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krisek Port Louis - A travel report by Krys
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Port Louis,  Mauritius - flag Mauritius
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krisek's travel reports

Port Louis, Mauritius\'s bustling capital city.

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Mauritius\'s capital is a relatively large city of 140,000 inhabitants. The harbour has been a fully working seaport since early 1600s. It is melting pot of African, Indian, Arabic, Chinese and European cultures.

Mauritius Institute with a model of dodo
Mauritius Institute with a model of dodo
I am about to shatter a myth about Mauritius just now. I am about to or I might do, depending on your knowledge or perception of the country, Well, the island was not all glitter and gold, it was not combed carefully everywhere you looked, it did not comprise of solely grand villas with lush gardens and swimming pools. The Mauritians were relatively poor. They had to work hard for their living. A large proportion of them worked from down to dusk on the sugarcane plantations, and the many supported their living on agriculture. And that was not an easy life for Mauritius was full of mountains and extinct volcanoes with their jagged peaks and impossible slopes. Mauritius is still an African country, and nowhere in Africa life was particularly easy. The Mauritians wore simple clothing, their households were modest, they moved around on a dilapidated buses made in India or walked.

The landscape seemed dominated by the mountains and the endless sugarcane fields. I was told that the large sugar factory on Mauritius was actually the second largest in the world, right after one in Brazil. The roads criss-crossing the fields were sinking amongst the tall grass of the sugarcane. The beaches were rather simple; mostly narrow and short with very limited facilities unless a resort was nearby.

Most of the resorts were situated in the north of the island. The south was usually rainy, the west was windy, and the east had no beaches to speak about, except the Ile aux Cerfs.

Port-Louis, the country's capital city had a few good examples of colonial architecture, including the Government House (representing the French colonialists), St James Cathedral (almost British colonial representation of sacral architecture), and several more modern buildings erected for the comfort of the Chinese, Indian and Arabian peoples. It was a relatively large city with modern facilities; plenty of banks, places to eat and apartments to rent, shops, and accommodation to suit any budget.

Favourite spots:
The Government House at the Place d'Armes
The Government House at the Place d'Armes
Place d'Armes was definitely my favourite spot. It was Mauritius most presentable avenue, as if to re-create the ambiance of the Champs-Elysees of Paris, but with royal palm trees. It could hardly be compared to the endless Champs-Elysees, though. Place d'Armes was not an avenue. It rather was a piazza of some sort. It might be only about 200 yards long and about 100 yards (or less) wide. It was flanked by buildings of mixed architecture, some somewhat Creole, some almost colonial, a couple Art-Deco (I think), and the rest were modernist and whatever you call the granite-steel-and-glass high rises.

But on the top of the piazza there was the grandiose Government House, erected back in 1738. If I remember well, one of the locals told me that it was the Premier's office. Now, that was a good very example of the tropical colonial architecture.

What's really great:
T-shirt shop in Port-Louis with a live model ;)
T-shirt shop in Port-Louis with a live model ;)
People were probably Mauritius's best quality. They were friendly and subtly greeted me everywhere I went. Not as if they were intruding, but just acknowledged me by giving me an infectious grin, nodding gently or whispering hello. They had less African features than the Seychellois and more Indian mix. Some of them were real stunners, actually.

As I peeked into a few stores at the street market. One guy turns to me:

- Hello sir. Would you like to buy a t-shirt? I have a new collection.

- OK, can I get a t-shirt just like the one you are wearing?

- Oh, sorry. This is a sample. I am modelling it.

He was in fact a very funny and nice guy. It wasn't actually his shop, but his brother-in-law's. He did have a nice collection of t-shirts there, so I bought one for MUR400; blue with white motif. But I would have preferred that one he was wearing. It was vivid coral with blue, green and white patterns.

The Waterfront of Port-Louis
The Waterfront of Port-Louis
As it was drizzling, showering and, at some point, also raining, I did not manage to venture very far in the city. I liked the Waterfront with a couple of large cannons facing the ocean and flanked by shops and restaurants. It was an attractive part of the city, where people seemed to like to hang out.

I read that there was a nice fort on a top of a hill, built by the British but curiously sporting the Moorish architecture. There were a handful of interesting buildings and a UNESCO-listed ruins of an old port, but apart from those, Port-Louis did not have many prominent sights. It was a pleasant looking city with great tropical feel and the name was funky as well.

Suite Royale #341 at Le Meridien Ile Maurice
Suite Royale #341 at Le Meridien Ile Maurice
I stayed just north of the capital in a place called Pointe Aux Piments at Le Meridien Ile Maurice. When I arrived, I was rather impressed. The lobby was large and airy, the welcome juice and a shot of iced espresso were a delight. I was led through the grounds over to my suite. It was Le Suite Royale. Not too shabby, I have to say. Perhaps the best suite I have ever stayed at, erm... we have stayed at. Our suite had two levels. Upstairs was the boudoir complete with a jacuzzi, complete bathroom, dresser and an ottoman. Downstairs, connected with a little spiral staircase, was the living room with a terrace overlooking the Indian Ocean and the palm-fringed beach; it had a nice round table with four chairs, a three seater sofa, two armchairs and a coffee table, a bar, a kitchen, visitors' toilet, and a separate sitting area with two nice armchairs and a coffee table right under the staircase. There were a few lamp tables and enough room to throw a party for 200 people. List price: €1250

The Banana Beach Club
The Banana Beach Club
Grand Baie was considered a big touristy place full of boutiques, cafes, bars, restaurants and clubs. It sounded good to me! I stopped at the Banana Beach Club, next to Kamikaze (formerly known as Zanzibar) for a shot of premium rum. I had the 5 year old New Grove rum from the local rhumerie and chatted to three young delivery guys, who brought something for the owner of the club. I enquired about the hottest Saturday night venue. Perhaps they were biased but they said that the Kamikaze was the place to party.

I also had a brief stop at the Cocoloko Bar set in a small garden just off the main beachfront road. It had great tropical feel, the personnel was young but professional. There was also a happy hour for early arrivals.

Fruit and coconut stand in central Port-Louis
Fruit and coconut stand in central Port-Louis
On a sunny day, beaches, some of which had adjacent parks offering plenty of shade, were perhaps the best hangout areas for both visitors and the locals. On a rainy day, particularly in the capital city, I spotted people hanging out at the Company Gardens, next to the Mauritius Institute, right in the centre. It had massive trees packed close one to another that sported countless and thick lianas. It felt like a proper jungle there, actually. It was a small garden and there were only a few benches, yet having something like this in the middle of the city was rather striking.

Every single local I was talking to about Port-Louis was telling me about the Waterfront. It must have been the main meeting point in the city and a place, where people hung out, snoozed and socialised over a glass of fresh coconut milk. It did have a few benches and a delightful little wooden kiosk with juices and coconuts. Nearby, there were shops, kids playground and cafes, as well.

Three giant jumbo prawns grilled to perfection
Three giant jumbo prawns grilled to perfection
In Grand Baie, I checked the Sunset Cafe, which apart from fresh draft local lager (MUR135 for a small 0.33l jug with complimentary peanuts and crisps), also did breakfasts (from MUR180) and food from the nearby Paparazzi Restaurant. I think it was operating as an outlet for the restaurant. For the Sunset Cafe was closing at 8pm, so really soon after sunset. And I think the restaurant was opening at sunset.

The Paparazzi restaurant had a menu of good size and offered a good selection of seafood for reasonable value. Their fish fillet (type of fish depending on the catch of the day) with king prawns was MUR600; fish fillet with grilled lobster was MUR800 for example.

In Port-Louis, there were a number of all sorts of eateries. For those on a small budget and for business people, who had large budgets. I even spotted the KFC Chicken unit near the Mauritius Institute. But the South African chain Debonairs Pizza & Steers Local Burgers were more popular, it seemed.

Other recommendations:
Major airports directly connected with Mauritius's main airport as of September 2013.
Major airports directly connected with Mauritius's main airport as of September 2013.
Port Louis was served by the Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam International Airport (MUR) located some 50km away, on the diagonally opposite end of the island. It was actually rather well connected with the region, including Madagascar, Reunion, South Africa, Seychelles, Kenya, as well as a number of large cities in Europe, India, Middle East and Far East. The airport had a number of well working cash machines and bureaux de change at the arrival area. New terminal was opening in September 2013.

As the majority of good hotels were in the north, it meant that one had to plough through the traffic across the entire island. And the traffic often was a nightmare. Not the first impression a country would want to make, I presume. The first time I made this journey, it took 2 hours! With a taxi driver, who had a heavy foot!! So, be prepared and leave early for your departure flight if you want to make it. From the airport, a taxi booked through all the way up north cost €35.

Published on Saturday August 24th, 2013

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Sun, Aug 25 2013 - 01:42 PM rating by mistybleu

Yeah; he's a stunner. Lol

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