in the centuries that followed. Before the Portuguese conquest in the 16th century, there were Jewish communities in a number of coastal towns, as well as in Cranganore. In 1341 a flood shifted the coastline, silting up Cranganore and opening a new harbor in Cochin, and the Jews began to leave their ancient home in Shingly.

Growth of the Kerala Community

Beginning in the early 16th century there was a new migration of Jews to Kerala. Some of the newcomers were Sephardic Jews, direct and indirect refugees from the Spanish and Portuguese expulsions, who came to India by way of Aleppo, Constantinople, and the Land of Israel. Others were from Iraq, Persia, Yemen, and Germany.

In 1568 the Jewish newcomers, who were subsequently called Paradesis (“foreigners” in Malayalam), built a synagogue of their own next to the Maharaja’s palace in Cochin. They adopted the Malayalam language and identified enthusiastically with Kerala customs and traditions, but at some point they stopped marrying the Jews who had been there many centuries before them.

In written accounts (especially by Western visitors) the Paradesis often were referred to as “white Jews” and the more ancient Malabari communities as “black Jews,” though there is not always a clear distinction between them in terms of skin color.

By the 18th century there were eight synagogues in five different Kerala towns and villages. As all but Parur were located within the kingdom of Cochin, the term “Cochin Jews” was eventually applied to all Kerala Jews. Under Dutch rule (1663-1795) the status of the Jews of Malabar improved, as the Dutch looked favorably on the cosmopolitan Paradesi community. A few Paradesis, notably members of the Rahaby family, rose to high positions as agents in foreign trade and as economic and political advisors to both the Dutch and Hindu rulers. There were relatively wealthy landowners in a number of Jewish communities.

In the period of British colonial rule (1792-1947), the Cochin Maharaja retained a semi-independent status. However, in Kerala State there was general economic stagnation as the British developed new commercial centers to the north and east. Some Jews in Kerala held positions as clerks, teachers, and lawyers in the expanding colonial bureaucracy; others continued as small merchants, dealing especially in fish and poultry.

Economic difficulties led a number of Cochin Jews to move to Bombay and (less frequently) Calcutta. They nevertheless retained their Kerala identity, even while living elsewhere in India. Most of them married only Cochin Jews (though some Paradis is married Baghdadis); and when they moved to Israel they tended to settle among their relatives from Kerala.

download (3)     download (2)

One of the most striking things about the Cochin Jews is the fact that they lived in India for so many centuries without experiencing anti-Semitism or persecution by their Indian neighbors. Their decision to leave for Israel after 1948 was not an easy one. It developed out of a long history of Zionist activity and idealism, as expressed in this early 20th-century Malayalam song composed by Isaac Mosheh Roby:

The hope we have had since ancient times,
To return to the land given to us by the one God,
Has not faded.

Individual motives for aliyah varied. Some were seeking to escape difficult economic conditions, while others emphasized the desire to live a more religious life, or to be involved in building the new Jewish state. None were forced to leave.

Cochin aliyah began in the early 1950s, with the greatest number of immigrants arriving in 1954. Many were settled on moshavim (cooperative agricultural settlements), of which five are still predominantly “Cochini” in population: Nevatim in the Negev; Mesillat Zion, Ta’oz, and Aviezer in the Jerusalem Corridor; and Kfar Yuval on the northern border with Lebanon.

By 1982 about 75% of the 2,300 Cochini moshav members lived in these five places. Initially the adjustment to agricultural life–which they had not experienced in India–was difficult for some of them. In time, however, they prospered, expanded their homes, and built substantial synagogues and community buildings. Though exact figures are not available, it can be estimated that there are well over 4,000 “Cochinim” in Israel today, with at least as many living in urban areas as in moshavim. Cochini neighborhoods are found in Rishon LeZion, Ashdod, Beersheba, Jerusalem, and in Rekhasim and Kiryat Bialik in the Haifa area.

In some of these communities there are synagogues in which the traditional Cochin liturgy is still followed. City-dwellers often visit their moshav relatives, with a special emphasis on getting together for Simchat Torah and other holidays. In 1984, Moshav Nevatim hosted a grand celebration of the 30th anniversary of the Cochin aliyah, which was attended by Kerala Jews and other guests from all over the country.

Much of what has been written about the Kerala Jews focuses on their glorious 2000-year history in India, which is now coming to a close. That history is indeed a proud memory, but their culture did not end when the Jews left Kerala. In the words of Cochin author Ruby Daniel, “Some people write that the Cochin community of Jews is dying, They don’t realize that a root from that tree is shooting up in Israel and starting to blossom, As long as we keep up some of our traditions, I hope that this community will never die.”

Sarah Cohen is one of the last remaining Paradesi Jews (she might be the oldest?). She lives next door to the shop she runs where she sells handmade embroidery products.

Sarah Cohen is one of the last remaining Paradesi Jews (she might be the oldest?). She lives next door to the shop she runs where she sells handmade embroidery products.

DiPain Maison

UntitledPendant très longtemps le « pain maison » a été le pain par excellence, celui qui se mangeait à toutes les occasions et qui constituait la base du déjeuner d’un nombre substantiel de personnes. Dans une assez large mesure c’est encore le cas. Le site seeyhoo.com a une phrase savoureuse à propos de cette nourriture bien terrestre : « Le pain maison est à Maurice ce que la baguette est à la France. »

Le pain maison d’antan était fait avec une farine un peu grise, moins raffinée que celle utilisée pour des gâteaux par exemple, et le dessous (plat) du pain comportait un peu de son collé sur la croûte. On y retrouvait régulièrement des corps étrangers les plus variés, ce qui faisait l’objet d’articles dans les journaux.

Il me semble qu’à Maurice on parle bien plus facilement d’“un pain”, de façon absolue, qu’en France (ou ailleurs en domaine francophone ?), là où l’on dira plutôt « une baguette », « un bâtard », « une ficelle » et ainsi de suite. Un Martien dira par exemple « j’ai amené mon pain », voulant dire par là qu’il a avec lui un sandwich en guise de casse-croûte. Un « pain achards » (dipain asar) est un pain maison (ou, aujourd’hui, un morceau de baguette parfois) contenant des achards, un « pain Gool » est un pain (sandwich) vendu par la tabagie Gool, etc.

Quant à la partie « maison » d’un pain maison, Dieu sait d’où elle provient. (Peut-être à l’origine ce type de pain n’était-il fabriqué que par des particuliers, chez eux.) Il peut toutefois être intéressant de noter qu’en créole on dit enn dipain maison (un pain maison), alors même que maison se dit lakaz.

‘Ene bon dipain zasard legim, Ala Bon sa!’

Ce duo mortel du can can culinaire quotidien Morisyen sera pour une autre fois!

ob_46f307_achard-de-legumes-007

 

Esclaves, tu dis?

negritudeDerrière mon aquarelle se conjugue une histoire, …. mon ile et ses peuples. Surtout ceux avec le nombril dans l’esclavage.
Quel sens donner au programme de l’Unesco La Route de l’esclave et de l’engagé dans l’océan Indien ? Pourquoi la mobilisation des chercheurs, des réseaux associatifs, des institutions politiques qui soutiennent et participent à ce programme de commémoration de faits d’histoire qui ont laissé des traces douloureuses dans l’inconscient des populations des pays de cette partie du monde ?
Aucune région au monde n’a connu une histoire aussi longue de la traite et de l’esclavage que l’Afrique orientale et l’océan Indien. Très loin des modèles simplificateurs du complexe atlantique, les sociétés de l’océan Indien ont éprouvé des modalités de traites et des situations serviles très diverses, où tous les systèmes esclavagistes européens, orientaux et africains se mêlent. Les Africains et les Malgaches sont majoritaires parmi les esclaves mais ils côtoient des compagnons d’infortune d’origines géographiques extrêmement variées, et en particulier des Asiatiques. Les esclaves sont redistribués et vendus aux quatre coins de l’océan Indien mais aussi vers l’Atlantique, alors que se développent en Afrique de façon croissante les logiques serviles qui connaissent leur apothéose à Zanzibar au XIXe siècle.
Pour répondre à toutes ces questions, il faut se référer à l’histoire des pays bordiers et des archipels de l’océan Indien et à un de leurs points communs : la place du système esclavagiste dans l’organisation des sociétés pré-coloniales et coloniales qui se sont développées dans ce vaste espace géographique continental et insulaire. En effet, bien avant l’arrivée des Européens et de leurs pionniers, des Portugais à la recherche d’une route maritime des épices en contournant le sud de l’Afrique, les Indo-Mélanésiens, les Indiens, les Chinois et les Arabes sillonnaient déjà l’océan Indien, pratiquant le commerce des objets artisanaux en provenance de leur pays mais aussi la traite des esclaves en direction du Monde arabe et de l’Asie. La présence des Indo-Mélanésiens à Zanzibar, le pays des Zandj, Noirs d’Afrique de la côte Est, est attestée dès levé siècle après Jésus-Christ et probablement si l’on en croit les premiers résultats des recherches archéologiques entreprises par le Cndrs aux Comores en partenariat avec les chercheurs de l’Université d’Oxford (Bourhane Abderemane 2013).
Ces navigateurs intrépides qui connaissaient les secrets des courants marins dominaient les échanges commerciaux entre l’Asie et l’Afrique reliant les ports de ces deux grands continents. Ils ne sont pas les seuls à avoir traversé l’océan Indien. Les Indiens, les Chinois, les Arabes sont leurs concurrents et se partagent les bénéfices des trafics commerciaux.
À Madagascar, aux Comores, en Afrique de l’Est, l’esclavage avant l’arrivée des Européens est donc devenu un véritable fait de société, un système inégalitaire qui n’est pas contesté par les pouvoirs politiques en place.
Avec l’arrivée des Européens, le système esclavagiste dans l’océan Indien n’est plus le monopole des pouvoirs indigènes. Les Anglais sont présents dans l’océan Indien au xviiie siècle et participent à la traite négrière. Les Français s’installent à Fort-Dauphin, dans le sud-est de Madagascar, en 1642 et, quelques années plus tard, à Bourbon en 1665 (Manjakahery 2013). Les échanges avec les populations locales ne sont pas toujours faciles, mais la supériorité militaire des Européens leur permet de contrôler des positions stratégiques choisies pour leur activité commerciale. La « diplomatie du canon » est parfois utilisée comme argument dissuasif contre toute velléité de résistance. La colonisation des nouveaux espaces ─ les îles Mascareignes ─ et des terres déjà occupées par les populations de l’océan Indien sur la côte Est d’Afrique et le Sud de l’Inde devient une réalité politique au xviiie et xixe siècle. Avec l’arrivée des Européens, le phénomène de l’esclavage et son corollaire, la traite des esclaves, s’amplifient, transformant les conditions de vie des populations locales. Quatre millions de personnes sont déportées d’Afrique vers Madagascar, les Comores et les îles Mascareignes du début du xviii e à la fin du xix e siècle .
Dans les pays où sont débarqués les esclaves, la séparation avec la terre d’origine est définitive. Ils perdent leurs repères identitaires et sont soumis au rythme concentrationnaire de la vie des camps d’esclaves. La culture d’origine est broyée par le système colonial.
Jusqu’à l’abolition juridique du système de l’esclavage par les Anglais en 1833 et les Français en 1848, les populations esclaves des îles de l’océan Indien n’échappent pas à la rigueur du système esclavagiste.Après les abolitions en 1833 et 1848 dans les pays de l’océan Indien, des formes dérivées se substituent à l’ancien système sous les appellations d’« engagisme » ou de « coolies trade ». Les préjugés racistes, dévalorisants à l’encontre de l’ancienne population servile et des engagés africains, indiens ou chinois, infériorisent les descendants d’esclaves et les nouveaux arrivants. Les stéréotypes discriminatoires, employés par les anciens esclavagistes, restent profondément ancrés dans les mentalités des populations de l’océan Indien.
À Maurice, « Le Morne », montagne qui symbolise la résistance des esclaves marrons et qui est classé patrimoine de l’Unesco en 2009, est choisi comme lieu d’accueil des stèles mémoires. Pendant des décennies après l’abolition des esclavages par les Européens, le refus de reconnaître l’histoire de l’esclavage comme un élément fondateur de la colonisation a tourmenté l’inconscient des descendants d’esclaves.
Ces derniers ont ressenti le déni d’histoire et de mémoire comme une douloureuse atteinte à la dignité de leur ancêtres, une humiliation supplémentaire qui se rajoute à un passé douloureux et difficile à supporter.

Femme Noire

Femme Noire,
D’une race enfin libérée
Après des siècles d’esclavage
D’un métissage se cherchant
Un Père,une Mère ou Patrie
Accueillant ses Enfants unis
En îlots,en famille,en clans
Vis ta liberté

850b5fe40bb1212dab0cec37d8faa90f

Gateau Marie à l’Ile Maurice

15-aout-fete-de-l-assomption-et-st-marie-130502103245

Avec la fête de l’Assomption célébrée a l’ile Maurice, les pâtissiers tiennent leur revanche. Pas de fête sans les traditionnels ‘gâteaux Marie’. Les commandes affluent et les chiffres d’affaires augmentent. Les prix varient, les formes changent.

Comme chaque année, la fête de l’Assomption est synonyme de période de pointe où les commandes affluent. En sus des habituels ‘gâteaux d’anniversaire’ ou autres confiseries, on découvre chez Elie Michel quelques centaines de pièces de différentes formes et de tailles, savamment rangées et décorées, selon la tradition la plus authentique, de bleu et de blanc. Ce sont les couleurs de la Vierge Marie qui porte une robe blanche avec une ceinture et un voile bleus. Depuis une semaine, les vitrines des pâtisseries à travers l’île se sont garnies de douceurs les plus exquises.

Les statuettes de la Vierge Marie, parfois sculptées et vernissées, posées sur les gâteaux sur lesquels sont calligraphiés les mots «Vive Marie» avec une rose à côté, sont un véritable régal pour les yeux.

Deux variétés de gâteaux sont les plus prisées : ceux à base de pâte d’amandes et les génoises; les prix varient de Rs 125 à Rs 250

«Chaque gâteau est comme une œuvre d’art»

Une équipe d’une quinzaine de personnes est à pied d’œuvre pour s’assurer que chaque personne ayant passé une commande puisse avoir son ‘gâteau Marie’.La farine est étalée sur les tables, les batteuses sont en marche. L’odeur de la pâte en train de cuire mêlée aux senteurs de l’essence de noix de coco chatouille les narines; les hommes en blanc s’activent.  Les gâteaux, généralement à base de pâte d’amandes, sont recouverts à l’aide d’une spatule d’une fine couche de crème blanche faite à base d’œufs. Soigneusement, à l’aide d’un cornet fait de papier gras, le patissier commence la décoration du gâteau. Très vite de petites fleurs blanches se posent tout autour du gâteau. S’ensuit l’inscription«vive Marie» en bleu et le gâteau est fin prêt.

Devant la porte d’entrée de certains particuliers non-pâtissiers, on peut lire : «Ici on vend ‘gâteau Marie’ s’adresser dans la cour ». D’autres marchands ambulants s’en donnent à cœur joie en criant « Céki péna Marie, prend so Marie». Un vrai folklore accompagne cette fête pourtant religieuse qui marque la montée de Marie, la mère de Jésus, au ciel.

À Port-Louis, Narshad, pâtissier, termine les dernières commandes. C’est un musulman qui ne va pas fêter Marie mais qui fait des gâteaux Marie. Il a dû embaucher deux autres personnes à cause du le «rush» à l’occasion de la fête de l’Assomption. «C’est une fête nationale. Nous sommes ouverts jusqu’à midi aujourd’hui. Nous préparons aussi une cinquantaine de gâteaux destinés aux personnes qui n’ont pas passé une commande mais qui en achètent le jour même de la fête», nous dit Narshad. Aujourd’hui avec Marie fêtée, les ‘gâteaux Marie’ sont aussi rois.

Mithila or Madhubani, Naive Art style of Bihar

madhubani2 weddingOn a wall in the Delhi Crafts Museum, several years ago, I spot mural painting  in the Mithila folk style. This is traditionally an art form done by women, painted on the walls of houses, in celebration of major events such as births, marriages and festivals, are very common in teh sate of Bihar. The Mithila style form the collective of naive styles of paintings done upon hand made paper, plastered walls, timber structures in India. As vast as its expanse, so follows the variety.
Even from afar, the murals were striking. They were large, almost 6-7 feet in height, and spread across the entire wall in a series of arches. Each arch contained one painting. This one below, for instance, shows the Goddess Durga astride her tiger, framed inside an ornamented arch.
                  77fee4b0cde0facdc76025bb8f66fb4e   99e92e02c733e8f7f0afeb8f0e5a0642
After a nice cardamom tea in a terracota cup, my husband and I decide to browse the art shop on the premises.

Rice and textile handmade paper are jutted with paintings of God and Goddesses along with domestic scenes. The colours are bold, and the flat filling-in of colour outlined made images are visually stimulating. Large elongated almond shaped eyes stare intensely at you while decorative patterns juggle for fit in. Below the painting, the artist signed her name: Shrimati Mundrika Devi, from a village called Jitvarpur in Madhubani District, in the state of Bihar.

When I look a little closer at the painting, I found myself loving the “double-line” approach. All the outlines were double lines, with the inner portions either left blank, or filled in colour, or filled with little lines. Here’s a close-up of one of the small ducks at the top of the mural: see how the double lines and colouring contributes to the rich detailing? Every object in the painting, from the smallest flower, to the largest human, was painted with the same careful attention.
After five minutes of staring closely at small aspects of the painting, I found myself slipping into the shoes of the painter – what was she thinking, Mundrika Devi, when she drew these? Were the walls of her home also filled with these paintings? Did she lose herself in the lines as she painted, did she forget to make dinner? Or did she, as she cooked and tended her house, look again and again at her creation, mentally adding little details?
The more I visualised the life of the painter, the more the painting appealed to me. This was not “Art” as a leisure activity for those with spare time and money. This was art enterwined in the daily life, in the very heart beat of a woman. The very sort of a space, am searching for myself to don to my brushes and paint.

Traveling with not so basic comforts …

ACHotelSalfordQuays1.jpg

I’m lucky enough to have the opportunity to travel frequently, both with my business and leisure, at other tagging along hub, or when we both take up a post somewhere. But the luxury of being able to visit and explore new cities as a part of my working lifestyle didn’t come naturally to me. I didn’t know if I enjoyed traveling or delecting my long hours designing at my desk. Travel came unasked for, unsought for, out of the blue like falling in love with a foreigner, getting hitched and resisting to leave one’s comfy cocoon and career to embrace the unknown. Many of my friends think I live this life of footlong days of bliss and luxury. I will lie if I said the contrary. But does not come without its drawbacks. Long hours of flying, passing through waiting in airports, to your new hotel room each time, I have lost count on how many beds I have slept in all these years. Nor how many new streets, people I have seen, whom I will never see again. I did not count what share of the world’s population I have seen as yet. How many plates of different foods I have eaten and how many useless trinkets of ‘souvenir’ I have bought, which all end up in a box in my loft.

Accor-Hotels-Sofitel-Brussels-Le-Louise-01

One important thing about selecting a place to stay when traveling is to be able to reach to the virtual worlds that I live by and need to stay in touch with. Even when I’m on ‘holiday’ I still need to stay connected, so it’s great to see more and more hotels cottoning on to the nomadic working lifestyle of their guests. The modern, design-driven lifestyle boutique and chain hotels cater for this next-generation entrepreneurial traveller. A decent wifi connection is a must-have as much as a 25 cm deep mattress, extra good white crisp linen, hot shower and clean towels. A TV can get a miss but a fridge is important too when you have just landed in one of those hot and humid countries when you are expected to get into a quick shower and straight into a meeting. Nobody cares how many hours of jetlag your body is adjusting to, nor how many hours of sleep did you get in a 12 hr flight. You need to be as fresh and clear minded as you can be.

A decent clean, well designed hotel room can make it or break it. Fortunately, the travel industry is horned with some healthy competition at all levels. And quality is slowly turning out to be the beacon of any basic service one can give. If the luxury of a fabulous night’s slumber was not enough, you can get lucky enough to be gifted a beautiful travel set like Sofitel gives : sofitel travel set, featuring a folding my bed rectangular travel pillow and a mybed neck pillow by dumas presented in a specially designed bag.

dumas

ACHotelSalfordQuays5

breakfast

Am I lost in Paradise ….. Mauritius?

DXCF7483-1024x683

The French language has captured the imagination of millions of people worldwide. It’s romantic. Classy. Chic. People love the way it sounds. It’s also a language I loved learning. There are 80 million native French speakers; and another 140 million who speak it as a second language.  French is one of the eight languages that I know fluently.

Growing up in Mauritius, an island nation in the Indian Ocean around 2,000km off the southeast coast of the African continent, I spoke and knew more Asian languages than Swahili, the lost spoken linga in Sub Saharan Africa.

“She’s also fluent in sarcasm,” my husband would agree to. I would take a cloud if you didn’t laugh … It’s not everyday one of my Skype/Whatsapp conversations gets a backfire. Feisty and funny, that’s how I would like you to describe me and also most assertive and independent. I can always count upon myself to speak out my mind.

Language and accent is a big thing in Mauritius. How you use French and Creole to express yourself is a clear indicator of who you are in society and where you hail from, I know it is lame but that’s the way it is. Nobody questions it.

dsc_0005

People are aware of the white presence in Mauritius. Franco-Mauritians are rich and own all the best parts of the island with the most gorgeous beaches which they have leased to big international chain of 5 star hotels. Franco-Whites do not even speak French like the French from France. They are lost in translation in Paris when they try their heavy weight ‘French’. The roots of their accents can be traced back to Medieval French and they haven’t moved on from there. How could they? cut off from motherland some 12 hours flight from and 6 months sailing time, taken over by Brits and then the people who became independent. While they stayed on, and made more money from the land.

Non-whites have an amicable relationship with them, but there is a particular kind of accent and attitude that the Franco-Mauritians have. Nepotism is common. They even marry amongst themselves. To the detrimental lineage they produce. Most youth do not make any effort to do anything, as they know they will live off the wealth and inheritance of their family. Struggle is only synonym to the non whites. It is not South Africa, but if would not be too far from apartheid, if unspeakable white and black ghettos are mentioned. Creoles or blacks remain the lowly class and stick with poverty. Many ending working in hotels and desperately looking for that lone tourist who could swipe them off their feet and take them away. The Indians have climbed the ladder in accumulating wealth from agricultural land they own and investing in businesses. Education remains their bed rock to success and they rule the island with the majority of population of Indian origin while maintaining their headships in politics.

Franco-Mauritians have ‘fun’ with people from other cultures, but ultimately marry who they are supposed to marry.  That is a White, most often. There are a lot of white South Africans coming to Mauritius and Franco-Mauritians don’t like it. There’s segregation and hierarchy even amongst the whites.

We humans really know how to complicate our own lives, don’t we?

This segregation and hierarchy exists amongst the non-whites as well. Neighbouring Reunion Island is still a French colony; and Rodrigues Island, which is part of Mauritius – view Mauritians as arrogant.

They call us ‘granwar’  (Grand Noir) ironically meaning big black. During the slavery time it would have been the black guy who’s been called by the white master to manage all the black people.

30-things-to-do-and-see-in-mauritius-1170x780

04_mauritius

Black River, once a fishing village where only black people lived has now turned into a posh area where only …. white people live in their villas right on the beach. The fiery sun still shines bright there to dry the salt in the salt pans, but the White man remains white.

“You still have people earning their living as fishermen. People live in relative, not absolute, poverty. There is a gap between people who have and who don’t have money. But everyone still enjoys a cool beer under the shade of the tree or a nice verandah and look out at the mesmerizing horizon over the shimmering water of the blue turquoise lagoon.

6b839c268148e99e0e51a98bc8dcacda

Don’t be mislead that paradise island breeds angels. There’s inequality in Mauritius, but people are more accepting. The notion of the other is not suppressed. There is a difference between ethnicities in Mauritius, but it’s not vilified. And the festivals year round to please each ethnic group in the form of a public holiday makes the joy of the other. Hence, Muslims for example, are very happy to ‘celebrate’ Chinese Spring festival although they don’t eat pork …. but they enjoy the holiday with a big pot of ‘briani’ by the beach. And so forth for the rest of the other ethnic groups. I would lie if I said Mauritians do not like public holidays. As we have grown up celebrating every single holiday we could fathom. Any reason to have a picnic by the beach is worth the respect. A golden one.

dsc_0537

People looking me are common, Indian? Creole? French Metisse, Asian? can’t place it, unless you have very pronounced afro hair or asian slit eyes. Most look a bit like a cook up, i.e, a mixture of everything. But, you can still figure out our backgrounds by our names. In Mauritius, you see a human being and then you dig into their background, which family they come from, which town and lo and there! you have the whole history. It’s a bit like a dog meeting another dog, butt sniffing for a few minutes and all ID is displayed. It is up to you to decide whether you want to continue with the conversation or retreat. Mauritians do react like that in a pathological way. It is not about judgemental behaviour at its worse, it is about pigeon holing. Just like their ancestors were subject to by their colonial masters.

Thinking differently is discouraged, though. People around you will bring you back to what they know. Everything exists in this structure. In school you often get told – ‘you would not  be asked that for the exam. Do not ask so many questions. It’s not useful, don’t waste your time, concentrate on what you will have to answer in the exams. It’s hard for people to think differently – so you are still a sheep. In a non sheep cattle rearing island. Yes, it sounds weird but once you live there, you won’t notice any different. if you are unconventional, you will end up as me. That is with less friends who can give me a genuine acquiesced nod.

53

“Opportunities are lacking in Mauritius, agriculture and sugarcane were our biggest industries. Slowly fading into tourism. We market ourselves as a luxury destination for honeymooners. We focus on sea, beaches and hotels. But the offering is not as good as it should be although we win so many awards. Luckily, the service industry is growing big and successful.

We should focus more on food, local music, culture and art. Although there’s no indigenous culture in Mauritius, we have a lot of food inspired by the cultures currently living here. Lots of spicy and fried stuff, which is nice. Dhal puri. All kinds of curries – both Indian and Creole. Rougaille, Fried noodles, etc.

Once you unravel the Mauritian food panoply, I wouldn’t call it cuisine because it is not, but you will  never resist a meal that’s fun and spicy as this!

People remain semi conservative, albeit ready to embrace change once their friend or neighbour has done it. Slowly, this sleepy isolated nation is waking up to the new world. But it remains gossipy one. People watching is an art and a must here. Cannot really pinpoint where it originated from, could it be the French or the Indians? Anyway, I grew up in the capital city more precisely the old quarter planned and laid out by the French. A Sunday thing unique to the island and it happens only in Port Louis, is people watching. An afternoon activity when you have donned your day’s activities and concluding the afternoon by a shower, good clothes and take a very very leisurely walk across the streets, and stopping by for a chat who ever you know who happen to be parked at their house gate watching out … ‘les passants’ walkers-by. I find this absolutely genuine to be interested in humans, networking, catching up, relaxing in a chat without having to make anyone a drink but take a gentle stroll. These days, we still do so but probably with an App on our mobile phones, and no one has time for anyone. Sad.

Hey! but we still celebrate living in paradise island and we love our rhum and sega.

 Funny facts you might like to know about Mauritius:

  • Did you know that Mauritius is about the size of Luxemburg?
  • Did you know that Mauritius has no official language? (But English and French are taught at school)
  • Did you know that the tallest mountain on the island is about 800 meters high?
  • Did you know that Charles Darwin has written not only about the Galapagos Islands (which I visited last year), but also about the flora and fauna of Mauritius?
  • Did you know that there is actually a town called Pamplemousses (grapefruit) in Mauritius?

 

Dodo

An Albatros wing span is as long as 3m40, the largest of any bird on earth, while its close extinct cousin, the Dodo evolved into a rotund small winged one…for it did not have predators, hence no need to fly for survival.
The lesson is although being born on paradise one is not guaranteed eternal life !

Image may contain: bird, outdoor and water
Image may contain: ocean, sky, bird, cloud, outdoor, water and nature
Image may contain: bird
Image may contain: bird