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Madagascar journey and arrival

Madagascar day one

View Madagascar 2023 on ToonSarah's travel map.

Clouds over Madagascar

I’m not a fan of evening flights. I spend the day thinking I ought to be packing, but in truth that only needs an hour or so, not a whole day. But with a nine PM departure today I managed to find things to occupy me until it was finally time to pack and leave. We made sure to get to Heathrow early to have dinner before boarding, as according to the flight info only breakfast would be served.

There are no direct flights from London to Madagascar so we flew Ethiopian via Addis Ababa. This would ensure that on our return we could fly from Nosy Be to Addis without the need to route via Tana. We boarded early but it was quite chaotic, with lots of people having oversized bags and others confused about their seats. The latter included an elderly lady next to me who was eventually persuaded to move to her assigned seat, leaving us with a row of three bulkhead seats between the two of us.

Despite what we’d been told, dinner was served – a rather nondescript beef dish and a nice orange cake. But they took ages to clear afterwards and even then I found it pretty impossible to sleep. We were right next to the galley and when the crew weren’t making a noise clearing up and chatting, they were dealing with a string of passengers with queries. Even after we hit turbulence and the fasten seatbelts sign came on, people were still leaving their seats and arguing with crew members who asked them to return. So I gave up trying to sleep and turned to my book, but it was hard to concentrate on that too with all the activity and noise.

With the flight only seven hours, and breakfast served an hour and a half before landing, the gap between that and last night’s dinner was barely three hours. I did doze a bit but not nearly enough!

An hour or so out of Addis Ababa we started to see a beautiful line of orange just above the cloud layer, heralding the sun rise.

Approaching Addis Ababa

We landed about ten minutes early. Just as well - there was a long and chaotic queue to go through security screening before we could head to the gate for our onward flight. But we were through in time to be able to have a coffee while waiting to board.

Addis Ababa Airport

This was a much newer and nicer plane than the first, a Dreamliner. We again had bulkhead seats with extra legroom. As we took off I had great views of the outskirts of Addis Ababa, with a mix of farming and pockets of high-density housing.

Take-off from Addis Ababa Airport

Soon after take-off we were served drinks and mini breadsticks flavoured with rosemary. But we decided to skip the lunch as it seemed we'd only just had breakfast! Instead I had a short nap, did a puzzle and enjoyed watching and photographing the clouds. The latter were particularly spectacular once we reached Madagascar and started our descent.

Clouds over Madagascar

Landing in Antananarivo

Landing in Antananarivo

Antananarivo Airport

We landed early and there wasn’t too much hassle at the visa counter or indeed anywhere. Having collected our bags we made for the exit where we were to be met by a guide. There were certainly plenty of guides there, but none of them held a paper with our names on it. We weren’t too bothered by this, given our early arrival, so Chris went to change some money while I looked after the luggage. Son after Chris's return a young man came up to us and asked if we were ‘Wilkie'. We confirmed that we were, he introduced himself as Michel and apologised for being late. A truck had broken down and blocked a road.

Luckily no such mishap had occurred on the road to our hotel, Le Relais des Plateaux. The drive took us along a few roads edged with small local shops and here and there a cheap airport hotel (one calling itself Human Hotel, which makes you wonder who stays in the others!)


Our room at Le Relais des Plateaux

We checked in, got the essentials out of our bags (we were only staying one night) and got on to the WiFi to send a few messages. Then we went for a short walk in the grounds to take photos (I loved having a jacaranda tree in bloom right outside our door!) and reserve a table for dinner.

Our room on the far left, with the jacaranda tree in front

After our short stroll we found a shady table by the pool where we could refresh ourselves with a cold drink (my ginger-based mocktail was fantastic!) and soak up the atmosphere.

The pool at Le Relais des Plateaux

Mocktail by the pool

Later, after we'd returned to our room, I glanced outside and saw promising signs of a rather lovely sunset. I hurried out with my camera and although I found it hard to get a really good view of it among the hotel buildings I did manage to capture some of the illuminated clouds.

Sunset at Le Relais des Plateaux

In the evening we ate at the hotel restaurant, sharing zebu rolls to start with (rolled cold cuts of this beef-like meat). I then had the Magret de Canard which was very good but served with slightly dull potatoes. We share a chocolate dessert with several different elements – chocolate fondant, ice cream, mousse, and brownie.

Zebu rolls

Then it was definitely time for an early night, to make up for the sleep lost on the journey.

Posted by ToonSarah 08:42 Archived in Madagascar Tagged sunsets_and_sunrises food hotel flight airport clouds africa ethiopia

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So that's what zebu beef looks like. I wrote about it in my post on museums in Avignon, one of which was founded by a man named Louis Vouland, who in the early 20th century managed to get a monopoly on the importation of ‘zebu’ beef from Madagascar into France. Using this beef, he invented a product known unofficially as the boite à singe (‘monkey box’), which he sold in great quantities to the French army for feeding troops in the field during the First World War. This product was the forerunner of what is now known as ‘corned beef’. (Perhaps also a forerunner of ‘spam’, a staple of American field rations during the Second World War.)

by Nemorino

That's interesting Don :) Zebu is pretty much like beef - we ate it quite a few times during our trip. In particular we had some great zebu carpaccio in a couple of places. I can easily imagine it would work well as a processed tinned meat.

by ToonSarah

I'd love to go to Madagascar so I await your blogs with interest to see what it was like. Your first hotel and pool look lovely.

by irenevt

Madagaskar is an attractive destination indeed...I see ther appetizing dishes at Le Relais des Plateaux conntributed to your enjoyment and rest. Happy trails in the future, Sarah!

by Vic_IV

Thanks Irene and Vic :) I'm playing catch-up with this blog as I tend to neglect it for my WP one, but I do plan to post all our Madagascar trip soon as well as our recent short jaunt back to Paris!

by ToonSarah

Your hotel looks lovely as does the sunset. I'm looking forward to your trip to Paris!

by Beausoleil

Thank you Sally :) There's a lot of Madagascar to write about before I get around to Paris! And it was a brief and football-focused trip, so we didn't do as much exploring as usual 😄⚽

by ToonSarah

Quite a beginning of the trip. I. am going to read this with loads of eager since I wanted to go there a few years ago but than Covid came to the surface and nowadays it is a hassle finding enough holidays, but don't you worry, I am going to live 100 years in good health, so loads still to see!
Loved your sunset pictures and don't you worry about the buildings, the colour says enough! :)

by Ils1976

Thanks so much Ils 😊 I know what you mean about Covid messing up holiday plans, as do we all! At least you have more time in front of you to fit in all those trips than some of us do 😁

by ToonSarah

haha, lets hope so Sarah coz I have so many to tick off!

by Ils1976

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