Exploring Cape Verde and meeting the Sheriff of Nottingham

By Finn McCarthy, a Travel Enthusiast

Read more on Sal.

Overall rating:4.8 out of 5 (based on 6 votes)
Enjoyable
4.833335
4.8
Useful
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4.8
Inspirational
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Recommended for:
Activity, Beach, Cultural, Mid-range

Island-hopping and trekking in the Cape Verde Islands: a funky fusion of African hospitality, Latin American music, Caribbean-style beaches and Portuguese heritage

During my childhood, the daring exploits of Robin Hood in Sherwood Forest captivated me. Imagine my excitement then when, at the climax of a holiday in the Cape Verde Islands, I came face to face with the Sheriff of Nottingham. But first the prologue…

“Once when I looked at a map of the world I found that our islands had been left off,” said Carlos our guide. Situated four hundred miles off the coast of West Africa, in the Atlantic, this enticing archipelago of ten islands is still largely unknown except by yachtsmen. The architecture in many of the more significant towns reveals their Portuguese heritage, but increasingly the people look to Africa and Brazil for their inspirations.

We had come to the Cape Verde Islands for two weeks on a competitively priced flight-only deal with Thomson Holidays (www.thomson.co.uk) acquiring visas easily on arrival. After a five hour flight and with no time changes, the beaches of Santa Maria on the island of Sal offer the perfect escape for those seeking winter sun and windsurfing. We stayed at the comfortable, good value Les Alizes which is on the main street. Nearby, the stylish beachfront Hotel Morabeza has a tempting happy hour, giving an opportunity to try the local cocktails such as caipirinhas.

Nevertheless, with two airlines TACV (www.tacv.com) and Halycon Airways (www.flyhalcyonair.com) providing a comprehensive schedule to the other islands, there is the temptation to travel further afield. Our plan was to island-hop.

Fogo Island

Fogo Island was a total contrast to Sal. Dominated by an active volcano, Sao Felipe, the capital, has many examples of the sobrados - former homes of the rich Portuguese slave owners. We stayed in Casa Renate, a beautifully restored house (CVE 3,500 double with breakfast) taking our meals, such as fish in coconut sauce, at the owner’s popular terraced restaurant, Le Bistro. Typically, a meal for two with beer would cost CVE 1,500. The Cape Verde escudo is tied to the euro at approximately CVE 110 = 1 euro. Renate was a fount of local knowledge and organised transport to the National Park where it is possible to walk in the crater of the volcano. Here we enjoyed the peace of this moonscape and were amazed by the range of vegetation that flourished in this bleakly attractive environment.

Sao Vicente Island

The historic town of Mindelo, on Sao Vicente, is not only the hub of the transatlantic yachting fraternity but also of the Cape Verde music scene. We stayed in the chic Casa CafĂ© Mindelo, a converted sobrado, with a window on the marina and the surrounding mountains (CVE 6,600 double with breakfast). Another compelling attraction was that it has a charming bar, with its own bakery serving scrumptious carrot and chocolate cakes, as well as, of course, live music. Clube Nautica, in the old customs house, is an atmospheric hangout where it is possible to pick up sailors’ stories, together with hearty meals of chicken in spicy sauce (2800 CVE for two including drinks).

Santo Antao Island

Soon after the reliable Armas ferry from Sao Vicente docked on Santo Antao after a one hour voyage, we were transferred by aluguer, a collective taxi, to the small coastal village of Ponta Do Sol. There we took up residence in the friendly, colourful Hotel Por de Sol Arte (CVE 4,300 double with breakfast).

Carlos, a guide recommended by the guesthouse, led us from a point high in the mountains on a memorable stroll down the gorge of the Ribeira do Paul. Lush vegetation in the form of sugar cane plantations, fields of guava and papaya stretched all the way to the ocean. One notable stop on our descent was at Sandro’s Café (tel: 00238 223 19 41), an Aladdin’s cave of mementoes, which specialises in the local 40% proof grogue. This was no endurance expedition but an undiluted pleasure and well worth the CVE 5,000 for the guide.

Carlos recommended other walks that we could do on our own, including a four hour coastal hike from Cruzinha da Garca, a remote village, back to Ponta Do Sol. This was a more demanding trek but equally rewarding - a spiral of mule tracks zigzagged along gaunt cliffs overlooking breakers pounding the black volcanic sands below. The track passed through remote hamlets clinging precariously to steep hillsides. Santo Antao is a walking and hiking paradise which, with its green landscapes, justifies the Cape Verde name.

An air of magic hovers over the island and each night the locals gathered for an impromptu music session on the terrace of our guesthouse beneath our balcony. Carlos had said, “Everyone here plays an instrument.” Now I am inclined to believe him.

There are a number of restaurant options in the village but our favourite was O Velhero, sited on the jetty, which specialises in sea bass and shell fish (CVE 2,500 for two including wine and beer).

The Sheriff of Nottingham

It was in Ponta Do Sol that, for the first time, we came face to face with the Sheriff of Nottingham. Contrary to my childhood fantasies our meeting did not culminate in a duel but in the unmasking of the actor, Keith Allen, “Better known,” as he said, “as Lily Allen’s dad.” Like us he had come to Santo Antao and Sao Vicente from Sal seeking to discover different facets of this intriguing country and was clearly not disappointed.

The Cape Verde Islands deserve to be put on the map of every adventurous traveller. As well as being welcoming and safe, they are endlessly diverse. What cannot always be guaranteed is an encounter with the Sheriff of Nottingham.

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More information on Exploring Cape Verde and meeting the Sheriff of Nottingham:

Author:
Finn McCarthy
Traveller type:
Travel Enthusiast
Guide rating:
4.833335
Average: 4.8 (6 votes)
Total views:
1177
First uploaded:
6 January 2010
Last updated:
4 years 36 weeks 5 days 12 hours 7 min 25 sec ago
Destinations featured:
Trip types:
Activity, Beach, Cultural
Budget level:
Mid-range
Free tags / Keywords:
walking, music, island-hopping, Friendly people

Finn recommends

Hotels

Price from Rating
(out of 5)
1. Hotel Morabeza
£229
N/A
2. Hotel Les Alizes
N/A
3. Casa Cafe Mindelo
N/A
4. Casa Renate
N/A
5. Hotel Por De Sol Arte
N/A

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Community comments (10)

Rating:
5
0 of 0 people found the following comment helpful.

It was a well written report by the writer. Very much the point but with an interesting meeting with the Sherrif of Nottingham. Maybe more detail is needed in the actual logistics in getting flights between the islands,but will still consider going there

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1 of 1 people found the following comment helpful.

Amusing and interesting guide. I had thought that the Cape Verde Islands were flat and sandy, so having volcanoes and mountains makes the sceneary interesting.
Would probably visit given a chance

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0 of 0 people found the following comment helpful.

I found this report inspirational to the extreme, helped by the descriptive way of the author. Very tempting to go there now, especially with the all year round climate. The Robin Hood meeting also was interesting

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1 of 1 people found the following comment helpful.

This has really tempted us to go to these islands- thanks

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1 of 1 people found the following comment helpful.

In the freezing cold of this early Jan 2010, Finn's description of Cape Verde is really irresistible; all I have to do now is surf on the net to find the flights from Paris!
Thank you for your details on the various islands locally, and the flights to go there, for the mouth-watering(?)food and drinks lists.
Will tell you when we come back; but, Finn, you are travelling so fast and frequently that I find it hard to keep up!

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0 of 0 people found the following comment helpful.

I have been observing your burgeoning career as a travel writer with great interest, Finn, and I notice that you are now very successfully combining your engaging, humorous, vivid and inspiring introductions to the places that you visit with the practical details required by people who would like to follow in your footsteps for their next holiday destination. You offer a superb sense of place and of the people you encounter, and there is a satisfying shape and structure to each travelogue. A worthy successor to Dervla Murphy perhaps?

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0 of 0 people found the following comment helpful.

Another excellent guide from Finn providing a ready made holiday plan for first time visitors to the Cape Verde Islands.
If 'Lily Allen's dad' goes there it must be special!
Thank you for another interesting, informative and well structured guide, Finn.

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Rating:
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1 of 1 people found the following comment helpful.

I have wanted to visit Cape Verde for a while so I read this guide with interest. Thank you for an overview of a lesser known destination Finn. You have a very friendly writing style and this guide kept me hooked. To nitpick...please add in some more detail about Hotel Por de Sol Arte as there is not enough information here for me to book straight from your guide. The link to Casa Renate also doesn't seem to work. Did you add this to the database yourself? If so, please let me know the correct web address and I will change it for you.

What do other readers think of this guide? Has it inspired you to visit Cape Verde?

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Thanks for your comments. I would really encourage you to travel there. Both the hotels you referred to were very friendly and Por de Sol Arte is the centre of life in the village. The website for booking any hotels in Cape Verde is www.caboverde.com (NB no hyphen). This has pictures of the hotels. However it is simpler to book by email.For Casa Renate, contact on renatefogo@hotmail.com and for Por de Sol Arte, contact on porsolarte@yahoo.fr. I am happy to pass on any other advice too.
Happy travelling
Finn

Thank you Finn. The link should work now. You have two more hotels in Your Make it Happen box: Hotel Morabeza and Hotel Les Alizes. Please make sure that all hotels included here are mentioned in your guide with an explanation of why you are recommending them.