Sunday, September 25, 2011

Two weeks in and Black Sand!

We're more than two weeks here now and still finding our feet really. We're all enjoying the life here so far, which of course isn't hard to do when you don't have to work and are living on a Tropical island!

Of course Reunion doesn't really fit the stereotype image of a tropical island. For one thing being a part of France it's a lot more developed, at least parts of it are, the mix of first world (do we still say first world?) and less developed elements is a bit jarring at times but not in a bad way.  Another thing is just how varied the island is, from the wild south and empty east to the busy, beach encrusted west (haven't been to the north yet) and that is just the coastline!

We've been busy this week getting more things sorted and exploring a bit more.

We bought a car (a 2005 Mazda 3, white of course) on Tuesday, picked it up on Friday, cars are a lot more expensive here than in Europe but other things are a lot less expensive so you win some and you lose some.

We also went to see a couple of houses (a lot more to see this week, more to come on this).

Spent some time at a few different beachs, one of which was a black(ish) sand beach (according to Lonely Planet it's one to the best beaches in Réunion) which we went to on Saturday afternoon. Quick geology leason, Réunion is a volcanic island made up of lots of basalt, a dark volcanic rock, when this erodes it forms black sand which mixes with the eroded coral (which is white) to form a darker sand than we are used to.

(looking south)

One effect of this is that it absorbs the heat from the sun more readily. Which means it heats up more than the sand we poor Irish folk are used to, la lot more. Cue me jumping wildly across the sand diving into the shade of a convenient palm tree before suffering anything more serious than sore feet (the rest of the clan were back at the car getting ready while brave daddy was scouting about).
Reading the information sign nearby I discovered that in addition to the usual dangerous currents and sharks the sand can give you third degree burns! Is it just me or is dangerous sand (that isn't quicksand) just the greatest thing!

(looking north)

Aurelie's spider adventure

The day of the hiden spider

by Aurélie on Wednesday, September 21, 2011 at 12:40am

It's warm, it's sunny, but there are little things that remind you that you're not dreaming, for example kids waking you up at 7.00, and wanted to fed... As you all know, I'm not a morning person, but since my dear husband was deaf to Ela's cry for food I had to get up. Fine. Then sorry for the details (but everyone dealing with kids will understand) but it's pee time which involve me holding Ela on the toilet seat. Anyway this morning Ela did not want to go and made some disturbance on the seat. As I am holding her, I have direct view in the bowl (endless joy of parenthood). And what did I see coming out of under the rim? TWO spider legs!!!!!

I stop here to let you know that we already had our encounter of giant spiders, called babouk ( We usually catch spider with a glass and a sheet of paper and release them outside, but because of their size and tendencies to run and jump fast, we had to used a sieve to "neutralise" it.

So back to my story I had Ela wriggling bare bum in my arm and I was trying hard to not scream at the nightmare vison. Managing to get Ela out of the toilette without panicking her too much, I was faced with a very quick decision to make. Because they run so fast I had to think fast, but when I panic, I can't think. Now the spider was fully out in the bowl, I could flush the toilet, but with or without the lid? With the lid of, I could see what's happening (hopefully the spider going with the flow) but taking risk the spider could escape. Without the lid, the spider was less likely to escape, but I would never be sure it was really gone....

I chose the leave the lid open and flushed.... and of course the spider jumped out of the toilet to go hide behind it. Great!

Now I had the 2 kids getting excited behind me and a sleepy Stephen not being as manly I as could hope for (he is not that brave with those spiders either). Every time the spider came out, the kids would "try to help" and scare it away back behind the bloody toilet.

After a while it did not come out anymore and we had to go. Leaving a giant spider in the loose, who could go anyway in the house while we would be gone.

When we came back I could not see it anymore but I was hoping it was just hidden a bit further. All day I checked and could not see any sign of it. I looked under the wardrobe and the beds. Nothing. Obviously I did not want to check to much either in case I would disrupt something I did not even know. Only tonight we spotted it on the wall (well we hope it's the same anyway) and chased it outside with the sweeping brush.

I'm feeling a bit better now, but I can tell you that going to the toilet will never be the same again.

Facebook update!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Beach Rugby

Watched Ireland v Australia yesterday on French TV. I loved the fact that the French commentators were going wild in support of Ireland!  Even though I couldn't understand much of what they were saying I got that much.

Anyway it turned out that completely unrelated to the rugby the guys running the hostel where we are staying were having a barbeque here with some of their family so we were invited to join in. Sam and Ela had of course already joined the fun and were playing with the other kids.  

Speaking the international language of "ball"

So we had a lovely barbeque, along with some punch made from the ubiquitous Réunion rum, got to know our hosts (who have been great) even better and generally enjoyed the afternoon.

Once the barbeque was pretty much over a trip to the beach was suggested for swimming and  beach rugby so everyone loaded into the carts for the 5 minute drive to the beach (Aurelie who hadn't been imbibing was our designated driver - I love my wife).

 Beach Rugby!

After a close game the Hiberno/Réunionase team lost to the all Réunionase team 15-10.  It was followed by a dip in the sea to wash off the sand and relax.  And then after sunset it was time for home with some very sleepy kids.  All in all not so shabby a day in Réunion.

Getting close to home time. 

Packed up and ready to go!

Dublin airport at the start of our travels (from my phone, still no cable)

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Beaches - and lessons

We're coming to the end of our sixth day here, the kids are in bed and we are settling in for the night.

It's been a fab few days. After spending Tuesday and yesterday moring sorting “stuff” we went to the beach for a few hours yesterday afternoon, played in the sun and in the sea. All the areas where you can swim here are enclosed by boulders to calm the water and keep the sharks out!

Today we started to explore the eastern part of the island a bit and got to see some of the old lava flows comming from the volcano, spectacular! On the way back we dropped into a little black sand beach and to a great little swimming area just a bit further along the coast.

One thing that I'm starting to get my head around is the scale of the island, at about 45 x 60 km it's smaller than Co. Limerick (but there is a lot more topography!). Which means that once you have a car getting to the different places along the coast is easy (once you avoid rush hour), of course once you head inland and upwards it's a different story.

Lessons learned so far:
Don't expect footwear that costs less than €2 to last very long.
Avoid rush hour on an island that essentially has one road running around it.
Naked childern will make a run for it
Reunion has large fast running and jumping spiders but there isn't agreement about if they bite or not.
When a sign adds "Dangerous currents, deadly sharks, DANGER OF DEATH" to "Swimming forbidden" it probably best not to go for a dip. 

Still haven't found the camera cable.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011


Photos will follow as soon as we find the the cable to connect the camera and download them!

Monday, September 12, 2011


So here we are on Réunion!

After a long time talking about just packing up and heading off we finally made the decision to do so at the end of last summer, giving ourselves a deadline of this summer to get gone. We finally picked a spot at the start of this summer and the plans started to get made in purpose.

So after selling or giving away most of our accumulated stuff and storing a few sentemintal bits and pieces we packed up what was left and took an Aer Lingus flight to Lyon where we spent a wonderful week with Aurelie's family. And then this friday evening we boarded an overnight flight with Air Austral to Réunion Island in the Indian Ocean.

After a night of little sleep we got in to Saint Dennis early on Saturday, picked up our hire car and drove to Petite Ile on the other side of the Island in the “Wild South” of Réunion. We spent our first day and night in a little bunglow with a terrace and outdoor table and barbeque area up in the hills which was dubbed the jungle house by Sam and Ela. And today we moved to a little studio in a hostel by the coast (the move was due to a mix up in the booking, as it happened we had the chance to stay in either and chose where we are now, which wasn't our original choice).

So one night down in Réunion and we are in the middle of our second, the kids are asleep, A is reading and I'm typing this, not too bad.