Date and time of visit: January 26, 2014, at approximately 1:00 p.m.
Last May, it took me about four years to completely conquer the most beautiful French villages in mainland Europe, but it was still difficult to say that I had conquered them all. The reason why it was difficult for me to say “I’ve conquered all of them” was because of this village, Hell-Bourg.
This is the only place on the “European mainland” that doesn’t have it.
I had almost given up on visiting the island, but by chance, through a personal and professional relationship, I was able to take a week’s vacation during this winter season, so I decided to take a chance and visit this small island in the southern hemisphere.
This is how we finally got to visit the last beautiful village, Hell-Bourg.
We visited El Bourg on the second day of our arrival there. The day before, I arrived late at night. The next day, I rented a car as usual at the Laurent Garros Airport, the gateway to Reunion Island, and the first place I went was this village.
By the way, the temperature is 37 degrees at this point. It’s very hot…
The road to the Valley of the Salazis, where El Bour is located, is the most accessible of the three valleys in Reunion, but you still have to drive along a narrow mountain road.
Actually, there was a landslide on the way to the beautiful village that day, so the traffic was restricted and we had to wait for about an hour on the way, but we were able to arrive at the village around noon.
Once you reach the town of Sarajee, the route splits into two, and to get to the beautiful village of El Bourg, you have to take the “left” route. Most of the cars in the traffic jam had surprisingly chosen the “right” route. I was the only one who went to El Boulle.
Less than 10 minutes from that junction, we arrived at El Bour. The altitude is about 900m. The weather was unfortunately cloudy, but it was not raining and we could see sunshine occasionally, so it didn’t seem to affect our SLR photography.
First we went to the high ground where we could see the whole village, and then we took pictures. Finally, it is a shot of complete conquest and emotion.
As in many beautiful villages, there is only one main street. We parallel parked here and started exploring.
The “Creoles,” who make up 30 to 40 percent of the people living in Reunion and neighboring Mauritius, are the descendants of slaves brought by the earlier colonizers and those who were born and raised on these islands from around the 18th and 19th centuries.
The shape and design of the houses they built is generally referred to as “Creole style” or “Creole form”.
El Bourg is another village dotted with these Creole style houses.
The colourful pastel tones and the symmetrical design of the coat of arms over the eaves are among the characteristics of the Creole style.
Here we were so hungry that we decided to have lunch. Apparently there is a good selection of restaurants for a beautiful village when you look around.
But it was Sunday and most of the restaurants were closed, but fortunately one hotel restaurant was open, so we decided to have a local Creole meal there.
A view from the restaurant. The heraldic design over the eaves, one of the characteristics of the Creole style.
This is the inside of the restaurant.
We ordered a Creole dish that looks like a curry called “Rougeir”. This is “Braised Duck with Vanilla”.
Yes, vanilla is one of the specialty products of Reunion Island. Especially Reunion’s vanilla is said to be high quality and flavorful.
It was my first experience with vanilla in a meat dish. The combination of the rich, sweet flavor of the vanilla and the duck was superb.
After lunch, we headed to Folio’s House, which is somewhat off the main street.
This is the home of the descendants of the Folio family, who came to the island about 350 years ago and still live here today. The building is typical Creole style from the 19th century and the interior of the house is open to the public for 5 euros.
A look inside. Even though it’s far away from the mainland, the interior is still very French.
The bed is decorated with lovely embroidery.
Apparently, Mr. Folio’s descendants were guiding the tour in French. We didn’t understand French, so we watched the show at our own pace.
It was already around 3 o’clock in the afternoon when I found out. I stayed longer than I thought I would.
By the way, the next day, I found a picture book with the building of El Bulle in a souvenir shop in Saint-Gilles-les-Bains, so I bought it.
Here and here!
So, with El Bourg, dotted with lovely Creole houses, I have truly conquered the “Most Beautiful Village in France”.
It seems like a long time, but I think it was a very short four years. We have already decided on a sequel to our beautiful village tour, so it looks like our European road trip will continue for a long time to come. I have to go there when I can!
By the way, I’ve visited 157 villages in total, but when I counted them from the official site, the number of registered villages is 156 in total, which seems to be one less than the number I visited.