A journey back in time in the Highlands of Saint-Denis
Just a few kilometres away from the centre of Saint-Denis, the Domaine de Beaubassin is a gem of Creole architecture. Monique, the owner, welcomed us to her house and gardens, for a friendly and passionate tour. We can learn so much about the history of the island through the Mazérieux and Ozoux families.
As soon as we arrive at the estate, in the highlands of Saint-François, we find ourselves in front of the Creole villa and two beautiful towers.
The journey back in time can begin. Monique was waiting for us in front of the big veranda, and started by telling us about the history of the place, which goes right back to the 19th century. Back then, the estate was known as the Jardin du Mont Saint-François, and it was used as a colonial garden by famous botanist Nicolas Bréon, who became famous when he created the Jardin de l’Etat botanical garden in Saint-Denis. That’s why we can still find some very rare flowers here today, in this magnificent garden that surrounds the house, such as the Bourbon rose.
The house was built in the 1860s by Alfred Mazérieux. His son, the former mayor of Saint-Denis, also named Alfred, lived here with his wide Euphrasie. In 1948, Maurice Ozoux, Euphrasie’s cousin, then bought the family property. “I discovered this house with my husband Cyril, who is Maurice Ozoux’s grandson, said Monique. I learnt all about the history of my husband’s family and when we came to live here in 2016, I wanted to start offering guided tours. I would like to insist that I am not taking you a tour of a museum, this is our home”.
We began the tour in the living room, which is the first of the eight rooms of the house. I stopped in front of a glass cabinet with a hat, books, toys: treasures from bygone days, carefully preserved by the family. “Everything you can see here belonged to the family, and everything has a history”, revealed the estate owner. We discovered some family portraits, and got to know the former occupants of the estate, thanks to some anecdotes from Monique.
Then we were led into the kitchen, which is separated from the house, as per tradition for several centuries in Reunion Island. “We wanted to keep the “house of the highlands” aspect, because historically, due to the remote location of the house, we needed this “farm” section, with ducks and chickens”, said Monique. Behind the garden there’s three hectares of forest land, where she loves to go walking. “I never sit still, I’ve still got so many ideas for the estate and to keep this community spirit alive, which has always been a priority for the different owners of the place”. In that spirit, one of the outbuildings is especially for the elderly, another is for families with children, and Monique has even thought of kennels for cats near the chicken coop.
The tour ends at the “Chamaille”, a pretty bamboo straw and mud hut that was renovated in 2000, which still hides some treasures. “The children chose this name, because they always bicker (“chamailler” in French)”, said Monique, who came to join us with some homemade lemonade. These stories bring back all of our childhood memories, and we carry on the discussion on the traditional terrace and around the pool. A great moment in an exceptional setting.