This pocket capital, one of the least populated on the planet, has just under 30,000 inhabitants, a third of the population of Seychelles! In a country that has no more souls than an average French town, you have to know how to abandon your references, find new landmarks, remember that two and a half centuries ago the island of Mahé was still uninhabited.
In 1744, the French navigator Lazare Picault returned to the island of Abondance, the future Mahé, and anchored his boat Elisabeth in a wide, calm and safe bay which he named Port-Royal. The place retained this name until 1778, when it was renamed Etablissement du Roy, before taking its definitive name of Port Victoria in 1838, in homage to the Queen of England. At that time, the town had little more than a hundred wooden houses covered with shingles...
Nestled in an exceptional site, an amphitheatre of greenery made up of steep, lush hills (Mont Signal, Crève Coeur, Niol and the Three Brothers) that open onto the ocean, the only town in the archipelago is a small, quiet and rather clean city, far from the unhealthy conditions of the past. A certain Ommanney describes it as "a sordid, graceless place, bathed in a strong smell of rancid coconut oil, salty fish and disgusting sewage. "Father Louis Dayet's description in the early twentieth century is also striking: "In the city, when it rained, the streets became torrents and quagmires where everyone waded and murmured against the city administration. Victoria had no sidewalks. In 1910, Albert Street and the area around the government offices were surrounded by parks teeming with giant turtles that turned into foul-smelling cesspools when it rained. "
An operetta market. Nowadays, it is pleasant to stroll through the streets of this quiet capital city to which beautiful Victorian-style lampposts, installed on Independence Avenue, give a touch of elegance. The major attraction of this city remains the bazaar, which gives it the air of a Hindu temple. A covered market that is best discovered in the good-natured Saturday morning entertainment. Immediately on the left, the school of fish, just drawn from the ocean. While the big tuna and groupers are sliced into slices, the red mullets and parrots, tied in necklaces, are waiting for takers, alongside bourgeois, old, croissants and other trevallies. In the centre, under the voluminous mango tree, on wooden tables covered with waxed cloth, red and green chillies, sword mangoes, huge papayas and tiny bananas are the subject of tasty dialogues in Creole, a language as colourful as all these fruits and vegetables... A little further on, there are a few spice merchants whose stalls are overflowing with vanilla beans, cinnamon sticks, tea tins, but also postcards, coconut-shaped key rings and lots of imported spices that have nothing Seychellois about them. On the other hand, makeshift vials containing vanilla extract or recycled jars of chilli purée and other local macerations, such as the famous masaravoo (fire to the taste buds guaranteed), can be brought back in the suitcases, after checking the closing system, which is very handmade! At the back, installed in an air-conditioned hall, the butchers offer their garlands of sausages and rosaries of black pudding, and cut beef or pork, expensive and reserved for Sunday meals.
Of course, the show is also all around the square, in this pedestrian Market Street whose adorable Creole houses of yesterday, with awnings and openwork balconies, have, alas, become rare in recent years. There are still a few of them that it would be prudent to classify before the irreparable... Mostly run by Indians or Chinese, these disappearing shops are worthy of a Prévert-style inventory: briefs and fans, nuts and soaps... As modernity gains ground, old-fashioned shops are gradually being replaced by glass and concrete complexes.
As a sign of progress in progress, traffic lights appeared in 1994 at the intersection of Albert Street and Revolution Avenue and in the middle of Albert Street. Twenty years later, they are still the only ones in the archipelago! No less than nine at the same crossroads... It must be said that at rush hour, around 8am, noon and 4pm, there's a complete traffic jam on Francis Rachel Street and 5th June Avenue. The Tata (tireless Indian buses) and Leyland then mix with the Kia Picanto of tourists and the Asian cars of the natives, more and more numerous. And here also, in the heart of the city, parking is paid for, tickets, to be validated by the driver, being on sale at some shops. Be aware that the officers who issue tickets are uncompromising and that a car rental company will not hesitate to use your credit card number to pay the fine (with a surcharge) if you have not done so before leaving the country. However, the city does have free parking, especially near the Marine Charter, on 5th June Avenue. Free parking is also available at the Alliance Française.
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