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Date: 12/05/2011
5 great days in Cape Verde and a 5 star Tortuga Beach Resort Launch Party- MD Adrian Lillywhite Blog

I was tired…so very tired. It was a really good fun weekend. In fact it was a really good fun and constructive 5 day visit to Sal. My one piece of advice to anyone who is thinking of going to a launch party of a spectacular new 5 star resort in Cape Verde is to fly home on one of the direct flights to London, Birmingham or Manchester. Not the 1 AM in the morning flight through Lisbon. No sleep. If at all possible please take the direct flight after going to the launch party of a spectacular new 5 star resort……..

That resort was the fantastic Melia Tortuga Beach Resort – and wow, how it had come on in the last 3 months since my last trip. Fabulous. What a great job Sol Melia (the hoteliers), San Jose (the builders) and of course The Resort Group (the developers) had done to actually build and open this excellent development on time and actually make it better than I thought possible. The launch party was a grand affair which I will give you more details on a little later.

Because of how busy we are in the Cape Verde Property UK office I only had time for 5 days down in Sal this trip ( hence having to take the daily flight through Lisbon rather than the weekly direct flight ). No chance to visit the other islands this trip. Bev, my wife, and I jumped in a cab to Heathrow and after a reasonable early evening flight via Lisbon we arrived in Sal around midnight on Wednesday, and Alex, our marvellous multi lingual property expert who works out of the Santa Maria office picked us up from the airport for the short drive down to town. As usual we stayed in Leme Bedje, towards the eastern end of Santa Maria. Great location, and up early for a fabulous cup of coffee and breakfast of eggs and bacon in the Angulo Beach Restaurant and Watersports Centre, located on the white sandy beach right outside Leme Bedje. The sight of amazing turquoise water whilst munching on a piece of buttered toast was really appreciated and should never be taken for granted. This is just one of the many things I look forward to when coming to Cape Verde.

So Thursday was a work day. Off to the town of Espargos towards the centre of the island to the notary and council buildings and a meeting with the lawyers, then back to our Santa Maria office to drop off some bits and pieces and have a meeting and catch up with Ann Johnson who manages the CV office. As usual Ann and Alex have been doing a sterling job, ensuring that Cape Verde Property stays at the top of the charts for specialist Cape Verde agencies. Then I wandered off around town to take some photos for the website and for this little masterpiece. I enjoy photography and even a novice like me can take reasonable photos of the interesting little town, amazing beaches and turquoise water. Lunch was at Tam Tams and for the first time in my life I had an omelette sandwich. Interesting….Tam Tam is one of the very original bars and still very popular. Nice food and nice owners, Ciaran and Amy.

The infrastructure in Santa Maria is really on the UP, however to get to the fully UP state there needs to be quite a bit more UPPING to do. Many of the roads have been dug UP to put in the new drainage and water pipes. In fact many of the 'roads' which have never really been proper 'roads' in the first place are slowly but surely becoming 'roads'. If you know Santa Maria you will understand what I am saying. The curbs all over town have been laid and eventually these new roads and the new infrastructure will be completed and it will be a fabulous place. The biggest dug UP road is the hotel road from the RIU hotels to the town. Now that is a very, very big hole at the moment…. It will be finished around November and will be a dual carriageway with trees planted down the middle. A really good project which will really bring the Djadsal Moradias apartments and Sal Vista apartments into play and also the excellent 5 star Salinas Sea Hotel investment, which has a wonderful beachfront location and available to purchase from 105,000 euros via a SIPP with guaranteed returns and 50% non status mortgages (sorry I had to put that in). On a serious note the infrastructure work in Santa Maria is really important to the future of the island, and it is great to see it well underway with the new roads, new hospital, new police station and schools etc..

After more meetings in the afternoon we went back to Leme Bedje, which is looking really good, and had a wonderful walk down the beach and then got ready to go out on the town….ok we had a pizza in the lovely little Caranguejo (crab) Restaurant by the village square. One of my favourites. A really nice atmosphere and less than 20 euros for 2 pizzas and drinks.

Next day was checking out some of the various developments. We had a good look around Salinas Sea and it was coming along really well. Still a lot of work to do for the November opening however there were plenty of builders onsite and the location is stunning. I think a great investment. The Djadsal Moradias Block D has been painted and looks good, and Ann Johnson, who lives in Block B is always singing the praises of the Djadsal location and pool and also Bailey’s Bar/Restaurant which is very popular with the people living in the Djadsal and also some of the RIU holiday makers who walk into town. Work has now also started on the Sal Vista site next door to the Djadsal. A nice development with large pool which is also well located and even though has been delayed should start to move forwards quickly now.

After the short drive back to the centre of town we had a good look around the wonderful resale Porto Antigo apartments we have on the books, and if you pop into Porto Antigo you have to have a quick coffee or beer or lunch in Papaias. Always lovely and always worth a drink or a meal during the day or in the evening. The Italian restaurant in Porto Antigo has also just re-opened. We didn’t get the chance to try it out, however it was very busy when we passed by. No doubt Porto Antigo 1 is a beautiful development. Porto Antigo 2 is located on the other side of the Odjo D’agua Hotel right on the beach. Stunning gardens, frontline to a beautiful beach with a lovely pool and really very popular. We have resale apartments in both developments.

And where do you go on a Friday evening in Santa Maria? Where else but the Morabeza Hotel Happy Hour between 6.30 and 7.30. Bev and I were really looking forward to this. Old colonial feel, best Caparainhas on the island and very good company. Then a meal in the new Angelas Restaurant on the beach which I had never been to before. Angelas used to be located towards the back of the town, however it has just moved to the old Aquarium frontline restaurant site, close to our office and Porto Antigo 2. In the evenings they do a barbeque menu which is cheap and good quality, and there was fabulous Cape Verdean music being played live. It was really busy and if you visit Sal then it's a great value place to eat without breaking the bank. There are plenty of good restaurants in town, from the cheap and cheerful to more expensive.

Saturday was a visit to the AIGA furniture shop and Marco and Maria. They do specialised packs for the larger developments such as Paradise Beach and Vila Verde and can also put together personalised packs and individual items and also provide kitchens, lights and paintings. The shop looks fabulous and next door now is Conan’s accessory shop. There are now a few places in Sal where it is possible to buy nice furniture. AIGA certainly supply individually styled furniture which suites the tropical weather well. Rhooms have a store now in Santa Maria which offers the Tortuga Beach furniture and Trevor, our snagging expert, also provides furniture, lighting and aircon. Just give us a call and we can supply details. Every time I go to Sal there are new shops and restaurants. Still hardly Oxford Street, however little steps….....

Then to the big event. At 5 PM we picked up Ann and Steve, her husband and drove up to the Tortuga opening party. On the way I saw something that I had never seen before. GOLF on Sal. Yes, a few of the Italian expats have flattened an area of sand between the RIU Hotels and Vila Verde and they have made 5 golf holes, with tees and flags. I can’t say greens, more like ‘sands’ however the chaps were pitch and putting happily around the course. Whilst Cotton Bay still waits for anything to actually go ahead, these guys have got off their backsides and it gives them a nice Saturday afternoon round. I was impressed.

Then to Tortuga. And how it had changed and what a party. Around 500 people including the Prime Minister, various other ministers, Sol Melia bosses, the mayor of Sal and of course Rob Jarrett, the chairman of The Resort Group. It started with a reception in reception, and the cutting of the red ribbon. There was a red carpet, which for some odd reason I was not allowed to walk down. Ok, maybe it was for the Prime Minister. Then to speeches which outlined the future for the 3 Sol Melia resorts in Sal, Tortuga, Dunas and Llana and the massive investment these resorts have already started to bring to Sal. More champagne and we all trailed down past the lovely upper pool following drummers and dancers down to the even larger lower pool where there was a massive stage built up with PA and lights and Tortuga staff with more champagne, nibbles and a barbeque, all with fabulous bands playing round the pool. Then a short walk down to the new Beach Bar where another massive stage had been built on the beach.

By this time Alex and his wife Kelly had turned up and were loving the whole event and we also met up with other agents, expats and clients. And then Diversity came on stage. Remember them? They beat Susan Boyle in Britain’s Got Talent. Brilliant dancers, and really nice guys. I just wish they danced for longer. Seemed a very long way to come for about 15 minutes…..And then some of the best fireworks I have ever seen, all on the beach in little old Sal. Oh how things have changed since I first flew to this little island. Only The Resort Group could have arranged all this. We left at about 1 AM, however many of the others kept going until 3, or 4, or 5 or 6 AM…..I was told by the most ardent partygoers on Sunday that the sunrise was well worth waiting for. Not sure about that since the resort looks west with amazing sunsets, but who am I to contradict them.

Sunday morning was another breakfast of eggs and bacon in the Angulo Restaurant on the beach and a stroll down to the pier with it’s new solar lighting system and we watched the fishermen bring in their catch and then had a walk along the beautiful Santa Maria Beach. More amazing turquoise water and white sand. World class and it never fails to impress me. The weather for all 5 days of our trip was beautiful, sunny and warm, as usual for Cape Verde. About 28C. And at midday it was back to Tortuga for more partying, this time in the daylight. We had a great opportunity to have a good look around and take some snaps of the fabulous apartments and villas. Tortuga was sold out a while ago however we have a small selection of resale apartments which The Resort Group are offering very special last minute deals on. A great opportunity so call me!! About 1 o’clock we had some lunch in the new restaurant and then watched Chelsea versus Man Utd in the Tortuga Sports Bar. Obviously the wrong team won but that’s life….

After the footy we had a lift in one of the Tortuga golf buggies down to the Beach Bar and watch Sophie Ellis Bextor and her husband Richard Jones (from The Feeling) DJ throughout the afternoon and early evening followed by DJ legend Danny Rampling. The guys from Diversity were having photos taken with many of the partygoers and then playing beach football with loads of the kids. Oh to be young again. Lots of dancing, and a really amazing sunset. The beach at Tortuga (Ponta Preta Beach) is a very wide white sandy beach with a beautiful view of the ‘Lion Hill’ in the distance. As the sun disappeared for the day we wondered back up to the hotel for dinner in the Tortuga Restaurant which was an excellent buffet and another glass of wine. Good fun was had all round, and many of the partygoers stayed up till the early hours, or maybe the early morning. We left at about 10 pm and made our way back to Leme Bedje (where we have some very nice apartments available for sale at tremendous prices).

Monday morning was a trip up to see Vila Verde, located just behind Tortuga, which is getting greener and greener with incredible gardens and now almost finished. We had a few clients in Santa Maria whilst we were there who had bought on Vila Verde and were in Sal for the first time to see their apartments and were really pleased. Really large and excellent quality well finished apartments, large pools and massive communal areas. The new BES bank is just about to open onsite and we are told soon the first bar and supermarket will be opening. Talking of supermarkets, there is a new one opened in Santa Maria and it has actually got trolleys! Ann was so excited! Next door to Vila Verde is the Dunas Beach Resort, the sister development to Tortuga. The Dunas beachfront villas are getting close to completion, maybe 2 or 3 months away, and Blocks 11, 12 and 13 are under way at the other end of the development. This is another Sol Melia/Resort Group development and if it is anything like the quality of Tortuga the I am sure everyone who bought there will be very pleased. We also drove down the beach to see Paradise Beach and this also seemed to be progressing well. The frontline 5 bed villas are massive and now finished. Paradise Beach is next to Dunas Beach, however it doesn’t have the Sol Melia involvement.

I must admit on the Monday I felt a little jaded and would have much preferred to have flown back to the UK direct with Thomson, however because of our busy time schedules and upcoming meetings we unfortunately had to get back to work and couldn’t wait for the whole week. Again I would like to let it be known that if any of you have the opportunity to go to the launch party of a spectacular new 5 star resort in Cape Verde, for two whole days, with free drink and food, top class entertainment, fireworks, lots of dancing and have a generally fabulous time, and then have to get a flight at 1 AM and to have absolutely no sleep on the plane or during the 3 hour wait in Lisbon and then go directly back to the office then this is possibly not the best of ideas…. Oh the things we do for Cape Verde! Mustn’t grumble…..but I was so tired……