Sunday Special – Réunion Island


A small island that is blessed with natural beauty is tucked away in the Indian Ocean in the shadows of Madagascar and Mauritius. This isle, known as Réunion Island, is located approximately 700 km / 434 miles east and 200 km / 124 miles southwest of Madagascar and Mauritius, respectively. As a French overseas island it is part of the European Union (E.U.) though it remains outside of the Schengen zone thus retaining its own immigration code.

Regarded mainly for its abundance of hiking trails for all levels (over 900 km / 559 miles) its mountainous and volcanic terrain draws outdoor lovers into its fold. With trails for all experience levels one can take in lush rain forests, peer into the crater of an still active volcano (Piton de la Fournaise), gaze at fields of cane sugar, and even learn about the flora, fauna and geology of the area with a discovery trail. In fact, the island has such incredible topography that 40% of it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

Though there is more to Réunion than the volcanoes, cirques and calderas.  Stunning beaches, natural marine reserves, flowing rivers and more. Even though it is a French territory there is a mixture of cultures that add a vibrant element to the islands culture. Peoples from Madagascar, Africa, Europe, and Asia all flavour the culture, music, and the food. This place strikes me as a wonderful place to explore and unwind at the same time. 

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Langevin Falls (also known as Grand Galet Falls) in Reunion National Park – Photo credit: No machine-readable author provided. JoKerozen assumed (based on copyright claims)., Cascade LangevinCC BY-SA 2.5

 

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Crater of Piton de la Fournaise, Reunion Island – Photo credit: User: Bbb at wikivoyage shared, ReU PtFournaise KraterDolomieuCC BY-SA 3.0

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Sunday Special – Mykonos, Greece


Jutting into the Mediterranean and Aegean Seas, south of Albania, Macedonia (FYROM), Bulgaria, and the mainland of Greece are the striking Greek Isles. They number into the thousands though only 227 are inhabited. The Cycladean island of Mykonos is one of Greece’s most popular. Recognized as having a cosmopolitan vibe, it is renown for its widely popular nightlife and amazing beaches. High season  (July – August) brings in a bountiful number of tourists who enjoy the multitudinous clubs, restaurants, and shops. Low season (late October – April) is less crowded though some shops and attractions may be closed, weather is much cooler, and there are less frequent ferry rides. Shoulder season (May, June, September, & early October) is a blend of the other two seasons with less crowds and pleasant weather.

Although recognized as a “party” island, Mykonos does have more to offer. It has retained its Cycladic architecture of the past, something very prominent in Chóra (Mykonos Town) due to stringent regulations. I imagine the whitewashed buildings and narrow maze-like streets add a charm to Mykonos Town just as I found charm in Oia, Santorini.  The white windmills are a common sight on Mykonos, a throwback to early days when the strong winds of isle were used to power them.  Wander outside of the main town to a quaint town of Alefkántra, often referred to as Little Venice. This seaside village is lined with colourful houses and they boast an incredible sunset (a wonderful reason for me to consider visiting). As mentioned, beaches abound on Mykonos (Paradise Beach being one of the best known). And the winds make the island a great spot for water sport enthusiasts. Perhaps, if you’re lucky, you may spot the island’s adopted mascot too, Petros the Pelican (second generation).

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Streets of Mykonos, Greece – Photo credit: Bernard GagnonHouses in MykonosCC BY-SA 4.0

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Petros the Pelican, mascot of Mykonos – Photo is Public Domain

 

Sunday Special – Fiji


The Melanesian island country of Fiji is one that evokes images of languid blue waters, green jungle canopies and an idyllic island days. Often touted as a  wedding and honeymoon destination it seems Fiji has much to offer for a getaway, particularly a romantic one.

Located in the South Pacific, Fiji comprises over 330 islands, 110 of them being continually inhabited.  The main populated islands are Viti Levu and Vanua Levu with the capital Suva located on the former. Although Suva is the capital the main airport is in Nadi, also located on Viti Levu. 

As stated above, Fiji is renown for its wedding and honeymoon popularity and rightly so as there is an abundance of beaches, hotels and lush locations. The Coral Coast is the hub of many sun revelers and water sport aficionados.  Off course there is also national parks and adventure activities too (kayaking, zip lining, off-roading, parasailing, etc). Daily ferries allow inter-island visits for further exploring.  History buffs can learn of the country’s past with museums and historical sites. A little bit of everything under the warm tropical sun. 

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Fijian Beach – Photo is Public Domain (Wikimedia Commons)

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Coral Coast Sunset, Fiji – Photo credit: Maxim75Coral Coast SunsetCC BY-SA 4.0

 

Monday Sessions – Cuba


Our next installment of the Mondays Sessions is to Cuba. This Caribbean Island nation has had a storied past.  Many travelers from Europe and especially Canada have been visiting for years at the numerous resorts found around the island and particularly in Varadero.  There have been some changes in recent years in regards to travel within Cuba. Other areas have become a bit more popular with visitors, which offers a chance to see the more authentic side of this country. My friend Aurora (a French expat in Canada), whom I met last year, visited the tropical locale earlier in 2017.  Let’s hear about her time in Cuba.


WTW:  What may you decide to go to Cuba?

Aurora:  I have been dancing Cuban Salsa for about 10 years now and I always wanted to go! I figured it was best to go as soon as possible to experience the “authentic Cuba” before it changes with the tourism boom.

WTW:  Wonderful! Regarding logistics, how did you get around? What type of accommodations did you stay in?

Aurora:  We wanted to rent a car but there was no availability, so we ended up using buses and private shared taxis to get around the island, the latest ended up being the easiest for only a little bit more than the bus. For accommodation we stayed in Casa Particulares, which are the local B&Bs – it’s the best option if you want to see how locals live and meet them!

WTW:  How was the food? And the rum? (I find the rum quite tasty)

Aurora:  The selection of dishes was limited. Surprisingly, we found that the quality of the food varies a lot even for similar price ranges. The cocktails were also amazing in some places or genuinely bad in others!

WTW:  Good to know that is varies. Which place or area was your favourite and why?

Aurora:  Havana was my favorite place because of its authenticity and eclecticism. The older part of the city is run-down, but I personally found it charming, you get to imagine the colonial times more vividly.

WTW:  I myself  like Havana too. What surprised you the most about Cuba?

Aurora:  It felt like going back in time, nothing has changed much in 50 years, and you feel the socialism spirit everywhere, it was like experiencing history! Also the double currency system is quite surprising, creating a segregation between tourists and locals.

WTW:   That is quite different. What type of activities and sights did you do and see?

Aurora:

  • Havana (visiting the old city, dancing salsa, listening to live bands)
  • Viñales (scenic walks and drives, horse back-riding, cigar plantations)
  • Playa Girón (snorkelling, history)
  • Cienfuegos (touring the city)
  • Trinidad (sightseeing)
  • Santa Clara (Che Memorial )
  • Varadero (white sand beaches)

WTW:  You covered a fair bit of ground! Wonderful. Any tips or suggestions for travelers considering Cuba?

Aurora:  Try to visit beyond the typical tourist destinations for the true Cuban experience. Go visit Centro Havana, get yourself some Cuban pesos, dance salsa with Cubans, and be careful of scams (tourism brings so much money that a lot of people seize any opportunities).

Photos are taken and owned by Aurora and used with permission.