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"My Childhood Was Very Free"

When Guillaume Albert sings, his relaxed sound immediately sparks that holiday feeling – and unsurprisingly so. Guillaume was born and raised in Mauritius. Now living in Basel, he travels back to his homeland at least once a year and has a flat there. Guillaume tells us what makes Mauritius so special:

"I was born and raised in Curepipe. Situated in the heart of Mauritius on a high plateau at 550 metres above sea level, the country’s fourth-largest city is home to over 80,000 inhabitants. Almost the entire island can be seen from Curepipe, with the exception of the far north. When the lights of the island are switched on at night, it is a beautiful sight to behold.

Photos provided, MTPA

Mauritius is where you grow up with music

I would describe my childhood as very free. Children are raised altogether differently in Mauritius compared to Europe. My father was a policeman and my mother a housewife. My two brothers and I always went to good schools. I spent my free time cycling around with my cousins, or picking fruit from the trees and eating it right away.

Many children grow up with music in Mauritius. Sundays are often spent at the beach, barbecuing with the family and making music. We create our own music, known as Sega, with traditional instruments like the maravanne (a rattle) or the moutia (a hand drum). These days, Sega music is often mixed with other styles, such as jazz or reggae. Combining Sega with reggae is particularly popular and has resulted in a new genre, known as Seggae.

From Mauritius via Dubai to Switzerland

I studied guitar and piano in music school. Many musicians tour round the islands performing their music. There are myriad places, including bars, restaurants and hotels, where live music can be performed. But there is no competition among the musicians. Quite the contrary: we share tips and tricks and like to jam together after gigs. I worked as an entertainment manager in a hotel for five years, which is where I met my Swiss wife. We stayed in touch throughout that period, even when I went to Dubai, where I had regular employment as a guitarist, pianist and singer. It took another two years before I could finally move to Basel to be with her.

In Switzerland, I trained to work in the hotel business and now have a position in the ‘Drei Könige’ hotel in Basel. Of course I dreamed of making a living with my music. But I am happy with the way things are now. I have a lovely little family, I like my job and have always stayed loyal to music. I recently founded the band ‘Dream-Lime’ along with three French musicians. We do cover songs from all music genres, and it is great fun. We get to perform regularly in Basel and Huningue.

I miss the freedom, nature and the food

What I miss in Switzerland? Apart from my family, the many liberties you have in Mauritius. There is never any time pressure – whether you come or go at ten or eleven o’clock is not important. The people are really open and always in a good mood. I definitely also miss the landscape, nature, the sea and the lagoons. I have been to many countries and can honestly say: it is hard to think of another place with nicer beaches than Mauritius. The south, for instance, is home to infinitely long sandy beaches, whereas the east of the island is a bit more rugged and untouched, with only a few hotels.

Naturally, I miss the food from my childhood. You can buy traditional dishes on every street corner in Mauritius. The island is characterised by extremely diverse influences and cultures. This also applies to the culinary domain. Asian cuisine is widely available - Chinese food in particular tastes very different from what we know here in Switzerland. For instance: fried noodles are served with small, slightly sweet Chinese sausages. We often eat curries, vegetables and the Indian flatbread (paratha, or farata, as we call it in Mauritius). Gateaux piments (fried spicy cakes) are also very popular. Whenever there is a celebration, food will be shared with the entire neighbourhood. So if your neighbours are Chinese or Indian, you are likely to be inundated with food on their festive occasions.

Mauritius does not necessarily have to be pricey

I visit my home country every year with my wife and young son. We own a flat in the beach resort of Flic-en-Flac situated in the west of the island. By the way, it is possible to have an affordable holiday in Mauritius. As well as five-star hotels, there are some very charming B&Bs and apartments.

When I am at home, I naturally enjoy every minute spent with my family. My parents still live in Curepipe. My brothers also emigrated, one to Cape Town, in South Africa, the other to France. Apart from that, I like to watch dolphins with my son and I really enjoy the ocean. I also go hiking with my family, or shopping at one of the fabulous markets. Or dining and going out in the evenings. I think the island is terrific for families. The beaches are lovely for children, and there are some beautiful natural parks with waterfalls and wide green spaces. Clearly, there is no Disneyland in Mauritius – but children do not need Disney if they can play and be outdoors. I recommend visitors to rent a car, drive around the island and see where they end up. That is exactly what life in Mauritius is like."

Guillaume’s Choice Places in Mauritius

Le Morne: The Le Morne peninsula at the southwestern tip of Mauritius is about a 45-minute drive from Flic-en-Flac. Featuring one of the most beautiful beaches on the island, Le Morne has a surf school and is also a choice place to sunbathe and swim.

Grand Baie: A tourist centre, but still very charming and a good place to shop. Visitors are bound to find a suitable souvenir to take home here.

Trou aux Biches: The Trou-aux-Biches beach stretches for more than 2.5 miles and is one of the most beautiful on the island. Everything is possible here, from swimming and water skiing to scuba diving. Many locals come here at weekends to picnic.

Text: Sandra Casalini