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As hard as it may be to wrap one's head around, Reunion Island, located just east of Madagascar in the Indian Ocean, remains an administrative region of France, and as such constitutes a part of the European Union and the Eurozone (albeit its most remote part). Speaking the island's official language - French - may prove handy when traveling around, but many locals do speak some English as well (Reunion Creole is used in most day-to-day communication). The Island was first settled over 300 years ago by natives of France, Africa and Madagascar. New pieces have been added to eclectic mosaic of ethnicities and cultures that is Reunion, all put together to create an inviting combination of elegant French and flavourful Creole cuisine, serene beaches and steep mountain ranges (harbouring the still active Piton de la Fournaise volcano), stylish shopping streets reminiscent of those in mainland France and busy local markets. Trips to Reunion are best-planned well in advance - unlike its immediate resort neighbour of Mauritius, the island does not boast a plethora accommodation options, so these are advised to be booked in advance.
With its abundance of natural beauty, Reunion is an island where any traveler is spoilt for choice. Do keep in mind that most locations up in the mountains are best visited before noon, since view-obstructing clouds tend to thicken at higher elevations as the day progresses. Dress in layers - the heat in waterside valleys below is misleading, and quickly turns to chilly winds up on the hilltops.
A Reunion Island staple are the traditional Creole "caris" (essentially a local spelling of "curry"), the "cabri massalé" (prepared with goat meat) being one of the most popular varieties. Caris are also made with chicken, duck, and seafood, all normally come with a separate side of minced chili pepper. Some local restaurants offer buffet-style Creole dining, with a selection of caris and stews, as well as other local dishes (e.g. vanilla duck, smoked pork or rougail sausage). Indian, Chinese, and French influences can all be traced in the local flavours, and a few fine dining French restaurants operate on the island as well (primarily in the capital city of Saint-Denis).
Reunionnais French heritage shines through in its array of bakeries and pastry shops, heavily reminiscent of those dotting each and every larger town on the mainland. These ties to France make it possible to savour a fresh croissant here, in the middle of the Indian Ocean, or go for some of the treats unique to the region - a sweet "macatia" bun or savoury "gâteau patate," a cake made with potato or corn. Fruit is, naturally, abundant - do not miss the goyaviers (small red strawberry guavas), ubiquitous lychee and mango, as well as passion fruit, pitaya cactus and delightfully sweet soursop (all often come in juice and sorbet form).
Reunion Island's west coast is the area most frequented by party-goers - the general stretch between Saint-Paul in the north and Saint-Piere in the south is where most bars and nightlife establishment are concentrated, with Saint-Gilles and the paradise beach of L'Hermitage particularly known for their animated, glossy venues, while Saint-Pierre still retains some of the authentic local charm. Drinks to be had on the island are the locally-produced rums and the island "Burbon" beer brand, simply referred to as "dodo" by locals.
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