WORK DIARY: ANATOMY OF A CULINARY PHOTOSHOOT

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I recently had the opportunity to work on an exciting & challenging work project: a culinary Photo shoot showcasing the signature dishes of the 12 restaurants of Heritage Resorts, one of the brands for which I am the Content Creator.

Sure, taking 3 dishes’ shot per restaurant might sound like a pretty straightforward task : the Chef is in charge of the aesthetics of the plate and you rely on the photographer’s skills to capture the dish at its best angle under the best light and bam! You shoot one dish after the other and you’re done.

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Except that no. Firstly, my creative self had set as an objective that each restaurant’s personality, ambiance and location should be reflected in each dish’s photo.
Again, that could be a straightforward task but when the dishes come from 12 restaurants splattered across a 2500 hectares estate it is somewhat problematic.

Secondly, chefs catering for guests of two 5-star resorts, dozens of villas, a golf club and beach club do not exactly have a million time slots and space readily available for a culinary shoot.

Also, have I mentioned that I only had one working day to shoot all the dishes?

 

After selecting Tristan Chaillet as the photographer, I started working on a mood-board for each dish, picking colorful ingredients,  statement utensils and other accompanying items to bring texture and Style to the backgrounds. Amongst other props, I chose lemon because its color and shape make it photogenic and bring out a nice contrast to black plates, wooden tables and other dark backgrounds, as are cherry tomatoes and feta cheese.
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After browsing for days for food styling inspiration, I eventually got overwhelmed by the overload of gorgeous images I scrolled through on Instagram and pinned on Pinterest and decided I needed help (for this particular shoot, not my life in general, you get me).

I contacted a few food stylists recommended by friends and eventually decided to go With Josepha Desvaux de Marigny ,who despite not being an established food stylist as such, had excellent credentials working with one of the most respected Chefs on the island and whose creative eye and organizational skills were assets I knew I could personally vow for.

I organized the shooting day military style:
First the location: to meet my 24-dishes- in- a-day objective, I had decided to shoot all the 12 restaurants’ dishes in one location, which was at Heritage Awali as it was the entity with the highest number of restaurants on the resort. But there was a catch: every restaurant had to bring onsite its dining decor which were tables, table cloth, vase, cutlery, plates, glasses, lamp and whichever item that added to the feel of the place.

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Evidently, this was not achieved without some gnarling, complaining and finally acceptance on the part of food and beverage managers, waiters and chefs.

I had set-up a time table which established at which time each chef had to have their dish ready, to minimize their waiting time spent on the shoot, which I am proud to say worked out admirably.

All 3 of us carpooled  to Bel Ombre, which turned this usually long drive into a short, intensive creative brainstorming session, with Josepha and I pulling out colorful food styling photos from our iPads and creative diaries and Tristan providing his professional insights whilst driving carefully.

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Despite all the prior-planning, most of good shots from this day were the result of trial-and-error  and probably a good mix of creative minds :
I wanted the seafood platter coming the Infinity Blue restaurant with the ocean as a background to convey the feel of the restaurant, but after a million trials in the chosen spot and a few uncertain ones by the pool ‘because it had a nice green-turquoisy’ Colour,  Josepha had a “eureka” moment when she saw the chef removing the platter after the shoot which turned out amazing.

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seafood-platter
Photography by Tristan Chaillet /Copyright http://www.heritageresorts.mu

We were shooting on the table the Indian restaurant and the three of us sensed that something was not quite fantastic about the background. The restaurant was on that undergoing some electrical works and the maintenance team had removed a wooden board to work on the wires behind it. We took this board, placed it on the ground with all the dishes and props and it matched perfectly.

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Image source: www.heritageresorts.mu 

 

And because no one knows his restaurant and dishes better than the Chef,  Chef Ravi Kanhye the Executive Chef of Heritage Awali regularly came up to us with accessories and other ingredients when he saw us doubting saying gently “maybe give this a try” and of course, the Chef is always right.

 

Overall it was a creatively and physically strenuous day but it was definitely an invigorating experience shared with passionate and gifted souls and it’s definitely days like this which keep me going.

You can view a sample of the photoshoot here

A million thanks to Tristan, Josepha and all the artists of Heritage Resorts for sharing their passion, wisdom and expertise. 

TRAVEL DIARY : GETAWAY TO RODRIGUES

We recently returned from Rodrigues, and wow, It was one of the most relaxing getaways that I’ve ever had the chance to enjoy.  I tell you all about where stayed, ate and had fun.
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ACCOMMODATION 

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We stayed at ‘Les Cocotiers’ at Anse aux Anglais, loacated a mere 5-minutes’ drive from Port Mathurin, the capital.
 The hotel has a creole-style architecture, with pavilions bearing light tropical colours.  It faces the sea, has one restaurant, one bar and one swimming pool, all overlooking the lush tropical garden surrounding the premises.  The hotel didn’t have many guests (besides us, there was one other couple when we arrived).  The staff explained that it would fill up as from Thursday afternoon because of the long weekend coming (we arrived on a Tuesday). 
 
WHAT I LIKED ABOUT THE HOTEL 
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  • The room was spacious, clean, nicely decorated and has a balcony which faces the sea.
  • The staff was kind, discreet and extremely helpful.
  • The Food! We stayed for 4 nights, with two nights on half-board and two nights on Bed and Breakfast as we wanted to sample the most of Rodrigues legendary cuisine. What we had for dinner on both occasions were a pure feast and we were not disappointed once by the breakfasts. Dinner was traditional Rodriguan dishes (seafood salad as entrée, rice-based dishes with grain and assorted with curries or ‘daubes’ which were out of this world. Their octopus curry was simply to die for. All of these delights were of course topped with fantastic locally-produced pickles and chilli paste.
  • The location. It is a delicious walk from a seaside spot where locals hang in the afternoons.  There is a kiosk, picnic tables and food trucks. We spent almost every afternoons during our stay there, brought some rosé and enjoyed some ‘gato piments’ and grilled sausages and chicken from onsite food vendors.  No loud music, no kids shouting and running around, just zen individuals minding their own business and enjoying the stunning view and tranquility of the place. Good vibes only. SAM_4522

RESTAURANTS

Rodrigues is truly a foodie’s paradise. The country is rich in locally-sourced ingredients prepared in a spectacular way, ranging from lemon pickles, honey-glazed pork sausages to dried octopus and fresh lobster.  Whether you choose a restaurant, a street food or a hush-hush little guest house, you will always eat something that will rock your world.

Basanio Snack Boutique

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It is located on the main road leading to St Francois. We brought our own rosé and there was a Rs200 corkage fee, and our lunch consisted of fried calamaris, a ‘poussse pousse’ salad (some kind of local seafood), curried octopus and dry octopus rougai. Bassanio himself was uber cool and his food simply amazing.

Madame LaRose

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It’s pretty hard to get more authentic than at Madame Larose: It is a traditional creole house with about thirty Goats roaming around the garden. I am a sucker for outdoor dining and lunch served under the islander-styled, breezy veranda could not have been more spot on.  The waitress could have been less grumpy but besides that, the dishes sent me straight to Rodrigues’ food heaven.
 
 Mazavaroo
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 The place is gorgeous and has typical laid-back, island feel. But, to be honest, I heard so many amazing things about Mazavaroo that I went in there with very high expectations. We had honey-glazed grilled pork as an entrée – delicious. I ordered a fresh tuna ceviche and there were too much onions in it for my liking. Don’t get me wrong: it was good but I just felt that its food’s reputation was a bit overrated. The service was great though.

Le Marlin Bleu

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We went on a Wednesday night whilst all the other restaurants were closed. It was packed, so we were seated inside. It was incredibly hot so we asked to be moved on the terrace as soon as a couple of guests left.  We had a pizza named ‘La Rodriguaise’ (octopus, tomatoes, mushrooms and cheese, Shrimps sautéed with garlic.  Our favourite part of dinner was the lemon tart dessert.
 Note: Most restaurants are closed on Wednesday nights. We drove up to St Francois to have dinner Mazavaroo but it was closed, as were all restaurant along the way. We were obviously aware that we needed to have a reservation to dine at most places in Rodrigues (they sometimes open up their restaurant just for one couple but you need to call first) but Mazavaroo and Madame Larose never picked up their phone when we called, so we tried our luck in vain.  We ended up having dinner at ‘Le Marlin Bleu’ just nearby the hotel.

WHAT WE DID 

Zipline at Tyrodrig

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 I’m a huge adrenaline junkie so this experience was definitely the highlight of my stay.
Super fun with breathtaking views and serviced by a friendly and professional team.

François Leguat Giant Tortoise and Cave Reserve

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Gorgeous garden with giant tortoises walking everywhere, impressive cave and very knowledgeable tour guide.
Ile aux cocos
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Painfully long, overcrowded boat trip to get to and return from this paradisiac island. Beach is gorgeous. We booked through marideal.mu, waited at Pointe Diable for the designated marideal skipper to show up, he took our voucher, didn’t really acknowledge us and almost left without us. He basically puts you in which ever boat which has space left.  When we arrived, there were tables set for lunch on a terrace overlooking the beach but for some reason we were told that our seating place was at the back of the house, a dirty little shack with no view. It was unclear how and why people that came together in the same boat trip had a more pleasant place to lunch. That was a bit frustrating since we did pay quite a lot for this all-inclusive day trip. Since we didn’t want to eat in this shithole, we took our (delicious) lunch to eat on the beach. There was some island tour where the guide explained about the birds but chose to skip that and went for a drink in the crystal clear sea.
Hiking and beaching at Anse Bouteille and Trou D’argent
We left our car at St Francois and hiked to Anse Bouteille and Trou D’argent, which takes around 30 mins.
These beaches were absolutely stunning and the swim just exquisite. 
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TRAVEL DIARY : FRANSCHHOEK

The best places to eat in Franschhoek:

Breakfast: La Motte
Address: La motte and Pierneef, R45
Main Road, Franschhoek – Sat and Sun for
breakfast, Tue to Sun for lunch, Thu to Sat
for dinner – +27 21 876 8800
Why: It is an absolute must do.
Review: The place is MAG-NI-FIQUE, the breakfast amazing and the service perfect! They are also open for wine tasting and tour, in addition to lunch and dinner.
 
Dinner: French Connection
Address:Huguenot Road – Sun to Sat 12:00pm to
3:00pm / 6:30pm to 9:00pm – +27 21 876
4056
Why: This french bistro  is rated as one of the best restaurants of Franschhoek.
Review: Its Moules Frites is excellent and it has a cool vibe.  The service was good but nothing spectacular. It is small with plenty of tables, so if you’re looking for a quiet, private table you’ll either have to eat on the terrace (where it is a bit cold) or somewhere else.
 
Lunch: Dieudonné
Address:Roca Restaurant (Dieu Donne Vineyards) –
Uitkyk Street, Franschhoek 7690 – Mon to
Fri 09:00 to 16:00 and Sat to Sun 10:30 to
16:00 – +27 (0) 21 876 3384/2493
Why: The restaurant is located on the top of a hill so we chose this restaurant because of its spectacular views over Franschhoek. and it didn’t disappoint.
Review: the food was delicious but the service a bit slow. On a hot summer day, we recommend having the rosé “Gorgeous by Graham Beck” on the terrace. It is, indeed, absolutely gorgeous!
Dinner:  Monneaux
Address:Main Road,
Franschhoek – Sun to Sat 8:00 am to 10:00
pm – +27 21 876 3386
 
 
Why: It is one of the best restaurants of Franschhoek.
Review:  Fabulous setting, food and service.

 

Wine tasting & tour:
Where: La petite ferme
Address:
 
 
 
Review: The wine tour is carried out by Dean, the owner, winemaker and patriarch of La Petite Ferme. He is passionate about winemaking, which gives the wine tour and tasting a really authentic feel.The wine farm itself is beautiful and has a beautiful views over Franshhoek.
Where: Haute Cabriere
Address:Lambrechts Road, Franschhoek, Cape Town


The tasting room of Haute Cabriere

 

Why: It is one of the most popular wine tasting spots of Franschoek.

Review: It is beautiful and the wine is exquisite.


For a drink or a slice of delicious cheesecake:

Where: MCC

Address: 3 The Village Ctr, Hugenot Rd, Franschhoek






Why:  MCC is the abbreviation for ‘Methode Cap Classique’, the South African term for sparkling wine produced by creating a second fermentation in the bottle. Fittingly named, this pavement café located on the picturesque Huguenot road boasts an impressive sparkling wine list and reflects the charm of this French-inspired town.





Where: Boschendal

Address: 
Boschendal Estate, Pniel Road,
Groot Drakenstein, Franschhoek
This iconic wine estate has a quaint bistro bar but if you want to experience this heavenly place like a local, make a reservation for the French picnique on the  lawn: it is all set up with tables chairs, glasses and tablecloths, all you need to do is collect your basket and head to the table.

 

See

If like me you relish everything celebrity related, you might to have a look at the wine estate Sir Richard Branson recently purchased: Mont Rochelle. Its star factor put aside, it is truly a beautiful place.

 

Mont Rochelle on a cloudy day

 

Day 3 in Stellenbosch, Western Cape, South Africa

 3rd Day:  Slow Market of Stellenbosch

Address: Oude Libertas Estate,
Oude Libertas Road, Stellenbosch
When: Every Saturday from 09h00-14h00, Rain or Shine
Why:  It is an absolute MUST-DO!  This market is the BEST: It has plenty of amazing stalls and an artsy-happy vibe (with music and chilled bubbly! YES PLEASE! ). We initially chose it as our breakfast destination as we were checking out of Aan de Vliet and wanted to experience high gourmet street food whilst browsing authentic artisanal products.

 

 
 
About the ‘Slow’ Concept: It the opposite of fast food/fast fashion: Every food sold at the Slow
market has been freshly produced locally, the artisanal products available are indeed the complete opposite of “fast fashion”/mass produced products: handcrafted with care, they are made of quality products.
Highlights: There are SO many highlights at the Slow Market! I personally bought handmade leather sandals, souvenirs and the most beautiful handcrafted leather bag (And I am seriously in love with it!). It has the best food and beverage stalls so definitely plan to have your breakfast or lunch there. We had the best brunch, with organic coffee,  gigantic mushrooms skewers, bubbly with oysters, macaroons and dishes we don’t even know the name but which were oh-so delicious. Also, if you’re staying at a self-service unit, do plan to do some grocery shopping there as there is plenty of choice.
It’s now time to leave gorgeous Stellensbosch for our road trip towards Franschhoek! On our way, we stopped for the ultimate cheese and wine experience.

2nd stop: Fairview Wine & Cheese

Address:  Fairview Wine & Cheese,  Suid-Agter Paarl,  Road 7646 – Mon to Sun 09:00 to 16:30 –
+27 21 863 3609
Why: They have a renowned (artisanal) cheese and wine pairing AND they have a legendary goat tower.
Review: Although the Mediterranean-style restaurant is beautiful, it is very big and very packed, so it has this “factory” feel. The cheese and wine lunch was still glorious though.

 

 

 

3rd Stop : Drakenstein Lion Park

 

Why: It’s was on our way out when we left “Fairview Wine and Cheese.

 

Review:  It was a special way to see lions and tigers up close and personal on a site where they are not exploited: This Lion Park has been established to provide a sanctuary for big cats from around the world who were held captive in a cruel way or whose owners couldn’t afford to keep them anymore. Since these animals are captive bred, they cannot be rehabilitated to the wild. The sanctuary hence provides a safe and vast place for them to live, free from persecution and abuse.

 

Day 2 in Stellenbosch in Western Cape, South Africa

DAY 2 IN STELLENBOSCH

1st stop: Meerlust Estate

Address: Meerlust Estate Baden Powell Drive, Stellenbosch.

 

Why: The Meerlust estate is internationally recognized for the complexity and character of its wine. If you love wine, you simply have to stop for a Wine tasting at Meerlust.

 

Highlights: The Meerlust mansion, is a seventeenth-century national monument, famous for having been the stage of many events that have marked the history of the Western Cape.

2nd Stop: Vergelegen

Address: Lourensford Rd, Somerset West

 

Why: This winery is located on a vast and TRULY beautiful estate with plenty of things to see: lush, landscaped gardens and historic buildings, with namely a slave lodge.  Its wine is also excellent.

 

Highlights:Because of its size, try to put at least 2 hours to explore the whole place, especially if, like me, you love taking your time to admire the trees, feel the beauty of the place and take your pictures.  Also, Vergelegen has a restaurant, which we haven’t tried but which looked lovely.

 

3rd stop: Lunch at ‘Ben’s on the beach’

Address: 142 Beach Road, Strand
Why: Since neither of us had seen a South African beach yet, we chose it because of its beachfront location. The fact that it had excellent reviews on Trip Advsior also played in its favor.
Review: The setting is quite simple but the customer service is fabulous and it is EXTREMELY good value for money. We were all in ecstasy over our meals, so needless to say that it was one of the best restaurants we tried during our vacation. We had ‘Carpaccio Di Controfilletto’, ‘Entrecote Parisienne’ (OMG) and CowBoy cut (excellent).
Unfortunately, there’s are no photos at Ben’s on the beach because the food was just so good we couldn’t be bothered with anything else.

 4th stop: Strawberry picking

Address: Polkadraai Farm, M12 Stellenbosch Arterial Road
Why: South Africa is famous for its produce, so why not make the most of it by plucking your dessert of the day at the source? Plus, for us Mauritians it was quite a different and fun experience as neither of us had tried it before.
Highlights: The strawberries are big and super juicy. If you’re on a family holiday, children will have a blast.
How it works: you purchase your tub and off you go to the fields to pick your strawberries. Remember that everyone already picked the strawberries located at the first rows, so venture a bit further to get the best ones.

 

4th stop: Back at our Stellenbosch home, Aan de Viet. Before going for dinner, enjoy South Africa at its best by sipping a glass of Methode Cap Classique, the South African appellation for sparkling wine made by the traditional Champagne method, some biltong (South African beef snack that has been salted and dried in strips), ham, honey dew lemon and your freshly picked strawberries on the beautiful terrace.

5th stop: Dinner at Raphael’s at Asara

Address: Asara Wine Estate, Polkadraai Road, Stellenbosch

Why: We chose Raphael’s because we were celebrating a special occasion and this place is grand and uber-chic.

Review: The customer service was perfect, the food was good but not out of this world. However, something that I really enjoyed about Raphael’s is how they have a dessert option which is an assortment of all their desserts, in miniature.  I am the worst at decision making and especially for something as crucial as my dessert, so it was the best to be able to experience all of them.

 

Western Cape, South Africa – Stellenbosch

The Must sees and dos of  Stellenbosch

We took a trip to Cape Town and my boyfriend Stephane put together the perfect itinerary of must sees and dos of the Western Cape and its wine lands.  We started our trip by Stellenbosch and this is our day by day journey:

DAY 1 IN STELLENBOSCH

1st stop : CLOS MALVERNE

Address: Devon Valley Road, Stellenbosch

















Why: We chose Clos Malverne because of its impeccable views over the vineyards and the mountains
 of Stellenbosch and it didn’t disappoint!

Highlights:  The staff is warm and professional, a complimentary glass of the house sparkling wine is offered upon arrival and the restaurant offers panoramic views of the valley. We found the food fabulous and perfectly paired with the wine. The four of us ordered different things and we all loved our meals, made from produce freshly sourced on the wine farm itself.  If like me, you’re a salad lover, you will love their ostrich salad with pear & walnuts.

 2ndStop: WATERFORD WINERY 

Address: Blaauwklippen Rd, Helderberg, Stellenbosch
Why: Waterford Winery is an award-winning estate and has a very unique wine and chocolate tasting experience.
Review:  This estate is so beautiful that all I wanted to do was walk and walk and devour with my eyes as much beauty as I could.  The main edifice, made-up of intricate The main edifice, made-up of intricate hand-cut stonework and styled in terracotta, is reminiscent of classic Italian wine farms and is surrounded by perfectly manicured vineyards and citrus groves. It has a majestic blue mountain range as a backdrop hand-cut stonework and styled in terracotta, is reminiscent of classic Italian wine farms and is surrounded by perfectly manicured vineyards and citrus groves.
We were hosted by the stunning and very knowledgeable Nikki, who talked us through the chocolate and wine tasting experience. Needless to say that this delectable moment brought our South African food and wine safari on a whole different level of awesomeness.

3rd Stop: Check-in at AAN DE VLIET, our Accommodation in Stellenbosch. 

Address: Blaauwklippen Road, Paradyskloof , Stellenbosch
Why:  It is a guest house located on a family estate. The garden is beautiful and the lodging is comfortable, safe, clean and decorated with awesome taste.  You can really feel that it is a place created with love and passion. 
Review:  The guesthouse is nestled on a vineyard so it offers beautiful and safe morning and afternoon walks. That being said, I also did go for a run in the neighborhood. Plus, you are hosted by the gorgeous Freda and since it’s a big family who lives on the estate, it feels homely and you get a glimpse of the South African family way of life, with the Braai’s smell in the afternoon, the sound of the Afrikaans language and the kids playing quietly in the lush garden. 
The vineyard at Aan De Vliet, Stellenbosch 

 4th Stop: It’s dinner time and we’re eating at Mont Marie.

Address: Blaauwklippen Rd, Stellenbosch, 7600, South Africa+27 21 880 0777


Why: It is only 200 metres from our guest house, Aan de Vliet and is apparently one of best rated restaurant in Stellenbosch. It has also been personally recommended by our hostess, Freda.
Review: The setting is splendid, the food amazing and the service was perfect.
IMPORTANT: The kitchen closes at around 20:00, so do book your table before going and do plan to go early.

Discovering Heritage Resorts

Bags packed, Legs waxed and off I go for a long weekend getaway with my love and a group of friends to Heritage Resorts, most specifically to Heritage Awali.
I live in the north of the island and Heritage Resorts is located in the south. So I practically have to cross a COUNTRY (ok, an island but still) to reach this secluded place.  Once arrived, I feel like I spent some quality time in a washing machine: Car travelling in Mauritius can be quite an experience, with its sometimes bumpy roads, occasional stray dogs and wrong-way driving on narrow two-lane roads.
The hotel made it all worthwhile though, with its beating of drums to welcome guests. It is a charming, African-inspired haven, with thatched-roof ochre blocks tucked into lush greenery facing a sandy beach.  The ‘lobby’, an open-air pavilion with marble floors and Safari-style décor, offers spectacular views onto infinity pools and the Indian Ocean.

Check-in formalities done and bags hurried into the room, I cannot put on my gym attire fast enough and venture outdoors to discover the resort with my camera & smartphone.  The resort, being nestled on a 2500-hectares estate named the “Domaine de Bel Ombre”, has plenty of things to see and as a keen Instagrammer and photography lover, I am literally jumping on this opportunity to shoot.
My promenade through the resort was lovely and this is how it went:
My first stop is Seven Colours Spa, the spa village of Heritage Awali. Its landscape and architecture replicate an African village with its small ochre huts and pathways. It has basins and vitality pools everywhere and these make a very peaceful sound and send tempting invitations to relax.

As i further wander through the green gardens of Heritage Awali, I arrive at the sister hotel, whose architecture is clearly inspired by the colonial past of Mauritius, the Heritage Le Telfair.  My vivid imagination is set loose and I picture myself in a Jane Austen’s novel. I walk past a splendid bar with an authentic 18th century-British feel and yes, I would like some tea please.

My walk through Heritage Le Telfair, under the shades of gigantic Banyan trees, now leads me to an Oriental-style black pavilion looking on both the ocean and a river. A waiter sets a table for two on the beach. It’s heavenly.

Beside, a beautiful white bridge allows me to cross the river and brings me to what feels like, again, a complete change of scenery: after the African safari at Awali, the jump into the colonial era of Mauritius at Le Telfair, I am now at the C Beach Club, a trendy beach spot which looks fit for the rich and famous.  The décor is crisp white with hints of Cyan and the magnificent pools bring different shades of blue to life. Further, I discover with glee street art by the celebrated artist ‘Mode 2’ adorning the walls of a sheltered alley.

I exit the C Beach Club by taking the golf cart route, which is almost on the main public road. Back to the ‘real’ Mauritius.  After a 10-mins walk, I discover the Crown Jewel of the estate: the Heritage Golf Club. It’s green, it’s big, it’s majestic.  I am not a golfer myself but I am so taken aback by the beauty of the site that I promise myself to come back the next day for a morning jog.

The  last stop of my walk/photo safari is not what you would expect to find on a beach resort in Mauritius: a 19th century mansion named ‘Le Chateau de Bel Ombre’, stands grandly amidst perfectly manicured gardens, an antique fountain and recalls grand European estates.

It’s now time to go back to the hotel:  it’s almost apéro time and there’s nowhere else I’d rather enjoy the sunset than at the Cocktail Bar of Infinity Blue.