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Le Chateau de Labourdonnais

 
 
 

Mauritius is famous for its beaches or as beach resorts, but those are not the only destinations the island has to offer. One of the best examples is the Le Chateau de Labourdonnais, which is a colonial architecture built in 1856 and completed in 1859. It is neither a beach nor a park, but a house built with teak and it features Italian neoclassical style. The chateau is filled and decorated with Victorian furnishings; everything is fitted inside in a nice steady flowing arrangement to deliver best representation of what it was like living in a fancy dwelling more than a century ago in an isolated island away from anywhere else.

Le Chateau de Labourdonnais has been home of the Wiehe family for more than 150 years. Numerous descendants of Christian Wiehe, the original owner of the property, mostly still live in the island as well. The residence is now open to public following the three-years of renovation effort that started in 2006. Many parts of the house have been extensively refurbished, and now the entire construction is back to its original architectural glory. Typical tour inside the house takes about 45 minutes, after which you can continue to explore the surroundings to see and absorb the beauty of lush gardens, taste home-brewed rum, and have some bites at next-door local restaurant.

During the 45 minutes of the tour, the house will help you comprehend and get a glimpse of the lifestyle of a family who lived there for more than a hundred years. Once you past the entrance gate, you will be greeted by the magnificent garden that puts your landscaping skill to shame. Gaze around and you will notice that beyond the green grass and old trees in the garden there is a fountain guarded by two lion statues that welcome you right in. Pass the two wide doors and be prepared to get your jaw dropped over and over again.

You cannot take photographs inside the chateau; get rid of the idea that you can take some selfies while you are standing next to the beautiful winding staircase and then brag about it on Facebook. Throughout the visit, you can see (and probably touch) the wallpaper, furniture, and even the dinnerware that the family used. The master bedroom is also in Victorian style (obviously), but the surprising thing is that this house was built more than 150 years ago and located nearly 5000 miles away from Europe across deserts and seas. All the original furniture pieces were ordered by Christian Wiehe.

Part of the restoration was adding some pieces of modern technology for the visitors. There is now a screening room so you can see how the country house has been restored; you can also view photos on the screen while listening to mini documentaries through headphones.

At the end of the tour inside the house, you will be invited to the estate’s tasting bar. Here you can try sample of products that come out of the properties distillery and orchards. Everything is locally produced and made including rums, jams, fruit juices, fruit jellies, and more. Experiences in the tasting bar do not come free, but fortunately the fee is included in the entrance price. The distillery is located behind the next-door restaurant. An experience guide will tell you the entire processes and techniques involved in the distillation.

La Table du Château, as the restaurant is called, can accommodate up to 75 people. It is open 7 days a week and offers a variety of menu inspired by the local produces as well. The menu changes on daily basis, so if you have the chance to visit more than once, you will see different dishes, too. All around the chateau, there are fruits and herbs with distinct flavors that allow for wide range of creative recipes you can taste only in the island. Apart from the chateau, restaurant, and distillery, you can also visit the gift shop to find and purchase items made in the estate. Some of the best-selling products are decorative items, spices, fruit pastes, and even the rums.

Rental Service

The garden and the restaurant are available for rent. You can use the premises for various occasions such as birthdays, weddings, corporate dinners, etc.

Group Activities

Many activities in the chateau are designed for groups rather than individual tours. Popular activities include:

  • Blind Tasting Session: the chateau provides you with a range of local flavors. Test your palate and sense of smell to guess what flavor you have in a blind tasting session. Everyone is a winner for sure, even if you fail to recognize any of the flavors provided.
  • “Rhum Arrange” Crafting: in case you feel like your bartending skill is at its best, you are allowed to create your own rum using fruits and spices available.
  • Treasure Hunt: it is a game where an entire group can work together to put together various clues and figure out where the treasures are. Of course, there are no real treasures of gold and silver in a wooden box, but the activity is fun and educative nevertheless.
  • Sorbet Tasting: another game where everybody is a winner. All sweet tropical sorbets are made from produces in the property.

Conclusion

While Mauritius is a country known for its beach resorts, Le Chateau de Labourdonnais is stone-cold evidence that the island is more than what it appears to be. A visit to the country house allows you immerse yourself into the art and comfort of living in a fancy 19th century Mauritius. It is like a magical place in a magical island; once you walk pass through the doors, you are entering a different realm and view of the world. Le Chateau de Labourdonnais is both cultural attraction and national heritage, and we’re not talking just about the architecture but also the unique cuisine, nature, landscape, giant tortoises, and certainly the rum.

 
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