Saturday, 29 March 2014

Some tasteless humour

© David Mullineaux

The above photo was featured in the The Telegraph's Sign Language special photo gallery on toilet humour with the caption 'The world is your urinal'. 'Sign Language' is a picture gallery where readers send in amusing photos of strange signs and bizarre translations in the UK and around the world which are published each week. Pisse en l'air is a small waterfall on Reunion, in the cirque (natural amphitheatre) of Salazie, but ironically it's not the waterfall shown, which is actually 640m-high Cascade Blanche. Pisse en l'air literally means 'piss in the air' and it is another smaller waterfall renowned for falling from a cliff onto the road - and onto your car if you happen to be driving by underneath (make sure you keep your car windows closed!).

Something else that frequently amuses non-French visitors to Reunion is Le Tampon - this is the name of a town and municipality in the south of the island, not far from the volcano.

Le Tampon logo

While 'tampon' only has one meaning in English, in French it has several meanings,  including 'buffer' or 'stamp', however in this particular case no one is exactly sure of the town name's origin. There are several theories:
- Tampony is a Malagasy word which means 'viewpoint', or 'summit that can be seen from afar';
- it could come from tampon de combat, or 'shot plug', a type of stopper used to seal a projectile hole in a ship's hull during combat, and/or tampon d'écubier, which was a 'hawse-plug' or 'buckler' (a block used to stop up a hawse hole at sea);
- documents dating from 1727 mention a small river gully known as the Ravine du Tampon, so known because a tampon de hublot, or 'porthole stopper', had been placed there as a landmark. 

Keeping with the theme of toilet humour, I saw this sign in the lavatory on an Air Koryo flight when I was flying back to Beijing from Pyongyang (it also featured in The Telegraph’s ‘Sign Language’ photo gallery):

Hips don't fly

 Still on matters of taste, what about this on a Delhi restaurant drinks menu:

Name your poison - toxic or tonic?

Back in Reunion a restaurant in Saint Denis has these offerings on its menu:

Drop in for dinner?

For those that don’t speak French the Crotin [sic] de Chèvre Chaud should be ‘Warm Goat’s Cheese’ in English and not ‘dung’! (These photos were also featured in The Telegraph’s ‘Sign Language’ ‘Best of January 2014′ photo gallery).

Here Souris [d'agneau] (knuckle of lamb) has been translated literally as ‘mouse’:

Puts a ro-dent in your appetite?

Things have improved however, as a few years ago filet was translated thoughout as ‘net’ instead of ‘fillet’, and cabot de fond (a type of fish) was translated as ‘dog bottom’!

Related links:

Saturday, 22 March 2014

My list of unique eating places

A chance question on Facebook recently asking about my favourite restaurant got me thinking - do I have a favourite eating place? On reflection I realised I don't as there are too many to choose from. There are many restaurants I've enjoyed for different reasons, depending on whether I was looking for relaxation, luxury or a fantastic view. So here are some of my favourites:

  • Most 'desert island' - during one of my trips to the Maldives in 2005 I stayed on board the Four Seasons Explorer. One evening we were taken to a deserted island where the crew dug seating into the sand. When we arrived back on the ship later the remaining crew members played us music on local instruments. A truly magical evening.

Eating temple food at Gilsangsa, Seoul

one of the dinners I had in North Korea

one of my lunches in North Korea

  • Most northerly - lunch in the Icelandic town of Akureyri which is 65°N. We had spent the day diving in the nearby fjord.
  • Highest altitude (on land) - any of the meals we had in Tibet which has an average elevation exceeding 4,500 metres (14,800 ft).

hammock restaurant near Tonle Sap, Cambodia

  • Highest above ground - in April 2011 we were lucky enough to spend two nights in what was then the world's tallest hotel above ground - the Shanghai Park Hyatt. Our room was on the 81st floor and meals were in the restaurants on the 87th and 91st floors - almost 400 metres above ground.
  • Highest on a building roof - in 2009 we were in Bangkok on my birthday and to celebrate we had dinner at the open-air Vertigo restaurant of the Banyan Tree Hotel, located on the hotel's 61st floor.

    a vertigo-inducing dinner?

my favourite dessert

What about you? Do you have any unique eating places to share?

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Some Reunion Island stamps

The first stamps of Reunion were issued on 1 January 1852. By 1860 there were 15 post offices on the island, and by the second half of the 1860s about 3000 letters were being posted every week.

A French stamp overprinted for use in Reunion,
circa 1900 (source)

The two photos below show stamps that all date from 1942 and commemorate the 300th anniversary of Reunion being claimed for France by Jacques de Pronis. In effect in 1642 Reunion (then known as 'Bourbon' Island) was granted to the newly-created Compagnie d'Orient (one of the fore-runners of the French East India Company) by Cardinal Richelieu. As the governor of the French colony of Fort-Dauphin in Madagascar, Sieur de Pronis had the task of developing the new island concession. In 1643 he exiled 12 mutineers to Bourbon and several years later they were found still alive and healthy.

Note the inset of French King Louis XIII

as previous picture, with a higher face value

These six stamps below also date from 1942 and the commemoration of the 300th anniversary of Reunion's first settlement, but are anachronistic as they show the horticulturalist Pierre Poivre bringing spices to the island. Pierre Poivre lived 1719-1786 and was Intendant of Bourbon and Ile de France (present day Mauritius) 1767-72, so the stamp depicting him in 17th century dress is inappropriate! (By the way the writer Bernardin de St Pierre fell in love with Poivre's young wife Françoise and had her in mind while writing his novel Paul et Virginie). Amongst other things Poivre introduced cloves, lychees, star aniseed and avocados to Bourbon.

1942 stamps showing Pierre Poivre bringing spices to Reunion

as previous picture, with a higher face value

During the period 1949-74 locally produced 15 and 30 centime French stamps surcharged with CFA Francs were used. Since 1st January 1975 normal, unsurcharged French postage stamps have been used.

This 25 centime stamp shows the Barachois area of St Denis

The stamp below was sold on Reunion between January 16th 1960 and May 19th 1962 and was used for sending airmail to Indochina. It has a 1 CFA franc face value and shows the church of Cilaos with the Grand Bénare behind, (although 'Grand Benard' is actually what is printed on the stamp). Bénare means 'very cold place'  in Malagasy.

1960 Cilaos and Grand Bénare stamp

Below is a stamp showing Captain Etienne Regnault and his ship Le Taureau arriving in the Bay of St Paul. It was printed to commemorate the 300th anniversary  of Reunion's permanent settlement.  It was sold between 3rd October 1965 and 18th June 1966 and was used for sending letters in Reunion.

1965 stamp to commemorates the 300th
anniversary of Reunion's permanent settlement

This is a fairly recent stamp - it was on sale between 8th November 1971 and 7th July 1972. It was used for sending postcards abroad and shows a chameleon.

Sunday, 9 February 2014

Spider tales

Here's a spider I photographed in my kitchen last night. A member of the Huntsman family of spiders, this is a Giant crab or Banana spider, known as a babouk in Reunion Creole (latin: Heteropoda venatoria). I see these spiders fairly often, but this is the first time I've managed to get such a good picture of one.

Heteropoda venatoria / Giant crab or Banana spider / babouk

Unfortunately the photo doesn't give much sense of scale, but the body is about an inch long (including legs it's almost the size of my hand). If you look closely at the photo you can see the erect bristles, known as setae, on the legs, each of which is marked with a black dot. Females can produce 100-400 spiderlings. These spiders often live in houses and don't spin webs but capture insects directly, injecting them with venom. I'm rather arachnophobic, but these spiders do eat cockroaches so I try and let them be!

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Videos for thrill seekers

Here are two recent videos which definitely show some of Reunion's possibilities for adventure.

In the first one, by Epic TV, Réunion plays host to wingsuit pilots Espen Fadnes, Jokke Sommer and Ludo Woerth. Between BASE jumps, they find time to explore  Reunion's waterfalls and cliff diving, but their wingsuit jump is still top priority. After days of planning and scouting, including an ultralight flight and wingsuit jump to scout out the area, the three pilots are ready for a flight from the top of Piton des Neiges (the tallest mountain in the Indian Ocean). But first they must get to the top...


In the second video the local organisation "Slack and run" equip and cross a highline at over 2100 metres altitude at the Trois Salazes Ridge separating Cilaos and Mafate. It's a site that offers a 360 ° panorama at the heart of Reunion (Images : Jean-Philippe Lorgeau & Jean Galabert; Editing : Jean Galabert). Don't watch if you have vertigo!

This second video was featured in the Daily Telegraph, see:

Thursday, 23 January 2014

2014 promotional films for Reunion Island

Reunion Tourism board has just released two new Reunion Island promotional films for 2014.

The shorter film (4'39") has the caption Combine Your Emotions and its second half in particular concentrates on Reunion's underwater life, especially whales.

Monday, 2 December 2013

Diving World Record in Reunion Island

(photo ©GPP)

Reunion Island's water sports and tourism sectors have been hard-hit by the recent spate of shark attacks. Although divers know that you have nothing to fear from a shark underwater, the general public has a different perception. This is  the main reason why on December 1st the local Groupement des professionnels de la plongée (GPP, Association of diving professionals) decided to create a positive action and break a world record by forming a human chain of 110 divers at a depth of 18 metres.

(photo ©GPP)

200 hours of preparation were necessary for the event, which also involved 40 extra volunteers, 13 dive boats and 14 dive clubs.

(photo ©GPP)

The youngest diver was 18, and the oldest 82!

(photo ©GPP)

Six photographers and cameramen were present.

(photo ©GPP)

It took place place at Saint Leu on the island's south-west coast, and although originally only a minute together was planned, in the end the divers managed 5 minutes and 12 seconds without breaking the chain, which measured 76.2 metres long.

At the surface (photo ©Laurent Figon)

Four independent judges were present to attest to the world record, which will be sent to the Guinness Book of Records for certification.

celebrating at the surface afterwards (photo ©GPP)