Holiday in Mauritius – first few days in a cyclone

Note – A tropical cyclone, also called a typhoon or hurricane, is an intense circular storm that originates over warm tropical oceans. They are all the same, only different distinctive terms for a storm are used in different parts of the world. Hurricane is used in the central and Northeast Pacific, Atlantic and the Caribean sea while Typhoons are what they call it in the Northwest Pacific.

A few months ago, I attended a big event in Mauritius, my brother’s long awaited wedding.

Note – Mauritius is an island in the Indian Ocean, 1200 miles off the South East coast of the African continent.

I brought back lots of good memories, mauritian tea, shells and with it some memorable but stressful memories too.

Before I go any further, I have to mention that I am a Mauritian Expat, now living in England, Uk. I left Mauritius 19 years ago, so I am like a tourist there, with the advantage of knowing the language and having friends and family there.

So, after a long process regarding setting a date for the wedding, then taking days off ( my work, the hubby’s work and the children’s school ) we set off to Mauritius for 14 days.

We started from London, stopped at Dubai for 4 hours, and finally reached the island after a total of 20 hours ( plane and airport transfer )

Being tired is an understatement. The whole mind and body have to reset themselves, due to the time difference too.

As soon as we landed, the stress started. The tropical cyclone that was making it’s way towards the tiny island was making progress and it was now a direct hit.

For the next few days, I relived my teenage years and this time I was very frightened as the last time I was in a cyclone was in 1994. Yep, that’s old I am, I was there in 1994.

The difference was that in 1994, there was a power cut during cyclones and for a few days, the whole family were huddled in the living room, with candles, a battery powered radio to receive weather updates and also to entertain ourselves with the music. Because that was the only entertain for the whole family, not including board games. These days, my children, maybe even me, would not last a power cut for a few days.

Fast forward to 2018, I was on my mobile, looking at weather maps, following the trajectory of the cyclone. There was no power cut at all. My children were watching cartoons in French, which they do not understand, but I guess cartoons are cartoons for them. Even whilst in Portugal they happily watched portuguese cartoons. My brother was actually finding it hilarious that I thought there was not going to be electricity. It is not 1994, he kept reminding me. I am sure some parts of the island had a power cut.

Nevertheless I was terrified. Terrified the wedding would not take place, and also terrified that the tiny island could disappear. Yes, that is the disadvantage of having internet and overseas news at your disposal. Back in 1994, all I had was the radio telling me where the cyclone was, hence no need to overthink. But then I was only a teenager back then, I am sure howling winds, torrential rain or even the possibility of the tiny island disappearing in the massive ocean was the least of my problems.

One of the interesting thing about the internet age was that I was able to keep in touch with friends and family from differents parts of the island as well as different parts of the world. A few friends from England were there for the wedding too and they witnessed the cyclone from a house near the beach. Trees were torn and scattered along the beach, boats were broken, the island was a mess.

I was also in touch via Instagram with tourists on the island and it was interesting to see their photos and posts about what their hotels were doing to make their stay enjoyable and safe.

While I was on the island, winds howling around me and rain lashing out, international newspapers were writing about how ‘the hotspot holiday destination for many, especially honeymooners is being threatened by a very strong cylone which is very likely to cause extensive damage ‘

Reading the news did not help. The whole family was beyond stress.

The metal poles for the wedding’s marquee were already up, at some point the marquee itself was up but had to be taken down due to the wind.

We stocked up on bottled water and food while the shops were still open, food and knick knacks to last us a few days. It was still very hot and being indoors, with all the windows and doors shut, made it even worse.

The price of the water bottles went up in a matter of a few hours as soon as the cyclone went from a Category 1 to a Category 3. I managed to buy a few only as the shops were out of stock.


Berguitta, the cyclone left after a few days.

I love this corn snack and I got to try South African wine.

Many people’s houses were destroyed, there was flooding in certain areas. The cyclone’s next target was Reunion Island.

On my brother’s side, a few things had to be postponed, a few non major changes, but everything fell into place and the wedding went ahead smoothly, only 2 days after it was all clear. It was such a relief. I have already suggested a name for their child when/if they have a girl. Berguitta will be a perfect name.

While I was in a cyclone in Mauritius, there was a storm as well in England, and I learnt that my garden fences broke. It never ends, does it?

Have you ever experienced something similar while on holiday?

Stay posted on what I did after the wedding, before I had to catch a plane back to Winter in England.

Coming up – A day at the beach, I visited a dormant volcano, Driving along the coast….

 

 

Two Traveling Texans

4 days in Porto, Portugal

Porto, I have now made such good memories with you. I absolutely loved the city and I came home, after 4 days, with wonderful memories and I can honestly say that it was one of my most memorable trips ever. Ok, maybe I say that about all my holidays but Porto, you hold a special place in my heart.

Check the links in red at the end of this to see the amazing street art.

To recap, I went to Porto for a friend’s 40th Birthday. Prior to that, I have to honestly say that I had never heard of Porto before. Now all I talk about is Porto. When choosing a destination, I was disappointed at the choice but the birthday girl chose it as it was a full of culture and history.

To my delight, I recently found a portuguese restaurant in Essex, family owned business and I even got to introduce port wine to my friend, who does not like wine, but now loves port wine.

I stayed at Crowne Plaza Hotel, which is about 20 mins by bus to the old town, which is the main area for the touristic places. I had a Porto travelcard, bought at the airport , which allowed me to use the bus and trains as much as I needed which was very convenient and a good value for money.

I got to the hotel by taking a train from the airport, and once I reached the destination I had to walk about 20 minutes to the hotel. That was why I took the bus for the next few days as the bus stop was just outside the hotel, therefore less to walk.

The people were generally very friendly and helpful. The ones that spoke English were the young ones mainly and they all helped with directions.

The hotel is not in a touristic part, therefore not many people spoke English. American tourists even came to us to ask for directions and help with the bus routes as they heard us speak English. We had communication trouble in a few restaurants, where they could not speak English or French, so we had to google translate everything we wanted to say. Very amusing situations. Now I know how to say butter, chicken, drink and so on in Portuguese.

At one point, we took a taxi, and the driver did not speak English, although he was eager to learn, and he learnt a few words from us. We ended up communicating with him via the concierge at the hotel.

Last holiday, I went to Algarve in Portugal and I did not struggle with communication there as 95% of the staff spoke French, so I was in my element.

What is special about Porto?

  • The River Douro

The river is one of the major ones of the Iberian Peninsula, starting near Soria Province,  flowing through Spain and Porto before it flows into the Atlantic Ocean. It has been said that it is one of Europe’s most photogenic river.
I could not agree more.
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  • The food

Bacalhau is a must. It is the portuguese word for codfish and there are so many ways to prepare it ( grilling, boiling and baking ) so there are a lot of different bacalhau dishes to try.
Francesinha – This is a twist on a classic french sandwich, filled with meats, covered in cheese and sauce.

Salted cod fish
Bacalhau Pasties
Grilled fish with potatoes
  • It’s street art

Every corner I turned, there was something to look at, be it a tiled building, or simply art on the walls.
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  • It’s downhill, uphill alleyways

  • Tiled buildings all over the place

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  • The port wine cellars

I learnt all about the making of port wine, visited the cellars and got to taste it too. IMG_0057IMG_0062

  • Bookstore – Lello Livraria

Harry Potter fans, this is where J.K Rowling got her inspiration for her book. The setting of the library is similar to the setting of Hogwarts. It is also often said that Lello Livrairie is one of the most beautiful libraries in the world.

It is the bridge I needed to cross, to go from the old town to the port wine cellars. It is a double deck metal bridge, similar style to Eiffel Tower, since it was designed by a student of Gustave Eiffel himself. I love bridges and this one is impressive as it is used for both pedestrians and the metro.

  • Porto’s Old Tram

Another way to see the town is by taking the tram which has 3 regular routes. Two pass through the town while one goes along the river Douro.

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Tram
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View from tram
  • Sao Bento Station

One beautiful station. I would happily wait there for my train everyday and gaze at the art work.

Cathedrals and churches

There a lot of churches and cathedrals in Porto, some free and some with an entrance fee. The ones I visited were Palacio da Bolsa, Igreja de San Francisco, Igreja dos Carmelitas and Church of Sao Pedro dos Clerigos.

I even got to see a wedding, well guests of the wedding and a blushing bride.

So these were a few things that I did. There was also free walking tours around the town, which had to be booked in advance. Everywhere I went, I saw walking tours and I did wish I had booked one.
Unfortunately, there are a lot of people who approach tourists and ask for money. Some of them would spin stories about their sick child, and that it would be really helpful if we could spare a few euros and then you would overhear them spinning a completely different story to another tourist about how they lost their wallet.
It did get uncomfortable at times, to be approached by such people who would follow you around.
Below are some links to places I visited and things I did, in more details or in photos.

Porto Portugal Guide

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Two Traveling Texans

Wine Cellars

I cannot recommend Port Wine Tasting enough. Having read all about the Douro Valley, and it’s magnificent landscape which I unfortunately did not get a chance to visit, I was at least happy that I got to taste Port wine, from grapes grown in the Douro Valley.

I was really surprised at how cheap it was. I have never been to a wine tasting over here in England, but I assumed it was pricey.

The wine cellars are found in Vila Da Gaia, on the other side of the town, and across the Luis Dom Bridge.

I feel proud and at the same time silly to say that throughout the trip, I used only traditional maps to get around, no mobile, no google map.

I managed fine on the bus and around the town, but when it came to crossing the bridge to go to the wine cellar, I got it all wrong.

I am sure my friends and I walked for more than 1 hour to reach our reserved winery, and the funny thing was that when we reached, there was a woman who had collapsed outside the winery.

She had either collapsed due to the journey, or to the fact that she just had the port wine. It could have been us, collapsed outside. It was mostly uphill, and we had no food and drink with us.

There was no shop on the way either where we could buy something to replenish our tired bodies. No taxi, no bus, not one vehicle and no other person either on the way there. We nearly gave up.

We kept walking and walking, and passing lots of wineries, but not the one we were supposed to go to.

Having reached the wine cellar Churchills, we were starved and glad to be able to sit, relax, enjoy a tour of the cellar with explanations on how port wine was made, and of course the sipping of the wine.

When we left, we were so tipsy due to an empty stomach, we had to request a taxi to be called for us, and we went for lunch at a restaurant. I have to say, the young woman was very friendly and she made the visit even more formidable. However we did ask for more biscuits, so as not to get drunk on the wine, but it was not that forthcoming.

So if you book a winery in Vila da Gaia, Porto, take a taxi, or if you fancy walking, wear comfortable shoes and clothes, carry food and drinks, and enjoy the port wine.

Are we nearly there? Where are we?