Day 81

Reunion is a French island, east of Madagascar and south of Mauritius, with a population of 800,000. It is one of 27 regions of France and an integral part of the Republic, with the same status as those on the European mainland. As an overseas department of France, it is part of the Eurozone and had the euro as its legal tender.

Reunion is a volcanic island with many old craters and cirques, large volcanic valleys surrounded by mountains, with an active volcano on the southeastern part of the island. Today, we were on an 8 hour excursion to the Cirque of Salazie area. We began our tour with a visit to a vanilla plantation, where we saw young 2 year old plants and older 6 year old plants, the latter containing many vanilla bean pods. It takes 4 years before the plants bloom. They are artificially pollinated by hand by women using a needle to coax the pollen onto the pistil of the plants. The beans remain on the vines for many months until they turn yellow and are harvested. The beans are boiled, and laid out to dry for 9 more months before being blended with rum and boiled again to become liquid vanilla. From plant to final product takes more than six years. That is the reason Reunion vanilla costs 20 euros for 4 ounces. This was all very interesting.

We drove up some steep mountain roads, with sharp turns that the bus driver handled skillfully, and saw lovely waterfalls, stopping at the Bride’s Veil and Voile de la Marie waterfalls for photos. Pointe du Jour Hell Bourg provided breathtaking views of the cirque and surrounding area. A short drive from here brought us to Jardins D’Hiva restaurant for lunch. This was another quaint location with well landscaped floral grounds. We had time to walk around a bit after we ate a lunch of chicken, fish, vegetables, fritters, rum with juice, and wine.

We stopped for a half hour in Hellbourg Village to browse around this cute area and do a bit of shopping. There was a pretty public garden, which contained many plants in bloom. We spent half our time here before checking out some shops. The drive down the mountain was full of hairpin turns that our driver skillfully maneuvered. It was tricky when we met vehicles coming the other direction because the roads were so narrow and the bus was full-sized. The mountain valleys were lush and beautiful. This island, like Mauritius, is a keeper. We wouldn’t mind returning here again someday.

  

Our final stop was in the capital of St. Denis, where we had more free time and found some souvenirs for family members. We returned at 4:25 and dashed to trivia, but missed by one again today.

We attended a Passover Seder dinner tonight, complete with all the rituals. Art and Joanie made sure we understood the series of prayers and reasons for eating the various Passover foods. It was a wonderful learning experience. There was no official rabbi onboard, but one of the passengers was very knowledgeable and led the service.

Tonight the Regent Singers performed Broadway in Concert, which we have seen several times. I especially love the final medley of songs from Les Miserables.

We set our clocks back another hour and now will be only 7 hours ahead of East Coast time, as we head west to South Africa for the next three days.

Yours in travel,

Pat & Mac