The mind plays tricks on poor humans. Drudgery, misery, and boredom seem to drag on, often with no end in sight, with time taking its own sweet time. Enjoyment, on the other hand, whisks along at a different pace, often seemingly in a rapid instant…as opposed to a normal instant.
Our nine days on the tropical island of Mauritius have flown by, with time passing quicker—or so I imagine—than during the period of waiting for the trip to commence.
There is a saying about time waiting for no man. A corollary would be that time on vacation is just as fast or slow as time before and after. Unfortunately…
Without a map or a compass, one could be fooled into believing that it is summer on a tropical island, when it is winter. The only signs of winter are the bare flame trees, which have lost their red leaves. All other vegetation flourishes throughout the year.
Escaping the European winter to the beaches of Thailand, Bali, the Caribbean, or the southern hemisphere, where it is summer, is not unusual. Hotels, airlines, and travel agents thrive on the urge to find sun during the winter months.
What sounds strange—and surely is for most—is to flee European summer for the winter in the southern part of the globe. The only other people I know that do something seemingly contrary and foolish are skiers seeking snow for training in the Andes.
But, contrary can be good. Mauritiun winter offers sunshine, warmth, lush vegetation—except the flame trees—and warm water: everything one wants in a “summer” vacation.
In case anyone is interested, we are on our way to Mauritius. Flight routing has been changed, so I do not expect to be shot down over Iraq on the way to Dubai. We need about six hours to reach Dubai, where we will change planes for another six hour flight. The second leg is in an A380, so there will be plenty of space to spread out. I was surprised the Emirates flies such a large-capactiy aircraft to the distant island each day.
We are fleeing August weather (similar to March) in hopes of finding sunshine and warmth. We'll see, because it is "winter" in the southern hemisphere. Historical weather charts suggest favourable conditions for vacation.
This is a lame one, because most people should know this word...
I had heard of Wanderlust, a German word that has insinuated itself into usage of English speakers, but have not really suffered too often from the urge. I am happy to stay at home, but do enjoy a good trip. Lately, I have had the urge to travel somewhere interesting. Perhaps, that is because summer suggests vacation travel or because I have difficulty waiting for future travel that I have booked.
Summer school vacation—when students have no classes, schools are closed, and families tend to go somewhere (if they have money)—tends to demand travel. The problem is to find lodging that is available and not over-priced. In Europe, prices tend to sky rocket in the summer. This is understandable, since many establishments must earn their money in a few months. The highest prices tend to be in August.
German states stagger their vacations, which tend to last for six weeks, and the times rotate each year. For example, if a state has vacation from mid-June to the end of July one year, it might have vacation from early August to mid-September in another year. Early vacations tend to be more favourable, because European vacation spots are less crowded than in August, when all France and all Italy head for the beach.
The state in which I live, has a late slot this year, so we are faced with the dilemma of finding something adequate at a decent price. In the past, we would often fly to Florida, where low season prices offset the cost of flying. I do not want to travel to a state that requires everyone to carry a firearm, so I considered options. I like Asia, but monsoon rains can spoil even a low-priced hotel stay. I like the Maldives and the Seychelles, but ditto. Dubai is too hot, with daytime temperatures often hitting 50 degrees centigrade (that’s boiling point in fahrenheit, I believe). I thought about South Africa, but it is winter in the southern hemisphere and ocean currents deliver cold water from the Antarctic.
Viewing a world map, my eye fell on Mauritius. We have avoided this island in the past, because there have been more attractive alternatives closer to home. Even the Seychelles and Maldives are closer. Although winter reigns in Mauritius, temperatures are only slightly lower than in their summer and it is the “dry” season. If I read correctly, the climate is fairly mild all year, not unlike Hawaii, but with hurricanes (cyclones in the southern hemisphere, for the pedants out there) in their fall (our spring).
So, we have booked a trip to Mauritius in August. Everyone can now look forward to hearing my opinion (which is why people check this worthless blog!). Because it is off-season, prices for flights and hotels are less than half the peak season costs. And, I do not expect to find crowds, like those one must endure along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea.
Stay tuned…or stop by in August…
This our last day at the beach. The flight home is tomorrow. We have had two vacations for the price of two: one week at the Jumeirah Al Qasr and one week at the Ritz. The setting, decor, and ambience are different, so we felt like having two vacations. We liked the contrasts and enjoyed great Dubai weather at both locations. The appeal of this country is the certain good weather...and the malls. This “city” has something for everyone, although summers are tough (50 degrees Celsius). We choose fall and spring, when the weather is perfect for sun-starved residents of central and northern Europe.
Some complain about the rules, but not wanting to have sex on the beach or to become drunk in public, we find few restrictions. I can wait until noon to order an alcoholic drink. Service is excellent almost everyone one might seek it. The infrastructure is modern and functions well.
We will be back...
Like at Cheers, everyone knows your name at the Jumeirah Vittavelli. Some people like this, because recognition boosts his or her ego. But, some might find this a bit scary, if you think about it. When greeted by someone, who you have never seen before, you wonder how he or she knows your name. I believe that the hotel forces staff to memorize faces and names from the welcome photo taken upon arrival. And, they learn your room number and departure date.
Then again, living in the age of NSA surveillance, something as simple as a hotel trying to make a guest feel welcome is seemingly harmless. This is evident, when the manager and his staff show up to wave you off on the boat trip to Malé to catch your flight, even at night.
Or are waiting at the airport dock to carry your bags and escort you to the check-in counter.
One leaves with pleasant memories of the resort and its staff. What more could one want from a vacation?
Beach vacations demand the consumption of a certain amount of alcohol. This is best achieved with cocktails, the kind one rarely bothers to make at home. Wine is too expensive in this country at hotels: tax revenue is important for the country (not to mention hotel profit) and religion hopes that exorbitant prices will damper consumption. Beer is a suitable alternative.
Sitting on the deck in front of the bar, I overheard an interesting conversation that a young man had with the waiter...or rather a request he made. He was sitting with another young man and they had order drinks. He asked the waiter not to register the sale to his room (all orders are booked to a room) and that he would pay in cash. He explained that he did not want his mother to know that he was drinking alcohol. The next day I learned the reason for this request: he is young prince from a Middle Eastern country. His companion was his bodyguard. Mama was surely ensconced in the villa out of sight of male eyes, where she cannot kept her eye on the prince.
Not being a prince or a muslim, I never had that problem...
I have had beach vacations in the United States (Florida, California, Cape Hatteras, Cape Cod), Bahamas, Caribbean, Bali, Thailand, Seychelles, Spain, Italy, France, and Dubai. Without a doubt, the best place for sun (depending upon the time of year), water, and relaxation is the Maldives. Of course, you will not find MacDonalds, Pizza Hut, Sushi Samba, etc. There are no shopping malls or cinemas. You cannot rent a car and drive around. You are forced to relax and enjoy sun, clean water, and, if you choose, water sport. Hotels offer varying levels of quality, food, and service. All are more expensive than comparable properties in other countries, but this nation lives from tourism and is at the far end of the supply chain, with cost added at each step.
Despite the expense, I feel that the cost is worth it...and my feet do also...
From the plane, one receives the first impression of the Maldives. Tiny flecks of white and green, surrounded by turquoise, in a sea of blue. A boat or a seaplane are necessities; automobiles are sure rare, perhaps only in the capital of Malé.
The first impression at the airport suggests relaxation: one walks from the plane to the tiny terminal. The immigration official is friendly and relaxed. Baggages arrives quickly, despite being unloaded by hand. Of course, arriving bags are run through a scanner, searching for alcohol, religious idols, and pork products. Having none, we breezed through customs...at which no officials lurked. Outside the door, hordes of hotel representative waited for arriving guests to lead them to the vans, boats, or seaplanes.
This place is all about vacation. The feel in the air--hot and humid--screams of vacation. We are led to an awaiting boat, about twenty meters from the terminal and ride twenty minutes to the island. Although I would have liked to experience a seaplane ride to a distant island, I am happy not to have to wait and fly, after being on the road/in the air since yesterday. Despite the luxury of business class travel, one does have enough at some point. I was ready for a swim in the turquoise waters I had seen on the approach...
Warning: anyone of a jealous nature should stop reading this blog, until mid-January. I travelling...in luxury.
At the moment, I am sitting in the Emirates lounge in Frankfurt Airport. We were picked up at home by a Mercedes 500, which is included in the price of an Emirates business or first class ticket. This service is provided on departure and arrival. Eat you heart out anyone forced to endure air travel in North America...or Europe.
This lounge beats any I have visited at a US airport, and Emirates has only a few flights a day. The offer of food and drink is almost obscene. Anyone questioning why I do not want to travel to the United States, must merely hope to experience travel in the Middle East and Asia.
We are on the way to Dubai, where we will change to a flight to Male, which is the main airport of the Maldives. The lounge in Dubai is even more extravagant. I will report...if I feel like it...
Prior to writing novels, the author enjoyed a multifaceted career: from decorated combat aviator to advertising professional to global communications director of a major consumer brand. He has traveled the world and met sports, film and television stars, political leaders, and royalty. He graduated from Middlebury College, is married, lives in Germany, and has two grown children.