It was cheaper to get two different tickets, Athens to Nairobi and then Nairobi to Antananarivo, instead of booking a round trip flight from Athens to Antananarivo through Paris and endure a 12hr leg. And as a bonus, I would be able to stop over Nairobi on the way back, for a couple of days to take care of some business. Only 15 days before our flight, a fire burned down the main terminal in Jomo Kenyatta International and as a resuly the immigration, baggage collection and boarding areas were set in a number of tents on the tarmac, the type you see in wedding parties.
Just before noon on August 24th, we landed in Tana (short for Antananarivo), got a bag full of money in return for the €500 I changed and drove straight to hotel Sakamanga. One of the best small hotels in town, it has a number of cozy rooms – warning: very different in size and decoration from each other – and beautiful restaurant, garden and pool area.
After consuming an number of tasty sandwiches and pizzas in the garden restaurant, we found a taxi that drove us for 10’000 ariary -apporx. €3 – to the Royal Palace complex, a UNSECO heritage site, situated on the very top of the highest hill of Tana. Home to the island kings since the 16th century, it was burned down in 1995 and is currently under restoration.
The walk back to the center took about forty minutes, through the narrow streets of the Haute Ville and the fainting daylight. The first impression about the people was of being friendly. They almost always smiled and waived back, very different from mainland Africa.
A special treat after a long trip, we reserved the night for a dinner to the restaurant of the hotel La Varangue, unquestionably the best in town. The room is decorated with great taste and a variety of many different collections – clocks, monoculars musical instruments etc – that occupy different parts of the dining room. The chef, Lalaina Ravelomanana creates a menu that surpasses many 3-star restaurants in the old continent. I had the terrine de foie gras, the fillet de zebu and the famous explosion au chocolat. At €40 per person, including the wine, was definitely a bargain.
Tomorrow we have to fly to Tulear to start our journy through the soth part of the island. Next: Tulear to Isalo