Monday, August 30, 2010

"Good Old Times"

Every former colony has at least one. Some have been very well maintained and are still operating at the highest levels; others have been totally abandoned. In my 'career' as expat, I have had the pleasure to stay at quite a few. I am talking about colonial hotels. The Mount Lavinia hotel in Sri Lanka, the grand old Victoria Falls hotel in Zimbabwe, and the Raffles in Singapore come to mind as examples of well-preserved places where you can still sniff the odor of  'the good old times' and yet be pampered by 20th century luxuries.

The Grand Hotel da Beira - my first foreign post -, is a textbook example of good old times gone bad. It was only functional for a few years until the Portugese were chased out in the 1960s. Ever since, trees are growing out of the windows, goats run around in the lobby, all parquet floors have been burnt up by squatters and street children slide down the grand entry stairways. Can't blame them.
Grande Hotel da Beira - before and after

Madagascar has its own colonial icon: l'Hotel des Thermes in Antsirabe, the epitome of french colonization in this country. As Michel is conducting a 10-day training for the National Park managers (not in that hotel!), we joined him for the weekend and could not resist the temptation to stay there - as well as to hide from obnoxious pousse-pousse drivers. Hotel des Thermes was built in 1897 hence over 110 years later it is still operational. It has been refurbished with a 'sixties chique' decor, but the original glory has since long faded.

Hotel des Thermes Antsirabe - before and after

Of course I can write about the cob webs under the attic, the cracks in our room's window - fixed with scotch tape and a coaster -, the green water in the swimming pool, the holes in the tennis nets, the TV with only one local channel, the unlevel pool table, the faded jackets of the waiters and so on, but I don't want to do that :-)

I prefer to reminisce and pretend to live in the fifties again. And that you can do very well at this hotel. So we enjoyed a leisurely game of afternoon tennis, then sipped on a Planters Cocktail at the terrace, enjoyed a 3-course dinner with frog legs and red wine, and ended our stay with a game of pool in the bar before retiring to our spacious chamber. We were the only guests....but had a grand old time, for 45 euro's per night.

No shoes allowed in the pool!

Cuisses de Nymphes - sounds better than frog legs

Spacious rooms at the Hotel des Thermes

1 comment:

  1. I think it looks fun to stay in a kitchy old hotel. I bet you had great service if you were the only guests.