Monday, January 9, 2017

Rum Tasting and Hat Buying!

Each stop included rum tasting!
The next stop was at L'Aventure de Sucre, the sugar museum where the tour ended in a boutique and sugar and rum tasting room following a lovely Mauritian lunch. The spices had been toned down for us non-Mauritians! People in warm climates seem to love spicy food! Some of our sailors thought it had been toned down too much, but I was quite happy with it.
The museum had an extensive discussion on the history of sugar in Mauritius. “Once lusted after as much as gold, as much sought after as Indian spices, as sweet on the palate as silk is round a woman’s neck, sugar has enjoyed an extraordinary existence, leaving a profound impression on the history and identity of Mauritius."

"Travelling through the museum, visitors learn about the deeply intertwined history of sugar and Mauritius, how it has all led to the harmonious, smiling and multicultural society it is today.” This is how the brochure describes the sugarcane business in Mauritius.

Interesting displays made it easy to get the story by walking
through the exhibit without reading every word.
Sugarcane is still their main crop. Many people are employed in it. The former Beau Plan sugar factory houses one of the best museums in Mauritius. It not only tells the story of sugar in great detail but also covers the history of Mauritius, slavery, the rum trade and much, much more. There was a lot of reading to do and it was a very large exhibit.

The museum included an art gallery.
The original factory was founded in 1797 and only ceased working in 1999. Most of the machinery is still in place. The museum explains both the factory and the complicated process of turning sugar cane into crystals. At the end of the visit we tasted some of the 15 varieties of unrefined sugar, two of which were invented in Mauritius.

Rum is definitely an important by-product
of the sugar refining process!

Bottoms up!

Pat and I had fun buying our hats!

And our men wonder when we are going to wear the hats!
And how we are going to store them on the boat!

The spring flowers are just beginning to bloom.
A beautiful walk among tall palms.
We also had a tour through the Botanical Garden where we saw the giant water lilies. Unfortunately there were not many blooming as it is early spring here. Some of the trees were amazing - especially the palm trees.

There was one tree that looks like it is bleeding and looks wet, but is actually dry to the touch. It also looks like it has been burned, but the bark is black naturally.

It looks wet, but is dry to the touch.
The Mauritius National Botanical Garden is home to an incredible variety of tropical plants, many of them indigenous. The Botanic Garden, formally known as Sir Seewoosagur Botanic Garden, is one of the most visited attractions in Mauritius. It is located in the proximity of Port-Louis in the district of Pamplemousse just a short drive north of Port Louis.

An early stage of a lily pad developing.
Lotus flowers
The botanical garden stretches over endless acres of land and it may take you more than a week to cover the whole garden. It is populated with more than 650 varieties of plants among which are the famous Baobabs, the Palmier Bouteille, the ineluctable Giant Water Lilies, dozens of medicinal plants, a large spice garden and many more. One of the main attractions of the botanical garden is the 85 different varieties of palm trees brought from different corners of the world. Other indigenous species of plants are also exhibited here.

We learned about the hearts of palm that we often eat. There is only one heart per palm tree. It causes the growth of each frond and creates the annual ring. You can tell how old a palm is by counting the rings - one per year. The rings will be fatter in good weather and water years and narrower in poorer conditions.

Next time you see a palm tree or even a fallen frond, notice the area where it is attached to the tree. It is usually quite curved. That is where the conical heart was on that frond on a particular year. The heart moves on to create the next ones. When the heart is removed, the tree dies. So, every time you have hearts of palm, think about the tree that provided it! No wonder a can of hearts of palm is so expensive.

I was happy to learn later that a particular species of palm is grown as a crop to provide hearts of palms so they do not come from the big older trees. I think it would be the "veal" of the palm trees.

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