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krisek Victoria - A travel report by Krys
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Victoria,  Seychelles - flag Seychelles
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krisek's travel reports

Victoria, Seychelles\' small capital city.

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Victoria is a small capital of just 25,000 inhabitants, and yet this is where over a quarter of the whole population of Seychelles lives. The town is located on Mahe, nation\'s largest island, located in the north-easterly corner of the archipelago.


Bay Lazare, southern Mahe island
Bay Lazare, southern Mahe island
Mahe has a population of 80,000. The total population of Seychelles is about 90,000 - the smallest population of any African state (excluding Saint Helena et al - British overseas territory with a population of 4,000), and it is a nation of 115 islands. It puts things in perspective that one island holds 89% percent of an entire nation. That is not, of course, unusual at all. But it means that Mahe holds most of cultural sights of Seychelles.

Victoria was small. It had few sights, but it was clean and safe. A few colonial and colourful Creole buildings made a good mix, but overall there was nothing stunning about it. So, I decided to check some of the beaches around the island that some travellers, or rather guidebooks, were raving about. My list included Anse Intendance, Anse Takamaka, Baie Lazare and others.

So, I jumped on bus number 5A to Intendance, all the way to the south of the island. The bus ride was interesting, and I saw a few extra beaches on the western side of the island, but there was nothing to write home about. And when I got the southern part of the west coast, the tide was so high that there was not even a sign of beaches. The only signs that I could see were massive warning signs that no-one should attempt any swimming due to dangerous currents in the winter months (until October). Anse Corail, Anse Intendance, Anse Takamaka were all gone. It was even hard to take a picture, because there was no place to put one's feet. And the waves were so big that they went right onto the coastal road covering it with sand and broken coral.

I walked from Anse Corail all the way to Baie Lazare. It was a long walk up and down as the road went inland occasionally, but an interesting one. I passed through a number of villages and I have to say that Seychelles is not all glamour, glitter and gold. The households were simple, corrugated iron dominated in sight and the houses were small and modest. Yet, the people were very friendly. Every single person greeted me!

Favourite spots:
Hindu temple behind the Fish & Fruit Market
Hindu temple behind the Fish & Fruit Market
In Victoria, I could not decided what would be my favourite spot. First I thought of the main market. I have seen many markets across the planet, and they are not my favourite spots in general. Not normally. But the colourful Fish and Fruit market in Victoria was a delightful sight. It was not as busy as most African markets. But to say that it was my favourite spot would probably be an overstatement. My second candidate was small park at the Old Courthouse. It was animated the day I visited, as there was some sort of sport event going on. Tens of people were just walking around the town with '24 Hours' printed on their starting numbers, and the watering station was placed right outside the Old Courthouse. It was a curious event, and I think the organised recruited a good number of soldiers to enter the competition as well. The courthouse was a great building, actually. One of Victoria's main sight indeed. So, let's stick with it. This area was my favourite spot in the capital.

What's really great:
Old Courthouse in Victoria
Old Courthouse in Victoria
The perfect safety record of Victoria was its main quality. It was safe to walk about in any part of the city. Seychelles are the smallest country in Africa (at least by population) and has, quite possibly, the lowest level of crime. Quite refreshing for Africa, where - so very sadly - poverty combined with the epidemic failure of leadership might be responsible for people to act against their beliefs.

Anyway, what I really liked about Seychelles were the people. They were really good looking. And most of them were black. Whilst on Mauritius, for example, the majority looked Eurasian and Indian, on Seychelles they had African features. But gentle and subtle, like those in Somalia, Ethiopia, Kenya - all combined. Most had average built, slim and carried perfect smiles. The greatest characteristic of all was that they were very friendly and welcoming. Everywhere I went, I was greeted with a warm 'bon jour' or 'hello', by the young, elderly, boys and girls. By absolutely everyone!

Sights:
the Clock Tower
the Clock Tower
The Clock Tower that mocked the Big Ben Tower of London was one of Victoria's landmarks and orientation points, too. It was right in the middle of the centre, standing inside a roundabout next to the Old Courthouse. It was rather small, similar size of the Jubilee Clock that stands in the middle of Harlesden in London.

The other interesting structures were the Cathedral and the Anglican Church both standing prominently amongst the other buildings in town. But there was also a very beautifully decorated Hindu temple, standing behind the main Fruit & Fish Market. It had a classical shape and the amount of paint that went to colour the main facade must have been in tonnes.

Victoria had also a small selection of colonial architecture (like the aforementioned Old Courthouse) and even smaller number of Creole buildings, which were painted in vivid colours, surely for the benefit of the owners of full HD and 4K TV sets and computer monitors.

Accommodations:
Suite no. 267 at the Le Meridien Barbarons
Suite no. 267 at the Le Meridien Barbarons
I was not staying in the capital. Instead, I was lucky enough to get accommodation at an executive see view suite of Le Meridien Barbarons located on the western coast of Mahe near the Grande Anse Beach. It was a nicely located hotel, the only one at the sandy bay. It was showing its age though. Everything was in the 1970s style, furniture in the room and in the lobby, the bar and the overall style of the buildings. But it was clean. My suite was great. It was also 1970s in style, yet nicely minimalistic. The bed was very comfortable and the linen was crisp and fresh. The rainshower was a delight and the toiletries beautifully scented. There was a safe, despite reports that theft was rather uncommon on Seychelles and a minibar.

The buffet breakfast was just fine. They had an eggs station, pancake station, selection of local fruit, different sorts of bread French style, cold cuts of cheeses and meats, pastries, and the usual scrambled eggs (the dry kind), sausages, tomatoes, bacon etc.

Nightlife:
Small beach on the western side of Mahe
Small beach on the western side of Mahe
Smack in the middle of the town, on the ground floor of the Premier Building was the Lovenut Club, aptly just opposite the Cathedral. During the day, its door looked like any stereotypical nightclub door: heavy, dark and inconspicuous, as if it was a back door to a warehouse or a storeroom. The name did suggest that it might have been slightly more than just a nightclub for boogieing and socialising over cocktails. However, whether it involved 'bootying' and 'cocking' I did not check. It definitely did not have that reputation. I asked around and I was told that it was just a disco.

The nightlife on Mahe in general seemed rather low key. Lovenut was the only disco or a club that I heard of. All other venues around the island seemed to be closing at about 10pm. I spotted locals simply hanging out in the streets, on bus stops and by local stores. It was as if dancing was not Seychelles' national sport.

Hangouts:
Anse Corail, southern Mahe
Anse Corail, southern Mahe
Victoria was really small. It had only a handful of places to sit down for a drink or meal. There were not that many benches around to sit down and watch people either, except a few opposite the flamboyant building of the National Tourism Office (complete with a few cannons strategically positioned up front) and the tiny park next to it.

In terms of parks, at the other hand, there was an interesting Botanic Garden in town, which boasted a good collection of endemic and Indian flora, including the world famous carnivorous pitcher plant. I did not venture there, however as I ran out of time.

For shoppers, who'd want to get a fridge magnet, there was a short string of souvenir shops near the Clock Tower. But I did not like them. All had the same stuff!

Victoria did not have a beach. One had to venture west of town towards the Baie Beau Vallon littered with countless resorts, small hotels and apartments. There one had many bars to choose from and places to sit down and watch the tourists.

Restaurants:
The Pirates Arms restaurant
The Pirates Arms restaurant
One of the prettiest, if not the funkiest, restaurants in Victoria was the Pirates Arms. It had relatively short menu, but the daily specials were excellent, and they dated them on the blackboard. The seafood spaghetti was SCR250 (€15.80), sweet and sour fish was SCR165 and grilled pork chop with mushroom sauce SCR165. They also did daily special cocktail, which was jolly good value for SCR97 and rather lethal. They called it Deep Down and it had: tequila, white Takamaka vodka (local spirit), gin, lime juice and Blue Curacao.

Around the town, there were a number of, what seemed like, mobile eateries. They were like food vans. Food was cheap and many locals used them, so they could not be all bad. A couple had slogans like 'the best food from a van in town' or something, but I was not quite sure if I had stomach for anything like that.

Other recommendations:
Direct international flight connections with Seychelles' Mahe airport as of September 2013.
Direct international flight connections with Seychelles' Mahe airport as of September 2013.
Victoria was served by the country's only international airport (SEZ), which was opened back in 1972. It had direct flight connections with Abu Dhabi, Addis Ababa, Colombo, Dubai, Frankfurt, Hong Kong, Johannesburg, Mauritius and Nairobi.

The Cat Cocos high speed ferry company (catcocos.com) offered regular daily service between Victoria and the Praslin island (free shuttle bus from the Mahe airport to the Victoria jetty), and regular but somewhat infrequent service between Victoria and the La Digue island, as well between Praslin and La Digue. The trips were taking from 1h to 1h30'.

Any single ride on a bus anywhere on the Mahe island was SCR5 (€0.30). The buses were old but fun and one could meet the locals. Some routes were served more frequently than others and many buses crossed the island in the middle going over the mountains. This was a thrilling experience as the roads were narrow and had countless blind bends. This did not mean that drivers slowed down on those at all.

Published on Friday August 23th, 2013


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Fri, Aug 23 2013 - 05:11 PM rating by porto

Love it Krys. I find that a few smiling faces can make you feel at home. I felt this way lately in Poland but then again a Glaswegian who can't speak Polish trying to speak Polish has got to be worth a few smiles.
;-)

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