Our imagination flies to these beautiful ladies dressed up in Calais laces or English embroidery outfits, when we think about the charming castle life. They usually carried umbrellas matching their dresses, while they walked in these spectacular alleys of colonial mansions in Mauritius…
A dozen of these castles still exist. Three form part of the National Heritage: Le Chateau de Mon Plaisir in Pamplemousses, Le Chateau du Rēduit built under Governor David in 1749, and the Mahebourg Naval Museum, dating back to 1772. These colonial mansions are a secret to a moving poetry. No one can remain insensible looking at their shapes, colors, the freshness of friezes with an absence of frills. The vast pieces of furniture often imported and polished with beeswax awaken our curiosity. We feel the desire to gently rub our fingers on these masterpieces.
In the stunning gardens of several acres, carefully lined up with secular trees and beautified by tropical flowers adapting to the pleasant climate throughout the year, life in the tropics, far from the great continents, was certainly punctuated by organized meetings and intellectual discussions. One can easily daydream when looking at the beautiful panorama where greenery takes precedence.
Some of these castles, such as Le Château de Villebague dating from 1740 or the Château de Bel Ombre built in 1765, long preserved from public sight suggest the possibility of deer hunting parties. The lands of lush vegetation surrounding the properties offer a real treat of pure oxygen.
On other estates, such as Le Chateau de Labourdonnais, built in 1856 and formerly home to the Wiehe family, or Le Château de Riche-en-Eau, dating from 1870, we realize the benefits and importance of food autonomy. This can be explained by huge vegetable gardens and orchards bearing rare fruits.
Along the main road leading to Saint Pierre from Moka, tall Latan palms on the right hides Le Château Trompette built in 1870. Music at that time must have played an important role during the balls, where guests twirled to the lovely sounds. Close to the sugar factories using materials found locally, some of these castles are very well preserved and can now be visited during organized excursions by Mautourco or during the World Heritage Day.
In the purest of Mauritian traditions, I would not mind to take a good cup of hot tea served with small ‘Napolitans’, melting biscuits stuffed with Chinese guava jam and topped up with pink sugar icing while sitting in an armchair under the veranda. I would lazily gaze at the tiled black and white marble flooring. My greatest wish is that these big mansions, part of our authentic heritage, are preserved for as long as possible.
After all, ‘La vie de chateau’ in Mauritius is a dream, a charming castle life...
Lza M Natur
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