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A constantly curious and melancholic wanderer...

Friday, July 15, 2016

Port Louis

I am finding more and more that the things that bring me real joy has nothing to do with money... And I admit that often I am more fortunate than others in many ways, but I think that if I wasn't able to find joy in the small things, then the big things would not have impressed me.

Port Louis is  not for the faint-hearted, or for those who prefer luxury and comfort. And I am in love with this crazy and energetic city that is the heart of Mauritius.  Find some more information about it here.

So with my sister visiting, and her being stuck at home with me and a tiny baby on her previous visit, we decided to tackle this crazy city.

Things you need when you are going to Port Louis:
  • Comfortable shoes 
  • A ton of energy 
  • Your camera to capture the craziness 
  • Negotiating skills (or a very good escape plan) for the market
  • Time to explore 
  • An adventurous appetite 
  • Probably some sun-tan lotion on a normal summer day (as Port Louis always feel  a few degrees hotter than the rest of the island).

We took the local red-devil Triolet bus (the signs on the road doesn't say "Drive like hell and you will end up there" for nothing) to make the experience more authentic, although to be perfectly honest, the express bus is not as adventurous as the normal bus would have been (but does save about an hour on travelling time).  

We got of at the bus station and found our way out of there with some help (it is a very big bus station) and instantly discovered a market I didn't even know of before (and I've been to Port Louis quite a few times).  

I loved this market, being much more chilled than the regular (bigger) market and the people much less forceful in trying to sell their goods to you.  

First, I bought a few quail eggs from this old lady.  I had no idea what to do with them, but there she was sitting and selling only her handful off eggs for 5 rupees each. So having a weak spot for elderly people I bought a few. Thank goodness she put them in a plastic bag because they got crushed in my bag.  I do plan to buy them again in the future and then I will find a recipe to share as I have heard they are actually quite healthy and nutritious. 

Next up I bought some Chinese potatoes (allegedly - I cannot find any pictures of these specific ones on the internet, so maybe I misunderstood what I was buying) which you can apparently peal and eat raw.  I did not like the taste - a bit like raw potato.  But I am sure one of my local friends will be able to tell me what to do with it.  I did buy three for 8 rupees, so it is a bargain I guess.  

My sister being a bit of an apple-addict immediately spotted some delicious apples which served as our snacks and which were much cheaper than the ones I usually find in the supermarkets in Grand Baie.

Here are some more pics of this beautiful little market we discovered...

Market day can be tiring

Yummy veggies 

And in case you run out of underwear... 

The lastest fashion - Baymax Bags and with me and my husband's favourite line from the movie... 
(fist bump - ba lala lala)

So tiny market done and dusted, we moved on to the big market.  The one where you need the following skills: 
  • The ability to negotiate for a price, usually on a calculator. 
  • The ability to say no (sometimes it might be necessary to say this a hundred times, sometimes you just need to start walking away from the too-eager seller) 
  • Patience... Walk around a bit, compare prices at different shops and mostly smile and wave at all the people trying to convince you their shop is better.  

This time I didn't go to buy anything from the food or anything-you-can-think-of-to-buy section. We went to the food court where the smells are like everything in Port Louis - overwhelming, but inviting you to come in and have a taste... I always stop here to have a glass of this delicious drink called Alouda Pillay (which is like the Mauritian version of a milkshake I guess).  I never drink milkshake, so this is probably my diary intake for the next few months.  It consists of milk and Basil seeds and some flavouring, and often a scoop of ice-cream (you can read more about it here).  Again the competition is wild and there are many "Pillay Sellers" trying to convince you there mix is the best, but my personal favourite is just around the corner of the seller actually voted best in Mauritius (according t the certificate above their stand ) which taste like condensed milk and a sip of heaven.  

This guy took his job very seriously and he looked like a professional cocktail mixer, which just added to the excitement of the tasting to come.  


After this we made a quick stop at the veggie section, mostly for admiring the vegetable art works and the wonderful explosion of colours and scents...  

One of the things that I love most about Port Louis is the "old city" feeling you get while walking and driving through the streets.  There are all these beautiful buildings, which other people might see as dirty and run-down, but that I find just beautiful and vintage enough to make me wander back in time with every step I take.  And then combined with this rustic look, colourful splashes catch your eye everywhere,  with brightly painted walls and grafitti, and people selling their goods on all the street corners.

Beautiful in blue...
 (contrasted with beauty is unfortunately all the rubble) 

Colourful shoes hanging from a stand... 

These colourful notes were hanging on a tree branch inside a little Catholic church.  The writing was in French/Kreole, but what I could figure out with my limited  French is that it was notes of happiness/thankfulness.

Some interesting grafitti can be found in these streets... 

Love this shop's name and the colour blocking  (pun intented)... 

Some touches of yellow to brighten grey days...

One of my favourite photos of the day:  the old together with the new in the back and then the beautiful sky in the background... 

There are enough coloured walls in Port Louis to match any outfit of the day... 

My other favourite thing to do in Port Louis is people watching.  The variety (and quantity!) of people seen in the city can provide you with hours of entertainment and if you are like me, musings about the lives and  the joys and sorrows of those souls around us... 

This guy was playing some music and we sat on the stairs and listened to him for a bit.  

This gentleman was not happy about the change I put in the musician's hat and the fact that I then didn't have any change left for him... 

This little guy seems to have it all figured out at a very young age :) He also looks like he might be the lost Mauritian Beckham child.  

Chilling over lunchtime on the steps of the Postal Museum... 
(by the way the Postal Museum is apparently really worth a visit, but was unfortunately closed when we arrived.  We also discovered a Shell Museum  which looked very interesting, but was also already closed... So if you are into museums, check out the links before you visit. 

This photo doesn't do enough justice off the craziness of the streets of Port Louis, so just take my word... It is crazy!

Bus drivers taking a break at the main bus terminal.

Even though we did not sit down for lunch on this trip (had a big brunch at home and packed lots of snacks) there are plenty of spots to find tasty lunch.  Besides the street food, which come in little cabinets (think mini fridges) and includes all the classics like Roti, a very tasty pancake like snack filled with the filling of your choice (I love the veggie filling with butter beans and a tomato or pumpkin sauce), or Dal Puri which is very similar to Roti, but with the added taste of split peas in the flour.  Or you can find a filled sandwich at the vendors where they cook the meat in a kebab style (the smells are amazing) or the smaller snacks like gateau piment (little chilli cakes), samoosas etc.  There is just so much variety.  For a bigger meal, the Briyani cafe at the back of the big market (ask around and you will be pointed in the right direciton) is amazing and if you feel brave you can sit inside the cafe (at the smallest table with two or three chairs) for a real authentic experience.  Remember to then drink water out of a bottle with your lunch like all the Mauritians do. If this is not your scene, China Town is filled with lots of restaurants selling amazing Chinese food at real affordable prices.  

After hours of exploring the city, usually with no coffee (it is very hot in Port Louis and there are not a huge variety of coffee shops - well not in the traditional sense of the word), I usually like to feel "civilized" again and have a coffee at the definitely overpriced waterfront. The view is amazing and you can sip on your cup of coffee while thinking back on your adventures and looking at all your cheap finds of the day...  

Beautiful views at the Waterfront 

Love how this juice bar uses the fresh fruit as decoration...

One of my favourite things of the Waterfront... walking under these colourful umbrellas.

We ended off the day with coffee and macaroons at Arabia Gourmet Cafe and then headed back to the North. (Be sure to get an instant souvenir pic at Makadam Phylozophy, with his little stand at the beginning of the umbrella street.  And check out his work on Facebook here.)

That's all on our Port Louis adventures for now.  What a crazy, colourful place indeed... 

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