M A U R I T I U S
PORT LOUIS •• Orientation
M A U R I T I U S
PORT LOUIS •• Sights & Activities
ever-growing number of high-rise glass-
fronted banks in the city centre attest.
Port Louis is divided by Mauritius’ only
motorway, which runs just by the harbour
area and the development of the Caudan
Waterfront. On the Caudan side there’s thesanitised city with smart shops and bars butwith little atmosphere, while the vast ma- jority of the city is on the other side of theroad – dirty, colourful, chaotic and muchmore fun.The centre of the city is hard to pin downexactly – the natural centre is Place S Bissoon-doyal, a picturesque palm-lined avenue thatruns from the harbour to Government House.From here nearly all the sites of interest arewithin easy walking distance. The main bankshave their offices around this square or alongnearby Sir William Newton St, while Royal St,which runs northeast through Chinatown, isalso of interest to travellers.Port Louis’ two main bus stations are lo-
cated either side of the city centre, each a
few minutes’ walk from Place S Bissoondoyal.Arriving from the airport, you’ll be dropped
at the more southerly Victoria Square
211 9262; Caudan Waterfront) Thecountry’s best bookshop sells a broad range of English andFrench books, including guidebooks.
Editions de L’Ocean Indien
211 1310; JulesKoenig St) A good selection of titles about Mauritius.
Librairie Allot Ltd
212 7132; 1st fl, Happy WorldHouse, Sir William Newton St) Usually stocks the IGN mapof Mauritius and a good selection of literature.
Librairie du Trèfle
212 1106; 5 Royal St) Anatmospheric place catering for the local market.
emergency 999, headquarters 203 1212; LineBarracks, Lord Kitchener St)
210 6978; Dumat St;
9am-4pm Mon-Fri)A small place near the Victoria Sq bus station.
Smart Net Café
210 2177; Ramphul Bldg, ChauséeSt;
9am-4pm Mon-Fri, 9am-noon Sat) Small butcentrally located.
Zenith Internet Café
(Astrolabe, Port Louis Waterfront;
10am-8pm Mon-Thu, 10am-10pm Fri & Sat, 10am-4pmSun) The best in town, with plug-in for laptops possible.
Dr Jeetoo Hospital
212 3201; Volcy Pougnet St)Provides 24-hour medical and dental treatment and has a24-hour pharmacy. Staff speak English and French.
Medical Trading Pharmacy
294 0440; ChauséeSt) One of the best pharmacies in the city, just by CompanyGardens.
You’ll find ATMs throughout Port Louis,while all the main banks are concentratedaround Sir William Newton St. Standard
banking hours are 9am to 3.15pm Monday toThursday, 9am to 3.30pm Friday. Some banks
are open on Saturday mornings, while those at
the airport are open whenever flights arrive.
207 1800; Sir William Newton St)
203 8333; Pl S Bissoondoyal)
Mauritius Commercial Bank
202 5000;9-15 Sir William Newton St)
202 1111; State BankTower, Pl S Bissoondoyal)
Central post office
208 2851; Place du Quai;
8.15am-4pm Mon-Fri, 8.15-11.45am Sat) The last 45minutes before closing are for stamp sales only.
Mauritius Tourism Promotion Authority
210 1545; www.mauritius.net; Air Mauritius Centre,President John Kennedy St;
9am-4pm Mon-Fri, 9am-noon Sat) Distributes maps of Port Louis and Mauritius andcan advise on car hire, excursions and hotels throughoutthe country.
DANGERS & ANNOYANCES
Port Louis is a city with a big underclass and
as such is not safe at night. After dark all
travellers should stick to well-lit main streetsand avoid Company Gardens, favoured hangout of pimps and drug dealers. If you don’tknow your exact route, take a taxi. Duringthe daytime it’s a very safe city but beware of pickpockets anywhere, although particularly in the market and around the bus stations.
SIGHTS & ACTIVITIES
Most of Port Louis’ sights are scattered aroundthe waterfront and southeast along PoudrièreSt and Intendance St. Although some, such asFort Adelaide, are slightly further out, the dis-tances are small and you can easily hop aroundthe shops, museums and the market in a day.
Port Louis’ rightly famous
5.30am-5.30pm Mon-Sat, 5.30am-11.30pm Sun)
, thecentre of the local economy since Victoriantimes, was cleaned up considerably in a 2004
renovation. Many comment that it’s lost much
of its dirty charm and atmosphere (you’refar less likely to see rats, although it’s still
quite possible!), but it’s still a good place toget a feel for the everyday life of many locals,
watch the hawkers at work and buy some
souvenirs. Most authentic are the wonderfulfruit and vegetable sections (including herbalmedicines and aphrodisiacs) and the meat,fish and seafood market.If you’re looking for souvenirs, a wide va-riety of Malagasy handicrafts are available,along with souvenir T-shirts of varying qual-ity. The level of hustling here can be tiresome,
however, and you’ll have to bargain hard; start
by slashing the price quoted by about 30%.
Blue Penny Museum
Whether or not you fully understand the
philatelic obsession with the Mauritian onepenny and two-pence stamps of 1847, the
Blue Penny Museum
210 8176; www.bluepenny
museum.com; Caudan Waterfront; adult/child/family Rs
is far more wide
ranging than its name suggests, taking in
the history of the island’s exploration, set-tlement and colonial period. It’s Port Louis’best museum, well lit and designed, with afantastic selection of maps, photographs andengravings from different periods in history,as well as a gallery for temporary exhibitionsand a good shop.
The pride of the museum’s collection istwo of the world’s rarest stamps: the red
one-penny and blue two-pence ‘Post Office’
stamps issued in 1847 (see the boxed text,
below ). To preserve the colours, they are only lit up for 10 minutes at a time: every hour,on the half-hour. They were purchased by agroup of Mauritian companies as a nationaltreasure and are probably the most valuableobjects on the entire island!
On the ground floor you’ll see the coun-
try’s most famous work of art: a superbly life-like statue by the Mauritian sculptor Prosperd’Épinay, carved in 1884. Based on Bernardin
de St-Pierre’s novel
Paul et Virginie
boxed text, p83), it shows the young hero car-rying his sweetheart across a raging torrent.
Natural History Museum
There’s only one real attraction at this small
212 0639; Chaussée St; admission
9am-4pm Mon, Tue, Thu & Fri, 9am-noon Sat)
andthat’s to see the famous – though somewhatgrubby – reconstruction of a dodo. Scottishscientists assembled the curious-looking birdin the late 19th century, using the only com-
plete dodo skeleton in existence (see p78).
The rest of the museum’s three halls get marks
for trying, but the majority of the other exhi-bits are a sad testimony to the fact that fishdon’t readily lend themselves to the process of taxidermy. Look out, however, for the stuffedbirds, including the solitaire and red rail, bothalso now extinct.
The Chinese have traditionally occupied a
quietly industrious position in the life of PortLouis. The region between the two ‘friendshipgates’ on Royal St forms the centre of PortLouis’ Chinatown. Here you’ll see the rich
STAMP OF APPROVAL
Philatelists (stamp collectors to the rest of us) go weak at the knees at the mention of theMauritian ‘Post Office’ one-penny and two-pence stamps. Issued in 1847, these stamps wereincorrectly printed with the words ‘Post Office’ rather than ‘Post Paid’. They were recalled upondiscovery of the error, but not before the wife of the British governor had mailed out a few dozenon invitations to one of her famous balls!These stamps now rank among the most valuable in the world. The ‘Bordeaux cover’, a letterbearing both stamps which was mailed to France, was last sold for a staggering US$3.8 million.In 1993 a consortium of Mauritian companies paid US$2.2 million for the pair of unused one-penny and two-pence stamps now on display in Port Louis’ Blue Penny Museum (above). This isthe only place in the world where the two can be seen together on public view.