In the Indian Ocean, 200 kilometers southwest of Mauritius, lies a French African island called La Rￃﾩunion. Rￃﾩunion is technically a part of France, though it has had waves of immigration from Africa, China, Malaysia, and India. Before the French, its first European discoverers were the Portuguese, and before that, besides a few visits from Arab, Swahili, and Malay explorers, no one is really sure what happened.
With that history, I had exactly no idea what to expect from Rￃﾩunion. Once I landed, I was no less confused. The place seems sort of African, sort of Indian. But everyone speaks French. The locals drive Peugeots during the day and dance to reggaeton at night. Mango trees line the streets alongside Chinese-owned French bakeries.
I was with my friends, who had the linguistic skills to negotiate in Chinese while critiquing in French, singing in Berber-Arabic and asking for directions in English. Our Persian and Hindi skills were, unfortunately, of no use.
It's maybe a bit funny to mention it, but our group was a bit like this island. Five people born in different places, raised in different countries, with little more in common than those waves of explorers who had visited R
union over the years.
Trying to find a place to eat in R
union was overwhelming. We rented a car and drove around the island almost blindly, from Saint Gilles to Saint Leu to other "Saint" cities. A soundtrack of
With little direction besides a vague address and barely functioning GPS, we climbed up winding roads into a hillside, overlooking the ocean. After one particularly steep hill, a sign appeared bearing the hotel's logo, an outline of a little blue gecko. We followed the sign and found this:
Less a hotel, more an artsy cottage, something out of the 1800's housing local and European artists, antique wooden chairs, clean white linens, and ironￂﾠcandelabrasￂﾠ On that cool and humid night the Blue Margouillat seemed to be a mirage, held in place by the night only to dissipate at the break of dawn.ￂﾠ
The food was as mysterious as the island, European and possibly French with a distinct Creole style. Cold gazpacho with tomato and basil was spooned over curried crayfish and a goat cheese dumpling.ￂﾠ
The beef fillet came pan fried in salted butter and peppercorns, with warm foie gras and wok sauteed vegetables, next to the local Takamaka goat cheese and almonds. Rack of lamb came roasted in gingerbread spices with a side of grilled vegetables and gnocchi.
But I do remember spotting a blue gecko that night, crawling outside on the wall. I'll call it a good omen, or a lucky charm. Because although we'll never fully understand that island, we'll always remember our time there and the fantastic meal we shared. It does make sense, after all, that such a meal took place on an island called "r
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