Louis and Gwen are getting married! In La Réunion! Not many of the Lebelle side are going to be here. In fact, it's just Paul, Anne, and me. Claire just gave birth to Constance, and besides, Aurelia just started school and can't really be taken out outside school holidays. Emma is just getting down to work on her house and taking time for a trip to La Réunion. It's a long way and merits a long stay. (wikipedia article in English, in French)
Today, Sunday, is a day of rest. At least, the morning is supposed to be. The rest of the family, Louis, Gwen, Sacha and the whole Thomas side, arrive later this morning.
It's a night flight. Taking any flight from Orly suggests an exotic destination, much more so than leaving from CDG. There are no lines; there are crowds. We got to the airport a full three hours before the scheduled departure and the crowd in front of our check-in zone was so big that we didn't see there was a sign for a line for people who had their boarding passes already. We just got into the crowd that slowly became a line for check-in and in over an hour, we were checked-in. I wonder what time the first people in the check-in line got there. We went straight through to the security check and came out at the other end in about half an hour. Our flight was already announced with a delay, so we had time to get a little something to eat. It was already 8:30 and who knew when we'd get our flight dinner! Our Corsair flight was on a recently refurbished 747. It looked and felt new, very comfortable, but we didn't really leave the gate until after 10:30 and it was past midnight by the time dinner came, so it was a good thing we had had a bite beforehand. There's a two hour time difference with La Réunion, so it was about 10:00 a.m. when we arrived on Wednesday morning.
For some odd reason, the local travel agency did not have our voucher for the car, but apparently that happens a lot; our car was indeed reserved and waiting for us, but it was almost noon by the time we got it.
Needless to say, we were a bit tired on arriving at l'Ermitage, just south of St. Gilles, on the west coast of the island. We walked over to the beach, had lunch, and then collapsed for a few hours.
We walked over to the shops and got some breakfast things and some pasta for an eventual dinner in. There is a bit of sticker shock when in the supermarket; almost everything is imported from metropolitan France, but even local produce seemed expensive. Back to the beach for the sunset and back to the studio for a light dinner and plan for our first real day.
Finding the rum distillery was another adventure because the guidebook did not say which exit to get off the highway and as we were in town, we didn't know from which direction they were giving the little instruction they did. It's a good thing we had a real map and managed to find our way to the main road and finally found signs for the distillery. There, too, is an interesting story about the difference between rum agricole, made directly from sugar cane juice and is more common in the Antilles, and rum traditionnel, made from molasses, which is already a by-product after the juice is separated to make sugar. The bagasse, the fiber, is used to fuel the electricity plants, thus supplying the sugar plants with whatever energy they need and a bit extra for the local grid. They also claim that the sugar cane consumes the entire CO2 production from cars on the island. The guide took us through the distillation process, distillation, condensation, ageing... to tasting and, of course, buying. The specialty on La Réunion is rum "arrangé", with fruit. It's really quite good.
La Bicyclette Gourmande. I had a "sauté vanille" -- a mix of lots of vegetables with shrimp (but I could have chosen meat or chicken) in a vanilla sauce, with rice and lentils. Then we had ice cream for dessert, from a local ice cream maker -- a scoop of ginger and honey and another of pralines. Excellent lunch.
On the way back, we stopped at Le Puit des Anglais, a volcanic swimming pool for safe swimming. Looks like fun! And another stop at Le Cap Méchant, more volcanic seaside.