MEET THE WRITER
Becki Iverson is a Thrillist writer and an ardent lover of all things arts, food, and travel. You can follow her wide-ranging passions on her blog, Compendium, or on social media on Instagram.
When was the last time you were in Cape Verde?
June of 2019, at the tail end of a dream trip and honeymoon through West Africa.
What drew you there?
One of my first bonding experiences with my husband was over music. I had always loved the soulful voice of Cesária Évora, and he also loved her music right away. We played her catalog constantly -- she became such a favorite that we included multiple songs in our wedding. It became a priority for us to visit her homeland someday, and when we realized we’d be nearby for our honeymoon in West Africa, we had to spend the extra cash to make sure we made it there to pay homage.
What was the most surprising thing about the place that you didn't expect?
Experiencing the blended Creole identity that the majority of Cape Verdeans now share was striking for an interracial couple like my husband and I -- especially coming from a place like America where people tend to draw stark lines between their individual racial identities. It’s one of the few places we have not received stares out in public together (New Orleans is the only similar comparison I can think of). This story in the LA Times captures Cape Verde’s complex multiracial dynamic better than I ever could.
Number one can’t-miss recommendation for a visitor?
Visiting Quintal da Música for a long dinner, cocktails, and live music. There’s no better way to capture the spirit and contradictions of Cape Verde than spending some real time listening to morna and coladeira.
For example, Cape Verdeans have struggled to define their culture through the centuries -- are they more African? Portuguese? Or something entirely new? One of Cesária’s most famous songs is called “Africa Nossa” (or “Our Africa”). It has a very upbeat, celebratory musical tone, yet includes quite serious lyrics like these:
The sky has cleared
Consciousness has brightened
The time has come to face reality
A suffering people
Have soothed their pain
To live in peace and progress
Make sure to spend time with some songs, even before you go, to gain a richer understanding of the push-pull nature of this culture.
How easy is it to get around for English speakers?
Cape Verde has been a very stable democracy for more than 30 years and is quite safe for tourists. I recommend utilizing a local tour service to connect your destinations or help schedule tours. Travel between islands can be difficult, and spontaneous travel and lodging between islands is especially tough to navigate. Two great options are Todahora Tours or Cape Verde Vacation and Services.
If, however, you prefer to visit only one or two locations slowly on your own or don’t anticipate trying to pack in many activities across multiple islands, you can wing it with no trouble. You’ll find travel conveniences like Uber and Airbnb, especially on the more populated islands like Sal, Santiago, or Boa Vista.
What’s your top piece of advice for someone going for the first time?
This is a place where it really pays to plan ahead. Because travel between islands is relatively limited (usually just a couple flights or ferry options per day), it’s hard to spontaneously jump between them. It’s also like any other island nation where the pace is slower than urban continental life, so expect things to take longer than you’re probably used to.
What's the next big trip you have planned in 2020?
We have several friends living in Sweden and Norway, so we’re hoping to make it out to see them and explore parts of both countries I still haven’t seen (mostly the northernmost areas).