The island was long visited by Malay, Arab and European mariners but was settled only in 1642 by the French as a place of exile for mutineers. It was the refuge of pirates until coffee was introduced as a cash crop around 1715. It flourished in the mid 18th century when the able Mahé de la Bourdonnais ruled Mauritius, Réunion and the Seychelles.
The island was invaded by the British in 1810 along with Mauritius and the Seychelles but it was returned to France in 1814 by the Treaty of Paris. During their short tenure, the British introduced the sugar cane that became a major industry along with vanilla. Some Hindu and Muslim agricultural workers were imported after the abolition of slavery but in much smaller numbers than in Mauritius.
Now, Réunion is an Overseas Department of France. That means that it is almost as expensive to visit as Europe for all the French social services apply as they would in France and government employees get a "hardship" bonus. The standard of living is high and so are the prices.
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Upon arrival I was met at the airport by my friend "Dan" whom I had met in Melbourne Australia five years earlier. She drove me to the Pension Amanda in St Denis and invited me for dinner the next day.
St-Denis is a clean modern city small enough to explore by foot. This is rue du Maréchal Leclerc, the main commercial street.
The corner of rue de Paris and rue de la Compagnie could be called the city center That's where the Monument of Dead Heroes and the Hôtel de Ville (city hall) are.
The Cathédrale, below left, is nearby, also on rue de Paris while the Hindu temple on the right is on rue du Maréchal Leclerc not far from the Pension Amanda.
At the end of rue de Paris, one comes to Le Barachois, a sea front park and promenade with many cafés and restaurants where those who can afford it linger and try to impress each other.
Dinner at Dan's place was a lovely experience. In the usual order, Dan's daughter Knoc, Jean-Charles, Dan, Alice, Bryce and Nicole.
On my second day, Dan's friend Nicole showed me her family's remarkable 18th century plantation house (Domaine de la Confiance) and took me for a tour of the island. I took a whole roll of film which I unfortunately lost the day after while hitch-hiking around the Cirque de Salasie where I took this shot of Hell-Bourg.
Here is a typical "case créole" in Hell-Bourg.
Réunion offers a variety of great views like this one looking towards the "Gorge du Mât".
High up in the Cirque de Salasie is this small hamlet called "Grand Ilet".
And here is the church of Grand Ilet.
Below on the left, waterfalls called Voile de la Mariée (Bride's Veil) and on the right another whose name I have forgotten.
Réunion is beautiful, it is very civilised and very French. I would have liked to stay longer but it was rather expensive so I moved on to Madagascar, less civilised, cheaper and in many ways more interesting for me.