by Christian Lütjens
What do the Réunionnais like best about their home? “What I like best are the different landscapes,” says artist Teddy B. “You can get from the mountains via a tropical zone and savannah to the beach in a 30-minute drive. A uniquely diverse nature this is”. In other words: the best way to explore the island is not only walking. A rental car allows you to get a good overview of the island’s different areas. More extravagant methods of transport will be horseback or paragliders. Another magnificent way to get to know the island is from the above on a scneic flight over. Looking down at volcanic craters and calderas is breathtaking.
Réunion is a volcanic island. It originated from the now extinct Piton des Neiges, the highest mountain of the island, 3071 metres high. Réunion owes its fiery reputation to the still active but harmless Piton de la Fournaise. A guided tour on the Piton des Neiges is done in two stages. The second one starts just at dawn, so that you can enjoy a breathtaking view of the peaks in the rising sun. The Piton de la Fournaise, on the other hand, is only partly accessible after its last big eruption in 2007, but a hike through the rugged crater landscape is still impressive.
Gay travellers should not miss the picturesque municipality of Les Avirons in the southwest. Not only is it near the fascinating black beach of L’Etang Salé Les Bains, but also home of the studio of Teddy B. The painter and draughtsman makes impressive nude cartoons, beatuiful beach boy tableaus and lusty bear portraits. He sometimes uses leaves from indiginous trees for collages. Visitors can view and buy his works at Chemin Fond Maurice number 16 from Monday to Saturday from 8 a.m. to noon and from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. www.bcb-graphix.com
Hiking and trekking fans are right on Réunion anyway, but also divers, surfers, and jet skiers get their money’s worth. The coral reefs on the west coast are particularly good for snorkeling with the most beautiful beaches such as Roches Noires, L’Ermitage and Boucan Canot as stepping stones. But keep in mind: bathing in the nude is considered offensive on La Réunion, you can even get fined. Only naturist beach La Sourie Chaude near Trois Bassin, provides space for nudists so far.
The cuisine on La Réunion is mainly Creole. Fried ‘Samoussas’ dumplings (filled with meat, fish, vegetables or fruit) or the popular wan-tan type ‘Bouchons’ as a snack are available everywhere. A popluar main course is “Cari”: rice curries with meat or fish. The best drink to accompany the cari is a tasty dodo beer that is named after the now extinct Dodo bird and is brewed at Brasserie de Bourbon. Although now part of Heineken, the Maison de la Bière revives the colourful local past of the brewery during guided tours on Tuesdays to Thursdays.
La Réunion’s cultural centre is the capital, St Denis on the northernmost tip of the island. Here you can visit contemporary theatre and concerts at Théatre Le Grand Marché, admire Picasso and Matisse works at Musée Léon-Dierx or smell the aroma of locally grown vanilla offered at lively markets. 30, rue de l’Est is home to the island’s only expressively gay bar: the Le Boy’s. Open from Wednesday to Saturday, it’s not just the evening karaoke that turns up the heat here.
HOW TO GET THERE
Air France offers daily flights to La Réunion from 10 German airports via Paris. If you travel in Voyageur (Economy Class), the specially comfortable Alizé class or Affaires (Business Class) with first class service and a maximum of comfort: Frances flag carrier brings you safely to your holiday paradise.
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