The Tropical Island of Réunion

We had to get up early this morning, at 6.15, in order to participate in our half-day excursion.  In any case, tonight was the first of the formal evenings, so we knew (from experience) that there would be Buck’s Fizz available in the restaurant to imbibe with our breakfast.  😊

In the Tintagel restaurant I enjoyed a platter of fresh fruits accompanied by smoked salmon, cheese and ham, washed down with coffee and a couple of glasses of the free fizz.  Then we gathered together phones, sun protection, local currency (the Euro, as Réunion is an overseas département of France) and cagoules (in case of rain, which had been intermittent).

We didn’t have long to wait in the Neptune Lounge before we were called to disembark for bus number 6.  Even at 7.30 in the morning the sun was already very hot, and the weather was sultry. We had been to Réunion before, in January 2015 on the Voyager, but today we were visiting a different part of the island.

Réunion lies between Mauritius and Madagascar and enjoys a multi-cultural population with a Créole soul.  It is very mountainous with lush tropical vegetation and grows sugar and vanilla.

Our guide today was called Jean-Luc and our driver was Laurent.  Today we were going to take a scenic ride up the mountains to the Piton Maïdo, a peak rising to over 7,000 feet, to get an amazing view of the island.

Our bus set off and we drove along the ever-changing scenery of the west coast, passing through the small town of Saint-Paul with its colourful little houses, shops and gardens, as well as fields of sugar cane, geraniums and tamarinds, beaches with black volcanic sand and other little villages.

Soon the coach started to climb, and the landscape changed to scrubby bushes and trees as our driver negotiated the steep hairpins bends.  The road was pretty narrow and would allow two cars to pass, but not a car and a bus.  Several times therefore, when meeting a car coming the other way around the bend, the car would have to pull right over into the side, or reverse back, to allow us to pass.

We enjoyed the scenery as the view opened out before us, and soon we noticed we were above the clouds; it was like looking out of an aeroplane window.  Eventually the bus parked up and we took a short walk to the viewing point at the edge of a cliff.

It really was something else.  We looked out at a stunning range of mountain peaks interspersed with clouds which never stopped moving.  You might look out to mountains and sky one minute, and then the next minute look again and only see a bank of white/grey cloud.  We also knew we were at 7,000 feet because the air was noticeably thinner up there, although not enough to make us suffer from the adverse effects of high altitude, the way we did on our visit to Peru in 2014.  From here, we could look across to the Piton des Neiges, the highest peak in Réunion, as well as three erosion-worn cirques (volcanic basins surrounded by sheer rocky walls).

We had about half an hour at the viewing point before making our way back to our waiting coach.  Then it was time to make the twisting and turning ride back down the mountain and along to our next stop, which was a geranium distillation plant at the small village of La Petite France.

It was lovely at the geranium place.  We were shown around the garden which contained many different types of pelargonium or geranium, with highly-scented leaves and flowers.  The leaves are pressed and distilled into essential oil which is used in perfume-making.  The distillation process, which takes place approximately every two months, needs 700 kilogrammes of geranium leaves to produce one litre of the essence.  We smelled various types of geranium leaves; one was like roses, one like lemongrass and another one smelled amazingly like carrots.

In the small souvenir shop I bought a bottle of frangipani oil and one of tea-tree oil, then it was back on the coach again for the return trip to the Boudicca, where we arrived just after 12 o’clock, in nice time for lunch.

After dumping our bags in the cabin, we decided to go up to the Poolside Restaurant and enjoy an al fresco lunch and a cold drink.  Trevor had fresh fish and chips with tartare sauce which I enjoyed a ploughman’s lunch. We each washed it down with a glass of chilled cider as we sat and people-watched, then we returned to our stateroom and had a half-hour power nap.

We spent a pleasant afternoon pottering around the ship and doing five laps (one mile) around the promenade deck.  On the way, we exchanged pleasantries with the Chief Officer, Stefan Ravneng, whom we recognised from our voyage on the Braemar last year; in fact, he’d joined our table at dinner a couple of times.  We then went back to start getting ready for the Captain’s Welcome Cocktail Party at 5.30pm.

I took a long, leisurely shower and blow-dried my hair, before applying an elegant evening makeup and adding volume and length to my hair with a hairpiece, which matched my own hair colour exactly.  Then I slipped into a long black and purple velvet and lace Gothic dress, teamed with a neat little black velvet bolero jacket and sky-high heels.  Trevor looked very handsome in his dinner suit and crisp white shirt with black bow-tie and cummerbund.  Then we swept out of our stateroom (suite!!) and made our way to the Neptune Lounge for the party, my dress attracting several compliments on the way.

After stopping for a photograph with Captain Juha Sartela, we enjoyed the usual small selection of canapés washed down with a couple of glasses of (free!) fizz, then the Captain was clapped onto the stage to the strains of Anchors Aweigh! whereupon he introduced us to his senior officers and gave an amusing little speech.

Then it was time to go to dinner, and we went along to the Tintagel Restaurant and enjoyed the usual delicious meal, excellent service and convivial company.  This is only our third day on the ship and yet it has all been superb already; we cannot fault anything. 😊

Tonight in the Neptune Lounge we were entertained by the Boudicca Show Company, who performed an excellent production called “Swing’s the Thing”, with colourful costumes, fantastic singing and high-energy dancing.  We enjoyed it very much.

Then it was, as ever, off to the Lido Lounge to do the quiz; we were joined by one of the guys who joined us the last night, an Irishman who introduced himself as Joe.  We had nowhere near a winning score, however, so we just enjoyed listening to Colin James the resident pianist whilst partaking of some more of the gratis drinks.

To finish off an excellent day, we brought a couple of drinks back with us to enjoy out on our balcony to listen to the sounds of the sea as the Boudicca glided through the tropical waters of the Indian Ocean towards our next destination of Praslin, Seychelles, where we were due to arrive in three days’ time.  We therefore had a couple of days at sea to look forward to now, and we slept well in cabin (suite!!) 7038, looking forward to whatever was in store for us tomorrow. 😊

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