This is the eleventh post in a series on the French-themed trip I took last summer. This is the third of several posts about our trip to the Seychelles. In previous posts, I wrote about bats in the sky and on the plate, and the market in the small capital city of Victoria. In earlier posts, we visited La Réunion, the French island colony in the Indian Ocean, where I tried French-influenced Indian cuisine, suggested an AOC for Chouchou de Cirque de Salazie, and visited the marché in St. Pierre, where we had caramelized banana jam. In case you missed them, read my earlier posts on how I became such a Francophile, come along on a Parisian food tour inspired by David Lebovitz, see me try out his recipe for pain d’épices au chocolat, read my homage to lovely Montmartre, and see the Space Invaders in Paris and the street art of Belleville.
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The Seychelles’ National Mont-Fleuri Botanical Gardens are a must-see, where you can view not only local flora and fauna found on Mahé, but rare species endemic to other islands of the Seychelles. One special example are the giant land tortoises from the outer Aldabra islands, which are referred to as “the Galapagos of the Seychelles.”
The gardens are also home to a small grove of the fabled Coco de Mer palm. This is a unique palm which bears suggestively shaped fruit, subject of sailors’ legends through the years. Most visitors, ourselves included, explore the Coco de Mer in greater depth at the Vallée de Mai, a UNESCO World Heritage Site on nearby Praslin island, but the gardens provide a good introduction. This is also where I first saw the fruit bats that are all over the Seychelles. Large flocks, each of them larger than life, with silhouettes look identical to Batman’s logo.
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Afterwards, we made an unplanned trip to Sundown, a restaurant at Port Glaud, on the side of the island far from our accommodations in Beau Vallon. We decided to go there because I had remembered reading about it on Chocolate and Zucchini as a good example of local food. We were headed in that direction, anyway, to take a scenic drive through the Morne Seychellois, the verdant National Park.
The restaurant’s structure was a simple wooden building with a galvanized roof, but the setting was completely spectacular. Once you step inside the restaurant, you have a full view of a a vibrantly turquoise, shallow lagoon perfect for snorkeling and beachcombing. We were unprepared for snorkeling, and unfortunately, as it happened, also for dining. We started hungrily reading the kréol menu, bat kari included, then noticed the sign that read, “cash only.” We started to conspicuously count out our local currency, coins included, which came out to only 180 Seychelles rupees, which would have allowed the four of us to purchase only one entrée. The previously reserved owner, noticing our predicament, asked us if we needed help. It was embarrassing to confess to her how little cash we had on hand. She was as eager to serve us as we were to sample her fine looking food, so she made a phone call to find out the location of the nearest ATM (30 minutes away).
At this point, another patron started chatting with the owner in kréol. When she understood what was going on, she became our Culinary Guardian Angel. She gave the owner 400 Seychelles rupees of her own, asked only that we enjoy not only lunch but also the beach, and said we could pay her back when we had a chance. Unlike most places in the world (like back at home), she trusted that we would repay her, without even getting our full names or any proof of identification. She simply asked where we were staying, which was happened to be close to where she lived in Beau Vallon.
After a glorious meal and afternoon in the sun, we drove back to Beau Vallon and made a stop at the ATM before returning to our condo. At the small parking lot in front of the ATM, who should we run into but our Culinary Guardian Angel, who, it turned out, was not just a kind soul, but Ms. Dorothy Furneau, the Seychelles Tourism Ambassador to Italy. It was so lovely, as far away from home as we could be, to make a new friend whose generosity allowed us to enjoy a fantastic meal we otherwise would not have been able to. Above all, in a time when we teach our kids not to talk to strangers, it was a special opportunity to accept and experience the kindness of strangers. One of those random acts of kindness that is rarer than even large land tortoises and Coco de Mer.
If you liked this post, please come back next week for part 4, and consider sharing this with your friends. Thanks for reading.