Nikita about Victoria, people and best local food
My City: Victoria, Seychelles
Name: Nikita Krivtsov
Profession: Journalist, Travel Writer
Where do you live? I live in Moscow, Russia, but June through September I usually stay at my summer hut in a backwater district of Tver’ Region, 400 km north of Moscow.
Here I grew up: Tokyo, Shanghai, Beijing and in Moscow.
Why I prefer Victoria: Victoria and Seychelles as a whole are very relaxed, friendly and sunny. Victoria is the only town in Seychelles, and is one of the smallest capital cities in the world, with a population of just 26,000. There is only one traffic light there! Atmosphere in Victoria is very mellow, and when asked «How are you doing?» most Seychellois, even at noon, will answer «I’m tired”.
Why I visit Victoria: I got interested in Seychelles since I was writing my postgraduate work on the Western Indian Ocean islands in the early 1980s. There is always a risk to visit a place of your dream, a risk of getting disappointed. But it was not my case. Everything was just like I imagined, and even better, brighter and more attractive for me! There I find a startling combination of cultures, food, people and so much history in one place, although Victoria is the capital of the nation only 240 years old.
My first memory: Thick low clouds on the slopes of the mountains, though the morning was bright and sunny. Neat looking children in school uniforms. Creole music, Cannonball tree in the garden of Hilton Seychelles Northolme Resort & Spa, and the dolphins chasing flying fish in the cove below the balcony.
How I find the best places to eat? Ask the locals and you will eat authentic food, tasty, big portions at reasonable price. At pathetic eateries designed for tourists you usually pay twice as much for beautifully decorated plate, not for food. No wonder, the best places to eat I found in Seychelles were those where I was invited by the locals. When in Rome do what the Romans do!
My favourite place to eat: Marie-Antoinette Restaurant (Serret Road, St Louis, Victoria, tel: +248 426 62 22, www.marieantoinette.sc). Located just above Victoria along the road to Beau Vallon. This is one of the best places in town to enjoy authentic and delicious Seychellois Creole food prepared in the traditional way. Marie-Antoinette boasts a rustic charm, a relaxed and friendly atmosphere and a time-honoured menu that has remained virtually unchanged since its doors first opened in 1972. The Creole flair is pretty much everywhere at Marie-Antoinette – from this mouth-watering menu to the beautiful flower and spice garden and the giant tortoises dens.
What do you eat there? The set menu includes batter-fried parrotfish, tuna steaks, aubergine fritters, chicken curry, fish stew, golden apple or pumpkin chutney, garden salad and steaming white rice to name a few.
Typical local food? Seychellois Creole cuisine is a fusion of African, British, French, Indian and Chinese flavours and styles of cooking. Most of Seychellois cooking is based on seafood and chillies. People also enjoy salads and fruit desserts of mango, papaya, breadfruit, and pineapple. The large selection of tangy, sweet, rich and spicy combinations makes the Seychellois cuisine an attraction in itself.
Meet the locals: The perfect place to hang out is the Boathouse Cafe (Beau Vallon, Mahe, tel: +248 24 78 98, www.boathouse.sc) right in the centre of the beautiful Beau Vallon beach. They offer a unique entertainment experience enjoyed by a mixture of locals and tourists alike. Seychellois hospitality and local food at its very best.
My favourite bar: Oceanview Bar at Hilton Seychelles Northolme Resort & Spa (Glacis, Victoria, Mahe, tel: +248-429-9000). Unwind in the stylish interiors of the Ocean View Bar or relax on the split-level decked balcony for views of ocean coves and starlit nights. Live music makes the perfect accompaniment to sunset.
My motto: when on travel, always try local. So I advise Seybrew beer, Takamaka Bay rum (coco rum is a must-try) or Ti’Punch. If you avoid alcohol – citronelle (lemongrass), cinnamon or vanilla tea; they go well both hot and cold!
Best place for first date? In the daytime it’s Le Jardin du Roi in the mountains, 30 minutes drive from downtown Victoria, Domaine de L’enfoncement, Anse Royale, tel: +248 437 13 13. Inspired by the original 18th century gardens developed by the French to promote spice trading in the colonies, Le Jardin Du Roi spice garden offers visitors a day on a typical Seychelles plantation that grows spices and other rare plants. It is a haven for botanists, nature lovers and the environmentally conscious. Treat yourself to a delightful Creole and international food at Le Jardin du Roi Restaurant (à la carte meal served daily, or a special fixed menu «Plantation Lunch» available every Sunday). While eating or exploring old plantation, you can enjoy the breathtaking vistas of mountains and ocean.
In the evening; Chez Plume Restaurant at Anse Boileau,30 minutes from downtown Victoria, tel: + 248 435 50 50. Open for dinner only. All dishes are cooked from scratch with the emphasis on seafood and fish. Their Mauritian chef skilfully prepares French cuisine using the ingredients and aromas of Seychelles with great success. A Creole menu is also available. The setting is close to the sea and tropical gardens, a place to enjoy unforgettable Seychelles sunsets!
My secret place: The old Bel Air Cemetery on the slope of the mountain overlooking Victoria. It was the first official burial ground to be opened on Mahe, soon after the establishment of the French settlement in the late 18th century. It looks very romantic and still keeps some secrets. These burial sites under a backdrop of rainforest and a tapestry of majestic trees are gardens of history and evoke mysteriousness.
My best advice: Give yourself a day or two to explore Victoria on foot.
My favourite shop: Seychelles is not a place for shopping. The nearest magnets for local fashionmongers are Mauritius and Dubai. But a visit to Kenwyn House (Francis Rachel Street, tel: +248 422 44 40, www.kenwynhouse.com) is strongly recommended.
Taxi or other local transport? In Victoria, everywhere is within walking distance, but to visit the places outside of the town it’s better to use a taxi – order by phone (+ 248 432 38 95) or just hail. A cheaper way to move around the island of Mahe is by bus.
Keep away of: Crime is almost non-existent in Seychelles.
Why I travel? Travel is a state of mind. It is almost entirely an inner experience. You go for a travel and return a different person. I don’t understand people who «collect» the countries to take a pride in a length of the list of places they have visited. The only way to get acquainted with the country or the city is to immerse you into the local life. So, when on travel, to meet the locals, to eat local food is a must.
Where next? Most likely a trip to Norway. But my dream is to visit island of Saint Helena, one of the most remote populated places on earth.