What to buy:
Towards the end of our trip in Madagascar (December 2010), the lychees were at the height of their season.
On the way back, our guide Mamy - I never did get used to calling a grown man Mamy! - insisted that we stopped off in one of the small towns between Andasibe and Tana so that he could buy a basket of lychees for his family. My expectation of a 'basket' was more along the lines of a 'Little Red Riding Hood' accessory (which already seemed on the generous side), and I was staggered to see him staggering under the weight of an enormous basket half as tall as he was!
We rode back to Tana amid a perfumed haze of perfectly ripe lychees - divine! And I am happy to report that they tasted every bit as good as they smelled: a memory to appeal to multiple senses!
I know only two decent patisseries here: my cousin's and Colbert's. My cousin's is not running yet (we're still looking for the location)... and Colbert... is Colbert.
NY celebration was celebration with family... and definitely the best dessert I've ever had here is still from Colbert. Not really a chocolate cake fan, I literally devoured (and savoured!) those small pieces of chocolate cake ! Some I suspected with nougatine (those crunchy bits!), others were "plain" ganache. The others cakes... well... theirs bavarois, their mousses. I like the way they take advantage of this abundance of fruits on this island. Only con: the chocolate cake seemed a tad too sweet to me... but not that bad, anyway.
That day, one of my cousins also brought some Colbert chocolate candies (pralines types). Woah! those variations on truffles (hihi! I use to adore nougatine, I must precise). One of the best chocolate, covered with flaked almonds, or with simple ganache... The other chocolate candies pieces I tried were just... beyond word. Their rochers.. their florentins (like a concrete made of crispy flaked almonds liaised with either honey either caramel.. you see what I mean?).
The only thought I had upon this awesome experience was "How come I've never tasted any Colbert chocolate ?". Found out over the net the answer. Seemed Colbert's chocolate lab just opened end 2006.
Of course, one could expect that with such a nice long diner, such an awesome dessert experience, such great red bottles, such lovely, inspiring, fun-loving partners in crime, the camera was forgotten.... aah! Next time, you'll have pics, promise! You could always look at the below website though. Just be aware that the e-commerce website is intended to deliver only in Madagascar (from what I could understand).
What to buy: - Colbert Chocolate, esp the truffles variations and their rochers !!!
- Cakes (esp. the ones with fruit coulis, mousses..etc...)
Btw, Colbert is a renowned hotel group with a 4* hotel (inc. restaurants in its premices), another great restaurant La Varangue located not far from the hotel. And now, this Cholcolate Lab. I talked about Colbert dessert but you could go blindfolded with their Foie Gras too, their wide range of breads (think there is the only place you could buy decent pain de seigle, pain pavot, pain sésame...). You don't need Colbert for pain à l'ancienne, I know another place for it...
Colbert is an insitution here: amongst the best tables on the island (the young La Varangue is now considered as amongst the best for French cuisine, with its dynamic team, its young chef collecting those awards all over the world... incl. Paris!).. Check the second website I gave to know about the Colbert roup.
What to pay: Am asking the price of a Colbert "Soleil d'hiver" (for 8 persons) we had as dessert in October...
Generally, Colbert has a premium pricing compared to local competitors but still moderate compared to European pricing...
Yes folks, this is the real thing!
From the website of its South-African distribution network
"... Chocolaterie Robert produces a number of NATURAL Cocoa and Chocolate products each sharing the heritage of the organically cultivated, naturally fermented, sun-dried Trinitario and Criollo cacao beans. The cacao is transformed without the use of additives or solvents. Naturally processed, additive free Robert chocolate is intended for the Chocophile or chocolate gourmet- or anyone who appreciates additive -free Natural chocolate. Robert Chocolate is intended for the adult palate..."
Chocolate from Madagascar, that is produced by the only Chocolaterie Robert. Not known by the mass market ... but revered by chocolate craftsmen, patissiers and chocolate connoisseurs. Madagascar is not a quantity producer, rather a quality producer.. for a very specific reason: our cocoa beans have been for a very long time harvested in the wilds.
For Africa lovers, this is reported to be the rarest chocolate (if not the only) that is produced in Africa, with a recipe that is over 50-year-old, antique machinery & is a natural vintage chocolate (single source, single region).
Now, wild cocoa and plantation cocoa co-exist. Although I must admit I would not distinguish chocolate from wild cocoa from chocolate from plantation cocoa, I really appreciate chocolate here. I like it to taste chocolate and not sugar. Anyway, it is still organic, both in the growing & processing. It is a single-source chocolate, for all the cocoa "farmers" that supply Robert with cocoa being located in the same Northern region of the island. Check the website below to know more about chocolate making and what makes Chocolat Robert a unique product. Also there are addies of health-stores & natural food outlets, expert retailers that sell Robert chocolat in South-Africa (whenever you're in SA, a chocolate lover and want to taste this chocolate from Madagascar)
What to buy: My favourite is the plain dark 70% one: a tad bitter and strong enough in flavour to be interesting. To think, in Belgium, I rather have pralines and less chocolate. In Madagascar, you can go blindfolded with this dark one. It contains vanilla flavour (not vanilline.. come on! you're in the land of vanilla here! why would you use a ersatz if you can have the genuine essence ?). Vanilla makes it taste smoother... delicate.
Plus, sold at local pricing, it is ridiculously cheap. Madagascar is a country where natural, organic 70% chocolate slab is cheaper than any imported 5% cocoa mass item of similar format from, say, the UK. Even cheaper in Mom & pop stores, supermarkets.
Package: with Ravinala motives, Ravinala being the Traveller tree, emblema of Air Madagascar and more and more of Malagasy brands (picture 2).
Now, if you want to try what I consider "comfort food per excellence", for any Westerner, like those on picture 1, hit the Behoririka premium store or the "factory outlet" in Soanierana. My favourite is the Vato (not shown on picture, crunchy rock-shaped piece with cashew nut crunches, orange peel, coconut bits). Used to love the mint-cream filled dark chocolate piece too. And this orange cream filled chocolate candy! Buy an assortment of many variations & you'll find your fave !
Anyway, too used to commercial, heavily sweetened, chemically-treated cocoa & vanillin chocolate? It is about time to discover a better "comfort food" that is better for the brain, the mood, the waistline...etc. lol You could even bring some home for the kids to discover the real thing !
Why each time I eat Robert chocolate I want to share this experience with you is something I don't understand... Well, I guess you may know why.
What to pay: In a Tana supermarket, around 1800 Ar for the 70% & a bit more for the less 47%. In a Mom & Pop store in "touristic" Ambohimanga, 2000 Ar for the 47% & more for the 34%. In a Mom & Pop store in a country village: 1800 Ar for the 47% & 2000 Ar for the 34%.
The assortment of chocolate pieces (praline type) was sold at av. 25000 Ar per kilo (as of Nov. 2006 @ La Chocolatière premium store in Behoririka). Should be cheaper at their "factory outlet" in Soanierana.
What to buy: Baobab shampoo ! Because it´s the best shampoo that I have ever tried. You can buy it for a couple of euroes, in the small homephatic shops, in the main cities, where you can also find many other funny and interesting things.
You will see, while shopping in markets, price displays that use amounts in Ariary (A) or in Francs malgaches (Fmg) or combinations of the two them.
- Ariary is now (since 2003) the (only) national currency. In supermarkets, prices are rightly given in Ariary both on shelvings display & on your bills. It's when shopping in markets (the Chinese pavillions in Analakely, for instance) that one has to really watch out the combinations of Ariary & Fmg displays.
In doubt, ask the equivalent amount in Ariary as on banknotes, Ariary amounts are the only that are clearly written whilst amounts in Fmg are in small police size, hardly visible. 1 Ariary = 5 Fmg.
- Some history
Iraimbilanja - Ariary system, where 1 Ariary = 5 Iraimbilanja, is the traditional one while the French implemented "Franc malgache" name. Franc malgache has same value as Iraimbilanja: 1Fmg = 1Ia. No mention of Iraimbilanja amount anymore on our banknotes. But since the last change is so recent, it's still difficult for the many urban folks to get used to Ariary again. Countryfolks- who make up for 80% of our population- are the ones which are really at ease as they had never left the Ariary system despite colonials implementing the Franc system.
Just remember how long it took some to get used to Euro at its implementing some years ago! I lived in Belgium back then...
What to buy: -Artcraft:
tiny can cars; board games with several semiprecious-stone-spheres; sculpted wood statues; paintings...
-Cotton tablecloth for everyday life, bed sheets with landscape, Malagasy flower embroideries.. As for cotton fabrics, my preference goes to drawn-thread embroidery (elegant white embroidery on white cotton/ linen fabrics), especially for special events (higher pricing).
-Natural silk fabrics
See my Tana shopping tips for details...
It is rather about a range of products than about shops.
Zafimaniry peoples are traditional woodcraftsmen. Zafimaniry villages are located in what used to be the Fianarantsoa province. S-E forest, far from industrialized world. Though buyers, tourists use to flock in to buy, order items. Wood sculpting (jewel boxes, bonbonera, huge wood box, minimalist- style chairs...) is their specialty. They perform well with abstract motives as well as landscape, flowers. As for types of wood, it may be palissandre, rosewood..
While visiting their villages, you will notice nicely sculpted shutters, they cannot be exported.. Just admire the beauty...
This is, however, a proceeds that leads to exterminate forest and its rare and precious diversity (along with other worse proceeds, such as burning trees and soil) as trade of those wooden jewels expands. Many NGO, the government and Malagasy people are more and more aware of the uniqueness of their flora and fauna. Thus, programs to counter deforestation apply. You will see, alongside roads, eucalyptus and pinewood trees that line up in quite regular rows. Those are results of those "green projects". And you know what ? Zafimaniry is now classified "world's intangible cultural heritage" by the UNESCO. Check the website to know more.
If you cannot have a Tana-Fianarantsoa or a Big South Journey that passes through Ambositra area, go to CENAM - Andavamamba (Tana), and to Andravoahangy market in Tana
What to buy: Woodcraft (boxes, statues, home furniture..) in a whole range of wood types.
What to pay: I don't remember of the prices
It can be cotton, silk material but it has to be the fauve/ brown shade Bivouac motive.
I like this type of motive for the reason that when you buy this material, you can hang it as a painting, a wall carpet, a cushion (silk) or... like in the pic, as a lamp. For my best friend, I bought this warm bivouac motive material (hand painted) Ateliers Jacaranda. She had the socle (Belgian pierre bleue stone) fit to hold the lamp that is made with this material. With this color combination, it's a beautiful lamp with a warm light coming through it. It's like if the campfire of bivouaqueurs (usually, herdsmen camping with the cattle in search of constant green grazing) was really in the room. Such warm, yellow light.
With silk material for lamp, the best light is with blue or green. It's kind of soft light (watercolours). The fauve/brown effect is most spectacular with the cotton batik.
What to buy: Cotton Batik for lamp (see picture)
Silk batik for cushion and, in lesser extent, lamp.
Bivuoac motive paintings are nice too. Especially, large frames in your dining-room. It's always relaxing, "warming" to see those flames in the paintings even if they are only in pictures.
What to pay: Not expensive regarding the beauty of it...
Since the murky depth of times, Malagasy people have used to integrate the use of plants & their medicinal properties in eveyday life. Be it for beauty recipes, be for health reasons or comfort, the traditionals used to be very knowledgeable regarding the use of plants. They knew the properties of a plant's roots, its barks, its fruit, its leaves... everything. Such knowledge has been kept & transmited through generations. So, while strolling in markets, it is very common to find barks, concoctions, leaves, roots sold in markets. Just stalls and vendors. Trouble is not every vendor knows which quantity to use... In the past decades, however, both national & foreigner researchers could collect locals' knowledge (mostly in rural areas) of the plants, modernize essence extraction methods, define needed quantities of so-and-so essence in a drug.
Most known of researchers is Pr. Ratsimamanga labs, the very Malagasy genius who was known worldwilde. Late Rakoto Ratsimamanga reportedly owned (or was a major shareholder of) Roche pharmaceutical firm. In Madagascar, he contributed in making drugs more affordable for locals who cannot afford buying basic multinational drugs like anti-cough syrup, balms to heal wounds... For that, he researched on local plants & used the same ingredients as in Roche labs except that Roche products were user-friendlier (coated pills that are easier to swallow, good taste, attractive packaging). "Ratsimamanga products" as they use to be named (: those produced at IMRA labs) have basic packaging, contain only active excipients, no coating. That is what most locals seek for, living with few financial means: efficiency & cost-effective ;-).
Let also note that other brands exist. They are quite interesting for extracting & selling essential oils. Two of most wide-spread outlets are Homeopharma's & BioAroma's. Not only to heal but also to feel good... thanks to aromatherapy, no chemical additive !
What to buy: For Madagascar flora being highly endemic, chances are you would only find many of the oils only in Madagascar or in very specific drugstores in your country.
This is the content of a BioAroma giftpack we received:
-Eucalyptus EO (anti-septic, anti-infectious, anti-viral, powerful expectorant, anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, decongestant, mucolytic, hypoglycaemicant). Good for respiratory tract diseases, throat infections, bronchitis, sinusitis, coughs, diabetes. Highly indicated for smokers
-Niaouli EO (strong anti-fungi, anti-spasmodic, anti-infectious, anti-viral, powerful expectorant, anti-bacterial, respiratory & uro-genial anti-inflammatory, neuro-tonic & skinprotector...)
-Katrafay EO (febrifugal, vermifugal, anti-diarrheic, fatigue reliever, anti-malarial, anti-rheumatismal, fortifying & invigorating). Sidenote, uses to serve as invigorating element for men (not sure I should use "aphrodisiac", still...) & indicated for post-partum fatigue & discomfort.
-Mandravasarotra EO: a strong anti-infectious (bactericid, antifungi, antiviral, anti-parisiti), expectorant, diuretic property, general tonic (blood cleanser + pancreas cleanser), considered as the great defencer of the whole organism.
-Ravintsara EO (lucky me, I have a Ravintsara tree in my garden, and use to pick some leaves to boil and inhale to cure a flu, fatigue, cold.) Properties: deodorant, anti-septic, anti-infectious, anti-viral, expectorant, anti-bacterial, fungicide, scarring, tranquilizer, relieves muscles.. all of that!
-Even sultry & fragrant Ylang-Ylang has some "healing" properties: said to be aphridisiac, for instance, sedative, anti-inflammatory, hypotensive.
Off course, there are more than half-dozen plants.
I especially like BioAroma's products for they coming with leaflets that enlist each oil properties & usual notices that I couldn't find on my Homeopharma bottle.
Homeopharma has, however, a website for info & shopping (oils, oil complex, syrups, plant balms...)
What to pay: Homeopharma Essential oils prices: 8-10 euros (online pricing) depending on plant;
BioAroma prices: Probably similar to those in Homeopharma outlets, that both I'll have to check
What to buy:
It is quit funny to see that TinTin is popular in Madagascar. It was a surprise to us. They use images and covers of this popular strip figure and give it a title with Madagascar in it. These images are made of different sorts of wood. That wood is almost peeled in tiny slises and the differences in color are used to create the image.
What to pay:
We found them in shops all over Madagascar , but noticed that they were the cheapest on Nosy be (15 dollar more in Diego is quit a huge amount of money on Madagascar). You'll find them in Tana too and the most expensive they are in the airport (40-50 dollars)
The best market to go to in Antananarivo if you are looking for souvenirs is this one. It is a fairly big market in the suburb 67 hectares.
What to buy: Lots of souvenirs such as handicrafts, wood carvings, semi precious stones, hand made scrap metal toy cars, spices, vanilla, paintings, batik, etc. But also furniture and other stuff. There are also good food stalls and there are some good restaurants nearby.
What to pay: Make sure you bargain as with everything in Madagascar. In general you should not pay more than half of the price they start of with. If you bargain hard you can get very good prices
No shop in particular.. The best is to look at the stalls along Tana-Antsirabe road since there are homes of the craftsmen.
Guys, here I ask for your full support. You see those little cars, tiny bicycles? There were first crafted in Madagascar. Nowadays, you find them elsewhere on African countries who copied our products.. but the first to make them were Malagasy. OK, I guess we didn't put any copyright, trademark on them and we lacked promotion and advertizing so no means to condemn or whatever. But I tell you, it's a pity! Better buy the original ones, no?
Same as for our Antemoro paper. It has been an artcraft of the Antemoro tribe (living in Manakara region, SE of Mada) since a long time. Then, neighbouring Mauritians started making it too years ago. Well, they may copy but theirs can't be Antemoro paper since they are not Antemoro people.
What to buy: - tiny cars, bicycles (wood and metal)
- ship models
- silk materials (the raw silk, not China imported ones, of course) for clothes, shawls, scarves
What to pay: depends on your bargaining capcity :)
One of classical but beautiful gifts you may buy in Madagascar is a wood and stones board game (solitaire game, for instance).
The set includes 37 semi-precious stones' spheres and, sometimes, their list included. The board is made from selected hardwoods.
Buy them in Andravoahangy market (Tana) or at CENAM- Andavamamba (Tana). CENAM is a permanent exhibition of artcraft. Items there range from woodwork, carpentry, golden jewels, woodsculptings, paintings, semi-precious items (eggs, spheres, ashtrays...), woven fabrics (silk, cotton, raphia, rabane)...
What to buy: Since my best friend and my granny bought me solitaire games (a big ands heavy one that stays in Madagascar and a smaller one a friend, RKAB, gave me), I bought there something else. Wood stylish statues, watercolour paintings of a coastal landscape... But my dream is to buy one of those Bivouac paintings. Those are of typical Malagasy countryside and road scenery.
What to pay: Depends on who painted and where you buy them. :-) And the size of paintings.
Madagascar grows the best vanilla in the world. The hugely fragrant pods smell right through the packet!
I paid 25.000 MGF (about 4 Euro) per packet of 5 pods. But then you'll have the freshest, biggest, most succulent, most fragrant vanilla pods ever.
This was a gift from our hosts in Madagascar. There is an amazing variety of (semi)precious gemstones here inclulding a rare dark blue aquamarine, but also all sorts of quartz, garnets, moonstone, amazonite etc. The largest crystal ever found came from Madagascar and weighed more than 380 tons.
You'll find 100s of varieties of these ashtrays and eggs in all sizes, colours and perfection.
From huge sheets to greeting cards and notebooks...handmade paper with dried flowers or real embroidery.
Delicate, papyrus like, handmade Antaimoro paper decorated with pressed, dried and embedded wild flowers.
Résidence Lapasoa Isoraka BP 3650 Antananarivo Tél :22 611 40. 180.000 FMG Beautiful colonial...more
Le Royal Pallisandre is a very good quality hotel in the heart of the city. The rooms and public...more
Lot 66 B Antanetibe Ivato, Antananarivo, 105, Madagascar
Good for: Solo
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