One thing about spending most of November in a hot climate, is that you seem to jump from summer to Christmas very fast! I took this photo at the end of October...
and now we have this - the chill and bitter wind, and the glamorous Christmas decoration of the central stairwell of Fortnum & Mason....
... and The Snowman in Piccadilly!
So, to keep the warmth going, I'd like to show you some photos of a wonderful private garden that I visited in the South of Mauritius. It was created from 15 acres of an old sugar cane plantation, and here below is the view from the terrace that overlooks the garden. You can walk down through the gardens and around the lake, or linger in a thatched summerhouse, and there are so many different plants and different views. It was a peaceful, somewhat cloudy day, so not too hot ...and it felt like paradise on earth. I spent a lot of time trying to photograph some maroon insects like large dragonflies on the lake, but they always eluded me.
Many of the plants in the garden are tall and have huge flowers, and the garden's particularly well stocked with varieties from the Heliconia (Bird of Paradise Flower) genus. These flashy colours remind me of a parrot.
This deep pink and purple bloom is slimmer and more elegant.
This is sometimes called the "cigar" heliconia. It's supposed to look like a cigar, with the leaves wrapped round and round. Not sure I agree that it does, but it is an imposing bloom that looks good in flower arrangements.
And the purplish-blue and cream one shown below, grew about ten feet high - a very striking plant. Sorry it's not a very good photo. The flowers are slightly past their best, but I put it in because I could so easily imagine them turning into giant, crested, long-beaked birds at night.
Then T and I went back home with our friends and had a snack of rotis, popular Mauritian street food. Here is a typical roti stall - this one is in a market.
The rotis resemble tortillas and are freshly cooked, and often filled with either a mild fish, meat or octopus curry, plus some pumpkin curry, plus red beans and two or three chutneys, which might be very hot. Really delicious!
The markets were fun, with local people bringing in produce from their smallholdings. I bought some bitter gourds, and although they were extremely decorative, with that fabulously intricate rind and big orange seeds inside, they looked better than they tasted. The bitterness comes from quinine. In order to make them edible, you must cut them open, remove the inner pith and the seeds, and soak them in brine for quite a while, then fry them. By that time, it seems to me they taste basically like salt, but they're supposed to be good for various illnesses.
This is where I bought them - it's a large market which we visited a couple of times, and it's at Mahebourg, on the south eastern coast of Mauritius.
These pineapples shown below reminded me of pineapples I've had in Hawaii, and might as well be a different species from the acid, under-ripe and fibrous things you so often get in our supermarkets.
I might have mentioned that Mauritius is over 60 percent Hindu, so you might glimpse a brilliantly coloured Hindu religious building pretty well anywhere you go. I snapped this view from the car. If I lived in a Hindu area I would probably think it looked ordinary but since I'm unfamiliar with Hindu structures, their colour and variety surprised me every time. As the official language of Mauritius is English, you might be able to see that these gods are named and explained on their plinths in English and not in Hindi.
I mentioned in another post that Maurituis has some fun buses. Here's one I liked - I came across it after taking a wrong turning near Mahebourg. Look underneath and you'll see a dog, apparently guarding it - or at least, it got up and barked at me as I took this photo, so I reckon it thought it was being a guard dog! I am not really sure I'd want to ride on a Destroyer bus, but then, Mauritian bus drivers seem to have a reputation for being rather fiery characters.
As well as the always-interesting buses, I liked that there were so many bright and, to me, unfamiliar plants growing outside houses or scrambling over wasteland. Does anyone know what the flower below is? I'd love to try and grow it at home. It is like a cross between a convulvulus and a sweet pea.
And below is one of the photos which I like the very best. I like it because it shows just what I imagined I would see in Mauritius. And when I took it, it felt amazing to be moving quietly through so much blue, knowing that the ocean stretched out there for hundreds of miles beyond the reef.