Guest Post: An invitation to explore Mauritius

First of all thank you Tanja, for having me as a guest on your blog! I am Julz, a Danish girl and blogger on WanderingExpatFamily. I have been expat most of my life, love to discover the world and that’s what I write about!

An invitation to explore Mauritius

Because of my husband’s work we tend to move every 2-3 years. A nomadic life comes for me with many upsides, a few downsides, but the biggest perk of all is that we have lived in many different countries, from Europe to Asia, via the Middle East. To Africa, kind of. For 18 months now, we have put our luggage down on the beautiful island of Mauritius. A small island state in the south western corner of the Indian Ocean, off the coast of Madagascar. Mauritius is best known as a luxurious honeymoon destination: beautiful beaches, romantic sunsets, turquoise lagoons, fabulous spas and warm weather year around. and all that is true. But our little island has so much more to offer.

View from the Infinity Pool @ the Long Beach Hotel, 5***** Hotel in Belle Mare, Mauritius

We have beautiful mountains, not as high as on Reunion Island, our closest neighbour, but still; in the south of the island, for example there is the iconic Le Morne Braband, the mountain where runaway slaves would hide and formed settlements in the caves. In the centre of the island the beautiful Peter Both, recognizable by it’s funny looking rock formation on the top, is a challenging hike or Le Pouce (the thumb), named so because of it’s shape, is a beautiful family climb.

View of the Moka Range (Le Pouce on the Left, Pieter Both on the far right)

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Lisbon castle and other sights (Sept 2014)

 

Every princess needs a castle, right? Sometimes my mum calls me principessa which is Italian for princess :). So, if there’s a castle around I just have to check it out. My husband and I reached São Jorge Castle by tram number 12. To our joy it was an old, rickety, wooden tram and the ride resembled a ride in an amusement park. Perfect! I thoroughly enjoyed the ride. At some point if you put your hand out of the window you could touch the walls of the houses on the street. The tram had to navigate narrow streets and steep hills before it let us out near Largo das portas do Sol-a beautiful viewpoint. So, we took in the view of Lisbon and proceeded on foot to the castle. It’s a pity that we didn’t have enough time to explore more Alfama neighbourhood but I had a lot planned for that day and we had to move on. We got discount for the castle ticket because of our Lisbon card which also gave us free crazy tram rides 🙂 . In my opinion the best views of the city are from the castle’s observation terrace and the castle walls. Just look at the photos. Amazing, right?

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Exploring Belém-Lisbon (Sep 2014)

the red bridge, the Christ Statue and the Monument to the Discoveries as seen from the Tower of Belem

On the second day of our honeymoon in Lisbon we took the tram no.15 from Praça da Figueira to  Belém area. Unfortunately it wasn’t one of those old-fashioned rickety trams but a new one which was very crowded. Still, I enjoyed the long ride along the river Tagus from the center of Lisbon to Belém which is famous for several historic landmarks namely the Tower of Belém and the Jerónimos Monastery. It was cloudy but during the day the sun emerged from under the clouds and we got sun-burnt! I had planned to take a sun cream on this trip but I simply forgot so we bought one later in the center to prevent future sunburns.

We got off the tram at the grandiose Jerónimos Monastery but we first visited almost equally impressive Monument to the Discoveries. This enormous monument at the waterfront was built in 1960 to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the death of Portuguese prince Henry the Navigator who sponsored many expeditions. It was under his patronage that Portugal founded its first colonies and the Age of Discoveries began. The monument represents a caravel (ship) and it celebrates not only Henry the Navigator but many Portuguese heroes associated with the Age of Discovery such as explorers, cartographers, artists, missionaries, kings etc. We walked around it and then entered and decided to take a lift up the viewpoint. We had discount because of our Lisbon card which gave us free public transport and many free entrances. From the top of the monument we saw the Tower of Belém which looked small in comparison (the Monument to the Discoveries is 52 m high), the monastery, Belém cultural center, a football stadium and the beautiful red bridge (Ponte 25 de Abril ) that resembles the Golden Gate bridge in San Francisco, USA and the Christ statue which is a smaller twin of the Christ statue in Rio de Janeiro, Brasil. When we got down we walked across the huge pavement compass rose and world map; a gift from the Republic of South Africa. Since it was already getting hot I needed a refreshment in the form of ice-cream (I had mulberry flavour) so that I could walk to the romantic Tower of Belém.

the view from the top of the Monument to the Discoveries
the view from the top of the Monument to the Discoveries

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A walk around Lisbon squares (Sep 2014)

Ponte 25 de Abril bridge and the Christ statue

What could be better than walking the streets of Lisbon with your beloved? Many people choose exotic destinations like the Maldives or the Seychelles for their honeymoon trip but we chose beautiful Lisbon,Portugal. Why? Well, the idea of lying on the beach for hours no matter how far away and exotic that beach might be is the idea of hell to my fair-skinned husband. So we needed to choose something else. New York, Russia, Scandinavia (maybe a cruise?), and even such far away places like Australia came to our mind. In the end we wanted to go somewhere warm and somewhere that wasn’t that far away actually (and without visa ) so we chose Portugal. We had never been there and it looked like an interesting place to explore. Yes, explore and not lie on the beach all day long 🙂 .
So, we spent 8 days in Lisbon last September. We stayed at a nice hotel in the center and apart from enjoying Lisbon we also went on two day trips and even spent half a day at the beach (yes, there are many beaches near Lisbon!). We had glorious weather for the entire stay; it was sunny and warm, not hot.

So what did we do on our first day in Lisbon? After settling into our hotel and after a short nap we set off on our first walk around Lisbon. I was very much surprised by Lisbon’s beauty and the relaxed atmosphere it had. Almost every building or every square reminded me of some other city such as Paris or Madrid. It even had a bit of London in itself. But maybe that’s what happens when you travel a lot; you can’t help but compare the new city with all the others that you’ve already visited. But Lisbon’s quite unique since it sits on the north bank of the Tagus estuary which eventually becomes a part of the Atlantic ocean. And of course there’s the famous red bridge Ponte 25 de Abril that looks like a twin of the Golden Gate bridge in San Francisco, USA. Who doesn’t like cool bridges?

The first square we saw on our walk around Baixa or the lower town was the square of Marquês de Pombal; the man responsible for rebuilding Lisbon after the terrible earthquake of 1755. This is not really a square as much as a busy roundabout. The big park named after the English king Edward VII is behind this busy roundabout/square. The majestic boulevard Avenida da Liberdade links Praça de Marquês Pombal with the beautiful square Restauradores. The wide tree-lined boulevard with fountains and sculptures and kiosks with food is the perfect introduction to Lisbon. There are many expensive shops in this street as well as some beautiful Art Nouveau buildings. However, this is not a pedestrian zone since there are traffic lanes which divide this avenue in half. It’s not common really to pay much attention to the pavement on which you’re walking but this avenue’s pavement is decorated with lovely abstract patterns.

Marques de Pombal square
Marques de Pombal square

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