Later this week I’ll reflect on the ups and downs of our round-the-world trip. I’ll look at what we might have done differently as well as those elements that turned out to be particularly well conceived. In the meantime, here’s a playful top ten list of some of the best things we encountered along the way: best beach; best ice cream; best tourist trap; best breakfast; best market stall; best new subway line; best hotel arrival punch; best rough neighborhood; best flight; and best place to sharpen cupcake decoration skills.
1. Best beach: Châteaubriand Bay Beach, Lifou. The Loyalty Island of Lifou in New Caledonia certainly several incredible beaches. Châteaubriand Bay Beach is the most magnificent of these. The sand is delicate and white, the water is a mesmerizing hue, and there’s plenty of shade for those who burn easily. Locals share the beach with tourists, though in the very pleasant off-season there are few of either around.
2. Best ice cream: violet ice cream at Cutler & Co in Melbourne. The extraordinary tasting menu served at Cutler & Co was devoid of missteps. The parting shot of violet ice cream left a bold final impression. It was also the tastiest serving of ice cream of the trip.
3. Best (that is, worst) tourist trap: Île aux Cerfs, Mauritius. Everyone raves about Île aux Cerfs, an island off the east coast of Mauritius. Visitors pay 1000 rupees ($34) upfront at a tour agency in the coastal town of Trou d’Eau Douce for access to the island plus a barbecue lunch. A boat picks up tourists and deposits them at a jetty on the island, then later ferries them over to another island for a barbecue lunch. The island is packed with tourists and touts selling boat rides and parasailing adventures. Prior to development, this island was no doubt terribly beautiful–and, it must be said, it has no landscape-scarring developments even now–but it’s quite crowded for a destination where it is pretty easy to avoid masses of tourists.
4. Best breakfast: Forbes & Burton, Sydney. A potato cake under poached eggs with smoked salmon and onion jam (AUD$18) was the best breakfast of the trip, hearty and refined at once. Runner-up in the great breakfast stakes: several items on the menu at Il Fornaio in Melbourne’s St. Kilda neighborhood.
5. Best market stall: Tisanes N. Mootoosamy, Stall 244, Central Market, Port Louis. The owner’s pitch is hilarious: “There’s one herb we sell here that you can’t use until you leave Mauritius. This is the anti-stress herb, because there’s no stress on Mauritius.” The range of ailments addressed by the herbs on offer here, meant to be imbibed as tea, is broad. It includes menopause, insomnia, cellulite, and anemia.
6. Best new subway line: London Overground East London line. Opened for service in May, 2010, this new line provides a new more or less vertical south-to-north link from West Croydon to Dalston Junction. Some stations are pristine and modern and the trains are gleamingly new.
7. Best arrival punch: Oasis De Kiamu, Lifou. To be fair, this was our only welcome punch, but no matter. It’s awfully nice to be welcomed to a hotel in the tropics with a fruity drink, especially one that turns out to foreshadow well the flavorful aperitifs to come.
8. Best supposedly rough-and-tumble neighborhood: Footscray, Melbourne. I loved this neighborhood of cheap Vietnamese restaurants, a market, an excellent community arts center, and countless specialty shops, many oriented to Melbourne’s various ethnic communities. If you find yourself in Melbourne in desperate need of a grocery that sells both Fijian and Sri Lankan products, Footscray would be a safe bet.
9. Best flight: Qantas Business class Los Angeles-Sydney on the Airbus A380. This is, quite simply, one of the best business-class long-haul routes around. The seats recline completely, the food is quite nice, and there is plenty of privacy. Even the bathroom lighting is gentle. Not cheap, though completely worthwhile.
10. Best place to take a lesson in cupcake decoration: Amandine, London. One of many exciting retail venues in Victoria Park Village, Amandine is a beautiful little café that prioritizes delicious homemade cakes. It also offers fresh produce, good coffee, and free wi-fi. Inside, Amandine is bright and cheerful, like a stylish country cottage gone Boho. There’s also a back garden.
Check out other posts in the Capricorn Route series here.