The Margouilla's Advice on Nightstopping in Franceville

FRANCEVILLE - MVENGUE (FOON/MVB)

 

What airfield can I expect?

Franceville Mvengué airport offers a perfectly-maintained 3000-meter runway. The various navaids including VOR-DME and ILS are often down. The parking is large enough for four heavy jets, with additional parking space available in the dirt. Mvengué international airport is controlled, lighted, and open from 0700 to 1900 LT; extensions to H24 can be requested in writing before noon at the Libreville airport office.

The good-sized terminal is practically empty, the bar upstairs has closed in 2008. A separate section is available for VIP passengers. The airport is also an Air Force base, and as such is properly guarded and equipped with CCTV cameras. Flight plans need to be filed only for international inbound and outbound flights, with the Asecna fees (landing & overflight) paid locally. For domestic flights, a circular flight plans filed in Libreville is sufficient, with the applicable fees for Mvengué charged by the Libreville airport office.

The town is located some 25 km from the airport, but the road is good so expect a 30-minute ride for about 5,000 XAF.

 

Franceville RWY 33 (2005)

 

Where am I?

Originally called Masuku, the village became a French outpost in 1880 following its discovery by explorer Pierre Savorgnan de Brazza. After being renamed Francheville, a city for slaves freed by Brazza, the name evolved into Franceville, due to the resemblance of the surrounding Batéké Plateaux to the Auvergne region of France.

In the 1970’s, President Omar BONGO turned Franceville, the 35,000-soul capital of his home province the Haut-Ogooué, into a major center of development. With money pouring in from precious woods and oil exports, he built a train line linking the city to Libreville, an international airport, a hydraulic powerplant, an international university and several other costly (sometimes pointless) structures.

Today, Gabon’s golden age has faded and Franceville has slowly deteriorated. Unserviceable highways full of potholes and derelict administrative buildings remind us of a grandeur long gone. However, with Ali BONGO’s election in 2009 following the death of his father, their Batéké tribe still holds the power in Gabon and Franceville remains a major destination for political rallies.

Franceville’s setting, along the Mpassa Valley between grass-covered hills, is nice and peaceful. Its climate is known to be cooler than in forested areas of Gabon, with less rainfalls and humidity. And the town, regularly visited by the political elite of the country, remains an enjoyable overnight destination.

Gendarmerie (military police): +(241) 67 70 27

Hospital: +(241) 67 72 92

Pharmacies (Moderne): +(241) 67 70 71 ; (Plateau) : +(241) 67 75 02

Banks: BICIG, UGB, BGD

 

Where do I sleep?

Hotel Poubara (35mn from the airport)

            PO Box 8511 - Franceville, on the highway descending to Poto-Poto

            Tel: +(241) 67 13 74

            Fax: +(241) 67 13 76

            Email: hotel_poubara31@hotmail.com

This hotel, belonging to the former first lady, is a former Novotel and has been completely renovated in 2004. With a couple dozen clean and air-conditioned rooms forming a patio around the swimming pool, the Poubara is managed by a Frenchman and has become the nicest hotel in Franceville. Good restaurant on pool terrace. Rooms from 40,000 XAF and suites up to 125,000 XAF. (2010)

Hotel Masuku (30mn from the airport)

            Administrative district

            Tel: +(241) 67 73 51

The Masuku offers 16 air-conditioned rooms which are somewhat clean but a bit old: the hotel has clearly seen better days. Amenities include a swimming pool and a tennis court, along with a good restaurant. Rooms go for about 30,000 XAF. (2004)

Léconi Palace (40mn from the airport)

            PO Box 735 - Franceville, at road’s end after Poto-Poto

            Tel: +(241) 67 74 16

            Tel: +(241) 67 74 19

This former Intercontinental hotel was among the ‘white elephants’ of President Omar BONGO. Today, the rooms are derelict, the restaurant is a shadow of itself and the swimming pool has turned green. The "palace" has been closed for renovation and is due to re-open in 2011. (2010)

 

Where do I eat?

Restaurant le Piroguier (40mn from the airport)

            Quartier Poto-Poto

The best restaurant in town. It can take a while to be served, so be patient. (2010)

 

 

What can I visit?

Fans of golf can visit the Franceville Golf Club, on the road to Léconi. It is an 18-hole track with a club house which serves food on weekends.

From the airport, a taxi can be taken to visit the waterfalls and the lianas bridge of Poubara, on the Ogooué River. The trip takes about an hour by taxi on a dirt road, near Mvengué airport. It is worth the ride though, as this bridge over the wild Ogooué River is built in a magnificent rainforest setting.

 

Where can I go out?

Crystal Palace

The largest night club in Franceville, located in the quartier Poto-Poto, it feels a bit empty unless the political elite from Libreville is in town for a reason or another.

Le Cinquantième

This tiny club is located behind quartier Poto-Poto just next to Hotel Buke-Buke. Most of its customers are French singles who live and work in Franceville. The place to go on week evenings when it is quiet everywhere else.

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