A week in Cape Verde

Day 1

So here I am sat in the Escape Lounge at Manchester Airport on Christmas Eve eating nachos and drinking champagne, starting my next blog all about my annual Christmas and New Year holiday (£25 entry for 3 hours all inclusive, sometimes on offer for £20 and can be free if you collect Avios points like us). This time I’m off to visit the Cape Verdean island of Sal. I’m going with my family to stay at the Meliá Llana for a full week. We’ve been to the island before at Christmas but after our holiday to Cuba was dowangraded on us to a sub-par hotel we made the quick change to a place we know and love. Last time we came we visited the Meliá Dunas and loved the hot weather and white beaches, this time along the beach they have added a brick groyne which means I can snorkel and look out for the turtles coming in to nest. My snorkel is currently taking up all the room in my hand luggage.

So I’m on the plane, a 757 and two hours in I’m freezing, I can’t feel my toes they are that cold. I’m sat next to the exit and the seal on the door is broken! They’ve also forgotten my vegetarian meal. Currently not a happy bunny! Thankfully the cabin crew are being amazing and have already processed a £100 voucher off my next TUI holiday. Happy with that and already looking at holidays to go on next. Morocco or Iceland??

Upon arrival at the hotel – £10 taxi from the airport, but make sure you tell TUI otherwise you’ll make 50+ people wait on the coaches for you – we’re greeted with incredibly friendly faces and are shown to the priority queue. I’ve been given a pool facing suite with a separate lounge area and a huge king size bed. It’s got two TVs, much to the annoyance of my father. It’s beautiful and rather large. Even though it had not been an early start I was shattered and by 11pm, after tea, I was in bed asleep ready for the next day of sunbathing.

Day 2

So Christmas Day I was up at 6am. I had a cup of coffee on the balcony while watching the sunrise before heading for breakfast at 7:30. I wanted my usual avocado, bacon and poached eggs on toast but couldn’t find avocado anywhere! In this day and age what hotel doesn’t have them? I was shocked but made do without it and had a Kiwi smoothie to start my day.

My morning continued with Yoga. They had an experienced coach come in who was fantastic. It made my day to get off to a great start. From here we wandered down to the beach to claim our beds for the day and sprawled our on a sun lounger and the piña colada started to flow. Four of them later and it was time for lunch.

Now lunch was interesting as I’d gone up to my room to put my phone on charge and asked for the falafel and vegetables to be ordered for me. What I actually got was farfalle pasta with vegetables. I even asked where my falafel was and they said this was falafel – yep this isn’t the first thing wrong. I pointed out their spelling mistake and hopefully this should be changed (it has now been changed). Not wanting carbohydrate loading pasta for lunch I ate the veg. I went up to the restaurant for some much needed protein before returning to our sun-beds for a nap.

Two hours later and with the sun dwindling I decided to go for my first snorkel. Now the Atlantic was cold but okay for 15 minutes. There were some interesting fish but with the nearby bikini beach music turned up full and the bass pumping they had all disappeared. Tomorrow I’m going to snorkel on the outside of the rip-rap groynes and see if the fish vary. Last time we came there were puffer fish body’s sprawled all over the beach so they must be somewhere.

That evening we went up for dinner and was amazed by the array of food. The black pasta caught mine and my mum’s eye and I teamed it with the sea bass. After food we went for a drink in the Azul and where my mum wasn’t feeling well so we went to bed.

Day 3

Now this day started well…

I woke and had my toast, bacon and poached egg followed by yoga at 8am. My mum still wasn’t feeling well. She was happy enough to claim our sun-beds on the beach and stayed for an hour. She then started to get very ill so she took herself to the room to sleep. We checked on her on our way to lunch and sat down to eat. That was when the smell of food hit me and I felt sick. I ate some fruit to try and settle  my stomach but it was no good. I too, as many guest at the hotel had, succumbed to the food poisoning from the black pasta.

I managed to sort myself out and join my dad on the beach. Rotherham were playing so that was more important. I laid down to try and hide my illness. We left the beach as the match ended and grabbed some water for both me and mum to rehydrate with. None of us managed to get to tea that night and we ended up all asleep by 8pm hoping that the food poisoning would pass.

Day 4

Obviously it was an apprehensive start to our day. We managed breakfast well and I skipped yoga just because I was not sure a downward dog would agree with me.

Me and my dad instead took a walk along the beach to the left of the hotel where three years ago we found some intact urchin shells. Unfortunately we didn’t find any. By the time we had finished the sun was shinning and our sun-beds were calling. It was hot! Thankfully the hotel sent round lot of waiters with water so we could rehydrate. We didn’t drink anything alcoholic until lunch when we were a little surer we were okay. We had lunch at the main bar as we knew we needed protein and fruit to get our vitamins and cells back where they should be. After lunch we went back to our sun-beds to brown some more before coming off to get ready for our evening.

That evening it was Asian night in the restaurant much to the delight of our family. Sushi, swordfish, spring rolls and crab tempura. It was excellent. So much so I feel like I put a few pounds on that evening!! We retired to the Azul bar, had some drinks, played some cards and watched some questionable Brazil dancing from the entertainment team. I used to work in a hotel as an entertainer and currently as a choreographer and this show was not good. I was rather disappointed in what they thought was Brazilian dancing, maybe some investment in a choreographer – not me, it is not at all my area but I know when something isn’t right – would do some good.

Day 5

Today started cloudy so we made a decision we would head to Santa Maria. We headed for breakfast, I skipped yoga and felt really bad when I saw the instructor in the town, and we headed down to Santa Masia. It was €3 for a taxi which is incredibly cheap. We landed in the centre to a protest from the police, we later learned they were striking for more pay – good on them! We were all amazed by the change in the town since we last saw it two years ago. Tourism has really put a kickstart into the area which is fantastic. Within five minutes of being here I knew we should had stayed closer and possibly done half board or b&b, this new town was fantastic!

We headed straight for the beach and its fantastic fish market. Now when I say fish market forget what you see at London docks. We’re taking 10+kg tuna with their heads cut off. It’s a great place to absorb local culture and watch the generations bring in a living for their family. It’s here also where you forget you’re on an island off the coast of Africa and think you’re in the Caribbean…

Didn’t those pictures convince you I was actually in the Caribbean? I wasn’t, but how beautiful? From here we went on my mum’s mission to find a doll like one she had seen in the hotel. She quite rightly refused to pay the €43 the hotel has the figurine priced at and took us into every single shop in Santa Maria before we finally found them for €12 and €14 in a Chinese shop. I wasn’t complaining about going into all the shops. We chatted to some amazing locals and even got to see them playing with the families and friends and immersed ourselves in their lifestyles. It was an amazing experience, some were pushy I must admit, but others were incredibly polite, wanted you to come in, were not overbearing and spoke to you, not just about their families but yours. There were children playing everywhere and unlike other countries they were not begging but peacefully playing with their friends. It was now 12:20 and time to get back to the hotel for our lunch. Another €3 taxi and we were back at Meliá Llana by 12:45.

We decided to go to the pool bar Pura Vida for lunch where my dad has the hot dog, sauce on the side, you will thank us later, I had the crispy chicken sandwich, get it to share it’s HUGE, and my mum a starter of tomato and mozzarella and chips – typically British. We then decided to sunbath around the pool as the wind was still high and I was sick of coming back covered in sand! It was a hot afternoon, and my Brüt was constantly filled by the trainee waiter coming round followed by pizza! Yes, pizza delivery at the poolside. There was also a few stalls on the bar terrace where you could shop.

That evening was Cape Verde night so the food was all fish. I had my favourite black bean rice and made fish finger sandwiches. I agree with Stormzy, they are not just for kids! We spent the night chatting to other guest, beating all of them at gin rummy before bed called. The only problem of the night was my wine was served in a plastic glass so I stole a glass one from the restaurants.

Day 6

This day started off great. The calima has gone so the sun was shining this morning as I woke for breakfast. We sunbathed round the pool and managed to stay out until 4pm before the cloud descended and we retreated out of the cold. My dad an I at about 5 decided to wander down the beach and got as far the random cafe and a large sand dune before turning back as it was starting to get dark. We realised we could actually walk to Santa Maria but we didn’t have the time.


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It was white night that evening so I put on my white palm leave play suit and off for tea. The food really had a lot to be desired this evening. Leftovers from the night before and lunch, are not acceptable in a 5 star hotel. I had fish finger sandwiches again. At this point I was starting to get frustrated with the hotel. I went to the bar to ask for a Prosecco to be served it in a plastic glass. We were miles away from the pool and it was the evening so why was I given a plastic one? I refused this and asked for glass, to which I was told no. So I walked back into the restaurant to get my glass and asked them to fill it up. They obliged eventually. I then got angry again when I asked for our second round of drinks. I was the next person to be served at the bar, there was a man stood next to me, when the waiter asked who was next so I piped up but the way the waiter looked at me and looked at those stood next to me was rude! He got my drinks but asked the people next to me what they wanted and said to them only “Go sit, I will bring it!”. I was fuming! It seems to me this hotel only looks after those it wants to. We also noticed that some people got their drinks brought to them without even having to ask yet the majority had to go the bar!

Day 7

On our last full day I woke up very disheartened by the amount of money that we had spent on being on holiday here. I was not impressed. The hotel itself is lovely, the rooms are beautiful not 100% clean but very close, the staff are very friendly, but the service and upkeep is shocking. I’ve never been to a 5 * hotel where tiles are missing or stained, where you drinks aren’t filled around the pool or bar, where there are not mats for the sun lounges, where you’re served in plastic glasses (except around the pool), where fresh food without avocados is served – yep I’ve not seen one – where you have to ask for hand towels in your room on two occasions, where towels and bedding are ripped, and where the staff are constantly on mobile phones! It’s been four days since I was ill and not the hotel or rep, who who aware we were ill, did anything to check up on us. The day did get better, but after the start I had it needed to. We had breakfast and found a place around the pool to spend our last full day. The sun was shining and there was a lot of Prosecco drunk – mainly thanks to my football team winning, this may have helped my mood. We had a good lunch for once, still no avocado though, and returned back to the pool. The fashion show around the bottom pool was nice. A little long but some very nice clothes to break up the afternoon.

That evening was one of the best evenings we had. The food quality had shot up and the entertainment was actually good. They had a magic act on which was very impressive. We finally found out if you asked for a glass with your drink you got one. We also got table service at the bar! We decided to have an early night as tomorrow was home time.

Day 8

This day we woke up to beautiful clear skies so had a quick breakfast finished packing and headed straight down to the pool. We enquired if we could keep our rooms on but we were told no. So to check I left my curtains open so I could see in and guess what? Our room hadn’t been cleaned or anyone checked in by 4pm when I walked up. Their loss to be honest, we were very willing to pay. We spent our time around the pool before checking out at 11:30am. While checking out we paid our tax, €2 per person per day and €1 for Unicef. We were then asked if we wanted to keep our towels, the ones with holes in them, for €20. We declined and went for an early lunch which wasn’t great. I had meatballs and roast potatoes. We returned to the beds for a last few hours of sun, then used the courtesy rooms to shower and charge my phone. We then headed down to the pool bar at 3:45 to go and have some snacks before we left only to told it was closed and pointed in the direction of the catering food on the other side, which was empty. We were shocked and stunned that they had packed everything away and refused us food when they were meant to be open. Feeling more frustrated I went up to the Avenue Bar where they continued to kindly charge my phone and had some peanuts and Prosecco.

Our transfer to the airport was 20 minutes late which wasn’t a bother as the plane had been delayed again after its morning trip to Turin. We arrived at the newly extended airport and went through a very quick check in. It’s a communal one which I think every airport should do as it’s much quicker. We sat down in the new part of the airport watching our plane land. I had what I thought were my normal pre-flight jitters. Nothing a paracetamol can’t cure.

They turned the plane around pretty quickly and before we knew it we were in the air. I still wasn’t feeling great so slept for the first hour and woke up as we were heading over my old stomping ground of Gran Canaria and wished all my friends down there a Happy New Year. I fell back to sleep and my dad woke me to eat. They’d sorted out meals so our veggie ones arrived first, although my dad wasn’t happy he’d been given one! I ate very little of my meal as I was starting to feel ill so went back to sleep hoping to sleep it off. We hit some mild turbulence and the pilot switched on the seatbelt sign, the cabin crew were going round with coffee and tea so quite rightly good move. The turbulence didn’t help my stomach much. The seatbelt sign was on while we welcomed in the new year, which the captain told us when it was and exactly where we were. That’s why I can tell you at exactly 00:04 I was on the aeroplane toilet with food poisoning again. Happy New Year.

Overall I was delighted to get home to good food. The food poisoning had passed by the late afternoon the next day. I was determined to get to the Rotherham United match and keep down a pie! Yay.

So that’s it. My slightly miserable week in Cape Verde. Don’t get me wrong I will definitely go back but not to the Meliá’s. If I went back I would go to one of the hotels closer to Santa Maria and go bed & breakfast. I loved my time in Santa Maria and the atmosphere and would love to sit and immerse myself in the local lifestyle and get some of the water sports done.

My top 5 things to do in Ill Doh Sal

  1. Visit the pink slat lakes. We only found out about them as we were leaving so need to go back now
  2. Visit Santa Maria – It is beautiful
  3. Make sure you people watch on the towns pier
  4. Get involved in the water sports – from wind surfing, paddle boarding, snorkelling, swimming with the sharks, etc…
  5. Relax – the islands motto is ‘no stress’ so do as they tell you!

I hope I’ve given you some advice for your visit!


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3 thoughts on “A week in Cape Verde

  1. Good job Katie!! I loved to read you, everything is very well written! I’m sorry you started the year that bad and that your holidays weren’t as you expected, sadly! It’s in our plans to go to Cape Verde too, so let’s see when we can make that happen! Lots of love from us 3! 😘

    Liked by 1 person

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