Thursday, November 15, 2018

Port Louis

I had a bad night due to the onset of a cold. I felt weak and dizzy but I wasn’t going to let that stop us from heading in to the bustling city of Port Louis. 

The traffic was busy. After a few wrong turns, we headed to the harbour front and parked the car.

The day was hot and warm which was just perfect for a day of touring around town.

Our first stop was the Blue Penny Museum. This museum is best known for its rare stamps, colonial history of Mauritius and the tragic story based in Mauritius of “Paul and Virginie” (boy and girl fall in love, girl forced to leave boy and go to Europe, girl is heart-broken after a few years and decides to return to her love, girl sends message she is returning by ship, ship arrives in stormy seas with boy watching from shore, ship sinks, girl drowns, boy dies of heartbreak).😢

The museum was in the centre of the pretty Caudan Waterfront area with its many shops, restaurants, craft market and casino.

An underground walkway led us to the downtown area. I was disappointed to find out that the Natural History Museum was closed for renovation. I really wanted to see the skeleton of the extinct dodo bird. This flightless bird only lived in Mauritius. There were many dodo statues outside of the museum...actually you could see dodo products and statues all over the place.

We rested in the Company Gardens  before visiting St Louis Cathedral. The churches, Hindu and Chinese temples, Mosques and other places of worship bare witness to Mauritius’ multi-faiths.

Dragging myself up many steps, we enjoyed the view from the city’s Citadel.

I always miss fresh produce when we go away so I was delighted to check out the fruit and veggie market. The cows head in the meat market was a bit off putting.

We couldn’t leave Port Louis without visiting the Apravasi Ghat. This UNESCO World Heritage site is where over 462,000 indentured workers , (over 97.5% from India) were received before working mostly in the sugar plantations. Over 70% of Mauritians can trace their ancestry back to these people.

We took a break at an Indian restaurant that had locals dining there. We tried the local beer called Phoenix, samosa and Dola masala and tamarind juice.

On our way back to the car we purchased fresh produce (including a very large white cucumber) from the market and checked out Government House with its statue of Queen Victoria in Place des Armes.

I was exhausted. Traffic was heavy on the way back to our place and John got a little cranky when he caught me sleeping while on navigation duty.

Back at our place, I saw the largest snail I have ever seen.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

In and Around Flic en Flac

I woke early and drowsily listened to a choir of singing birds.

We took the clown car to the Spar grocery store where we loaded up on food and drinks for the week. Being an island and needing most things to be shipped in, almost everything is expensive. We paid the equivalent of $3 Canadian for six eggs, $2 for a can of corn and $6 for a small box of Special  K cereal.

We went back to the apartment for breakfast on our deck before walking a short distance to the long beach. I saw many different kinds of bright birds along the way, not to mention many vibrant bougainvillea bushes.

The bright turquoise waters are rimmed by a long sandy beach and tall feathery coniferous trees to offer shelter from the hot sun. We didn’t see any fish yet in the shallow warm waters but there were many sea urchins. We were warned to always wear water shoes when going into the water in order to protect our feet from the coral and urchins.

Volcanic rock formations in the distance reminded me of Bali Hai in Kauai, Hawaii.

After doing one more trip to the bank and grocery store, we planned to go for a sunset walk down the beach. Unfortunately it then began to pour so we stayed on our deck and read until I made us supper.

Clown Car on the Wrong Side of the Road

I had no idea where Mauritius was when John first suggested we go, so for those of you who are like me, here’s the scoop. Mauritius is an African country that is a volcanic island in the middle of the Indian Ocean, about 1,132 kms beside Madagascar. It is Africa’s most densely populated country so traffic can get quite busy at times. French is the main language but people also speak English. Most signs are French.

The plan was to arrive in Mauritius at 1:30pm so that it would be light when we did the one hour drive to the town of Flic en Flac which is on the west coast of the island. Unfortunately there was that three and a half hour delay with our flight.

It was 5:30pm by the time we collected our baggage and exited the airport. Our car rental agent was not there to meet us as planned. I got another agent to give him a call and he showed up ten minutes later to inform us that the rental car we had booked was not available because two new eighteen year old employees were driving two rental cars (one of which was ours) to the airport and they decided to race each other and got into an accident. Both cars were totalled and the two employees were in the hospital. He said he couldn’t get us a car until the next evening. We found the story far fetched but on the otherhand it certainly wasn’t a story that portrayed the company in the best light given the many other excuses he could have come up with to explain why they had no car for us. 

I went to several rental car booths and negotiated with companies that had a small number of available cars. A German and a Dutch tourist also did some negotiating on our behalf. We actually ended up paying close to what the original rental would have been.  

When I saw the way the rental agent whipped the car a few times around the small traffic circle in front of us, (stopping quickly to put right a pylon he had knocked over), I was more inclined to believe the first agent’s accident story.

Our car was tiny, bright red with a few dents and some rips in the upholstery. We didn’t complain because at this point it was dusk and we were desperate to be on our way. 

As I watched John fold his tall body into the right hand driver’s seat, the words “clown car” came to mind.

With mild horror, I realized that they drove on the British side of the road here. By this time, dark had fallen and all we had was a map on John’s cellphone  to guide us. 

There were a lot of round abouts along the route, not much lighting, minimal road signs and no sidewalks so we had to really watch for pedestrians, stray dogs and bicycles (also with no lights). To make matters worse, John would turn on the windshield wipers every time he went to activate the turn signals as they are in the reverse location beside the steering wheel to what we are familiar with.

The air was warm and tropical but I couldn’t see the scenery, I could only make out outlines of mountains and things that looked like small step pyramids.

Surprisingly, we made it to our destination, only having to back track once. Upon arrival, John looked at me and said, “I never thought I would hear myself say this to you, but you did a good job navigating”.

A friend of the owner met us at the house and helped us park the clown car into the small gated driveway. 

Our accommodations were a large two bedroom apartment in a large house, just steps away from the beach. It was clean but had a strange layout. There is a deck off the master bedroom and a second bedroom beside it. Both bedrooms were attached to a long hallway which lead to an entrance and a living room. A closed door in the living room lead to an eat in kitchen.

I was quite concerned when I couldn’t find a bathroom. Eventually John found a door in the living room (which I thought was a closet) lead actually to a full bath.

Like many places in Europe, you use a key to lock the outside doors at night...let’s just hope there isn’t a fire.

We were told that most restaurants close early so we went to a fine dining place along the beach for a light supper and beer. I had the most delicious truffle and mushroom soup that I had ever tasted. John’s Thai chicken skewers were also pretty good.

The bed is comfy but due to time change, it took me awhile to fall asleep.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Rocky Start on our way to Paris with Cheapo Air and Air France

Our trip had a rocky start.

 At Pearson Airport in Toronto, we went to the Air Canada check-in around 6pm for our 8:45pm flight to Paris. When we got to the agent we were told that we had no tickets with Air Canada but that the tickets had been exchanged by our ticket booking agency (CheapoAir) to an Air France flight leaving at 6:45pm from a different terminal. We were never notified of the change.  When called, CheapoAir first said that I had been called on Oct 30 (which I had not), then they said that Air France said that they didn’t have any contact information for us so we weren’t advised of the change (I’m not sure how they could not have this information since CheapoAir needed it all for me to book the tickets). I had even received an email confirmation the day before from Cheapo Air still saying that we were leaving on Air Canada.

We called Air France and Cheapo Air from the Air Canada check in desk. Our Air Canada representative, John was amazing. Air France was trying to tell us that there were no seats left on the Air Canada flight we were booked on. Both the Cheapo Air rep and AC representative informed us and Air France that there still were seats. Our AC rep insisted that Air France had to turn the ticket booking back over to Air Canada if we were to make our flights. Meanwhile Cheapo Air was trying to get us to fly out the next day on an Air France flight which would have us missing our day in Paris and cutting our holiday short. I advised that that was unacceptable.  Cheapo Air then told our AC rep that our AF tickets had been turned back to AC, however when our AC rep looked, nothing had been changed. After over an hour being on the phone with both Cheapo and Air France, Air France finally released the tickets back to the AC flight and we got on the plane with only minutes to spare.

There was another young guy behind us that had the same problem with Air France and Cheapo Air but he probably missed his flight because he hadn’t given himself any extra time. 

A big, big thank you goes out to John at Air Canada for not giving up and working so hard on our behalf.

The flight was uneventful. I slept all the way to Paris, only waking when our meals came.

There were many armed guards patrolling the Paris (CDG) airport which I found equally reassuring and alarming.

We left our carry on bags at the airport “Left Luggage” service and after some confusion at the automated ticket kiosk, caught a train to Notre Dame.)

The weather was dull, 12 degrees; perfect weather for spending time wandering around museums.

Our first stop was The Cluny. This medieval museum is my favourite Paris museum; it is home to “The Lady and the Unicorn” tapestries. These tapestries never fail to take my breath away. I could stay in that room all day.

One of the tapestry ladies kind of looked like someone had punched her in both eyes.

There was an extended unicorn exhibit that had some interesting pieces:

After having a quick lunch at a creperie, (I had a smoked salmon and spinach crepe), we headed to the Louvre. I discover something new there with every visit. Of course we always visit our favourites. Climbing up and down all the steps in this museum was even harder than climbing that mountain in Banff last week. The 6pm closing came too soon. The Louvre staff have clearing people out of the building down to a science.

Paris at night is magical with its lit up buildings. The Eiffel Tower sparkles like diamonds for five minutes, every hour after dark until 1am. When not sparkling it is lit up in a warm golden colour.

We had a quick bite for supper and checked out a few shops in the Latin quarter before admiring an illuminated Notre Dame Cathedral one last time.

After doing 25,000 steps, 17 km and 22 flights of stairs, we dragged ourselves onto the RER and caught one of the frequent trains to the airport; about a 45 minute ride.

Since we had time before our Air France flight to Mauritius, after collecting our left luggage, we went to the Air France customer service to check on our return flights. Sure enough, our Air Canada flight from Paris to Toronto had been switched to Air France and we had not been advised. 

This switch added an extra three hours to our layover in Paris than we would have had with the AIr Canada flight we had booked. We were afraid to fight it at this point and find ourselves stranded in Paris on the way home. The AF rep said that it was listed as an involuntary flight change...meaning that we hadn’t requested it.

Our helpful Air France rep confirmed that they had no contact information for us...obviously the contact info I gave to Cheapo Air had failed to be listed on Air France’s files. I gave our Air France rep our contact info which she added to our file.

We did everything we could to ensure that our checked bags made it to Mauritius. My fingers were crossed.

It took a long time standing in line before we boarded our Air France flight to Mauritius. My feet were killing me. Once boarded, we were told the plane had a mechanical issue. We sat in our plane on the tarmac for almost three hours until the problem was fixed. We were then delayed further while a sick child and parent disembarked. Finally we left over 3 1/2 hours late on our eleven hour flight to Mauritius.

I slept through most of the tarmac time and most of the flight, waking only to eat and spill a glass of pastis (a French aperitif) on my lap which had plenty of time to dry on the flight.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018


Copenhagen, Denmark was the final stop of our cruise. The day was sunny and warm...actually hot. We were some of the first passengers off the ship.
Fortunately we were moored at the closest dock to the city. It took us only ten minutes to walk to the iconic little mermaid statue. She is quite small and surrounded by tourists trying to get their picture with her.

Nearby, the smell of lilacs hung heavily in the air. There were some beautiful statues in the garden, but a large group of female Italian or Spanish ladies had taken over the area so we moved on.

St Alban’s Anglican Church and a majestic fountain created a beautiful picture. It seemed so peaceful despite being in the city.

We followed the sound of drums from the street. A drum group in the crowded street gave encouragement to the horde of marathoners running through the city streets. Only problem was that we needed to get to the other side of the street. After walking a ways without any path to cross, we finally jumped into the street and started to run with the marathon, gradually working ourselves across to the other side.

We walked through the Ameliaborg Palace Square and took a tour of the palace. We finished shortly before noon, just as the changing of the guard was about to take place.

They wear the big fur hats and navy wool jackets which must have been torture in the blazing sun.

Close by the palace is the Marble Church with its huge dome.  Almost next door is the smaller Orthodox Church.

I found Copenhagen a very walkable city. We easily made our way to Navyn (New Town). It is actually the oldest part of town with many old and colourful buildings situated alongside the canal which is where we caught a one hour boat tour.

The day was slipping away so quickly. We quickened our pace and visited the pedestrian shopping area, the Round Tower, the university, Rathaus (city hall) and Christianborg Palace.

We stopped for a beer at a waterside terrace back in Navyn.

On our way back to the ship we stopped to admire the royal family’s yacht and took a few more pictures of the little mermaid in the afternoon sun.

After supper, we went to the “Tango Buenos Aires” Show. The star dance couple in this show were amazing. 

The next day was a day at sea. I tried the rock climbing wall and did marginally better than when I did it last (two years ago). We did some mini putt and read. 

Best of all, the lobster tails finally showed up and they were done to perfection. The acrobat show after supper was awesome.
Now to head home and step on the scale. Yikes.