March 27, 2009 / 3:49 PM / 9 years ago

Travel Postcard: 24 Hours in Victoria, Seychelles

VICTORIA (Reuters Life!) - Not many people would struggle to spend 24 hours in the Seychelles: Beach, beer, beach, cocktail...repeat until sun, sea and alcohol blend into a perfect state of relaxation.

<p>Tourists frolick on the sandy beaches outside Victoria in this January 17, 2009 file photo. REUTERS/Richard Lough</p>

But if you have had enough of the archipelago’s white sand between your toes, if you are bored of diving into the topaz waters, then here is how to spend 24 hours in Victoria, the Seychelles’ slow-paced capital.

Friday

6 p.m. - Start your tropical evening with a rum punch. There’s only one meeting place to choose from, aptly called ”Le Rendez-Vous’. Sit on the breezy first floor balcony, and watch city life wind up for the day down the palm-lined Independence Avenue.

The Seychellois gained independence in 1976, later than most African nations. A year later, a nearly bloodless coup d‘etat saw Albert Rene install himself as President. Rene proved a shrewd politician, cozying up to both the Soviet Union and America at the height of the Cold War. It is fair to say the Soviets left the greater mark on what is now a deeply socialist society.

The atmosphere at Le Rendez-Vous tends to match the city vibe: quiet. Eat here by all means, there should be no complaints about the Franco-fusion cuisine. But if you want a place with a pulse, there’s only one option

8 p.m. - The Pirates Arms. There is no other place for dinner. Not because the Crab in Ginger Sauce is so out of this world, but because there literally is no other place for dinner...at least not if you want company. Pirates throngs from the moment it opens its doors for breakfast.

You won’t write home about the food. Despite being only a couple of hundred meters from the sea the fish can taste a bit on the frozen side of fresh. But it is served quickly and with a genuine Creole smile. Enjoy the local beer Seybrew to wash-down the rather functional food.

11 p.m. - For those looking to shake a limb, head to the ”Lovenut’, so named after the ubiquitous Coco-de-Mer nut, one of six species of palm tree found only in the Seychelles. Weighing-in at over 30 kg, the Coco-de-Mer nut is the largest in the plant kingdom. 17th century sailors found them rather appealing, and wrote about the nut resembling the buttocks of a woman. The male plant grows on a separate tree with a decidedly phallic meter (yard) long appendage!

Hit Lovenut on a Friday night and you might just get some Jazz. It’s easy to find, slap-bang in the center of town on Revolution Avenue.

Saturday

9 a.m. Try the News Café for breakfast. The décor is fun with front-page splashes printed on the table-tops. Not the local papers, however. The Seychelles government maintains a strong grip on the local media here. There is no independent daily newspaper and despite a constitution that extols free speech, locals are reluctant to talk politics openly.

10 a.m. - Take a stroll through the city’s neatly manicured streets. The center-piece of downtown Victoria is a pint-sized replica of the clock-tower on London’s Vauxhall Bridge. The mock-up was brought to Victoria in 1903 when the archipelago became a crown colony. The Old Courthouse on Francis Rachel street provides a wonderful illustration of Creole architecture. For those inclined to walk at a quick-march, slow down. Blink and you’ll already be on the other side of town.

1 p.m. Lunch offers two options: A return to the Pirates Arms or the Marie-Antoinette found in an old colonial house perched on the mountain side, just off the road to Beau Vallon. The set menu offers a range of Creole dishes, from parrot-fish to aubergine fritters to chicken curry. If you’ve got a business card on you then pin it up on the wall along with the hundreds of others.

3 p.m. To fill the afternoon you are going to have to head out of town. But with three hours until sunset why not explore Mahé’s mountainous interior in the Morne Seychellois National Park. 50 percent of the Seychelles’ land-area has been set aside for conservation and this park covers closer to 20 percent of the archipelago’s largest, most developed island. Locals here will tell you God created the Seychelles first, and once content with paradise set about the rest of the world. From the top of the Morne’s 905 meter peak, it is easy to see what they mean.

6 p.m. Return to Rendez-Vous.

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