There are several overlapping versions of this place, each independent and seemingly the only one; the people living inside them are not aware that just next door there is another piece of the same cake, farata of the same dough, bouillon brede from the same plant, briyani from the same pot and boulettes from the same broth going on. But ultimately they all mingle and form this one unique sizzling brew called Port Louis.
So this is the capital of Mauritius; famous for its heat, traffic jams, street vendors, great food stands and weekly market. The latter really takes place all week, just on Thursdays it is even bigger. Some people claim that this is the place where one needs to hold onto one's belongings, others tell stories about losing their wallet and having it returned there... The tales are as many as the market is vast. Not to miss: the section with local fruit and vegetables, as there are some unusual shapes and colours and it’s a real experience to stroll between the swift moving Chinese, determined to get their bargains, portly Creole matrons ploughing their way through the crowds, holding fast onto their colourful baskets; tiny Tamil ladies with golden bangles, walking like shy gazelles, eyes darting expectantly from one stand to the other; or grand white or seemingly white ladies accompanied by their servants, sweating profusely in the sweltering heat. Definitely not for convinced vegetarians and those with frail nerves: the meat market opposite it. Better try some island delicacies and sweet national brew “alouda” in the food court.
The market is the heart within the heart of Mauritius; located across the street from Caudan Waterfront, the newly built cluster of shopping malls; once warehouses by the old harbour, today a thriving tourist attraction with a myriad of shops, restaurants, a movie theatre, a hotel, a museum and great views over the new harbour, especially from the Chinese restaurant on the first floor. By taking the underground passage (safer!) back to the old part of the city, the eager visitor will stroll along palm studded boulevards, crowded sidewalks and busy streets and see attractions by the dozens. Here are some one should not miss: the Museum for Photography where treasures in sepia wait to reveal glimpses in the glorious past; the Jummah Mosque that was built in this glorious past and offers visitors a chance to meet Islam; the Mauritius Natural History Museum with a collection of extinct animals and a reproduction of the Dodo; the Company Garden with statues, greenery and an interesting ambience; and the small but pleasant Blue Penny stamp museum featuring one of the world’s most expensive misprints; Fort Adelaide or “La Citadel” as it is commonly called, the British fortress that was built to fend off the French who went to fight in World War 1 instead.
On Saturdays, the oldest racing track in the Southern Hemisphere comes to life with a bang: the Champs de Mars horse racing track attracts visitors from all over the island. Some eager to risk a high hemline and attract a few glances, others keen on risking a few rupees in a frenzied dance with lady luck; most enamoured with those magnificent four-legged creatures, a few just along for the thrill; all of them cheering, stomping, clutching their tote tickets and waiting for the winner. And there are a myriad of shops selling just about anything under the sun. And finally there are the people of Port Louis themselves, one of the main attractions, and one should take time to take in the many little dramas unfolding by the side of the road as one walks on, definitely appreciating good shoes as the ground is very uneven and varies from centuries old cobblestones to ancient layers of asphalt. Beware of steep curbs and deep gutters. And always carry a bottle of water unless it rains. And when it rains in Port Louis, it pours! So bringing an umbrella-like device is wise, as it can be used to keep off sunshine and raindrops alike. Be prepared for a colourful, turbulent and adventurous experience and let Port Louis sweep you away.
Port Louis - Downtown
Those who decide to take a stroll in downtown Port Louis should not miss a visit to the Central Market with its myriad of things to discover and enjoy. Missing out on this landmark would leave a serious gap in each island visit. The market is located between the Motorway and Farquhar Street opposite the Waterfront and the old post office and open daily except for Sundays. Walking up Independence Street brings one not only into a very busy district, but also right in front of the old theatre which was built in 1822 and still today hosts all kinds of plays, operas and also gala dinners and social gatherings.
The Company Garden is a small green oasis in the midst of the bustling capital. It is well worth a stroll not only for its plants, but also for the statues of famous island sons, and the old Baobab trees. Right besides it, the Mauritius Natural History Museum hosts some of the most spectacular treasures. In its museum section, the skeleton of a Dodo can be seen, alongside depictions of rare birds. The library features a precious collection of old documents, books and paintings. Those who would like a more accurate glimpse of bygone days may drop by the Museum of Photography. Sepia brown coloured treasures take them away into the times of horse drawn carriages, sailing boats and colonial splendour.
In the many shops at Le Caudan Waterfront, one may find clothes, jewellery, souvenirs and have a bite at the food court or in one of the many cafes or restaurants. The crafts market is the largest and best on the island. On the other side, by the hotel Labourdonnais, the Blue Penny Museum displays the famous postal stamp as part of an interesting exhibition. At Le Caudan Waterfront, a myriad of shops, a bank, a cinema as well as cafes and restaurants provide almost anything one could hope to find in Mauritius and a surprising amount of things one never dreamt of actually wanting to find!