Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Cape Verde

This winter has been incredibly long, too long, especially for us (or mainly for some of us) that had to stay closed in, looking at some carpenter fixing a bathroom.
We decided to reward ourselves with a trip, to a warm place, and since we didn't want to be too jetlagged or spend too much time on a plane, we ended up going to Capo Verde, which seemed to be a good compromised for all our parameters (including money).
On our way to Cape Verde
We went to Boa Vista in the end of January and we were happy to find a very lovely climate, warm during the day and fresh during the night.
The days were though a bit "short": already at five, when the sun was setting, it was getting a bit chilly. The wind was not a problem at all, despite reading on the reviews tons of complaint about it. But we are definitely used to Skåne and Sicily :-)

 The hotel (Club Hotel Riu Karamboa) seemed like an Arabic palace in the middle of the desert: it was huge and very beautiful. Despite the amount of people, the place was quite clean and never crowded (maybe the only crowded place was the bar next to te big pool). 
One Thousands and one Nights
Rising from the desert
Map of the hotel
An impressive palace
The big pool was great, also quite child friendly and despite the presence of a child pool, we enjoyed to spend most of our time there or on the beach.

 The beach (Praia de Chave and the sea were amazing, although the water was a bit chilly.
The beach at sunset
The sunset
Praia de Chave, an incredible beach
There were plenty of possibilities to be active, we played a bit of beach volley and football, among the several activities that were offered.
Beachvolley with young and capable guys.
All day long one could get food, but the thing is, for us that we are quite picky with it, not everything was great.
1) The main restaurant, Santiago, offered breakfast, lunch and dinner.
 Breakfast was huge, with a large variety of food to satisfy everyone's habits and taste. The fruit, bread and pastries were great. The warm food could have definitely been better and we were very disappointed by the lack of fresh juices. For example, the french toast was a bit soggy.
Lunch and dinner offered always a lot of choice and we always managed to taste a lot of different things, some very good, some a bit less impressive. One of the best things we ate was the Gazpacho, while the pasta and the pizza didn't give us a good memory (I think the pizza was frozen...) The desserts were also great! There was a lot to choose from and everything was delicious.
 The choice of cheese was a bit reduced to dutch products, instead.
Still, in all meals, a bit more food from Cape Verde would have been great.
The staff, especially at this restaurant, was great and very kind. The restaurant was also very clean.
Restaurant "Santiago"
2) Las Dunas, near the pool, offered snacks during the whole day (more and less), lunch and dinner as African restaurant.
 The snacks and the lunch were quite disappointing. The quality of the food was far from the one of restaurant Santiago and it seems it was mainly targetting "fat food" with the results that we tried to avoid to eat there.
The African thematic restaurant was a disappointment as well. Although the offer was wide and the quality was great, the main focus was on grilled meat. We didn't find anything "particular" that we could think it was African, it was very much like a big barbecue. Another disturbing thing of that particular restaurant was that we found (more than once) insects nearby the food and birds eating from the bread lying around.
3) Asiatico restaurant, a thematic restaurant which ambitiously tries to cover a lot of asiatic food  but fails miserably. I didn't even try the sushi because Mattias said it was no good, but everything was mild, not well cooked and far from any original asiatic kitchen. I don't think we could have been eating faster that evening! 4) Barlovento, the capverdian restaurant was just great instead. Of course, they were best in their own food! Fantastic grilled shrimps, amazing chicken and some other amazing dishes were offered there. We really recommend to focus on this restaurant rather than the other two!

All the thematic restaurants needed to be booked in advance and they were quite popular, so one had to do that early in the morning. Strange enough, we never saw any of them full when we were there (just putting pressure on customers!?)
Different bars were available in different points of the hotel, but the choice of analcoholic beverage/cocktail was limited and not very good. We didn't try any alcoholic things.

Our room was quite ok, we liked the style, but we were a bit annoyed by the fact that the bathroom didn't have a door to the room: having Isabella sleeping in the same room, and quite early, gave us some discomfort when we had to wash our hands (the toilet did have a door, thankfully).
We ended up having some problems with the cleaning of our room, since our princess was sleeping during the cleaning round and after that noone came and clean our room when we left it and said it was available. We got some cleaned towels when asking them at the reception, tough (of course, we asked them...) During the cleaning round (and during our sensitive creature's sleep) the noise was quite loud and it was not always easy to rest. I suppose it is hard to combine cleaning and people resting, but maybe if you see that the room next to the one that you are cleaning has a "do not disturb" sign you don't got and knock with violence? :)
A room (ours) with a view
The hotel from the beach
We went to visit Sal Rei as only excursion, we took a taxi and went there thinking of having lunch, but that never happened.
The town was very small and didn't offer anything special to see or visit, although it had a beautiful view over the ocean, with small boats placed everywhere. It seemed like a very poor town and for us, it was quite annoying, that the locals were trying to grab us in their businesses and making us buying stuff.
There were restaurants, but we didn't really see any that was opened or inviting. Maybe we didn't want to take risks since we had an hungry small girl, but we thought the place had definitely to improve from a touristic perspective.
 We also took a walk outside the hotel, but we basically reached the airport and nothing else was around. We were like in the middle of nowhere :-)
In general, one should go there and do excursions, visiting also the other islands or doing some quad excursion. It seems that the possibilities are wide and exciting. But that was not easy to do with a 2 years old child. Plus, everything seemed quite expensive.
A little bird 
The hotel had also some shops and services. Free internet access at the reception area for scandinavians (!), spa and hairdresser at reasonable price, shops of souvenirs.
 The reception stuff was always very kind and helpful but we got into some troubles the day we arrived: on the bus to the hotel, we were informed that we were supposed to "leave our bags out and check in directly", so we did that.
Unfortunately, our room was not yet ready, and the person we met at the reception told us to go and have lunch. When we were back, after one hour, he gave us some stickers but he never told us what they were for. We went directly to our room thinking our bags would be there soon. But that never happened and after we called the reception, and one bag finally arrived. After few hours of waiting we went there wondering what happened to the others, and they told us that we should have put the stickers on the bag. That we had no idea we were supposed to do! Eventually, our bags appeared (since I nagged ;D), but I thought it was a bit rude that we ended up being accused of doing wrong (how shall we know the right process especially if noone tells us?) and I would have expected a better apology for wasting our afternoon in this way.

 In general, our staying at the hotel ended up being what we expected. Very relaxing. With the fact that we were also following Isabella's rythm we didn't do too much, but if one wanted to be more active there was plenty to do.

 We chose this trip via Fritidsresor (the swedish version of Tui Travel) and we were very disappointed at their service.
 Ok, it is a charter flight and it can't be at a comfortable time (waking up at 3 in the night was not that funny at all), but why having a flight of 9 hours with a stop in Tenerife for fueling up? Please, plan the trip with a bigger plane, also because, especially with a child on your lap, 9 hours in a compact plane is far from being funny. And not only for us!
 Let's not talk of the kindness of the flight attendants! Only one of the 4 groups of hostesses showed some sign of understanding. The rest were rude and sharp!
Typical Fritidsresor kid entertainment with Bamse and a Swedish queue system
The girls at the bus to/from the airport and at the hotel were quite unexperienced.
The one on the bus gave us wrong information (see above), while one at the hotel was very confused by our requests on how to plan our daughter lunch before the flight back home. She gave us wrong information about what was available at the airport and suggested us to buy some snack from a vending machine. Brilliant, I'd say :)

1) Food on the plane. Your own food is not authorized to be on the plane, but food for kids smaller than 2 years old is not served. The food costed about 150kr per person and it consisted of a warm meal (classical plane food) and a sandwhich, which I thought was kinda ridiculous (it was just a small baguette with a slice of cheese).
 We had to plan for Isabella's food which was not easy since it was very hard to prepare a warm meal for her that would last 9 hours on a plane, including also milk, fruit, etc.etc....In reality, people had a lot of snacks and stuff. I wished at that point, for what we ate, that we wouldn't have paid that money.
2) Insurance. We avoided to pay since we read that our credit card (with which we did the payment) had insurance as well.
3) Child equipment: travel bed, stroller and high chair. We took of course the travel bed, also because it was for free, but we were in doubt for the stroller and the high chair. We ended up paying for the high chair, which was completely meaningless, since high chairs were available at any time and noone asked us if we had paid for them.
For the stroller instead, we luckily took ours with, since we read some reviews stating that the one that one would rent would have not been always very comfortable for the kid (e.g. no sun protection) and anyway, with the possibility to take your own stroller it was quite silly to get another one.

So, big no no from our side for Fritidsresor. They were not really helpful, nor service minded and it seemed that everything was rotating about them making money out of anything...

We will though remember this trip since, despite all the small imperfections, we had a good time and we achieved our goal (not do anything) and Isabella was waving and kissing everyone, almost like a showgirl. I was almost tempted to ask for money for every kiss she was sending...
 And still today, we can say "Olaaaaa, Isabellina, Olaaa" as Maria and Andreia, two of her favorite waitress at the restaurants were telling her, making her smile :) post signature

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