Cape Verde day one
07.02.2018 - 08.02.2018
Beach walkway on Sal
For various reasons we had left it late to book a February escape from the UK winter, and because of commitments at home didn’t want to be away for much more than a week, meaning that a long haul destination seemed less appealing - so much flying for so little time away. Hunting for ideas for somewhere new to go within easy reach of home and guaranteed warmth, I settled on the Cape Verde islands. Some of these are very focused on ‘sun, sea and sand’, which is not our style, but others offer interesting history, towns with local colour and attractive landscapes. Our choices were limited by our late booking, but an appealing hotel in the small capital of Santiago, Praia, had availability and seems to offer the mix of relaxation and sightseeing we were seeking. A stay there though necessitated an overnight before and after on the main tourist island of Sal, so that was our initial destination.
We left home the evening before, taking the train to Gatwick Airport to overnight there in the Hilton Hotel - thus avoiding a crack of dawn start and the anxiety that comes with knowing that you only have a limited time to make your flight and the Tubes may be having an off day.
Flying to Sal
On the morning of our departure we had an early start but only a few minutes’ walk to check-in and departures. This last minute package to the sun meant a charter flight with TUI, but also the bonus of access to one of Gatwick’s lounges, so we were able to relax over a complementary breakfast.
The flight time to Sal is about six hours. I was glad that it was a day-time flight as, being school holidays in the UK, there were lots of families on board with lively, excitable, rather noisy children! The weather was good en route and for the first part of the journey, flying over Western Europe, we had views of the Pyrenees and later the Algarve coast of Portugal - I spotted the network of lagoons off Faro which I had enjoyed exploring with VT friends a couple of years earlier.
Flying in over the coast of Sal
Although drinks had to be paid for, lunch was included in our fare - there was no choice but the roast chicken was pleasant enough and the chocolate orange ganache rather tasty. We landed on time in Sal, a bit disappointed to see more clouds than blue sky, but at least it was a lot warmer than the London we had left behind us, despite a strong wind (something these islands are known for). We sped through passport control, having pre-paid our visa (a good move, as the queue at that desk was far longer). The wait for our luggage was less speedy and while standing there I came to the conclusion that this is my least favourite part of flying - the anxious wait while every bag bar yours seems to be arriving on the carousel. But it was there at last and we left the arrivals hall to be greeted by a friendly rep from Barracuda Tours (the local agent used by Cape Verde Experience, with whom we had booked this trip), and a taxi to take us to our hotel for this one night, another Hilton, the newly-opened Hilton Cabo Verde Sal.
Overnight in Sal
Looking out to sea from the Hilton Cabo Verde Sal
This Hilton couldn’t have been more different from last night’s, apart from the toiletries in the bathroom which were identical! A spacious lobby open to the sea breezes (or rather, today at least, sea winds); a large swimming pool and plenty of seating there and in several bars; a large and stylish room with a balcony which, while it didn’t have beach views, did look across some open land to a distant view of the sea and some interesting-looking buildings.
Water feature in the lobby
The room of course had all mod cons - king size bed, huge flat screen TV, plenty of seating, storage etc. The bathroom was a generous size and could be left open to the room or screened off with sliding doors. It had both tub and walk-in shower.
We settled in and then took a walk around the hotel to get our bearings. We changed some money and reserved a table for dinner, but the weather wasn’t really conducive to sitting outside and the hotel doesn’t really have fully indoor spaces, so we retreated to our room to relax for a while there.
In the evening we went to the bar for a pre-dinner drink, where I enjoyed a good Martini with some very nondescript olives in it. In addition to the bowl of salted peanuts that accompanied our drinks, one of the bar staff came around with tasty little cod croquettes.
After our drinks we had dinner in the beachside restaurant, Bounty, which was very pleasant despite the cool winds. I had an excellent ceviche topped with salmon roe and served with a lime sorbet, while Chris enjoyed the beef carpaccio.
My main of seared tuna with couscous was also good, but rather too large a portion, and Chris said his mushroom risotto tasted good but could have been hotter. We drank a glass of wine each (decent house wines from Portugal) and a bottle of mineral water. The bill was 7800 CVE, about €70 or £62 - pricey probably by local standards but good value compared with home. A nice start to the holiday.