L’Ile de la Réunion
A tiny French island near Madagascar in the Indian Ocean, previously named Ile Bourbon, L’Ile de la Réunion is home to an interesting mix of French, African and Asian inhabitants. It is a wonderful place where everyone is happy and lives in harmony with people, animals and nature. I was lucky enough to spend 3 weeks living here with a very kind host family who took me to beautiful places. Like most families in La Reunion, we would go for a picnic every Sunday with the entire family to the beach or to the forest. They encouraged me to taste traditional dishes and taught me to love the papaya gratin, the famous COT beverage, cane sugar, rougail, and so many new flavours… Also, I had the chance to go to white-sand and black-sand beaches, to go to the Cirque de Salazie and Cilaos where you can see beautiful waterfalls and nature’s immensity. You turn your head and you can see the tropical forest and when you turn back you can see the Indian Ocean, a small island where you can do and find everything you wish.
Since I am currently living in Mexico City, I’ve had the chance to visit a lot of places around the country, but two of my favourite places by far are the beach town of Tulum and the colonial city of Guanajuato.
Tulum is still a little village in the Quintana Roo, near Playa del Carmen and Cancun, it is not the most traditional Mexican village but it is a wonderful place. It is one of the most beautiful places I have ever been and if you like simple things it is the place to go. That is the plan: just pay some dollars to sleep in a hostal, go to the “playa”, talk with Mexican people, visit the archaeological site, take a lancha (small boat) and go snorkelling in the Caribbean Sea. When the night comes, go out to a restaurant to eat some tacos, quesadillas with a glass of “Agua de Horchata” (beverage with milk and rice) and then go for a cerveza and learn the basic steps of salsa dancing with the locals. To finish your trip, go to visit the cenotes near Tulum (a natural cave, or sinkhole, resulting from the collapse of limestone bedrock that exposes groundwater underneath).
The UNESCO World Heritage Site of Guanajuato is located a few hours to the northwest of Mexico City. This colonial town is an explosion of colours and beautifully preserved colonial architecture with tree-lined cobblestone streets, shady plazas and spectacular landmarks scattered throughout the city. Some of the most incredible sights are found by walking up the impressive white staircase at the University of Guanajuato, admiring the stunning yellow Our Lady of Guanajuato Basilica, or by simply sitting in the Jardin de la Unión for an afternoon coffee to watch the world pass by. What I especially preferred was to take the funicular to see the panoramic view of Guanajuato which is surrounded by mountains, a sight that I will never forget!
I had the chance to spend 9 days in Rio de Janeiro one winter while attending the Jornada Mundial da Juventude and although it was only a short stay, it was one of the best moments in my life. I absolutely loved my experience here participating in this international Catholic event surrounded by thousands of young people walking with their national flag, singing in the street and dancing on the beach. I had the chance to talk with Colombians, Mexicans, Spanish, Chilean people and more. At first I was worried that it would be too crowded and chaotic with every major monument crowded with tourists, but I was able to visit the Corcovado, Pao do Acucar, Copacabana and Ipanema beaches and enjoy every moment! The whole experience was thrilling. What could be better than walking down the street with a fresh glass of coconut water in your hand, meeting tons of new people and being surrounded by smiling faces, positive attitudes in the wonderful country of Brazil?