Going barefoot in the Seychelles

Monday, August 4, 2014

Somewhere on La Digue Island a bemused crab is wondering how a child size slipper made it to the far recesses of his front door. My daughter Millie unwittingly bestowed this, probably, unwelcome gift whilst skipping happily beneath the tall slender coconut palms unaware that her little feet were trespassing upon dozens of carefully manicured crab holes. A minor hiccup on our otherwise picture perfect day visiting that famous beach, Anse Source D'argent. The 30 minute walk navigating the thick foliage catching glimpses of the sea almost felt like a Robinson Crusoe family expedition if it weren't for the frequent passerbys either coming or going from the granite boulder framed beach. The beach was no less beautiful even if you have to share it with scores of people. We secured a spot away from the sunbathers, splashed about in the translucent water and as any intrepid traveller would do climbed those boulders.

But the real talking point, at least according to the kids, was getting around on bicycles, the accepted norm when you weren't beachside. It is possible to walk along that part of the island but infinitely more fun to survey island life on two wheels. We mingled with the residents going about their daily routines, steered out of the way of smiling school children riding bikes, nodded greetings to the vanilla plantation owner and watched a bunch of teenagers shooting hoops. The simple living of the island had an instant relaxing effect, breathing space if you will that we happily embraced. Worth mentioning if you're a baking fiend is to stock up on organic vanilla beans, they sell them by the bundle and they are cheap. And if you're brave enough to carry a bottle of liquid in your suitcase then freshly pressed coconut oil is also a bargain. It's a full day trip if you happen to be based on the main island Mahé. A journey of two ferries, the first to Praslin island from Victoria (allow up to an hour) and a second to La Digue. The latter lasting a short 15 minutes.

Back on Mahé we hired a car, it's cheaper than taxis, to get to and from our hotel in Baie Lazare. On that part of the island we spent a fair bit of time at Anse Soleil beach, I happen to prefer this beach over Anse Source D'argent, it wasn't crowded. Beware that there is a current working the water so keep young children close, mine were happy to play in the sand. But the most amazing beach was undoubtedly the one claimed by the Four Seasons Hotel, with sand the colour and softness of talcum powder you wouldn't dare wear shoes. Unfortunately this was not the hotel we stayed at although it is worthwhile to note that all beaches in the Seychelles are public so don't feel out of place as chances are non-hotel guests are in the water too.

When we wanted to skip the beach we drove, first to Victoria where spices are the go as these are the foundations of good creole cooking. Pick them up from the market along with the locally grown teas. Creole cuisine is a blend of Indian (lots of curries), Chinese and French cooking styles. The curries aren't pungent and spicy they are more subtle in flavour with a mild sweetness. I thought I detected some tributes to Africa in a few dishes. I feasted on sautéed local greens, creole rice, coconut salad, cold eggplant rolls, plaintain and breadfruit chips. If you're a fan of bananas then this is the place as there are lots of sweet treats featuring this star ingredient. And go crazy for the coconut water, there won't be a shortage anytime soon. A lovely spot to while an afternoon away with a refreshing drink is Le Jardin du Roi, it's inland and on a hill with one way traffic for most of the climb. Don't let this deter you as there is an amazing view from the verandah of the cafe. And in a desperate search for vegetarian food we made our way to the Thai restaurant Saffron at the Banyan Tree Mahé. The colonial style ambience was the epitome of island sophistication, coupled with a pleasing menu it would of been a lovely night out if it wasn't for a wailing child, ours!