After spending a few days in Réunion, the second part of our honeymoon saw us staying in Mauritius.
Thursday 19 September
Our final hotel stay was at Salt of Palmar, almost next door to the place we’d stayed in just a few days previously. Our hour-long taxi ride to Palmar wasn’t quite as hair-raising as the previous one, although our driver did slightly startlingly stop on the road to take a lengthy work phone call in the pitch black.
Salt of Palmar bills itself as a “big-hearted boutique hotel”. It puts a focus on “local” and being vaguely eco-friendly. Every guest gets a free reusable metal water bottle to save on plastic. That sort of thing.
Salt is highly Instagrammable.
The interior design is by Camille Walala.
It is very striking, with bold colours and geometric patterns everywhere.
It was already rather late by the time we arrived. We sat down for some dinner, selecting four plates of various sizes and sharing them all.
Then I had this incredible smoky banana desert with a theatrical touch.
Afterwards we went to the rooftop bar to enjoy some cocktails while watching the moon glistening onto the Indian Ocean.
We didn’t stay long though because it was quite chilly up there!
Friday 20 September
We explored the stunning atrium in the daylight for the first time.
Then we had our first experience of the Salt breakfast, which I have to say was incredible.
Firstly — and importantly — the coffee here is excellent. The coffee generally — in both Mauritius and Réunion — was pretty bad. Our tour guide in Réunion had explained that it’s because all the good coffee gets exported. Salt must import some of it back.
The rest of breakfast consists of all the hipster millennial checklist items.
- Smoothie bowls every day — check.
- Kombucha every day — check.
- Eggs every which way, every day — check.
Then top up with some pastry, bread and your choice of main. This day, we both opted for different types of Asian fusion eggs.
After our hectic previous few days of volcano tours and long drives, we took our first day at Salt at a relaxed pace.
We explored the hotel, including its reading room.
We relaxed on the beach for a bit.
Then we sampled the swimming pool.
Alex enjoyed this because she said it felt like she was swimming into the ocean.
Soon enough it was cocktail time.
Alex swam some more.
So I entertained myself by trying on Alex’s hat.
As the sun began to set, we went back to the beach, where we saw some classic Boyfriends of Instagram action during golden hour.
We decided to take another trip to the rooftop bar.
We had been expecting this to be a hotbed of party times, but almost every time we went it was quiet. I guess people couldn’t be bothered to climb the stairs.
We watched people doing a fitness class on the beach, which included a hilarious tug-of-war match.
Back in the hotel room, I was getting to grips with the toilet, which contained one of those squirty arse cleaners. This is the first time I’d ever seen one. When I experimented with it, I was very surprised at the speed at which it sprayed all over my crotch. In the end, I became a seasoned ass-sprayer and I was a big fan by the end of the holiday.
That wasn’t the only startling toilet thing going on. In Mauritius they seem to have a thing for urinal mats that look like ice cubes. It’s a very strange feeling to be pissing into something that looks like an ice bucket.
Then it was time for our romantic meal, which was part of the honeymoon package we’d booked.
There is a strange phenomenon at Salt where all the staff seem to know everything about you, even if you’ve never met them before. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but I was surprised when people we’d never met knew who we were, knew we were on our honeymoon, and knew about an activity we’d booked with someone else.
The first couple of meals I had, they knew my dietary requirements to the point of almost pedantry. Yes, I did say I was intolerant to cow’s dairy. But yes, I do want that dessert containing a bit of dairy.
This all seemed to fall down slightly at the romantic dinner. There appeared to be a set menu, and plates started appearing on our table without us really knowing what they were. My spidey-senses were telling me I’d better check, and sure enough my starter contained shrimp paste.
It’s normally difficult to eat crustaceans by accident in the UK. But in Mauritius and Réunion, shrimp paste (and seafood generally) is seemingly much more of a staple.
Alex was worried that the seriousness of my crustacean allergy wasn’t understood by the staff, and they certainly seemed confused by the fact that I was (occasionally) ignoring my dairy intolerance, but more concerned about my crustacean allergy.
So Alex eventually told the waiter: “if he eats a crustacean, he will die”. The gulp that went down the waiter’s throat was as big as the lobster they were planning on serving us.
A more senior member of staff came over to clarify. We had to wait a little while, but Alex got fish with prawns, and I got chicken with an oyster sauce.
Then, a celebration cake! Full of dairy. But, very tasty. And we managed to save half the cake for the next day’s dessert!
Saturday 21 September
For breakfast, I had this poke bowl, which was absolutely amazing.
Later in the morning, we took a cookery class.
We had a great time learning to make a chicken curry with their wonderful chef Elzie.
Then, Alex was shown how to make a roti to eat with the curry.
The curry was delicious, although it was a little large to be having so soon after our breakfast!
We took our time and washed it down with our first taste of the Mauritius craft beer the hotel served.
Our original plan for the afternoon had been to hire bikes and explore some of the local towns. But we’d seen the weather forecast — rain was due to arrive.
So we decided an indoor activity would be better: a spa treatment. I’m not big on spas, but Alex likes them and she wanted me to come with her. So I spent an hour wearing that tiny pair of see-through pants they give you, and being rubbed up by a strange woman with weird fluids on her hands.
I came out feeling odd and looking like this. I’d forgotten they muck about with your hair during a massage.
I have to admit though, the foot bath was pretty good for my sunburnt feet.
We had a pre-dinner rum.
And then dinner.
Sunday 22 September
The sunrise was behind the clouds, but nonetheless spectacular.
Today was the day for us to finally venture out of the hotel. We hired the hotel’s Mini, and went on a tour of Mauritius!
Most of the tourist attractions we wanted to see were at the other end of the island (good planning, huh?). So we planned to drive all the way to Le Morne at the south west of the island, then work our way back towards the hotel.
But our first stop was at nearby Flacq where we explored the local market.
It was pretty stressful finding a parking space, but we eventually found a place on a side street about a five minute walk away from the market.
We bought some fruit for the day trip.
Then we relaxed with a glass of passion fruit juice, while I stared at this food stand called Tasty Nuts.
But there was no time to sit for long, as we had a long journey ahead of us! We spent a portion of it behind this chugging old bus that was belching black smoke.
We were later told that these buses are privately run, and they compete with each other by racing to get to the bus stop first. This certainly explains some of the driving standards we experienced in Mauritius.
We eventually arrived at Le Morne.
This stunning beach was a hive of watersports activity.
There was a Lux hotel here, which in retrospect is where we should have stayed for that first night in Mauritius before, but you live and learn.
There wasn’t long to enjoy the beach though; we had so much more to see!
Onwards we went to our next destination.
We went via a stunning mountain road.
Our next stop was the Seven Coloured Earth. This is a geological phenomenon whereby the sand has developed different colours due to the volcanic rock cooling at different temperatures.
We had heard mixed reviews about this in advance of our visit. In truth, at least five of the seven colours are various shades of brown.
Generously, you might say there is a purpley-brown and a reddish-brown as well. Still, it was pretty cool to see.
There were some giant tortoises nearby.
On the way out of the park, we stopped off to see Chamarel waterfall.
This is quite striking, and you can see the two very different lava formations that make up the cliff edge.
Onwards we went to the Black River Gorges viewpoint. Unfortunately we didn’t have time to hike around this area, but we did appreciate the view.
The bin across the road from the viewpoint is closely guarded by monkeys. One human got a bit too close for these monkeys’ liking, which seemed to cause an altercation between them.
On our way to our next destination, we saw a sign for Alexandra Falls, so we just had to pay a visit. By this time, it had started raining.
A few minutes away from there, we saw, quite randomly, a food stall in a car park that seemed to be in the middle of nowhere. This was our first chance to sample some of the street food that our friend Jamie had told us to try.
Jamie has family from Mauritius, so he was able to tell us what we should try. It was tasty, and very cheap!
From there, it was a short drive to Ganga Talao. This is a lake that has been formed out of a volcanic crater.
It is also a sacred lake in Hinduism, which is quite a major religion in Mauritius.
There are lots of stunning statues and temples here.
Unfortunately, the weather was by then torrential, and it was difficult to admire the view.
Having said that, it did make for some atmospheric photos of the colourful statues.
That was our final stop of the day, and given the weather it was just as well. On returning to the hotel, the torrential rain continued while we ate dinner. I guess that’s tropical life.
We played a few games of solitaire in the library.
Monday 23 September
By now, I was finally getting the hang of the strange coffee/tea bags that were supplied in the room. You need to carefully perch the paper handles on your cup. But do be careful, or they will ping off.
Alex was embarrassed because she turned up to work wearing the same clothes as this plant. Nightmare.
This day we went to the island’s capital, Port Louis, for a street food tour.
Port Louis, like most places in Mauritius, is about an hour from everywhere else. Our driver spoke little English, but he did take great pleasure in trying to tell us what every type of tree was.
The first stop was a surprise to us. We ended up this tea factory: Kuanfu-Tea. The giant banner outside this otherwise slightly suspect-looking industrial building claims vaguely that the product will “improve your sleeping and sexual life”.
Their black tea is allegedly caffeine-free. It is made using a special method that may have been contrived specifically to trick stupid white tourists like us into injecting some extra money into the Mauritian economy.
Each spoonful of tea makes three cups, which you must pass through a special filter that can only be bought in this factory. It brews very quickly. It tastes interesting, and I was intrigued by the caffeine-free nature of it. So we bought a bag of tea and the kit required to make it.
Then it was on to Port Louis itself, to tour the various street food locations. Our friend Jamie had recommended a range of foods to try, most of which we were able to get on this tour, with a few others thrown in!
Gram bouillie, a chickpea salad that people eat as a snack. Our tour guide told us she often makes this for her breakfast and eats it during her hour-long commute.
Sugar cane juice
Alouda — a milky drink similar to bubble tea.
We also had a look around the market.
The tour was topped off with anana confit — a strange savoury, salty, sweet, syrupy, pickled fruit and vegetable atrocity. This is the food that proves that just because you can, it doesn’t mean you should.
Alex and I admired different buildings.
On our way back to the hotel, Alex managed to persuade the driver to take us up to the Citadel, Fort Adelaide, for views of the city.
Strangely, here we met two of our fellow tourists from the Réunion 4×4 volcano tour.
After exchanging small talk, we returned to the car and travelled back to the hotel.
I thought I was being careful with what I was eating, and I’d avoided the alouda. Nevertheless, I still felt myself beginning to feel quite ill very early on in our hour-long drive back.
My agony was prolonged when we stopped off to visit this bag maker. This lovely woman has an unassuming shop in a small town near our hotel. It sells all sorts of bags, but we were particularly interested in the beach bags made out of recycled plastic, which were included in our hotel room. We bought a black and white one here so that we could have the same thing at home.
Back at the hotel, I rewarded myself with a sunglasses purchase. If Alex deserves a cool hat, I deserve cool sunglasses. Although I’m not quite sure why it took me until almost the end of the holiday for me to realise it.
At dinner, we enjoyed the theatre of watching the barman making the cocktail that became my go-to drink — “no smoke without fire”.
We shared this curry feast.
After dinner, we took some time to explore the rest of the hotel that we hadn’t seen yet.
Tuesday 24 September
Rise and shine, bright and early. Alex wanted us to do the hotel’s yoga at 6am, so we did — even though I didn’t feel great.
I’d only done yoga once or twice in my life before, and I have never found it particularly comfortable or relaxing.
Nevertheless, Alex seemed to think I was quite good at it. I think she just wanted an excuse to see my bum at this angle.
At one point, I got cramp in my foot. The yoga instructor did this incredible thing where he gripped my lower leg. The cramp immediately went away, and I was able to continue.
After the yoga, I actually felt sick. I guess that’s what happens when you place your body upside-down the day after you’ve had a lot of curry/beer.
I didn’t feel right for several hours afterwards, and I had a lazy afternoon sun lounging, while I watched Alex doing this aquafit class.
Come lunchtime, I still didn’t have the stomach to eat, which was a great shame because I was jealous of Alex’s lamb calzone thing.
Sadly, our stay at Salt — and our entire honeymoon — was coming to an end.
Time to take one last quick tour of the building.
…And to use up the rest of the disposable camera, which we’d been forgetting to use for most of the holiday!
Then it was time for our final meditation, where we were invited to throw salt into the Indian Ocean, bringing our honeymoon to a conclusion.