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Monday, 6 May 2013

Mauritius - L'aventure du Sucre (The Adventure of Sugar)

Sugarcane Fields in Mauritius

"Streams, now silently meandering, now roaring down into the depths, are bordered with climbing plants, all looking very similar, and trees from whose branches hang great clumps of fern. All these flowering plants are a splendid sight. Mosses and maidenhair ferns grow in the shade of rocks. Fallen tree-trunks are covered in huge mushrooms and other growths shimmering with many different hues."  -  Milbert, Voyage Pittoresque A L'Iles De France (The Picturesque Voyage of Mauritius, formerly named: The Islands of France)

I couldn't help myself, had to start with a reference to this island's Natural beauty! OK, moving on to L'aventure du Sucre or The Adventure of Sugar... Mauritius has 2 oceans. The fabulous Indian Ocean on which it resides. The Ocean of green sugarcane fields. Both of which beautiful and breathtaking. One of which Sweet as sugar, both of which equally important to the island.

If you are one who enjoys in depth exploration of food and produce, then this is an activity you do not want to miss out on.

The Blossoming Sugarcane fields of Mauritius

Every city you visit you will find yourself making the choice of either doing "Touristy" activities**, or planning a set of activities that you want to do either to explore the place deeper, experience its culture (first hand) and/or see it as it really is. One of the most interesting things about Mauritius, is that some of its "Touristy" activities are in fact very enriching to the whole experience. Best of all, because Mauritius is an island whose story, culture and system had always been and still revolve around produce, its tourist activities are mostly very much related to food, and its historical evolution. Worthy of calling a CULINARY TRIP!

** "Touristy" Activities: Are ones made for tourists, usually reflecting the place's culture, spirit and/or history or not really. As these activities can at times be just some random fun activities that are designed to attract tourists, without necessarily having anything to do with the specific spirit and character of the place.

One such activity is L'aventure du Sucre or the Adventure of Sugar. Which is an initiative undertaken by three Mauritian sugar groups***, in which they have established a museum on the historical sugarcane plantation 'Beau Plan'. This Museum is a historical count of the island's history and its evolution, from the time the Dutch set foot on Mauritius, until today. It covers the establishment of Mauritius, its transitional state from Dutch, to a french colony, and finally to British.

With all these transitions and evolutions, come the people whose works and lives created this island. The museum explores their stories, triumphs and less admirable phases; touching on slavery, early laburers and the harsh conditions back then. Moving on to the development and the establishment of an equal and multicultural society that makes the people of Mauritius today.

*** The three sugar groups who established L'aventure du Sucre are: Constance La Gaiete Co Ltd, Deep River Beau Champ Ltd, and Harel Freres Ltd.

Telling the Story of the people whose works and lives created Mauritius

Not only does this Museum tell the story of Mauritius and its people, but it also tells the story of sugar. This is when it all becomes very culinary. From tracking sugar back to ancient history, to its route through the world, its political influence, to its scarcity during WWI, and the resulting Sugar Wars... it is all covered and ready for you to explore in a variety of mediums. From short films, to historical collections of artifacts, documents, as well as modelled ships and the displayed machinery .. you will be taken on a ride, so real, that you actually see and feel the historical transition and evolution of the whole of Mauritius and its sugar industry.

The Process of Sugar Production

The museum also covers the sugar production process and its resulting products. You will even take a walk through the machines used in extracting cane sugar from the fields to the mills, the Clarifiers, the evaporators, vacuum pans, crystalisers, centrefugals and even the chemistry lab. All along you will be reading and seeing how sugar transforms from cane to the many sugars we know and consume (click this link to learn more about sugar types and their uses). This is truly the single most informative activity you can do when in Mauritius as it really covers everything.

Sugar in world arts 

L'aventure du Sucre also includes a large display of arts depicting sugar, from as early as the 15th century up to the modern day. These paintings are a marvelous show case of the importance of sugar to our lives. They explore how sugar, once a rare and precious commodity, was limited to upper classes and royalties, and a measure of a nation's wealth and prosperity. It's use in the sculptures and the decadent table arts of the aristocratic communities, to even its power over nations and their eagerness to posses and control its source.

L'aventure du Sucre Gift Shop
Once you have gone on this tour, you will fully understand why food is reflective of culture. How food is a mirror, through which you understand human nature. And why food is really the summery of a nation and the shortcut to understanding its people. This is the root of Culinary Travel, exploring the flavours, the produce and the people behind it.

Do be warned though, this adventure is large, and rich with material, so you would want to dedicate at least a half day if you are to fully explore it. Otherwise, you can just go get a feel and quickly pass through it. However, I do recommend you go on that ride. It is very interesting.

Once done from the museum, you can visit their gift shop, where you get to sample the different varieties of sugar, as well as sample this venue's different types of agricultural rums and their super tasty sugar truffles. In true fashion of most Mauritius gift shops, you will want to buy everything, as everything is so elegantly displayed, so beautifully hand made and also so deliciously flavoured :) Then you can enjoy a fabulous meal in their restaurant, or even have a dessert made with their sugars.

It is no wonder that the international sugar authority, Francis Maxwell, said: "One doesn't generally realise that this little island, lost in the Indian Ocean, is one of the main pioneers of the world sugar industry, both in the production of sugar and in the cultivation of sugar cane".  It is so true and very clearly evident once you have gone on the Adventure of Sugar.

L'aventure du Sucre, totally recommended.

Giveaway 1
This is just to give you an idea of what to expect from going on L'aventure du Sucre. I will leave it at that and leave the rest for you to explore when in Mauritius. 

But before you leave, I would love to know if you have ever experimented with different types of sugar? If not, are you becoming more curious to experiment? If you have, which is your favourite unrefined sugar type? I would love to hear your thoughts, so don't shy away, and leave me a comment before you go.

Giveaway 2

Relative Links

Till Next Time,
Have a very sweet day...

Coming up -  La Route du Thé (The Tea Route).....

I go on my Culinary Trips on my own behalf, self-funded and do not earn any income for recommending any accommodation, restaurant, activity...etc. I share my experience with you to hopefully inspire you to try the locations and activities which I have personally found outstanding. The views expressed in this blog are my own. 

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