Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Report # 107 Mindelo, Cape Verde April 15, 2014 Tuesday Day 1 Partly cloudy, 85 degrees

The view from our room

And also the pier down below our window
The Amsterdam slipped into the harbor of Mindelo and was securely docked by 8am. Mindelo is located on the island of Sao Vicente, and is the second largest city in the Cape Verde group of islands. Even though it was discovered in the 1450's, the island remained uninhabited until the 18th century when it was set up as a provisioning station by the Portuguese for the slave ships. 

Boats in the bay

Some feighters and ferries

Partly cloudy skies
Those days are long gone by, but what remained are the colonial buildings and the people, who are a mix of African and Portuguese. The language is a blend of Portuguese and several African dialects . Lucky for us, they speak a fair amount of English as well.

Part of the island's volcanic peaks
This volcanic island is remarkably dry and arid. After the 100 year drought in the early 19th century, the British formed a colony in Mindelo, using it as a coal station. That was during the steam ship era. Today, the locals make a living from fishing and tourism.

Lone rock juts out of the bay

Dry hillsides

Boats in the harbor

City in the arid volcanic island
Yacht harbor

Small boats used for fishing
We left the Amsterdam around 10:30am and took the complimentary shuttle to the downtown area. The ride only took 15 minutes, although we could have walked to town. Taking the shuttle got us past the line of taxi drivers, who always compete for your business. How many times would we have to say no thanks today? Probably about thirty, since there were that many drivers available.

Driving the length of the beachfront road, we passed monuments, shops, cafes, colonial buildings, and the fish market. 

Clocktower on historic building

Love the colors

White-trimmed colonial

Many palms
The streets and side walks were made with old cobblestones that were once used as ballasts on the sailing ships. They served as weights in keeping the ships steady. You can find these cobblestones under most port cities in the world, including where we grew up in San Francisco. Many of the rock-filled streets were covered with asphalt preserving these stones. As authentic as they are, it makes walking a bit difficult. Good shoes with thick soles with support are a must here.

The bus dropped us off across from the tourist information center.

Information center near the bus stop
Where do we go next?
Local shoppers

The younger crowd

Nice balcony

Seen better times

Clean colors


Not a lot of street traffic

Old doors

Tower of Belem and the fish market


Center of town

Modern-built to look old

Typical Portuguese buildings

A restaurant upstairs

Balconies are common here

Old shops

Baby has the right idea

From there, we followed the beachfront road, taking many photos of the local sites along the way. 

Boats beached
Bright colors

Signs are in Portuguese

Small shop

Could be a bed and breakfast hotel

Sports Club

Small businesses

Newer digs

Good colors

Newer apartments

Looking at the church

Very narrow cobbled streets

Some local fishermen were cleaning their morning's catch right on the beach. The smell of the fish scales and guts was potent, but it did not seem to bother them, as they flung bucket fulls of this in the surf. 


Good place to clean fish

Cleaning the morning's catch

No wonder it smelled bad
We passed by the monument of Diogo Afonso, the Portuguese navigator that founded the islands. 

Diogo Afonso monument

Next was the Tower of Belem, an exact replica of the one of the same name in Lisbon, Portugal. It was built here in the 1920's. We are not sure what the use for it is today.

Tower of Belem
The pastel-painted colonial buildings on the waterfront were attractive with their trim done in white. Sure reminded us of Aruba in the Caribbean, although that is Dutch.

Which way to go?

Blue is a popular color in town
Small park in town

Interesting roof structure


Basket lady

Blue marks the spot

Palacio do Presidente (Pink Palace)

Local building...shop below, apartments above

A store

African market

Coat of arms

Very nice balcony

Very blue building

Casa Cafe Mindelo

Public building
The fish market was at the end of this road. It was much nicer than the one we saw yesterday in Praia. With plenty of space between cutting tables, we were able to get some great photos without getting into their way. 

Fish market

Big and small ones

Many types of fish

Bonito and tuna

Lots of dried and salted fish

Striped ones
Tonight's dinner
Sanitary head covering

Hard at work

Lots of fish

A vendor in the market

Colorful character
Very nice produce sold here

Friendly vendors
Tiled art lined the inside walls.
Tiled art
Portuguese tiles

More tile art

Taking a left turn, we walked up to another marketplace, or the veggie and fruit market. 

Another produce market
This open-air building was again, much nicer than yesterday's crowded market. It was less busy, and there were even a few cats resting peacefully as we walked by them. 

Happy cat
All of the produce looked clean and healthy.

Onions and garlic heavily used

Peppers and cukes

Getting corn ready for drying


Stuffed bellpeppers sound good

Can't get fresher than these

Dried beans and corn

Beets, lettuce, and cilantro

Tubs of produce

Yes, lots of fruit 

Salad fixings

Gossiping over the produce


Dried beans

Ingredients for a good stew

Few supermarkets here

Bananas looked good

Sold fresh daily

Sales girl
Across the street from this market was Praca Estrella Square, where some African vendors had some wood carvings and some trinkets like jewelry. 

The Praca Estrella Square
Selling things on the sidewalk

Wood carvings

Quite different-looking

Happy kids

Locals and tourists

Fancy baskets made here
The problem we had with a few of them was that they tried to pressure us into buying something quickly from them. It does not always work to ask how much something is. They come back with how much do you want to offer? If you take a wild guess and start very low, then you chance insulting them. The problem was that we were just asking, but not totally committed to any particular item. They do not want you to do comparison shopping, because you may find the same items elsewhere much cheaper. So what happens is they drive you away. We have learned not to point to or touch any particular item, such as a wood carving, unless you were prepared to buy it. As it turned out, we bought nothing.

Locals shopping

We saw fewer tubs packed on heads in Mindelo

Replicas made of wood
Next to this square was a series of shops selling most all the same stuff. One of the biggest items for sale are flip-flops, but few t-shirts are available. We spent very little time here, so maybe tomorrow we will come back.

More veggies and fruits were being sold in this square, but under huge tents. 

Clothing, but no fabric shops

Kids were cute

Local vendors

Happy little guy

More fruit for sale

Cute as a bug 
More veggie vendors

Selling produce

Fresh produce and eggs

Don't need supermarkets here

Vibrant colors

Local resident with her dog across the street

Beach, but not for swimming

Monument of an eagle

Carnaval dress perhaps
White trimmed house

Public building

Coca Cola is a world wide favorite


Nice view from here

Even better view from this one

Busy streets

Street cafe

The pink palace

Walking up the small streets from this square, we found the Catholic church, Nossa Senhora de Luz Church built in 1862. 

On our way to church
Nossa Senhora de Luz Church (1862)
Belltower of the church
Inside the church
We were lucky to be here today, instead of the original date of Friday, the 18th, which happens to be Good Friday. All of these venues would have been closed, since the days prior to Easter Sunday, the 20th of April, are considered holy days and become like holidays.

Near the church was the African market, an even nicer indoor veggie and fruit market housed in a two story colonial building. 

Upper balcony had a few shops

Watching the locals shop

Wonder if all of this is grown locally?

Several small cafes lined the outer walls of the market, and the upstairs had a few shops and a very clean set of restrooms. On the walls, were Portuguese tiles made into art. 

Tiled art on the walls
Tiled art

Town scenery

Mindelo in the old days



Shaded from the sun
One of the local beaches
Portuguese tiles

Modern tile art (1990's)


Tells a story
Leaving the market

Have you ever heard of "morna" music? We have not, but heard it during our lunch stop today. To us, we thought it sounded like the music of the islands in the Caribbean. It is a combination of guitar and drums with a definitely carnaval type of beat.

Guitar man
Hardly working
Speaking of lunch, we knew if we looked hard enough, we would find pizza somewhere, even though Barbara H. had said we would not find it here. Well, guess what? We did see a pizzeria advertised above a bar on one of the main streets. There was a huge problem, however, because it was closed and probably would not open until later this evening. 

Looking for a good place for lunch
Pizzeria was CLOSED
Looks like a good restaurant, but CLOSED
Another restaurant, but CLOSED
How cruel is that? We continued to wander around, trying to follow a map we were handed on the ship. Just by pure accident, we found a nice-looking balcony on top of a business. A narrow doorway held a stairwell up to the top, where we found a menu with all the local fare, mostly fish. Lo and behold, a whole page of pizzas was on the back page. Eureka.....we found it. Margherita pizza, Strela draft beers, and a cool breeze blowing across the balcony..... what else could we have asked for? How about the prices? Expecting expensive, we were surprised to find our bill came to under $10 US. 

O Cocktail Restaurant upstairs
The open-air balcony
The kitchen in the back

Tables upstairs
Our friendly waiter

O Cocktail

The menu

Had the place almost to ourselves

The best local beer....Strela

Margherita pizza was very tasty
Enjoying watching the people walking by down below us, we lingered for an hour before heading back towards the bus stop. The nice thing about today is that we are staying overnight and don't need to worry about getting back early.

Pont d'Agua, upscale dining on the waterfront

Same restaurant

Johnnie Walker Bar
On our way to the bus stop, we checked out the information spot in a store on the waterfront. There were not the usual printed maps there, but there was a lady who told us that there were no African fabric shops in downtown Mindelo. We would have to take a taxi to get to one out of town. No, we are not that interested. Very near the bus stop, was another table set up with maps, but they appeared to be for sale. We will have to check this place out again tomorrow, because the maps could have a wealth of statistics about Cape Verde that we do not have access to.

We rode the shuttle back with Johnnie and Yvonne from the Netherlands. They had gotten some local currency, then rode a bus that took them all the way around the island. It cost them the equivalent of 50 cents each. They saw all of the villages and beaches the island had to offer. Perhaps a 40 minute ride, they thought it was a good deal, since a similar tour with a walk around town cost about $60 per person on the ship's excursion.

While we were busy watching a movie in our room and playing with photos, another cruise ship sailed into the harbor. Fred Olsen was the name and the ship was the Braemer. Looked like it may hold around 800 passengers, judging by the number of lifeboats they had. We will have lots of company in town tomorrow, which may be a good thing. Those vendors in the plaza will be busier trying to sell their wares, giving us a chance to look better without the hassle.

Six of us were at dinner, with two going to the final Le Cirque dinner in the Pinnacle Grill. With everyone sharing daily stories with each other, it is one of our favorite times of the day. We all saw something different, and if we missed something, we have the chance to see it today.

Also there was a Cabo Verde BBQ at the Lido pool area. Some of the barbecued favorites served were steaks, chicken skewers, shrimp, and suckling pigs. 

Local musicians....music was great


BBQ in progress, town in background

Sirloin strip steaks


Suckling pig....not happy


Many diners
Many folks were enjoying this fare, except for the cold wind that came up making it downright chilly. An excellent local band of guitarists and violinists entertained while the guests were eating and drinking. A different type of music, we liked it, but we only heard one complaint that it was too loud.

At the aft pool, Debby Bacon was decked out in a long, sleeveless gown, and she must have been freezing. She was playing her special piano until 11pm.

Looking forward to one more day in Mindelo.

Going down

Nice color
Getting better

Going, going....

The rising moon over Cape Verde

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