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Mauritius > Pictures and travelogues > Port Louis (part 2)

Pictures from Port Louis, Capital of Mauritius (second part): the Jardins de la Compagnie, the Champ de Mars and Fort Adélaïde.

Port Louis Gardens, Mauritius
Port Louis Gardens, commonly known as the Jardins de la Compagnie at Port Louis, Mauritius.

Les Jardins de la Compagnie ("Gardens of the Company") were originally the vegetable garden of the French East India Company in Port Louis. Today it is a passageway in the center of the city and a strolling or meeting place in the shade of giant banyan trees. It is located next to the Museum of Natural History. The garden is home to a monument in memory of the slaves of the earlier settlers as well as statues of some artists and personalities such as Ti-Frère and Prosper d'Epinay and Ti-Frère. Its historical value set aside, the place has become less attractive with the alterations of modern life.

Port Louis horse racetrack, Mauritius
Port Louis horse racetrack, commonly known as the Champ de Mars, Mauritius.    A view from Fort Adelaide.

The horse racetrack of Port Louis lies at the foot of the mountains that enclose most of the city. Founded in 1812, it is one of the oldest racecourses in the world. The Champ de Mars is the second oldest racetrack in the southern hemisphere. Many Mauritians are horse racing fanatics so that the Champ de Mars is witness to the passionate moods from May to November.

Champ de Mars was originally a military exercises ground. Colonel Edward Draper converted it into a horse racetrack and founded the Mauritius Turf Club in1812.

Port Louis Citadel, Mauritius
Port Louis Citadel, also known as Fort Adelaide, in Mauritius.

In 1814, the Treaty of Paris fixed the borders of France after Napoleon's defeat and formally attached Mauritius to the British Empire. In the following years, the military equipment of the Mauritius coasts was neglected. Later on, fearing again a possible foreign invasion, they decided to build a fortress on a hill (known as "Petite Montagne") overlooking Port Louis. The construction began in 1834 on the ruins of earlier fortifications of the French.

More than probably, the British wanted also to keep a tight rein on the French settlers who were strongly against the abolition of slavery. At that time the British garrison on the island was limited to 1200 people, while there were about 8000 settlers, nearly all French.

The construction of the citadel lasted six years. In order to achieve it, the British had to engage Indian craftsmen and laborers. So began the practice known as the coolie trade that allowed a bit later the settlers to hire also Indian coolies who replaced the freed slaves in the fields.

The construction of the fort was completed in 1840. The Citadel was named Fort Adelaide after the wife of King William IV of England.

In the meantime, however, the citadel lost much of its usefulness: the settlers succeeded in getting an amount of 2 million pounds from the British in compensation for the abolition of slavery. At the same time, continental Europe started to cultivate of sugar beet. So, the threats of a local revolt and /or a foreign invasion weakened significantly. Therefore, Fort Adelaide was never fully utilized.

Today, the Fort is open to visitors. The site offers magnificent panoramic views over the city of Port Louis.


 

Links

Mauritius Turf Club
official site of the mauritius turf club with all useful information, including the history of the champ de mars racecourse.

See also

Mauritius > Pictures and travelogues > Port Louis (part 3)

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Travel guide to Mauritius with many nice pictures.