Tag Archives: Driving

The von Grady guide to Mauritius

Manfredas: You know the way it’s your birthday in January and mine in February? 

Me: Uh huh.

Manfredas: Fancy going to Mauritius to celebrate? 

Me: (running)

Manfredas: Where are you going??

Me: Packing! 

And so, after a near miss by Manfredas with the ticket inspectors on the S-Bahn, we were off.

I won’t bore you with oodles of photos of idyllic beaches, glorious sunsets or stunning scenery because you can google those yourself. Hint: google “Mauritius” – that’s really how it looks. I won’t even attempt to get my blog stats up by posting Halle Berry-style shots of me emerging from the water in a bikini. (Just google “Halle Berry bikini” – that’s far less scary.)

That’s probably a more accurate representation of me on the beach in the midday sun.

Instead, I’m going to take you on a slightly alternative tour of Mauritius, courtesy of the ever-so-slightly rambling mind that is mine.

You are welcome.

Upon arriving at our guest house and settling in a bit, Manfredas announced that he would be putting his valuables in the safe.

Me: Good idea. I’ll do that too. 

Manfredas: Cool. I’ll just put the key up here on top of the wardrobe. 

Me: Erm, are you sure that’s a good idea? 

Manfredas: Well, if we take it with us and lose it, then we’re really screwed. 

Me: Yes, you’re right. Now we can only get robbed by German, Scandinavian or Dutch people. Oh, or short people with the strength to drag a chair in front of the wardrobe and stand on it. 

Manfredas: Sigh. 

Guest house pool (without me emerging in a bikini).

We were off to a great start.

I decided to make us a nice cup of tea to get things back on track. We had a choice of two cups – Piglet or Pooh. Upon closer examination, I discovered that the clever designers had not only drawn a picture of each character, but also broken them down by body part. I’m still not sure why they had to draw such close attention to Piglet’s arm but maybe someone can enlighten me…

Arm?

After a couple of days’ relaxing on the beaches or by the pool, we decided we should explore a little. First up, the Botanical Gardens. 

Now, if you’re anything like me, when you picture botanical gardens, trees probably play a role. And, sure enough, it turned out that there were trees in the Botanical Gardens – lots of them. The only problem was:

Erm…

Manfredas: How the hell are you supposed to “refrain from walking/standing under trees” in a botanical garden? 

If the finest of logical, German thinking couldn’t make any sense of it, then other people didn’t stand a chance.

RULE BREAKERS!

However, it wasn’t just the tourists who were prone to a bit of flexibility with the Mauritian law…

This might be my new favourite photo ever.

As it’s entirely possible that Mauritian buses are solely responsible for global warming (kind of)…

The BEAST

… on this day, we had decided to rent a car to go and visit the Seven Cascades in the south of the island.

Manfredas: They drive on the “wrong” side of the road here but it’s fine; I’ve done it before.

As I’ve never felt unsafe in a car with him in the past, I took him at his word. And so began the most terrifying day anyone has ever experienced on the über-chilled island of Mauritius. Bollards, walls, ditches, sheer drops, lamp-posts, parked cars and scooters, small children and stray dogs whooshed past me, inches from my face.

Me: Jesus Christ! Could you leave a bit more space on this side of the car?! 

Manfredas: Sorry! I don’t want to go too far into the middle of the road! 

BUMP.

Manfredas: What was that? 

Me: (cowering) Kerb.

Manfredas: Shit, really?

Me: Yes bloody really! We’re not making it back with this mirror…

Manfredas: It’s fine. I’m getting the hang of it now. 

BUMP.

Manfredas: What was that?

Me: Car mirror…

A couple of lifetimes later, we arrived at where the Seven Cascades should have been.

Me: This looks like a bus depot. 

This was really rather observant of me as it was a bus depot. We circled around, following signs for the Seven Cascades and finally arrived at… the same bus depot.

Luckily, a local man was standing by. He ushered us down a dirt track, assuring us that there was parking down there somewhere. We crawled along, parked up where a couple of other cars were parked and got out.

Me: This looks like a dead-end dirt track. 

It was. Fortunately, our new friend wasn’t far behind us. In broken English/French, we managed a conversation that saw us following him down said dirt track.

Kindly stranger: (shoving something under my nose) Smell! 

Me: Oooh, lovely…

KS: Is mint! 

Me: Oooh, lovely. 

KS: Here! Is for you! 

Me: Oooh, lovely! 

I’ve never really known how to comment on plants and stuff.

I tucked the leaves into my handbag for politeness sake and we carried on a bit until we were finally greeted with a view of the Seven Cascades in the distance.


Me: Oooh, lovely! 

And it was. But short of hiking down there, that was as close as we were going to get. I tossed the mint on the path when our new friend wasn’t looking and we headed back to the car for the death trip home. This time, I wisely decided to close my eyes for most of it.

All in all, we had a fantastic time. The island is gorgeous, the people are among the friendliest on earth, the food is amazing, and Manfredas had what, I hope, will be one of his most memorable birthdays.

So, I’ll leave you with some random observations.

  1. Some guest houses have bed clothes that would be more at home in Latvia.
ARGH! My eyes!

2. Avoid Mauritian wine at all costs.

This was not Mauritian. Hence the smiling.

3. Mauritians take the sacred “O apostrophe” and use it to wipe their bums.

2-ply…

And finally, finally, since you’ve borne with my ramblings for so long, here’s the long-awaited bikini shot.

Just kidding.
Ahh, that’s better!

Au revoir!

Note: This post is in no way sponsored by the Tourism Board of Mauritius. If they see it, they’ll probably never let me back. 

A visit to a German sauna – a treat for ball enthusiasts

As experiences go, it’s pretty hard to top riding around the centre of Berlin in a bed. But luckily, I didn’t have to trouble my brain cells for too long as my English friend, Cecil, was coming to town. Cecil, the big perv German culture vulture had decided that he would like to go to a German sauna while he was here and who was I to refuse? OK, so I’d spent four years in Latvia refusing to go to saunas, but it seemed it was finally time to grow some balls and go be around complete strangers’ balls – an inevitable moment in every young woman’s life.

As I glumly regretted the Apfelstrudel, cookies, chocolate brownie, crisps and packet of Jaffa Cakes I’d eaten that week, Cecil dived into the naked corners of the internet. While I was grunting through a few half-hearted sit-ups and butt-lifting exercises, Cecil gleefully resurfaced with the new gem on the Berlin spa scene – Vabali, a 20,000 square metre, Balinese nudist colony in the heart of the city.

Having thought that my sauna adventure would consist of sloooooooooooooooooowly walking to a sauna, dropping towel and hastily exiting again four seconds or so later, this was not exactly good news. A quick look at the website revealed that the spa is open from 10am to midnight daily, and that the minimum amount of time even a chicken-shit Irish girl can spend there is two hours… Brilliant.

Trying to cheer myself up with the fact that at least I hadn’t had to fork out cash for a new bikini, I met Cecil at his hotel. As we walked to the car park to pick up his rental, Cecil had a moment of unparalleled genius while waiting for the green man:

“What’s that noise for? So deaf people know when to cross?”

Possibly in a bid to show that his driving skills were sharper than his medical knowledge, Cecil expertly manoeuvred the car out of the parking space and towards the exit. However, when we reached it, it was clear that he should have paid upstairs. Waving apologetically (and a bit Mr. Beanily) at the car waiting behind us, Cecil reversed, angled, and parked the car around 50 metres from the entrance. This left me in the enviable position of being face-to-face with all of the happy drivers who had to swerve around our car on their way in. Cecil took off at a run to the first floor machine, which was out of order, then to the second floor, where the machine worked, then clattered back down the roundy rampy thing in his sensible, English shoes. Really, it’s lucky I have a sense of humour…

We finally made it the spa where my humour and “naked spa” German failed me. We checked in (in jittery English), got our little watch things that would calculate our bill as we sauntered round in the buff, collected some towels and made our way to the changing rooms.

The walk of doom.
The walk of doom.

I took off my dress and bra and then Cecil took the piss out of me for wrapping my towel around myself to take off my tights and knickers. The rules, which had been explained to us at reception, were that you had to be naked when using the pools, saunas, and pretty much everything else, but wear a towel or robe while walking from one place to the next. With everything safely deposited in our lockers, it was time to go. I fervently wished I’d given some thought as to how to stash a bottle of whiskey in a towel before arriving.

Holding onto that towel for dear life.
Holding onto that towel for dear life.

First on the agenda was a small heated jacuzzi. I dropped my towel and ran down the steps like a woman possessed. But once I was in the water, I actually started to relax. This wasn’t so bad! Everyone was naked – nobody was looking at me or judging my Apfelstrudel consumption habits; everyone was just chilling out (naked) and having a good time. The people there ranged from 18 to 80, with the dangly bits to match, so I really didn’t feel like I had anything to hide.

This place was amazing! (Image taken from the Vabali website)
This place was amazing! (Image taken from the Vabali website)

I emerged from the pool (think of Halle Berry in that James Bond movie…) dried off a bit, and we hit a sauna. Stretched out on a bench, naked as the day I was born, all I felt was a refreshing sense of freedom – oh, and bloody hot. After all that sweating, I felt like we’d earned a glass of wine so off to the bar we went. Amazingly for the last day of October, it was still warm enough to sit outside in just a towel. The sun shone, the birds sang, I drank my wine and tried not to look at the massive balls of the man sitting at the next table with his legs coquettishly spread. This was bliss.

If you get a bit chilly, you can always warm up in here. (Image taken from the Vabali website)
If you get a bit chilly, you can always warm up in here. (Image taken from the Vabali website)

We giggled our way through saunas, massage areas, swimming pools, rest areas with water beds, and more wine, until we came to two rectangular, side-by-side, knee-deep pools of water with smooth round stones at the bottom.

Me: Hmm.

Cecil: Go on.

Me: Hmm.

As the water was only knee-deep, I figured I could leave my towel on for this one but, for some reason, Cecil was insistent I take it off… I tentatively dipped a toe in the first pool – OK, that was pleasant. I sloshed through and up the steps at the other end. I did my toe-dipping thing in the second pool and jumped about a foot in the air. The water was FREEZING.

Me: NO, NO, NO! NEIN!! It’s bloody freezing in there! 

As I tried to back backwards and Cecil pushed me forwards, you could probably hear me guffawing in actual Bali. Some Germans even stopped to watch the show, laughing almost as much as I was. I charged through the water, bits bouncing, and emerged triumphantly shivering on the other side to greet my new-found audience.

All in all, it was a great day and if you have to get your bits out in public, I highly recommend doing it in Vabali.

Disclaimer: Not everyone who comes to visit me will get to see me naked, so don’t get any ideas.