If you wish to change money in Tana (which you will need to do!) The best place to do so is at the airport. If, for some reason this is not on option you can try the bank. You may find they 'don't have enough staff' to exchange currency in which case your 3rd option could be to use the 'black market' exchange system. This nerve racking procedure involves finding one of the cars with a covered over windscreen, getting in the back, and doing the deal. I am not recommending this..... but it is possible.
Second-hand book stalls
Wherever in urban areas, I love to browse markets of second-hand things... books, antiques, jewelry, vintage clothing. For clothing though, I like to see design yet am most reluctant to wear something that had been worn by someone else.
When I was told about the second-hand book stalls in Andohan' Analakely (Upper Analakely), I used to think "Must be old soppy Nous Deux & Intimité stalls". Nous Deux & Intimité are best-selling French romantic picture stories, well-known over here in the 70s-80s... Never gave the stalls a try.
Then, yesterday, I went there to look for cheaper Fortune, Elle magazines as I was told, and am confirming, that esp. English speaking magazines should be even cheaper than those French magazines as less read over here. Saw many French Elle (didn't buy), Times, Newsweek, even brand new Men's Health & Women's Health editions... and many interesting books. Mostly French books, classics (Colette, Dumas...), hardcover, novels, photobooks (even the beautiful "Madagascar orchids", plastic sealed, sold at Ar. 150 000 - about 70 USD), scholar books (now is academic year start & parents, University students are heavily shopping).
My great surprise (and throve!) : Muhammad Yunus autobiography at less than 1.5 USD.
Spent so much time browsing the stalls. Saw old books with appealing titles, like this "Odeurs de forêt et fumets de table". Literally, "Forest smells and table aroma". Grabbed the book & browsed some pages. Fooding experiences, forest, plants, veggies, venison, eel... Interesting depiction of the old French way of eating. Buccolic, sensuous, witty, the good life.... Dang! This is my thing! I'll have to return very very soon to fetch it. Bargain is rule here, yet already dead cheap.
Now, browsing the net... Found out on a webpage dedicated to old & rare books about its real price, 60 Euro ! And here, they announced a first price of 12 000 Ar (5 Eur).
Now, check my pics... something for everyone.;-)
- Budget Travel
La piscine d'Ivato - with Tana in background
This sight shouldn't be that uncommon from someone living in the countryside. Fishermen and their pirogues.... This means of transportation is still prevalent in the area where I live (countryside) esp. when there are floods.
Now, look at the picture. You see the hills that surround the urban, crowded, crazy basin that is Tana at the background. The most crowded one at the left is Antananarivo hill, then Ambohijanahary nearly in the middle.
I took this picture from one of my favourite lunch spots near the Ivato airport: la Piscine d'Ivato. A place not that far from the city center but still clean, quiet & where to spot wild ducks & where to fish (although it is not allowed to. Private property, it seems). Once, tired of my usual walking itinerary, I packed my luncheon and walked to the water over there. 1.5 hour walking and I'm hitting one of the spots. Far enough to allow me to walk the due distance, have my lunch there (a picnic! yayyy!), read a good book under the shade of trees around the pond, then return home (the second leg of the walk).
Have become my favourite lunch spotS, so quiet, so relaxing. I returned there so many times, just to enjoy the serenity of the pond. One day, near the airport, under a pinetree. The other day, enjoying it under a mangotree, still off the lake, further North. Another day, facing the airport, under another mango tree, my feet in the water...
I just can't help but wondering whether I'll be able to indulge in such ambience, sight, silence for a long time. Rather, the question would be "For how long would it be this quiet, relaxing, serene area to unwind?". Tana is such a sprawling city and la piscine seems to be the place where I'm most relaxed. It's even a refuge where I can meditate in peace. I know that each time I go there & sit off this pond, I am that quiet I can focus on so many things I have to think of.
- Hiking and Walking
Almost like the real one...
This house is inspired by the trano gasy, our traditional Merina house which in return is reported to have been inspired by some colonial style brought by the British.
This building is part of a set built by a real estate company who took up building Merina-style inspired homes. Although the exterior shows the influence of traditional Merina architecture, interiors are said to be completely modern, nothing to compare...
There were half a dozen of those houses that were being built near the newly-fit Marais Masay. There seems to be an interest in the traditional red-brick Merina architecture. At least, such projects can compete with the ugly square buildings that have tended to spread up through the city for the latest decades. Big money, no style.. just some white square bulding, like a safety match box.
Isn't it cute with this festooned lavarangana ?
- Arts and Culture
Take time to visit countryside II
In dry seasons (May- September), you will see several smoking ovens for clay- brick baking.
By clicking on this picture, you would see, by far, one of those smoking clay-brick ovens... Smoke odour is particular due to the use of turf as fuel. It takes weeks to bake bricks. This is amongst sceneries I am used to (rather than urban streets sceneries) and I just miss them!
The 1st picture is a view from my bedroom in the house used to live in when I looked Westward (towards urban Tana).
The old house is one of my grand-grand father's houses. I've never seen it inhabited, except by a white threatening hawl... Typical red-brick house in Tana countryside, with 1 or 2 storeys, sometimes 3 storeys like in this one.
2nd picture: a closer look on the brick moulding, drying & baking site
Malaza, the Northern village where I live, has the necessary ingredients to make bricks: space, clay, turf, sand, hay stacks to help setting the fire. It is very common to see people buying bricks in our area for the building of their houses. Each winter in Malaza has its share of lost car drivers flocking in the area, looking for where bricks are made. Later, they'll send pick-ups, trucks to fetch the brics & tiles.
- Arts and Culture
- Road Trip
Any recommendation to not build above the line ?
It was one morning on my way to Antsirabe. I noticed that, amongst the many hillsides this city comprehends, this one was the one which still has a majority of those ochre/beige/carmin narrow houses on. Elsewhere, there are great mixes of European style houses and traditional Merina houses. Why is that ? I don't know. My answer would be the same if you asked me why there was this kind of separation line below which buildings abunded whilst above, it's all green and sparse. I find it very unusual.
Well, my guess is that it was on this hillside that Ranavalona I, a fierce Queen of Madagascar, would throw the bodies of her presumed enemies (some of relatives of her husbands included) and that from there, one doesn't really want to build houses up there for some having found some human bones on their terrains. This is a guess. We learnt at school, and it's in all history book, that this ws customary under Ranavalona I reign. Now, was it this very one or another hill, I have to investigate.
I know the front cliff that ends in Mahamasina and looks on Lac Anosy (see next picture) was known to be the place from where she threw the first Christians. That is known but I heard about another cliff that served the same purpose too. This last fact is less known though.
This neat line is for sure intriguing, isn't it ?
This is the hillside East of the Royal compound, if I recall it well.
- Historical Travel
- Castles and Palaces
- Arts and Culture
Jacaranda trees in summer
Especially in december, Jacaranda trees blossom. Be there for green trees with blue-violet flowers.. They are mainly seen around Anosy Lake, around former Rovan' Antananarivo (or Manjakamiadana).
You'll see them in other parts of the city as well (think of the garden in Andohan' Analakely) but Anosy is the usual spot since the trees with their voilet flowers use(d) to spruce up the area.
Since I couldn't see them blooming this time but I know the trees are still there, I scanned one of the postcards I bought there.
- Road Trip
Take time to visit countryside I
Take time to visit Tana countryside as it offers a view of people life, tradition as well. In fact, countryside people are still living like in old times. Depending on seasons, you will see rice harvest or peasants working in ricefields with oxen or their wives sticking rice plants in fields'soil...
In other areas, you may see other picturesque activities, like natural silk weaving (typically in Ambohidrabiby, Talatavolon'ondry area), designing jewels (silver, copper, gold)... In dry season (May- September), you will see several smoking ovens for clay- brick baking.
Sometimes, surprise happens. While wandering near a group of peasants who were having their noon lunch, they wholeheartedly invited me to join them. I was surprised because though living in a rural area, I would not have invited passengers nearby... :-) It's a Malagasy habit to be hospitable and a little shame on me to have lost that. So enjoy talking with them (thanks to a guide as peasants only speak Malagasy), sharing things sometimes, sharing knowledge as well...
- Family Travel
- Road Trip
The Zoo again!
Well, I could not decide, whether the Zoo is off the beaten path or a mus see. Why visit a zoo, when you can see the animals in their natural environment? That is, why many people don't visit the Zoo in Tana. But many of the animals shown you'll never see outside of the Zoo, because they are soo seldom and so special. In the Zoo you can see the animals from very close. The Zoo in Tana lies in a nice valley and has a lot of beautiful trees and plants.
Take a day trip to AMBOHIMANGA...
Take a day trip to AMBOHIMANGA or 'Blue Hill', just north of Tana, which was the original capital city of the Merina clan. There you will find a picturesque little village, plenty of beautiful scenery and the former palace compound. The latter belonged to King Andrianampoinimerina, who reigned from 1787 until 1810 and promoted the unification of Madagascar. (His full name, by the way, was Andrianampoinimerinandriantsimitoviaminandriampanjaka !)