Very rarely do I ever go to a place that is a former European colony that didn’t have people before the Europeans landed. It’s nice to think that someone, at least one time in human history, landed on a beach in a big wooden boat, took a look around and declared “I claim this land for (insert European power here)” without the place already being inhabited. This is actually what happened at my destination Cape Verde
. Cape Verde is an archipelago of islands West of Africa, off the coast of Senegal. The Portuguese first discovered the island chain in 1456, and first settled there in 1462. The islands, 10 of them, are volcanic and were uninhabited when the Portuguese arrived. Cape Verde remained a Portuguese colony until 1975. Look at that, a country that was colonized that wasn’t cruelly wrestled away from a native people. Of course, the Portuguese made up for the peaceful and civilized expansion of their empire by immediately making it an important part of the slave trade, which explains the ever present creole culture of the islands. I guess no place is born without original sin.
Cape Verde is a series of islands and some of them seem so different that the place can feel like a series of video game levels. First the beach island, then the mountain island, then the desert island, then the final boss on the city island. Getting between the islands can be a little trickier than one would think, but it’s totally worth whatever inconveniences the laid back island attitude sometimes produces. The seafood here is amazing. Santa Maria on the island of Sal has the resorts and touristy restaurants, but for the best of Cape Verde restaurants
, head to Mindelo on the Island of Sao Vicente. You have to try Cachupa, the national dish, a slow cooked corn, potato and meat (usually fish) concoction that is greater than the sum of its parts. Then find some seafood. There is fresh tuna and Wahoo everywhere, as well as lobster and pretty much everything else you can imagine. Big game fishing is a very popular tourist attraction as well and I’m sure its fun, but I prefer to let the natives do the fishing, preparing, and serving. Even if they are immigrants.