Mauritius – Part 2

Mauritius – Part 2

We passed this rock on a boat safari

Last week in – Part 1 – I talked about best time to visit and where we stayed.

What to do all day in Mauritius? You could lie on the beach or recline on a lounger at one of the pools and catch up on your reading while soaking up the sun. Or you could get a bit more active and try one of the many sports on offer such as volleyball, beach football, bocce ball, water-skiing, sailing, windsurfing, kayaking or water polo. Our hotel offered excursions such as glass-bottom boat tours, snorkeling and scuba diving.

Lunch at the national park

Reps from various day trip and excursion companies punt their products in the hotel reception. You page through catalogues and compare prices. We decided to try a day trip out to sea on a boat with a midday seafood BBQ. We made sure we let them know that I’m vegetarian and checked when we boarded the boat that they had me down as a veggie. All good.

Small beach near our resort

Off we went out to sea. They dropped anchor and people were swimming and snorkeling while the rest of us lazed on board the boat.The guys organising the excursion popped the sparkly and fired up the BBQ. Come lunch time – all they had for me – was a white bread roll and a portion of salad. Everyone else was piling their plates with ‘eat all you can’ fish, lobster and prawns. We paid the same price as the others and it’s not like I could go elsewhere to eat. The guys on the boat were unmoved by my plight. I was furious and complained bitterly to the hotel when we returned. The hotel tried to make right and gave us a complimentary glass bottomed boat ride which didn’t appease me one bit.

There are so many excursions and outings to choose from. Try deep sea fishing, safari jeep trips, scuba diving, swimming with dolphins, quad biking trips, helicopter flips, hiking, skydiving, horse riding, mountain climbing, para sailing, water skiing, visiting nearby islands, sea kayaking, a submarine safari, rock climbing . . I would say there’s actually too much choice.

Out to swim and snorkel on a boat safari

We booked a few spa treatments at the hotel and they were good. It might be because the Mauritian population is predominantly of Indian descent that the focus at our hotel was on Ayurveda. Treatments included Indian Ayurvedic Head Massage, Balinese Massage, Reflexology, Royal Thai Massage, and Hot Stone Therapy. I also had a manicure and pedicure.

Greenie at a Hindu temple

We did a day trip alone with a local guide come taxi driver He drove us around the island taking in the capital city Port Louis, Grand Baie, lots of little villages, Hindu shrines, various beaches en route and local markets. The nice thing about hooking up with a local driver was that we could ask him to stop so we could walk around. We got to see what we wanted away from big tourist attractions.

We also did a group bus tour which took us to the plantations, historical buildings and we saw the – Chamarel Falls – in the Black River Gorges National Park. See it on a map here – Lonely Planet map. The advantage of being with a proper tour guide was he shared interesting information and the historical background to places we visited.

Mauritius is not a must-see-this, must-see-that kind of place. The island is similar whether you are north, west, south or east so you can lurk in one location and you aren’t missing out too much. This isn’t a ‘party like your life depends on it’ place either. Mauritius is where you go to get away from it all, to relax, to have a holiday. Your only real decisions are more about what activities to fit into your day, if any at all.

Charmarel Waterfall

Here are some links you may find useful to plan your holiday –
Tourism Mauritius
Aardvark Safaris
Safari Now accommodation
Wiki Travel Mauritius

National Park

For more tips and what to do in other destinations visit the – Greenie Travel Archive – page.

Go to – My Holidays and Trips – at the top of this page to read about other places we have visited. Or just click on – this link.



Travel in Mauritius in 2005

Room Le Méridien Hotel

This blog is written in two parts.

Mauritius is the Miss World of holiday destinations. Think – blue skies, palm fringed white soft sandy beaches, unending days of warm sunshine, crystal clear waters and warm friendly people. Because Mauritius is keen to prevent over development, it retains a lot of it’s natural beauty. It was originally uninhabited and the home of the dodo which is now extinct thanks to the arrival of mankind on the island a few hundred years ago.

And it’s not just the dodo that we will never see again. There are lots of animal and plant species that have been wiped out by the intentional and accidental introduction of foreign creatures and plants. A trip to one of the nature reserves will give insight into the flora and fauna which are such a critical part of the character of Mauritius. Read more here – Mauritian Wildlife Foundation.

Hindu shrine next to the beach

Tourism – brings in a third of the Mauritian foreign income so they also want to ensure it remains a premium holiday destination. It’s a favourite port of call for passenger liners. Development occurs in resorts that are geared to cater to your every whim.

You can expect a room next to the beach with views of the Indian Ocean from your balcony. A week break will typically include airport transfers, breakfast, and in-house activities such as use of a gym and pool and beach games such as volleyball. Extras such as fishing safaris, cycle trips, spa treatments and day trips around the island can be booked at the reception desk.

Greenie at a beach bar

Because Mauritius is almost a year round destination we decided to use up some of our accumulated air miles and pop across. I often think the point of air miles is to make sure – you never actually get a free flight – as they limit the number of seats, time of year, amount of time you have to book ahead . . . you know the story.

I once got a free fight from SAA using air miles. Got my confirmation by text and an e-mail which I printed. As you do. When I arrived at the airport, my ticket had been cancelled. Just like that. No warning, no explanation, no apology, no alternate flight, no nothing.

Indoor market

Since the only time to avoid Mauritius is January to March when there is a possibility of cyclones, we had a fair chance of redeeming our air miles.  Best time to go? April to October. The temperature is fairly constant year round, averaging between 25’C and 30’C. They don’t seem to have a winter or a summer.

Hand made boat – one of the local crafts

Mauritius is popular for French tourists who make up 25% of the visitors. English is the official language but not everyone can speak it. Newspapers, schools, notices and legislature are all in French. But the language everyone actually speaks is Creole, which is not taught in their schools. There are 22 different languages spoken on the island including Hindi, Tamil and Arabic. The people are a mix of French and British colonialists who settled, and slaves who arrived from India, Africa and China. This mix of cultures has created a unique hybrid cuisine. Mauritian food is to die for. Have a look at these foodie sites – Madeline, Dima and Runweb. Plenty fresh food and vegetables. Lots of yummy curries and a great place for vegetarians – except when on excursions when they cater for tourists – read about that next week.

We stayed at – Le Méridien Ile Maurice – which is near Turtle Bay. It’s on the north east of the island which was a fairly newly developed area, away from the busy tourist places. We had to take a taxi to go exploring. Our room was spacious and we could see and hear the ocean rolling outside.

Pool Le Méridien Hotel

Breakfast was an eat-all-you-want buffet. The choice and variety was so vast that it defied belief. You can start your day with champagne and oysters, a bowl of Bircher muesli, a full on English fry up or delicate pastries. It’s all there. We had our evening meal in-house and the evening meal was yet another almighty buffet. They have a different theme for each night of the week such as Italian or Creole. And if that wasn’t enough choice they had more restaurants where you could have seafood or a curry perhaps. You will not go hungry at these resorts.

See – Part 2 – next week for what to see and do in Mauritius.

Beach Le Méridien Hotel

Go to – My Holidays and Trips – at the top of this page to read about other places we have visited. Or just click on – this link.

Weekend in Perthshire Scotland – Part 2

Weekend in Perthshire Scotland – Part 2

Ruined bridge outside Aberfeldy

Last week in – Part 1 – I spoke about what to do in Pitlochry, the theatre festival, Loch Faskally and the fish ladders.

After our mini tour of Pitlochry we washed, changed and went for a meal at – Drummond’s before walking to the theatre to see the first of our two shows. Drummond’s is located in a lovely setting next to the River Tummel. I’m vegetarian and always moan about the lack of vegetarian food on offer. I had the only veg option, a veggie lasagne and my husband had Scottish salmon. Both came with veggies. I would have liked a wider variety to choose from but what we had was good and the service was great.

Blair Castle Ballroom

On day two we only had a morning to spare as we only had to be back at 14.00pm for the matinee show. We took a drive out to see Blair Castle. It’s one of the better castles to visit in Scotland. Entrance was £9.50 each. We walked from room to room . . . to room to room . . . to room. I lost count of how many we passed through.

Each one had either been restored with original furniture or had mementos and souvenirs relating to the Dukes of Atholl, their families, historic visitors and the Atholl Highlanders who are the only private army in Europe.

The Atholl Highlanders were formed as a personal guard for Queen Victoria and her husband Albert. It was at Blair Castle that Victoria fell in love with Scotland and set about building her own castle not too far away – Balmoral Castle. The current royal family still love to escape to Scotland and it’s easy to see why.

Any castle visit takes longer than you think. Allow at least 3 hours to see the exhibits and wander around the gardens. Most castles have cafes so you can plan a lunch stop at a castle.  I can’t promise good food. You can even sleep over in certain castles.

Blair Castle

George Murray, the 10th Duke of Atholl placed Blair Castle into a trust to ensure it’s preservation. His successor the 11th Duke of Atholl was a born and bred South African. John Murray came out from South Africa to Scotland to inspect the guards every year. He was succeeded by his son, Bruce Murray this year (2012), so the 12th Duke of Atholl is also South African. Who knows how many people with royal blood lines live around the world?

McKays in Pitlochry

After the matinee we went to McKays for a meal. McKays is a hearty, down to earth place, done up in contemporary Scottish style. The waitrons, both male and female, wear kilts or tartan skirts. McKays food is reasonably priced and entertainment ranges from a live band to a Ceilidh  (pronounced cay-lee) evening, which is traditional Scottish dance and music. It’s a festive and popular place.

We shared a starter of fried mozarella and salsa. My husband had Shetland salmon with vegetables and said it was the best salmon he had ever eaten. I had a jacket potato with cheese and beans. With a bottle of wine, our meal came to around £35.

Blair Castle Hercules Garden
Big Old Yew in Fortingall

The next morning we had cooked oats for breakfast. My other half had a choice of kippers which came complete with the head, eyes teeth and tail or haddock. I had boiled eggs. The breakfasts at Dundarach were good and their service was excellent. I loved the tartan carpets and old wooden staircase in the foyer.

After brekka we decided to do a round road trip taking in the towns of Aberfeldy, Kenmore on Loch Tay and Fortingall. We passed a few ruined bridges and visited the oldest Yew tree in the world in Fortingall. This poor tree has had so many hardships. It should be much bigger but at least it is still growing and is still the original tree.

We drove back along the beautiful Loch Tay and stopped at Queens View, which is a view point taking in Loch Tummel and the Glencoe Mountains. It’s named after Queen Isabella, wife of Robert the Bruce, but some say it could be named after Queen Victoria.

If you have time you might want to consider doing a bit of cycling. We saw plenty cyclists out enjoying the local sights. We had our car so we took a slow drive back to Aberdeen via Royal Deeside area passing Balmoral Castle and driving through the pretty towns of Braemar, Ballater, Banchory and Crathes. Royal Deeside is the area adjacent to Perthshire. It is similar and just as beautiful. Read more about that road trip – here

Loch Tay outside Kenmore

Go to – My Holidays and Trips – at the top of this page to read about other places we have visited. Or just click on – this link.

Weekend in Perthshire Scotland

Weekend in Perthshire Scotland

Travel in Perthshire Scotland in 2012

Dundarach Hotel

This blog is posted in two parts.

They have an annual theatre festival in the village of Pitlochry in Perthshire, Scotland. My husband and I decided to take a long weekend, see a few shows and explore Perthshire. The Scottish countryside is renowned for it’s beauty. It’s a combination of mountains and forests with streams and rivers that feed into their salmon filled lochs. The natural environment is a big part of the attraction to Scotland, but that’s not all. There are castles aplenty, scenic drives, walks, museums, views, craft shops, whisky and beer tastings and stone circles to see and do. But just hanging around a pretty town like Pitlochry, enjoying local produce and listening Scottish accents was also on our agenda. Apparently Scottish and Irish accents are the ones we most love to listen to.

Old Mill Inn Pitlochry

The – Pitlochry Festival Theatre – began in 1951 and the show was initially housed in a tent. Today they have a proper theatre which is located right next to the Tummel River. It has large windows with views of the river and you can relax in their cafe with a glass of wine and a snack, or have a three course meal before a show.

Try to avoid visiting July and August when the Scottish schools are on holiday and the town is heaving with humans. The theatre has a group of actors who mix and match roles in their various productions. We chose to see – 39 Steps – and – Communicating Doors. My husband booked our tickets on-line. Tickets were £28 each.

Queens View – Loch Tummel and Glencoe Mountains

We had lots of time to get from Aberdeen to Pitlochry as we weren’t traveling far, so we set our Tom Tom to shortest route as opposed to fastest route. That way we could take in a few little villages en route. Visit Scotland – have brown road signs that clearly show the local – scenic drives, which is handy if you want to see more than a highway. The trip from Aberdeen to Pitlochry took around 2 and 1/2 hours. We booked a Chevy Spark on-line with – Enterprise Rent a Car. The car cost £55 incl VAT for 3 days. On this occasion my husband skipped the £10 per day insurance. We travelled about 250 – 300 miles and petrol bill for the weekend was £30. The Tom Tom was our own.

Hydro Electric scheme at Loch Faskally

We checked into – Dundarach Hotel – in Pitlochry just after lunch. There was time in hand to go walkabout and collect our tickets before we got ready for the theatre. The Dundarach Hotel cost £100 per night for two of us. We normally would go for cheaper accommodation but there wasn’t much available. This is a popular event and advance booking to get bargains is a prerequisite. You can try – Late, Farm Stay UK, Scottish Independant HostelsHostelling Scotland – for links to accommodation.

Pitlochry Fish Ladder

At the Pitlochry Theatre Festival ticket office we discovered that, not one, but two cast members had been hospitalised. Gasp. They cancelled one of our evening shows but juggled a matinee performance of – Little Shop of Horrors – for us instead. We thought we would book a meal at the in-house restaurant but also discovered the restaurant was booked up a year in advance, so that took care of that idea.

What to do and see in Pitlochry? It’s very, very touristy. Lots of tour buses pass through and hoardes of people with back packs, bum bags and cameras roam the streets. Pitlochry is free of mega development and retains a quaint old village charm. Lovely old granite stone cottages line the streets and it’s all postcard pretty. Walking around the village and then relaxing with a cup of tea with a slice of local cake is a pleasant way to spend the afternoon. Try – Hetties Tearoom.

Inside Pitlochry theatre
Dundarach Hotel

The canny Scots use their natural geology to their advantage and have created hydro electric schemes all over the country. There is one such scheme at Loch Faskally.  And that’s not all, to preserve their salmon numbers, they have incorporated a ‘fish ladder‘ so salmon can swim upstream to spawn. We visited Loch Faskally and saw the hydro electric scheme. The mechanics are interesting and the loch has not been spoiled with an ugly industrial building but rather a subtle arrangement in keeping with the local area. The fish ladder is more a sort of tunnel beneath some steps that the fish can swim through. They have a viewing area where you can watch and count the salmon as they swim past but they were shy when we tried to see them.

You can take in a – whiskey tasting – and tour at the home of Bells at – Blair Atholl Distillery.  A basic tour costs around £6. Moulin Inn have a brewerey where you can see a local micro brewer make – Braveheart Ale. The tour is free and I am told you get a complimentary bottle of ale after the tour.

Next week in – Part 2 – I deal with Blair Castle, Loch Tay, Loch Tummel and the towns of Kenmore and Portingall.

Go to – My Holidays and Trips – at the top of this page to read about other places we have visited. Or just click on – this link.

Thailand – Part 3

Thailand – Part 3

Marble Palace Bangkok

Last week in – Part 2 – you will have read about temples, food and food safety, prostitution and Chang Mai. The week before in – Part 1 – I gave some statistics, spoke on how to get around and about Bangkok.

Beach at resort hotel in Phuket

Getting away from the heady, heavy cities and out to unspoilt beaches is one of the best parts of visiting Thailand. You can book an all inclusive week at one of the resorts and relax, soak up the sun and enjoy buffets of delicious Thai food. The hotels usually have reps from the tour companies at hand. They have catalogues with pictures and descriptions of their tours and day trips. Think glass bottomed boats, fishing, island hopping, snorkeling and diving, learning Thai crafts such as fruit carving and Thai cookery. The resorts also have regular shuttle buses that do round trips so you can pop into town or try out the various local beaches. You may find better prices if you go into the town and chat to other tour operators.

Resort hotel bedroom

I would recommend you have as many Thai massages as you can while in Thailand. They are dead cheap and these ladies manage to take the kinks and knots out of your muscles and joints. Thai massage – is quite different to a Swedish or Sports massage. You are usually clothed and no oils are used. Thai ladies pick up your limbs and twist and rotate them. They roll you about and rearrange you. They press and prod you. It sounds uncomfortable but it’s not. You let yourself go limp and they do all the work and it is heavenly. The other bonus is a Thai massage is around 2 hours long.

Traditional clothing of the hill tribe ladies in Chang Mai

Make sure you keep space in your suitcase for shopping in Thailand. You can have a custom made suit or outfits run up by one of the many tailors. You can also find designer knock offs or over runs. Just be aware that bringing home designer imitations can be illegal in some countries. How about carved wooden items to hand crafted jewelry? You can buy CDs, fabrics and really just about anything from flip flops to pots and pans – dirt cheap. My best was the night market in Chang Mai. Night markets are common in Thailand. But a regular to Chang Mai reckons the Sunday market there is even better. Do try on or at least measure clothes against your body as Asian sizes are smaller.

Wood carving

Every country has some unique saying or custom and Thailand is no exception. Thais positively adore their royal family despite them being fairly remote from their people it’s an offence and deeply insulting to say anything bad about the Royal family. Another custom is to stand to attention when the national anthem called the “Pheng Chat” in Thai and meaning ‘national song’ is played. They play it every morning at 8.00am and every evening at 18.00 pm. Westerners only need keep still.

More Buddhas

Thailand is for the most part safe. They have some crazy festivals. In particular the – Songkran – festival, when they throw water on each other. see here. A friend had his camera ruined when he was caught in the thick of a waterfest. It’s also unwise to carry huge amounts of cash on you. Rather draw cash you need to which is easy to do in Thailand.

Every now and again you get uprisings between the – red shirts and yellow shirts. The uprisings are soon contained but can cause road closures and other inconveniences. A hat and sunblock in such a hot country are mandatory. Especially on walks and excursions.

Best time to visit? Between November and February. It’s cooler then and it’s also less likly to rain. Between March and May temperatures soar above 40’C and it is unbearably hot. July to October is the rainy season.

Here are links to sites that offer accommodation in Thailand – Agoda, Asia rooms, Hotel Thailand and Sawadee. It’s a common gesture to leave a tip on the pillow for the cleaners who serviced your room.

For more ideas on what to do and where to go visit the following Thai-blogs, Go Thailand, Bangkok, and Chang Mai.

Red truck taxi in Chang Mai

Go to – My Holidays and Trips – at the top of this page to read about other places we have visited. Or just click on – this link.

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