Thursday, March 4, 2010
This is the closest I’ve been to France, as a matter of fact, I was in France. La Réunion is a French region, just like Hawaii is to the US. I didn’t have to change US dollars for most of the countries we’ve been to, because they accepted our money. But I had to have euros for La Réunion if I wanted to buy anything. As it turned out, I didn’t spend anything, but I’m sure I’ll be able to use the euros as I go along.
We spent most of the morning at the Mascarin National Botanical Conservatory and Environment Education Center, established in 1986 for the purpose of preserving the island’s native and endemic plants ( plant species which is naturally confined to a well-defined area and has evolved into a species of its own). Besides preserving native and endemic plants its goals are to control invasive species and share its scientific knowledge with local communities, nature protection groups and other institutions involved in nature conservation. The conservatory is on the former estate of Chateauvieux family whose beautiful house sits on the top of the entrance as you make your way up very many steps, with beautiful foliage and blooming plants on both sides.. The property is divided into five areas: palms, cactus and succulents, orchard, “Lontan Plants“ (plants brought in by man), and The Reunion Collection (what the semi-arid West coast forest probably looked like some 400 years ago, before the arrival of man.. There were levels that were quite steep accessed by well-paved paths. With the exception of a few plants, most were labeled. As knowledgeable as our guide was, I had difficulty understanding his French accent. He related so many things about many of the plants that I was not able to understand. It is a laboratory that changes with the seasons and the years that provides unlimited study and investigation. This would be a botanist’s paradise.
Our lunch was at Copa Cabana, on a sandy beach. Someone spotted some topless bathers (we are in France, remember) but not close enough to distract our lunch. There were complimentary cocktails (I had a Dodo beer on tap), spicy appetizers, the main course of either fish or meat (the meat had a small sirloin steak, salad, French fries and a rather large paddy of steak tartar, which most of our group left uneaten), and red or rosé wine, This was followed by a small glass of strawberry rum, chopped fruit and coffee. It was a long lunch, but nobody seemed to be in any hurry.
Next we drove to the oldest cemetery where the pirate Olivier Levasseur, nicknamed La Buse, is buried after being hanged for piracy on July 7, 1730. But what a career he had! The booty of his latest capture of the Portuguese galleon Nostra Senhora do Cabo with treasures belonging to the Bishop of Goa consisted of bars of gold and silver, dozens of boxes full of golden Guineas, diamonds, pearls, silk, art, religious objects from the cathedral in Goa, including the Flaming Cross of Goa made of pure gold, diamonds, rubies and emeralds. It was so heavy, that it required 3 men to carry it over the ship. The treasure’s value was estimated at £100,000,000 in 1968. La Buse left some cryptic messages with a mysterious alphabet that no one has been able to decode. People are still searching for some of his treasures.
We’ve been experiencing some heavy weather, probably the aftermath of what’s been happening around the world. There were the paper bags tucked into railings around the ship. I put on my ear patch too late, so I was pretty queasy this morning. I took a nap and now I feel pretty good. I don’t know how many will show up for the Captain’s reception today, we’ll be staggering and not have anything to drink.