One of the cheapest places in Antsirabe, to get there tell the Pousse Pousse driver its near Chez Billy and the Cathedral
Central location and cheap.
If anyone had shown me a picture of Hotel des Thermes in advance and told me that it was in Madagascar, I simply wouldn't have believed them.
Hotel des Thermes is in the mould of European hotels constructed in the early 20th century that I imagine on the French Riviera or overlooking a Swiss lake. Everything about the hotel - from its location to the proportions of the building to the landscaping of the surrounding grounds - is meant to impress, and from the exterior, the place has an air of quiet, smug elegance. On reflection, it strongly reminds me of the Victoria Falls hotel in Zimbabwe.
It seems to me that the whole point of Hotel des Thermes was that it be utterly divorced from its surroundings. The sort of people who went there would have been expats seeking respite from the heat, disease and ramshackle day-to-day reality of life in the rest of Madagascar, and the hotel was designed to allow them to recharge their batteries in a setting of pampered luxury and like-minded people.
However, these days, the once-beautiful old lady is sadly showing her age, and once you venture inside, it becomes apparent that the hotel has sadly seen much better days. When we visited (November 2008), the interior was shabby, and the lobby decor bore testament to the fact that this 'grande dame's' last face lift took place somewhere in the 1970s. In itself, this is not altogether a bad thing, as the lobby is fascinating and leaves you wondering whether you have unwittingly wandered onto a set from an early James Bond movie!
The dilapidation is most apparent in the bedrooms, where fixtures were functional, but tired and sometimes chipped or cracked. The dining room was also a pale shadow of its former self, and both the food and service were nondescript . Overall, there was a sense of neglect and slow, creeping decay, doubtless brought on by diminished tourist numbers and a resultant lack of cash flow. When we were there, we sensed that the owners were trying to renovate, but the resources required to overall such an enormous hotel must be mindboggling, and it is difficult to imagine the numbers of tourists ever justifying the expense.
Nonetheless, the Hotel des Thermes is a 'must see' if you're in Antsirabe, even if it's only for a drink on the elegant terrace. If so, then raise a toast to the elegance of a bygone era ... given the grandeur and sophistication of your surroundings, this is probably the only time that I'd recommend a G&T rather than a Three Horses!
The Norwegian School is an important institution in Antsirabe. Its mission is to train Lutheran missionaries in the local language. But they have a lot of buildings that do not get much use. If you can contact them well in advance and have a group doing work in the area, they may be hospitable. Our group was here to do volunteer work in the Lutheran hospital, and we stayed in a fine colonial era home for low cost. Sorry, but I was not involved in any of these arrangements, but if you are coming from Scandinavia, you might know who to contact there for information.
There were seven in our group, and we had this large stone house with four large bedrooms, two baths, two kitchens and two sitting rooms. It is located in a lovely neighborhood of large colonial homes, only a short walk from the center of the city. It appeared that the house is mostly vacant. I have added some other pictures of the neighborhood.
[Update May 2010: cannot guarantee the accuracy of my below comments anymore. Mangement has changed, strategy as well, seems things have worsened. Most important, Chef James has left the house. Fooding experience wouldn't be the same anymore. Have an idea: what about your recent Arotel experience to share with us ? Cheers!]
Hotel is correct, comfortable. I use to stay there when I come in Antsirabe. It's not luxurious, it's just simple yet you'll have your much desired warm bath. You can even have them being in charge of your laundry (though you'll have to pay for this). The minibar is there.
Breakfast: head to Croc'Inn, Arotel snack-bar. On Easter & Xmas, you'll be served a nice buffet breakfast. Try the fresh fruit salad & the crunchy viennoiserie and the fresh papaya juice. More on my restaurant tips about the famous breakfast.
Les Agapes, Arotel's restaurant, never failed to please me. Well, that is, at least, during the era of Chef James, the current *Lyon product* chef. His smoked duck fillet with papaya slices is to die for. The apricot foie gras: heaven ! More about the magic at Les Agapes, check my restaurant tips.
Single room: 66,00 Euros
Double room: 72,00 Euros
I put "about average" as for pricing compared to what other hotels in Antsirabe, with same amenities, would charge you.
NB: Artworks from various artists are displayed at the lobby & mezzanine of Arotel. This is where I found the painting I got enticed to. And well, you'll find there the photography works of Pierrot Men (a genius photographer from Fianarantsoa region). Many paintings as well... Check the shopping section to read more whenever tips there are up.
In center of city, nice setting and designed for business clientèle as well.
TV, swimming pool, tennis court, business center. On the main picture, the main entry is at the basement of this green-roofed building. At the right, the dining-room (basement) & rooms at 1st storey. At the left, another Arotel building that shelters the business center with meeting room.;etc...
View: ask for the rooms that look onto the post-office and the large street.
In terms of style, I love their take on white walls and wood. I also like the Zafimaniry chairs at the mezzanine. The motives carved on the wood chunks are typically Zafimaniry (a sub-tribe that is known for its carving, carpentry skills). The rug has some aloalo motives (Aloalo are some sorts of carvings from the Southern Mahafaly region) Picture #2
As I love flowers of many kinds, whenever I enter some interior or even public places like hotels, restaurants, I cannot help but looking at the flower bunches. Arotel uses to pay attention to details. They use to have nicely structured flower bunches. It may be not important for a traveller but well, for me, it is an aspect I use to notice (not that ugly flower bunches would deter me from staying there either). Their flower bunches at Xmas were lovely too.
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