For several months, Mauritian newspapers have only been reporting on the visit of Pope Francis, our holiness, to announce his visit to Mauritius on Monday, September 9th, 2019.
He is the second pope to set foot on Mauritian soil thirty years after Saint John Paul II.
The most intense moment of his visit to Mauritius will be the Mass he will celebrate at Marie-Reine de la Paix, in Port-Louis, where he will gather all the faithful.
During this apostolic journey, Pope Francis chose to visit 3 countries in southeastern Africa: Mozambique, Madagascar and Mauritius.
“Pope Francis, pilgrim of peace”; this is his message during his visits to the Indian Ocean.
Much awaited in Mauritius, this event creates an immense joy among Catholics and is an honour for all Mauritians, even those of a secular faith!
A Sunday in Port-Louis
The children, Laurent and I, decide to live this unique moment, undeniable for Mauritian Catholics, but also for other religions, which are happy to welcome the Holy Father. Mauritius is a multicultural country, where we live in harmony by respecting each other’s religion.
This Monday is declared a public holiday for all Mauritians. So we decided to sleep in Port Louis the night before and enjoy the capital.
The children are so eager to experience this new adventure with us in our beloved country. We decide to leave home early because we live in Tamarin in the west, 45 minutes away from Port-Louis. No traffic jams in Mauritius on Sundays….Ouf! 😅
Port Louis is usually a noisy and lively capital during the week, we are curious to walk its streets on a day off.
Our arrival in Port-Louis at the hotel
Around 11am, we arrive at Champ de Mars hotel in Port-Louis, , located at the foot of the mountains to the east of the Capital: Small mountain, on which was built the citadel and the signal mountain that overlooks Marie-Reine de la Paix, the place where the Mass will be celebrated by the pope. The hotel overlooks the Champ de Mars racecourse. Mauritius is particularly interested in horse racing and has the oldest racecourse in the southern hemisphere, built in 1812. It is also considered to be the second oldest in the world.
We enter this 50-room hotel, impeccably maintained where we discover an equestrian decoration at the reception desk! Laurent having visited the hotel the week before had asked for a room on the 5th floor for the view. We take possession of our room with two large double beds. The place is clean and has everything you need.
We are hungry, and we decide to go eat….
A family walk through the streets of Port-Louis… on a Sunday
Port-Louis is the administrative and commercial capital of Mauritius but it is also a charming city if you venture into its narrow streets. Visit it on foot; it is the easiest way to explore the city in depth.
Our company, Explore Nou Zil, offers a cultural, historical and culinary discovery of Port-Louis. You will follow Laurent through the alleys of the capital to discover a thousand exotic things. He will tell you anecdotes about some places.
Details at the end of this article
The Racecourse of Port-Louis & Saint-Louis cathedral
We decide to go for a walk in the capital before lunch. We walk past the racecourse and explain to the children the horse races that take place from March to December. From afar, we show them the plain where most Mauritians come to support their favorite horse and lodges for wealthy Mauritian families. We tell them about the frenzy of the gamblers during horse racing, their excitement and the multicultural nature of this national sport.
Then, we head for the Saint-Louis Cathedral, which is located near the Champ de Mars. We explain to Raphael and Victor its history.
“It was named Saint-Louis Cathedral in honour of King Louis IX of France. In 1722, shortly after the French landed in Mauritius, Mahé de Labourdonnais named it the first parish of Mauritius, and Saint-Louis Cathedral was built between 1752 and 1756.” Explain Laurent
The Street Art of Port-Louis
We continue our journey and are surprised to see that all the shops in Port-Louis are closed. What a shame, however, the media had announced that the hotels in the region were full (small hotels, as well as large hotels), and that the planes of the Air Mauritius and Corsair airlines from Reunion Island were fully loaded. Moreover, we meet many tourists on holiday in Mauritius who walk the streets of Port-Louis, who came for the Pope’s visit the next day.
Port-Louis seems more beautiful, more neat this Sunday. We discover impeccable sidewalks and above all, the beautiful solid wood doorsof the closed “shops” highlighted thanks to this exceptional closure. Sometimes freshly painted, sometimes peeling off,whatever it is, it givesbirth to a colourful vintage style, ideal for obtaining original photos.
In addition, many Mauritian and foreign artists have tagged their urban art on the walls of Port-Louis in different styles in many streets, including those created during the “Porlwi by light” events. I love Street Art so much…
My camera on the shoulder, we go into the quiet alleys of Port-Louis, hunting for authentic photos. All the Mauritian folklore is present, through these colours and murals.
The children, who are now used to posing for photos, are delighted to play the game in search of the most beautiful coloured walls.
A Sino-Mauritian lunch in Port-Louis
After having taken magnificent photos in front of these colorful walls and doors, a lunch is required. It is difficult to find a restaurant open this Sunday in Port-Louis. Surprisingly enough… I would have thought that for Pope Francis’ visit to Mauritius, Port-Louis would have been much more lively and exciting.
We finally find our happiness in an alleyway of the capital, a Chinese restaurant, or rather Sino-Mauritian; Shamping Restaurant. Phew! Phew! It’s open. We love Chinese food.
It must be said that in Mauritius, the mixture of flavours, spices and aromas and influenced by Asia, Africa and Europe has created a fusion gastronomy over the years.Mauritian cuisine is mixed with the image of its people from all over the world. Its cuisine uses local products, fruits, vegetables, fish, seafood and deer meat and imported products.
We decide to find a dessert elsewhere to taste other sweet Sino-Mauritian specialities. We find a shop selling deliciousChinese specialities. We take a varied choice to give the children a taste.
Heading for the Caudan Waterfront
We join members of our family at the Caudan Waterfront. The Mauritian marina is the place where modern shops have become a tourist attraction.
And now, what a surprise, it’s crawling with people! We meet many friends and acquaintances, who also came to spend the night in Port-Louis for the visit of the Supreme Pontiff, in order to attend the Holy Mass at Marie-Reine de la Paix the next day.
After having a coffee with my family, we meet the children at the Caudan’s fountain… What a horror!They’re completely soaked. But, anyway, let’s say it’s a fun experience, the most important thing is that they had a good time.
We return to the Champ de Mars hotel, with a view of the Port-Louis racecourse and the Citadel to get changed and have dinner. The next day will be a long day….
The arrival of Pope Francis to Marie-Reine de la Paix
We are up early for breakfast and to start our day. At 8:30 am, we leave the Champ de Mars hotel, and head towards the Saint Georges hotel, where part of the family is staying.
We walk in a cheerful and joyful atmosphere towards Marie-Reine de la Paix. How fortunate! I discover artists’ graffiti on walls and stop to take pictures. I love this mixture of styles in the Mauritian Street Art, even if the pope was not painted for the occasion, lol!
In the streets of Port-Louis, the crowd brandished the branch of palm trees that had been desired to acclaim Monsignor François. Around 9:30 am we arrive at Marie-Reine de la Paix and find a quiet spot under a tree.
We are far enough from the altar but we do not want to be in a compact human tide. The wait is long for the children, as the mass is scheduled for 12:15 p.m.
In the meantime, they play with sticks, sit down, get up, walk, sit down, growl. HAHA, not easy.
A choir of men and women wearing yellow t-shirts, white pants and a straw hat surrounded by a thin ribbon in the colours of the Mauritian flag animates the crowd.
His arrival is imminent …
On the giant screens, his imminent arrival is announced. He gets off the plane welcomed by our Prime Minister, he gets into the papamobile that takes him to the capital (in front with the driver and not in the back as planned). What an organization!
50 kilometers separate him from Port Louis. People are all over the roadside cheering him on.
The excitement is at its peak. We follow his journey on social networks and giant screens.
After 45 minutes, we hear the crowd shouting his name from kilometers away. So we understand that he has arrived in Port-Louis. The screams are approaching and announce the passage of the papamobile.
The Holy Mass of Pope Francis
On the screen, he is in front of Saint-Louis Cathedral. What a joy! There are songs, there are screams….
After a few minutes of waiting, here comes the man in white. Our Pope Francis passes in front of us.
Everyone brandishes his palm branchhigh and cheers Pope Francis as he enters Marie-Reine de la Paix. The Virgin Mary statue majestically overlooks the city.
A congregation of priests and bishops from the Indian Ocean and the Bishop of the Diocese of Port Louis, Maurice Piat, were present at his side during the Mass.
Alignments of thousands of yellow and white flowersdecorate the bottom of the altar. Several speakers spoke to the microphone before the Pope appeared. Catholic songs, messages of peace, hope, prayersare said.
When Pope Francis arrives at the altar, the fervour of the faithful is palpable. Joy shines on the faces of the thousands of people present for this pastoral visit. Despite the heat, the faithful are there to listen to the good word, to sing to God, to pray and to commune together. Jesus is in every heart.
VIVA EL PAPA
Pope Francis first addresses the Mauritian people in his native language, Italian. His speech is addressed to young people, to those who are in poverty, who do not have a job. His message is humanistic.His words are translated. An orchestra accompanies the choirs that punctuate the speeches.
Then comes the time of communion where the Holy Father reads the gospel in French. The organization was perfectly orchestrated so that people could come and pick up their communion wafer in peace. The crowd is in prayer..
Warm applause accompanies his last words and blessing. It is time for him to go to lunch near the Saint-Louis cathedral, as the media tells us.
What a day, what a thrill! We have the impression that we have experienced a privileged and powerful moment that is not about to happen again or………. in 30 years maybe!
Explore Nou Zil offers guided walks in the streets of Port-Louis
For informations, Explore Nou Zil offers historical and cultural excursions in the street of Port-Louis.
The walk starts from the Caudan Waterfront where you will find a secure car park and continue on foot along the proposed itinerary through the capital.
Then, we will cross the waterfront, not far from the commercial port to reach the lively and colourful bazaar (market) of Port-Louis. In continuity, you will be surprised by the guided tour of Chinatown and its picturesque streets. This family walk will then take you to the heights of the citadel where the stone fortifications are full of history. From the ramparts, admire the breathtaking view of the northwest coast, with the harbour and the ocean, the Champ de Mars and the buildings of the Mauritian capital and, the signal mountain on the left.
For more informations, clic here:
Do you like museums?
We recommend that you visit the Blue Penny National Museum, near the marina, which has an impressive stamp collection. The history of Port-Louis is explained through documents and period objects.
The history of Port-Louis is explained through documents and period objects.
Among the stamps in storage, two stamps bearing the effigy of the English Queen Victoria are among the rarest in the world, the blue penny and the red penny. Acquired in 1993 by 16 Mauritian companies grouped around the Mauritius commercial bank. They are on display at the Blue Penny Museum.
“On 21 September 1847 that the island issued these two postage stamps engraved and printed by Joseph Osmond Barnard in Port-Louis. 500 copies of each were put into circulation but two were not cancelled. They have been found but at a very high price due to its rarity.
It was my father, Jean Mamet, who was chosen to buy the stamps in Switzerland on behalf of the MCB” Amélie