Thursday, 27 February 2020

Some Reunion Island & Indian Ocean stamps

The first stamps of Reunion were issued on 1 January 1852. By 1860 there were 15 post offices on the island, and by the second half of the 1860s about 3000 letters were being posted every week.

A French stamp overprinted for use in Reunion,
circa 1900 (source)

The two photos below show stamps that all date from 1942 and commemorate the 300th anniversary of Reunion being claimed for France by Jacques de Pronis. In effect in 1642 Reunion (then known as 'Bourbon' Island) was granted to the newly-created Compagnie d'Orient (one of the fore-runners of the French East India Company) by Cardinal Richelieu. As the governor of the French colony of Fort-Dauphin in Madagascar, Sieur de Pronis had the task of developing the new island concession. In 1643 he exiled 12 mutineers to Bourbon and several years later they were found still alive and healthy.

Note the inset of French King Louis XIII

as previous picture, with a higher face value

These six stamps below also date from 1942 and the commemoration of the 300th anniversary of Reunion's first settlement, but are anachronistic as they show the horticulturalist Pierre Poivre bringing spices to the island. Pierre Poivre lived 1719-1786 and was Intendant of Bourbon and Ile de France (present day Mauritius) 1767-72, so the stamp depicting him in 17th century dress is inappropriate! (By the way the writer Bernardin de St Pierre fell in love with Poivre's young wife Françoise and had her in mind while writing his novel Paul et Virginie). Amongst other things Poivre introduced cloves, lychees, star aniseed and avocados to Bourbon.

1942 stamps showing Pierre Poivre bringing spices to Reunion

as previous picture, with a higher face value

During the period 1949-74 locally produced 15 and 30 centime French stamps surcharged with CFA Francs were used. Since 1st January 1975 normal, unsurcharged French postage stamps have been used.

This 25 centime stamp shows the Barachois area of St Denis

The stamp below was sold on Reunion between January 16th 1960 and May 19th 1962 and was used for sending airmail to Indochina. It has a 1 CFA franc face value and shows the church of Cilaos with the Grand Bénare behind, (although 'Grand Benard' is actually what is printed on the stamp). Bénare means 'very cold place'  in Malagasy.

1960 Cilaos and Grand Bénare stamp

Below is a stamp showing Captain Etienne Regnault and his ship Le Taureau arriving in the Bay of St Paul. It was printed to commemorate the 300th anniversary  of Reunion's permanent settlement.  It was sold between 3rd October 1965 and 18th June 1966 and was used for sending letters in Reunion.

1965 stamp to commemorates the 300th
anniversary of Reunion's permanent settlement

This is a more recent stamp - it was on sale between 8th November 1971 and 7th July 1972. It was used for sending postcards abroad and shows a chameleon.

1965 stamp to commemorates the 300th
anniversary of Reunion's permanent settlement

On 1st October 1975 Reunion stopped printing its own stamps, so any Reunion-related stamps since that date (like the two below) are part of French stamp series.

This Barau's Petrel stamp was on sale from 30th April 2007 until 12th December 2008, and was part of a series of French stamps commemorating protected species from overseas France. It is one of the most recently discovered species of seabird as it was only described in 1964, although it was known to locals prior to that.With the exception of a single nest found on the island of Rodrigues the bulk of the population is thought to nest on Réunion. Their colonies are unusual in being far inland and at high elevations; they dig burrows under the forest at around 2400-2700m above sea level. Barau's petrel is considered to be an endangered species. 

2007 Barau's Petrel stamp

The stamp below went on sale in October 2009 to commemorate the centenary of  Juliette Dodu's death. Born in Reunion, she was a heroine of the Franco-Prussian War of 1870, and was the first woman to be awarded the French Legion of Honour.

Monday, 3 February 2020

A round-up of some blog articles about Reunion

While the articles on this blog are written directly by myself, I also work as professional French to English translator and I recently finished translating an interesting series of blog articles about Reunion written by Carole Hoareau. Aimed at tourists to the island, there's lots of useful information in these articles so I thought I'd collect them here for easy access. Most of the titles are self-explanatory and they're listed by order of publication on the blog, first to last. All photos are from the blog.

food in Reunion


Bassin des Cormorans

Le Maïdo

frost in Reunion

road in the south of Reunion

an eruption of Piton de la Fournaise volcano 

Kelonia turtle sanctuary, Saint Leu


Kaz Insolite, Reunion Island

Sunday, 13 October 2019

Tevelave, Les Avirons

Here are a few photos from a guided visit to Tévelave we did yesterday. Tévelave is a village located at an elevation of 900 metres in the municipality of Les Avirons on the south-west coast of Reunion. It has a population of 1500, and is about a 10-kilometre drive up from the town of Les Avirons.

meeting point with our guide

The name Tévelave comes from two Malagasy words tévy and lava meaning "big forest". It was originally a place where slaves (some of whom would have been of Malagasy origin) escaped to.

our guide had prepared a snack for us before we set off exploring 

Modern settlement of Tévelave began in the late 19th and early 20th century when smallholders settled there, cultivating subsistence crops and geranium essential oil. Our guide started the walk by showing us several endemic trees, including the critically endangered Tan rouge (Weinmania tinctoria). This tree can grow up to 18 metres high, and the bees who visit it produce a green-tinged honey called miel vert.

Weinmania tinctoria aka Tan rouge

bois rouge tree

trunk of a Calophyllum tacamahaca tree
The village has a small museum with traditional objects and utensils, including a "chabouc" which is a type of whip that was used on slaves and animals (as well as on children by some parents!). It was traditionally made of plaited agave leaves (see my reference to chabouc in my blog post about Madeleine's Children).

a chabouc suspended on some dried bamboo stalks 

this hillock overlooking the village is known as Piton Soutien Gorges,
which literally means "Bra Peak"!

an unusual house in the village called Maison Deveaux

a Yesterday, today and tomorrow bush (Brunfelsia uniflora) aka Franciscea

Tévlave village church 

Avirons means "oars" in French, and the municipality's coat of arms shows a pair of crossed oars and two Reunion ibis birds. These oars might have been stuck into the ground as some sort of sign, although it's also been suggested that "Les Avirons" is a transformation of the Malagasy word zavironne meaning "a place that can be seen from afar".  The town of Les Avirons was first settled in 1718 by coffee growers. Sugar later replaced coffee and by 1836 14,500 hectares were covered in sugar cane. By 1848 the figure was 23,000 hectares. Although it was initially part of the municipality of Saint-Louis, Les Avirons became a municipality in its own right in 1894.

Coat of arms of Les Avirons 

an azalea tree in a garden

looking across the village to the sea

overgrown shack

After the guided visit we had an excellent meal before heading back down to the coast.

If you'd like to do this visit, either on foot or by bike, (or need a professional guide for other visits to Reunion) you can contact our guide Mathieu Pitou via his website or Facebook page. He speaks fluent English and Italian.

P.S. In my post Did you know? Some facts about Reunion I mention that a raspy cricket on Reunion was found acting as a plant pollinator for the first time in the world (see here for more information about that). The plant pollinated is Angraecum cadetii, a species of orchid endemic to Reunion, and the botanical name cadetii comes from one of Tévelave's most famous former inhabitants, the botanist Theresien Cadet.

See also:

Sunday, 6 October 2019

Villa Rivière

For European Heritage Days 2019 one of several buildings I visited was Villa Riviere in the town centre of Saint-Paul, on Reunion's west coast. Unlike other buildings that are only open for EHD and are free, Villa Riviere is actually open at other times of the year and there is a fee to visit it, whether or not it's EHD. The entrance charge is well worth it though, as this is one of the most beautiful Creole villas I've ever seen.

front of Villa Rivière 

It was built in the late 18th century in a neoclassical style using stone (basalt) for the building itself and wood for the facade.  The two-storey villa, outbuildings, and garden have been listed as a Historic Monument since 13th March 1990, but have  always remained in private hands.  The house opened to the public for the first time in 2008.

side view of the house front (photo from website)

You are free to visit and take photos of the garden and original kitchen (which is located behind in an outbuilding), but to visit the interior you have to take a tour with a guide and cannot take photos inside the house.

swimming pool

kapok pods, from a kapok tree in the villa garden

kumquats in garden, Villa Riviere 

detail, front verandah 

top floor back verandah 

planter's chair, top floor back verandah 

The house owners are also interested in the arts, and every year since 2014 have organised the "Villa Riviere Prize" which rewards an artist whose work is directly related to the tangible or intangible heritage of Reunion Island. The artwork below is not by one of the prize winners, but simply reflects the owners' interest in contemporary art.

wall artwork, Villa Riviere 

ground floor back veranda, Villa Riviere 

wood flooring, interior (photo from website)

wall covering, interior (photo from website)

At the time of writing this blog post the Villa website is not very well translated into English, but you can nevertheless glean the essential information from it about prices, as well as opening days and times.