The Places We Return To: Réunion

One of the most recognizable faces in the business (just try to imagine J.Crew or Madewell without her), Michele Ouellet isn’t content to just cash crop her youth and good looks. She’s laying down roots as a Napa vintner, creating Lorenza Rosé with her mom. Here’s how she breaks from her surreal reality.

My boyfriend was DJing at Electrodock festival last December, and I couldn’t resist tagging along. La Réunion is a French island in the middle of the Indian Ocean and is the most unique, vibrant island paradise. The flight is an insane 30 hours, but really worth it.

We woke up at 4 a.m. due to jet lag and drove two hours of hairpin turns to hike Piton de la Fournaise, a famous active volcano. It was five hours of climbing black lava and terrain that is out of this world. When we got to the top, we were caught in a cloud so it was raining and freezing, but still an amazing experience. Afterwards, we picked up a baguette and drove back to the beach where it was 95 degrees and rum was waiting.

La Réunion seems like one of the few places still untouched by man. The volcano still erupts and sharks still rule the waters. Because there are so many microclimates on the island, in a ten-minute drive you’ll see rolling hills, then something like an alpine forest, followed by a bamboo jungle, then a Creole village, then black lava that carves through the mountainside all the way to the water. We also hopped fences and followed a little dirt path that opened up into the most breathtaking, secluded waterfall. Apparently there are tons of those. We need to find more next time!