Updated May 2015
On the road to the north, you can stop at Mapou to visit The château de Labourdonnais.
The château de Labourdonnais is a stunning colonial house that has been restored to show the lifestyle of the families who lived there in the nineteenth century.
Once past the gate from the parking lot, start by reaching the house from the sumptuous avenue in front of the house.
The garden is magnificent and huge! I could just picture children running and playing around on the grass. So if you have little ones with you, let them have a go at it!
While you wander around the garden, you will be able to admire a lot of different trees, some of them very old.
At the front of the house, there is a round fountain and two lions statues guard the stairs. Two wide doors will let you inside.
Photographs not being allowed inside, we don’t have any of those, apart from the ones kindly given to us by the Château.
Throughout the visit, you will see the furniture, wallpaper, dinnerware and various objects used by the house’s inhabitants.
Here is a photo of the surrounding verandah with a beautiful winding staircase.
The master bedroom decorated in a Victorian style, which is surprising on an island situated more than 12,000 km from Europe. All the furniture was ordered by Mr Christian Wiehe, but you can sense the feminine touch of his discrete wife, Emile Bourgault du Coudray.
A little touch of technology has been added to the visit and makes it somewhat more lively. You will hear children’s conversation in the living room. Upstairs a screening room will let you see how the Château has been restored and you can also view photos on screens while you listen to mini-documentaries using headphones (not all of them were in working condition at the time of our visit though).
After the house visit, you can wander a little bit in the orchard and nursery on the right of the house where you can find a great variety of trees and plants, each labelled. You can also see giant tortoises.
There is also a restaurant adjacent to the Château and orchard. We haven’t eaten there at the time of our visit, but I’ve had feedback from one of my readers that it was quite nice.
Next to the restaurant, you can find a tasting bar. Keep your entry tickets to the Château as they entitle you to a tasting of one of the different types of rum produced by the domain’s distillery. (Update: you may also apparently taste the fruit jellies and juices now too.)
I would encourage you to go for the tasting as the rum is of very high quality, almost liquorish and very delicate on the palate. Unfortunately they are not for sale at the bar, or we would definitely have bought a bottle or two!
Behind the restaurant is the distillery. We had a nice guide who explained the process and techniques of distillation to us. You can also have a stop at their boutique.
You can also rent the premises – garden and restaurant – the time of an evening for a private function (birthdays, corporate dinners, weddings or other function). Although I’ve never been to such a function, the decor looks enchanting.
During our visit, my son (then three and a half years old) was with us. I wouldn’t actually advice on bringing young children along for the visit. They don’t have as much interest in the history of the place and they easily get impatient. There is quite a bit to read if you want to immerse yourself in the history and it’s not easily done if you are constantly distracted by a demanding toddler.
A strategy if you have young children might be to come in a group and split, taking turns to watch the children play in the garden and visit the Château.
Practical information (updated May 2015):
Address: Labourdonnais, Mapou
Tel: 266 9533
Fax: 266 6415
Opening hours: Everyday from 9am to 5pm
Adults: Rs 375
Senior citizen: Rs 300
Children: from 4 to 12: Rs 200 and under 4: free
Special prices for groups, schools, residents, etc.
Private functions: Contact the Leisure and Events department on the above phone number or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org