Tag Archives: Gite

Matilona (Ste-Rose, Reunion, France)

I mentioned a few times that I didn’t stay in a lot of “hotels” in Réunion during our visit, since a substantial fraction of the lodging on the island is distinctly less formal than a typical hotel, ranging from our mountain gîtes, to a handful of Chambres d’hôtes (basically, B&Bs), and other alternative lodging arrangments. After our hike up Piton de la Fournaise, we came across one of the more memorable gîtes, Matilona in the quiet village of Ste-Rose on the northeastern coast of the Island. Matilona is a rather funky place. It doesn’t really have any one place you can stand and take it all in, so I didn’t really get a picture, but Matilona is built out of a sprawl of several little buildings, Matilona was originally a supermarket, but it’s been turned into a guest house with quite a few rooms (ranging from simple, compact rooms for 1 or 2 people, to large multi-bedroom suites, to the multi-floor suite we stayed in on one end of the complex). A surprisingly large common area, two common kitchens, and a large outdoor common space are all there for guests, as was a very nicely maintained swimming pool. The owner also maintains a collection of local plants, and keeps chickens in the back of the property. The overall vibe that the owner is trying for (with more than a little success) is that you’re staying in a quirky friend’s house.

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Gîte du Volcan (Reunion, France)

Like I had mentioned in my review of Gite de la Caverne Dufour, the island of Réunion has several classic hikes recommended to visitors, like watching sunrise from the Piton des Neiges. Another of these classic hikes is to visit the other volcano on the island, the Piton de la Fournaise (“Furnace Peak”). It’s rather a different hike, since this volcano is one of the most active volcanoes in the world, erupting on average once every nine months, and much more frequently recently (6 weeks before our visit, 2 weeks after, and yet again just last week), so you are hiking across lava plains instead of hiking up tall peaks. But the basic approach is still the same: most people stay at a local Gite the night before, and then hike to the inner caldera in the relative cool of the morning. In this case, it means staying at the rather nicely appointed Gite du Volcan, located at Pass de Bellcombe on the north rim of the volcano’s outer calder (facing the coastline, not the interior).

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Gîte de la Caverne Dufour (Piton des Neiges, Réunion, France)

As part of our trip, we decided to take a several-day hiking trip in the mountains of Réunion. One of the classic hikes is visiting the highest peak on the island: the Piton des Neiges, the extinct volcano that forms the center of Réunion’s cirques. At 3000m/10,700 ft, the highest peak on the island, it’s a bit of a hike, and the ever-present cloud layers don’t exactly help with the view. The standard technique for handling this is to break the hike in two: first hike up to the Gîte du Caverne Dufour for the night, and then get up at 4am and hike the remaining 600m to the summit to catch sunrise. The trail, however, is designed by the same people that designed the roads: steep, narrow, and having lots and lots of switchbacks. Gaining 1100 meters over the course of just 2500 meters makes this almost a staircase into the clouds. But when you get there, while rustic, the Gîte is actually pretty pleasant.

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Domaine Papangue (Palmiste Rouge, Réunion, France)

Once we left Hermitage-Les-Bains, almost all of our remaining lodging on Réunion consisted of various gîtes. The “gîte” is a bit of a French-specific concept, but it basically means “guest house”, and the concepts ranges ranges from simple “gîtes a la montagne” (mountain huts providing little more than a meal, a bunk, and a blanket), to nicer “gîtes rural” (simple guest rooms), to elaborate Chambre d’Hôtes” which are like fancy bed and breakfasts. In Palmiste Rouge we stayed at a pretty good example of a “gîte rural”: Domaine Papangue, a beautiful home in the mountains of Cirque de Cilaos, which was outfitted with a small guest house with four very simple bunkrooms, a pool, and an excellent view (a product of a most adventuresome drive down the canyons and back roads of Palmiste Rouge). Domaine Papangue also had splendid hosts, who cooked us a fabulous dinner, taught us a bit about the island’s culture Creole cuisine (despite a modest language barrier), gave us hiking advice (of the cautionary sort, “Can I see your route on a map? Seems tres sportif! Are you sure?”), and even let us leave some luggage with them while we hiked. And, in what was a rather common occurrence throughout our Réunion travels, marveled at the fact that we were Americans, since Americans almost never show up in Cilaos.

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