Vailima, Samoa: Robert Louis Stevenson's Final Home and Resting Place
Robert Louis Stevenson was an author born in Scotland in 1850. Stevenson is famous for writing such adventure stories as, "Treasure Island," "The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" and "Kidnapped" he also wrote, "A Child's Garden of Verses" for children. For most of his forty-four years, he was frail and sickly and searched for the best climate for his health. Unfortunately, that climate was not to be found in his native damp and wet Scotland. He lived for a time in different parts of America, including New York state and California. During a trip to Hawaii, he heard wonderful stories about the area of the Samoan Islands in the South Pacific. A visit there with his family proved the stories to be true. And he found a wonderful camaraderie with the native Samoan people who likewise adored him. The natives nicknamed Stevenson "Tusitala" which means "teller of tales" in the Samoan language. He settled in an area three miles south of the city of Apia. He built a mansion on this property, and named it, "Vailima" which means, " five waters." This name was chosen due to the five streams which crossed Stevenson's property. Stevenson spent the last years of his life at Vailima and enjoyed his best health as an adult there, and was quite productive as a writer while living there with his wife, step daughter, and mother. He died on the porch of Vailima after suffering what is now believed to be a brain hemorrhage at the young age of 44.
Recently I was fortunate enough to visit this beautiful home and the gardens surrounding it. Tourists are asked to remove their shoes before entering so as not to damage the beautiful wooden floors and grass mats.The mansion consists of five bedrooms, a large combination great room and dining room, a kitchen and an infirmary, which seems quite an odd room to be added to a mansion. Tour guides in native Samoan dress are quite well informed about this home. They entertain guests with tales of Stevenson and his family. One of the tales I found most interesting was that Stevenson and his wife Fanny did not sleep in the same bedroom. Instead, he had a bedroom that included his writing desk so he could get up and write at all hours of the day or night. His bed was placed against a wall, that had an open window into another bedroom, where his wife Fanny slept, with her bed against the same wall, under said window. That way they could talk to each other easily if they both happened to be in bed at the same time, but he wouldn't wake her when he arose to write when the urge hit him. The native Samoan tour guides were all quite respectful of Stevenson and his home. The home is filled with many of his portraits, as well as pictures of him posing with native Samoans on his front porch.
At the end of the tour, visitors are free to visit the small gift shop in the front of the home or go around to the side of the home where they are given refreshments of coconut chunks and whole coconuts with straws inserted in them with which to drink the coconut milk inside. While enjoying these refreshments, visitors to Vailima are treated to dances performed by a troupe of native Samoan dancers. The show lasts approximately thirty minutes and is quite enlightening to those interested in Samoan customs.
The ability to see Robert Louis Stevenson's home and view photos of him living there, as well as tasting tropical treats, and hear and see Samoan music and dancers bring the experience of a tour of his home to life. If tourists happen to be in the city of Apia, Samoa, a trip to Vailima is definitely worth the price of six U.S. dollars for adults and five U.S. dollars for children. And if one is quite energetic and not too hot during their visit, a brisk thirty-minute walk will reveal Stevenson's tomb at the top of a hill overlooking Vailima.
Robert Louis Stevenson
Do you like the writings of Robert Louis Stevenson?
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© 2013 Karen Hellier