16 September - Get Settled
We arrived on the beautiful island of Mauritius after an 11.5-hour flight, at 6am. Once we had our luggage, we made it to the arrivals hall and looked for someone holding a sign with our names. We saw Iqbal, our driver, right away. When I pointed to him he looked behind himself to see who I was pointing to. I motioned to him again, and he looked to the person next to him. Once I was finally close enough, I told him we were Kelley and Skorpil. He looked very surprised, but was happy to have found us – or rather we found him. We both had a good laugh and he led us to the car, a new BMW hybrid SUV. Not an unpleasant ride to the hotel, the Lux Le Morne.
Since we had the flight times wrong, an embarrassing mistake for experienced travellers like us, we had booked the hotel for the day before. With such an early arrival, 8am, it turned out not to be the worst mistake as we could immediately move in the room, instead of waiting until 2pm, and enjoy the breakfast right away. They serve it as a buffet with a broad variety of delicious food and drinks, including fresh coconuts.
Afterwards we met with Mannie, the wedding coordinator, and picked out our package, the Delight, which included flowers, a guitar player, a wedding cake, and hair and make-up. Kathrin chose her bridal bouquet – pink and white flowers. She declined the hair and makeup option of the package so they offered us a couple’s massage instead, which we gladly accepted.
We shared a hamburger for lunch, and afterwards relaxed on the beach. As you can see from the photo in the headline, the resort is in a beautiful location, between Le Morne mountain and the beach. It is a peaceful slice of heaven in which to relax. Before we knew it the sun was getting closer to the horizon and we came back to the beach for some sunset photos. The sunsets are as beautiful as the resort employees claim. It doesn’t get any better than this. We ended the day with a nice dinner in the main restaurant. The dress code in the evening is smart casual, and it makes for a pleasant atmosphere.
17 September - Wedding Formalities
Our second day on the island was the business day. Mannie took us to Port Louis via taxi to apply for the marriage license. Driving there took longer than the bureaucracy. We went to the city courthouse to have our paperwork checked. The court clerk verified our identity and ensured we were eligible to be married – in our case we had to show proof of divorce.
Our next stop was at the court of the district in which the hotel resides. There we had to have our intent to marry published. All this means is that they pin an official notice to the wall of the office for anyone to see. This is to allow interested parties to object to the marriage. We were confident we would have no trouble with this step. It was actually the more interesting and entertaining stop of the day. The official asked if he was invited to our wedding (something I’m sure he asks everyone). Then he asked for my profession, to which I answered retired. He was interested in what I did before I retired. I told him I worked for the State Department and was assigned to many embassies around the world, lastly in Frankfurt, Germany. He seemed to be quite impressed and said, “Oh, so America marries Germany.” When Kathrin asked him if it would be possible for us to have a picture of our notice on the wall. He said they don’t normally hang it right away, but for America and Germany, he could make it happen. Once he finished everything he called his secretary to the office and handed her the notice for her to post. Then he printed a second copy for us to have. Our wedding coordinator said she never saw him do that for anyone else. We felt very special. And with that our formalities were done, and we returned to the hotel. After a late lunch, we relaxed at the beach for the rest of the day.
18 September - Island Tour
Wednesday was our day to explore the island. We booked a private tour with the Iqbal and his wonderful BMW. After going through the different options we decided on the southern part of Mauritius as that had more natural and cultural landmarks. Unfortunately, it was also the worst weather during our stay – rain the entire day. It was never heavy enough to make the outing unpleasant, just a light, intermittent sprinkle. We had the hotel driver, Iqbal, who was very friendly and knowledgeable.
Our first stop was at a supermarket to get some money from an ATM and to get batteries for our GPS (we left ours at home.) Once properly outfitted we started our journey. We first went to a scenic overlook of the Black River Gorges National Park. It is a heavily forested gorge with a waterfall in the distance. From there we stopped for a geocache. The most interesting part of this cache was explaining it to our driver, Iqbal. He said in his 22 years of working for the hotel and driving people around the island we were the first geocachers he has met. He found it very interesting, and I’m sure a little bit strange 😉
We then went to a point on the coast called Gris Gris and the Crying Rock. When waves crash upon a rock in the ocean the water that leaks back out looks like tears. Fortunately, we had a break from the rain at this stop so we took a 15-minute hike to a geocache on an outcrop of volcanic rock.
Our next stop was at the rim of a dormant volcano, whose crater has been overgrown by rainforest with a small lake or pond in the center. After admiring the scenery for a bit, we walked past a meteorological center to find another geocache.
From there we went to a Hindu temple. It is the only Hindu holy spot outside of India. At the parking lot are two gigantic statues of the gods Shiva and Ganesh. The temple itself is at a lake with a few other buildings along the shoreline. We received a blessing from a priest who used a wooden stick to apply a mark on our forehead. Afterwards, Iqbal identified the various gods depicted along the lake. He also told us about the annual pilgrimage to the Hindu people make here. The tradition requires them to walk from their homes. Hinduism is the predominant religion on the island, so the devout flood this place.
By this time we were getting hungry, so Iqbal took us to a local restaurant for lunch. They served the meal on a banana leaf. The basic menu included the same vegetables, the variety was in the choice of meat or a vegetarian option with some extra veggies. We chose chicken. One uses a thin flatbread to pick up the various morsels, however, for the weak at heart they provide forks. We have visited similar restaurants quite a few times at home, so we were perfectly comfortable using the bread. The server named everything she put on the leaf but after a few minutes we forgot most of them. It didn’t matter though as everything was delicious. After a few minutes, they even came back to offer refills on any of the vegetable dishes, which we thought was very generous considering we ordered one meal to share, as is our custom.
The last occupiers of the island were the British. What does a proper Brit do after lunch? Have tea! So off we went to a tea factory called Bois Cheri. Tea and sugarcane are the two biggest crops on the island and Bois Cheri is the biggest tea producer. We saw how tea is harvested, processed, and packaged. Then we went to the colonial house overlooking a lake for a tea tasting. Each table had several boxes of tea bags of various flavors – vanilla, caramel, mint, Green Tea, and regular old black tea. We were free to try anything we wanted. We would each try a different tea and then trade cups, a very efficient way to sample the teas, and it was all Kathrin’s idea.
Our tour was finally coming to an end, and our last stop was at a closed-down sugar cane factory. This stop was just for a geocache. By this time Iqbal was very curious and kept an eye on us from the car. After searching around some old machinery for a few minutes, we held up the cache for him to see. Although we were very pleased with his curiosity about geocaching, deep down I’m sure he was thinking “what strange people, looking for plastic bottles on the island.”
Once we were back at the hotel, we met with the resident photographer, Hemant. We explained to him the Kathrin’s son (Jonas) was a professional photographer and was supposed to do our wedding. But now that we were in Mauritius, that wasn’t possible. Jonas still wanted to give us a wedding photo gift. We asked Hemant if he would mind taking a few photos without flash so that Jonas could put together something for us. Fortunately, Hemant was gracious and was happy to oblige us.
19 September - Wedding Day
Our wedding began at 4pm. I’m sure the day existed before that time. We probably had breakfast and lunch, but I don’t remember. Those events were faded out by what happened when the clock struck 4.
The ceremony was on the beach. The hotel guitarist played music in the background while we waited a few minutes for the official to arrive. Occasionally he would sing, sometimes another man would sing. It was all nice.
Once Jhummon, the official, arrived the ceremony began. It was a short, traditional service. The Jhummon thanked us for coming to Mauritius for this important event in our lives. She explained the legalities of marriage in Mauritius (we must live together and we must take responsibility for our children). We repeated our vows, and she declared us man and wife. Our audience comprised hotel guests sunning themselves on the beach, and also a younger couple whose wedding we watched a few days before. We raised our champagne glasses to them and they waved back. Later, after we had our piece of wedding cake, we cut up smaller pieces and passed them out to everyone we could, including our newlywed friends. We also offered cake to anyone walking by. We were feeling very generous. Cake for everyone!
With the ceremony done, it was time for the photos. Hemant had a very well-practiced routine, and so we followed him all over the property for various photographs well into the evening. The last location was at our dinner table on the beach. After a few shots, he said goodnight and left us to enjoy our meal.
The resort set up a special occasion for us with a bonfire and candles surrounding our table. It made for a very romantic atmosphere. The menu was pre-planned – fish for me and steak for Kathrin. It was a 3-course meal that was delicious and plentiful. When dessert arrived, we were too full. After a few bites, we took the rest to our room to save for the next day.
Once we turned on the lights in our room we were met with yet another surprise. They decorated it with rose petals and tea lights. The bathroom had rose petals, tea lights, and a hot bubble bath waiting for us. It was an unbelievably romantic end to a perfect day.
20 September - Birthday
The next morning we had breakfast delivered to our room. It was part of the wedding package, but we decided to call it my birthday breakfast. Ok, so the breakfast was cold by the time they delivered it to our balcony, but it was the thought that counts, right? We overlooked it and focused on the positive – we were being spoiled on my birthday.
At 11 am we had a couple’s massage at the spa. They began by ringing a Buddhist prayer bowl near my head (it sounded like a gong). Then they laid the bowl on my back and rang it again. They did the same for Kathrin. Then the massage began. It was 45 minutes of pure heaven. Afterwards, we went to a relaxing area within the quiet solitude of the spa. We reclined in the rattan sofa and watched the colorful birds bath in the small pool.
Eventually, we had to leave the seclusion of the spa for our next appointment, a cooking class. Actually, I would describe it as a cooking demonstration. The chef prepared a menu comprising a papaya and carrot salad, a fish soup, and caramelized pineapple dessert with mango ice cream. The chef would explain each course as he made it. Then we, and the 5 other couples in the class, would take a serving. We had an international group, couples from England, Italy, Lichenstein, and Germany were in attendance. We all got along very well, easily making conversation as we ate each course. While we were eating the salad, one couple asked Kathrin if we recently got married on the beach. “And didn’t you wear a pink dress?” she asked. With a beaming smile, Kathrin confirmed her memory. We were the only couple at the table who had a wedding in the hotel. The other couples were honeymooners or were getting married somewhere else on the island.
Before going back to our room, we stopped by Hemant’s studio to check on the photos. He had everything organized into a folder but had not edited anything yet. Kathrin asked for a few photos so we could announce our wedding to friends. We picked out 3 and he emailed them to us. We also picked out another 40 photos for our wedding-photo package.
A few short hours after the cooking class, we were back in the restaurant for dinner. This time we didn’t eat too much. Once we were back in our room, we found a chocolate cake with a happy birthday message on it. It looked delicious, but we didn’t have the deserts from our wedding dinner yet! So I had that and saved the cake for tomorrow.
21-22 September, A Relaxing Weekend
The last two days of our honeymoon we spent relaxing on the beach and at the pool. If there is one thing the Lux Le Morne does well, it is pampering their guests and we thought it would be a good idea to let them do it to us.
On Saturday, the weather was intermittent rain during the day. For our afternoon Kaffee und Kuchen, we had my birthday cake. We could only finish about half of it and saved the rest for tomorrow.
By evening time it was quite windy, which blew the rain within the bar and restaurant areas. It was just a bit unpleasant for us, however, for one couple it was a disaster. This couple got married on Wednesday – the other rainy day during the week. They had the ceremony, but they postponed the wedding photos and the romantic dinner to today. We felt so sorry for them. The weather grew worse with every passing hour, and now here it was, their time for the photos and dinner, and it was stormy weather with wind and rain.
Sunday morning, as we were walking to the restaurant for breakfast, we saw branches and leaves scattered about. The stormy weather went on until about 1am, according to one of the staff members. The restaurant had to be closed, and the tables brought in overnight to protect them from the storm. After breakfast, we relaxed around the pool and on the beach and throughout the day rain clouds would come and go, sometimes raining, sometimes just passing by. It really wasn’t a disturbance, we could perfectly relax and enjoy the day. At around 3pm we went to the balcony for some coffee and cake. Without too much effort, I could finish it. About 15 minutes after I set my fork down, one of the hotel staff came to our room with another cake. “Honeymoon Cake!” he announced. “Wait, are you sure you have the right room, we got married 4 days ago, and we had a birthday cake yesterday.” “Room 72” he had the right room and said to keep the cake. Ugh, at this point I have had my fill of cake. Nevertheless, we thanked him and saved it for later.
We went to the bar a bit before the evening meal for a “vorglühen” (a warm-up drink) and enjoy the sunset. The rain clouds on the horizon obscured the setting sun and made for a pastel-colored sky. A beautiful end to the day. Afterwards, we enjoyed yet another delicious, and plentiful, meal at the restaurant. With a glass of wine, we toasted a beautiful ending to a wonderful week on this amazing island.
23 September - Now Boarding
We got up at 4:45am to get ready to leave for the airport, yes you read that right. 4 freakin’ 45 in the morning. The hotel prepared a breakfast box for us along with a cup of coffee for me and tea for Kathrin. The spoiling never stops at the Lux Le Morne! Unfortunately, Iqbal wasn’t available, so we drove to the airport in a hotel taxi. We arrived a little later than we would have liked, but it wasn’t serious. We easily checked in and made it to the gate. While at the airport, we learned that Thomas Cook Group had filed for bankruptcy. Not a pleasant thought after our wonderful vacation. Was Kathrin going to have a job when we got home?
Once on the plane the captain welcomed everyone on board and mentioned the bad news regarding Thomas Cook, but reassured us that Condor was doing ok and we were going to make it home. Hmmm, a glimmer of hope?
Ok, so as not to end this story on a cliffhanger, Kathrin, and Condor, survived the Thomas Cook affair.
If you would like to see more of my photos from this trip, just head over to my Flickr page.