Mauritius

I recently came back from a trip to Mauritius. I’m half Mauritian (my dad was born there) and I’m lucky enough to be able to go over there to visit a lot as I represent the national badminton team. Although I don’t have the time or the funding to compete much, I love training and I think that playing sport is a great way to stay active as a change from the gym. I’m working full time and the hours can be long and unpredictable, but luckily the coach over there is understanding of the fact that I can’t train often and I just do my best to fit in training sessions when I can. I managed to get a week’s leave from work to compete against other African nations in the Uber Cup qualification, to gain a place in the world finals in China in May this year.

I really enjoy coming over to Mauritius to play, especially for team tournaments – I’ve made some really close friends in the team, it’s lovely to get to spend time with my family and I’ve been able to travel with the team to parts of the world which I’d never have dreamed of visiting otherwise.

We managed to win, beating Egypt in the final 3-0. The men’s team also competed in the Thomas Cup which runs in parallel but unfortunately they lost in the final to South Africa. Being the host country, we had so much support from other team mates, the public and our families – it was so lovely for my family to be able to come and watch me play.

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The first thing that hit me when I arrived in Mauritius was the heat and the humidity! Previously I’ve usually visited in British summertime, which is their ‘Winter’ – mild temperatures of high teens/low twenties. This time, the temperatures reached highs of almost forty degrees, with regular thunderstorms meaning the humidity was unbearable at times. Being in the hall felt like trying to play in an oven; it has no ventilation and I felt like I was eating the air! It was an awesome experience though, especially as I’m not used to challenging playing conditions and I don’t compete much anymore!

As well as playing, I had plenty of time to relax before matches and it was a much needed time for me to relax and reflect – during busy periods at work I get so stressed and wrapped up in everyday worries that sometimes I feel as though life is just passing me by. I wake up each day at 5am and from that moment my whole day is a rush – to training, to the gym, to work – some days I get home as late as midnight and go straight to bed just to start the next day in a few hours. Being in Mauritius allowed me to switch off and live life at a slower pace for once. I was able to get a decent amount of sleep each night, I didn’t feel tired, I had time to myself and time to appreciate everything I have – an amazing supportive family, friends and a healthy body. I think it’s so easy to lose sight of everything that we have to be grateful for because of some (relatively) insignificant things. Even there where everything was so relaxed, there were things which I struggled to deal with, for example not having my own kitchen to cook balanced meals, the hot weather, tough playing conditions, constantly being bitten by mosquitoes and the worst part – shin splints and golfers elbow, which steadily got worse as the tournament progressed. Of course, all of these things are frustrating, but looking at the bigger picture, none of it really matters, and none of it stopped me from enjoying my time in Mauritius.

As well as playing, the main highlight of my trip was of course the FOOD. As always, when I travel to a new place, I love to discover new places to eat and I can spend forever wandering round the shops looking for new or unique products which I can’t buy at home. They also have so many street food stalls, selling the most delicious rotis filled with curry and served with a sweet and milky vanilla tea. During my time there, despite visiting a shopping mall, I only bought food.. surprise surprise! I stay with my grandma, who lives only five minutes walk away from a supermarket. I managed to visit a record number of times during my week there, buying a variety of local biscuits and chocolates (they had some incredible Lindt flavours – think thick bars filled with créme brulee, praline fondant and hazelnut praline) but the highlight was the bakery! I think I must have spent a good half an hour there the first time I went to the supermarket! Carbs are my number one weakness.. for me there’s nothing better than freshly baked bread and cakes – and with so many unique things I wanted to try them all. There were coconut filled brioche buns, brownies covered in chocolate ganache, madeleines, cakes and muffins in every flavour imaginable (banana, almond and chocolate are the most popular flavours here which of course happen to be my three favourite flavours.. okay, three of my favourite flavours!), the softest pain au chocolats and croissants (slightly under baked and squishy which is my favourite way to eat them!), mini burger buns, focaccias with a variety of flavours, huge fluffy pitta breads and pizza bases, almond cookies, baguettes, cheese rolls and ciabattas which are crisp and crunchy on the outside and incredibly soft on the inside. As you can see I’m getting carried away just thinking about it, so you can only imagine how excited I was when I was actually there!

One of my favourite cafes to eat at when I go to Mauritius is a place called ‘Le Lins.’ It’s owned by one of my auntie’s friends, who used to work in accounting but has now retired in order to open up his own cake shop – my absolute dream! Every time we go it’s packed – the lunch menu is simple with toasties, sandwiches, paninis, crepes and pasta dishes – all of which are delicious, but his real forte is dessert. There’s a glass cabinet at the front with a selection of tarts, cakes, biscuits, freshly baked madeleines and macaroons.. the macaroons! They’re so good – exactly as a macaroon should be.. crispy on the outside, soft on the inside, chewy in the centre with a perfect amount of smooth creamy filling in a variety of flavours – pistachio, coffee, lemon, vanilla, chocolate and raspberry. They’re also an absolute steal – I don’t often buy macaroons as I can’t justify the ridiculous price tag but got 6 for 140 rupees which is less than three pounds! I was so upset that the cafe is closed on weekends so I couldn’t go back to get fresh ones to take home.

My family also took me out to lunch at a seafood restaurant called Ocean Basket. We ordered platters which featured fried fish, calamari, prawns, rice, chips and sushi, served with a giant basket of bread and butter. The fish was so fresh and so tasty. When I thought the lunch couldn’t get any better, we went to a famous coffee chain in the mall called Cafe Lux. As well as a variety of different coffees, they had a huge selection of cakes, desserts, pastries, muffins and donuts – my idea of heaven! I was able to sample a pretty good selection – an iced americano, a hazelnut frappe, a pistachio donut, a chocolate donut and a chocolate muffin topped with chocolate ganache, all of which were delicious. My cousin also got an almond frappe which was perfect – good coffee, with a subtle hint of almond flavour without being overly sweet, blended with ice. The donuts were soft with a smooth layer of cream in the middle and completely coated in ganache. The muffin was soft and light with a rich ganache on top. I’ll definitely be sampling more coffee and cakes at that cafe next time I come to Mauritius!

On my final day, my auntie and cousin took me to eat at a lovely Meditteranean restaurant called ‘La Fourchette’. The food there was so good, and I was lucky enough to be able to sample many different dishes. Their menu was extensive with each section (meat, fish, pasta, pizza) spreading over several pages. Whenever I go to a restaurant which serves pizza I can never resist, as it’s probably my all time favourite food. Equally I wanted to try their homemade pasta, and their fresh fish sounded amazing too.. my auntie said I could get pizza for starters which left me free to order a different main course – the ideal outcome! The pizza had a thin and crispy base, plenty of cheese, parma ham, rocket and a fried egg in the middle.

For my main course I was lucky enough to be able to try fried red snapper, seared tuna steak and the creamiest, cheesiest tagliatelle, all presented beautifully. Some of the accompaniments to the red snapper were slightly too salty but the fish itself was fresh and cooked to perfection. They also had a giant bread basket with a huge assortment of rolls.. I think I ate them out of the cheese and tomato pizza rolls! As always, I’d had my eye on the desserts since the start of the meal – two in particular (chocolate related of course). Chocolate and almond nut fondant, lemon marmalade and bitter chocolate ice cream and a chocolate pie coated with an almond and pistachio mixed nut Dacquoise sponge, strawberry macaroons and vanilla chocolate chip ice cream. Unfortunately both of them contained nuts and when my auntie tried to question the staff, they didn’t seem sure whether these nuts included peanuts. Having a peanut allergy is awkward, but it seems to be a regular occurrence that waiters, waitresses and sometimes even kitchen staff don’t seem to know the details of some of their dishes. Most places I’ve been to seem to recommend erring on the side of caution and not taking the risk, which I obviously agree with, but it’s disappointing when a restaurant has desserts that sound as good as these did. I think that the only thing I wouldn’t recommend from this place would be an iced latte – I think it would’ve given fifty-shot syrup Starbucks a run for its money! Aside from the food, the restaurant was light, modern and decorative and it overlooks a beautiful lagoon. There’s an option to sit inside or outside but since the whole area is open, either is airy and relaxing.

After so much good food, all I wanted to do was sleep but my cousin suggested going up to the mountains and I’m SO glad that I did. It was a 6km hike in all but it was well worth the effort – the view was incredible! There were a few clouds but the sky was blue, I could see the sea and surrounding mountains as well as all of Port Louis and its suburbs. I have plenty of lazy days when I travel abroad – when Marcus and I first started going away together our two week holiday would consist of nothing but lying in the sun and only moving to go to the buffet and demolish the all inclusive food – but I’m starting to change a bit and enjoy being slightly more active on holiday! I have to say that I would hate to spend a lot of precious holiday time in the gym though – I have the rest of the year to do that if I want to, and for people that struggle to take rest days I’d definitely encourage using holiday time to take a much needed break and let your body recover. Walking to explore new places is the perfect way to take a break from the usual gym routine but still stay active (if you want to!) on holiday.

My grandma also loves to cook (and she does it well!) – I can see where I get my love of cooking and baking for others when I visit her.. her favourite questions are ‘are you hungry?’ (never in her presence!) and ‘do you want to eat?’! During my time in Mauritius, she made so many amazing dishes including beef biriyani, roti with a variety of curries, fried noodles, Napolitans (shortbread cookies sandwiched together with jam and coated in pretty pink icing) and a number of local dishes. She’s the sweetest, most caring woman, and was perfectly happy to cook Indian food and other dishes due to my dislike of Chinese food – homemade or cooked. I tried many different Chinese dishes whilst in Mauritius, both homemade and out at restaurants but I still just cannot get myself to like it! I find it overly greasy, sweet, salty and all of the dishes seem to be coated in the same sticky sauce. I don’t find it filling yet it always seems to make me feel sick, which is disappointing as obviously a lot of my family really enjoy Chinese food, and even when my parents come to London to visit me they often want to eat in Chinatown.

Even though I know I’ll return, I always find it sad leaving Mauritius. It’s sad enough coming back from holiday and going back to ‘real life’ without the addition of leaving family behind. My auntie and uncle treat there treat me as though I’m their own daughter, I love spending time with my cousins and my grandma is the sweetest and most selfless woman alive. That said, I made so many wonderful memories and I couldn’t have hoped for a better time whilst I was there. Plus I was excited to get back in my own kitchen to cook and bake, appreciate the cooler weather (and the hot mugs of tea, hot showers and warming bowls of porridge which come with it), and be reunited with my boyfriend and of course nut butter!

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