On Sunday, Sept 18, after breakfast we took another stroll through the flea market on Rue Cler on a beautiful Parisian morning. We then rode the Metro and train to Charles de Gaulle Airport. We thought we were going to be early, but the line to check in for Air Madagascar was already half the terminal long. As we took our place in line, a very loud-shouting and belligerent anti-Israel demonstration started at the El Al counter next to ours. Yelling, flag-waving pro-Palestine demonstrators faced off against a cordon of shield-wielding police. Nothing serious appeared to happen - some demonstrators left and replacements camped out on the terminal floor - but it was a bit disconcerting.
We finally boarded the huge Boeing 777-200, and then had to wait nearly two hours on the tarmac due to air traffic. The flight was OK except for its length (10 1/2 hours) and that the interior electrical system was not working, so we had no reading lights or movies. We ate and slept a little and arrived at 4:30 AM Monday (today, Sept. 19).
It was sunny and bright (a lot brighter than we felt) when we left the airport at 6 AM and drove in a 24-seat bus with the other participants and our tour guide to our hotel. The Royal Palissandre is supposedly one of the best in Antananarivo, situated up a steep hill in this hilly city. Our room faces over the city, and I was inspired to stitch three photos together into a panorama. The haze in the distance comes from burning charcoal, which is used for most heating and cooking.
Our room looks down into a large central market, composed of numerous long sheds, as well as a large and chaotic parking lot.
After breakfast, a nap, and a shower, we went for lunch with the group to a lovely restaurant with a great view and excellent local food.
I would have liked to wander around in the market, but it didn't seem safe, so we settled for a group bus tour of its periphery instead. Here are a few of the photos that seemed to work - not an easy thing in a moving bus. I like the bright colors, deep shadows, and feeling of motion. They convey the strongly African character of Madagascar's capital city streets: busy, not relaxed, poor, crowded, a bit resentful and menacing. Not a place where a lone white tourist would feel comfortable; we are constantly warned about pickpockets.
The multi-story buildings piled virtually on top of each other on the steep hills produce a strong Cubist effect.
We paid a short visit to the rather meager Archeological Museum. This sculpture in front, of pots hanging in a tree, was perhaps the most interesting thing about the place.
However, we had a discussion of the populating of Madagascar, interesting in light of a book that Elsa is reading on the history of the country. She's learning more than she wanted or needed to know about the 18 ethnic groups and the development of Malagasy customs.
We stopped to see some handicraft shops, buying some small weavings, and then returned to the hotel. We had a great dinner there with the group (Madagascar wasn't a French colony for nothing), but are totally exhausted. Hopefully a good night's sleep will get us back on track.