St Kilda, Australia
January 16, 2005
Of the numerous small-scale establishments that have sprung up in the vicinity, my choice was the fairly typical, but very well-liked Hotel L'Ylang-Ylang. It provides beachfront accommodation for approximately 30 people, in two blocks that both overlook a pleasant courtyard garden. The newer of the pair offered the sole advantage of air-conditioning, rather than a fan, and the prospect of cool, mosquito-free nights proved to be irresistible after a fortnight sleeping in a tent, even when considering the extra cost incurred.
The reasonably sized bedroom was simply but pleasantly furnished in a mixture of Western and local styles and featured other moderate luxuries, such as an en-suite bathroom, television, and minibar, but it was perhaps somewhat hard to get too excited about it. However, the veranda offered much more inspiring possibilities, and reclining in one of its comfortable wooden seats with a cool beer, luxuriating in the warm glow of the sunset, quickly became a relaxing evening ritual.
With the exception of a highly regarded restaurant that specialises in freshly caught fish, served on a terrace with sea views, the hotel has few of the facilities associated with major resorts elsewhere. But the genuinely intimate atmosphere was a fine compensation. I, along with the resident handful of French sun worshippers who had come looking for a slightly different destination, were always treated very well by the staff, from the affable and efficient manager to the friendly cleaners who left fragrant blossoms behind when they had finished making every surface gleam.
Meanwhile, alfresco breakfast was an ever-appealing prospect. Even spending time shooing off the large wasps inevitably attracted by the tasty honey and jams that accompanied the fresh bread could not detract from the views over the golden sands, glistening under the rising sun in the wake of the retreating tide.
Another regular fixture were the souvenir hawkers who would alight nearby in the hope of making a sale, unfurling the bundle of merchandise that they had hitherto carried upon their heads, which may have had some folk longing for lodgings with a stretch of private beach. But despite my bleary-eyed state each morning and disinterest in shopping, I nevertheless delighted in the open nature of the strand. Every day, it was possible to interact with many other locals as they went about their business, and also to enjoy some rather delicious slices of Malagasy life alongside a leisurely coffee. Particularly heart-warming were the charming scenes as a group of local children would take turns to experience the simple pleasure of riding a shared bicycle across the sands over and again.
From journal A spot of R&R on Nosy Be, a sweet smelling paradise isle.