Antananarivo, Madagascar’s capital city, is long on charm and offers a relaxed form of chaos reminiscent of other African cities a few decades back.
And while most people will use "Tana" as a springing off point for exploring the different regions of Madagascar, we'd recommend staying for a night or two to see the place for itself. Renault 4s and cream coloured 2CVs ply the streets as taxis and – in amongst a jumble of new builds of numerous styles - old colonial buildings lend the place a faded elegance. While it has had its fair share of political unrest over recent years, this is a welcoming place with plenty to keep visitors busy for at least a couple of days.
The capital is built on steep hills and exists on a number of levels connected in places by long flights of steps. “Pousse-pousse”, the nickname for the rickshaws that still operate in “Tana” reflect the town’s topography as well as its colonial past; missionaries returning home (uphill) from forays to the markets would “encourage” rickshaw drivers with cries of of “Push! Push!” – how those drivers must have longed to upend their vehicles and let them walk…
On the skyline - and worth a visit - is the Rova, a complex of seven buildings including the queen’s palace and courts of justice, built by the British and French colonialists in the late 19th Century. Destroyed in recent years and to date unrepaired, views from here over the sprawl that is modern day Tana are still excellent and it’s worth spending an hour or so with a local guide to get some insight into the way these buildings were used as both tombs for royal ancestry and instruments of government.
Food is one of the reasons to spend time in Tana and there’s a great choice of good places to eat. Both the local Indonesian influenced dishes many of which are rice and or wok-based and include such peculiarities as pork and eel – (yes, that’s pork AND eel) and traditional French cuisine, are strongly represented.