We had three nights in São Tomé town (as I managed to book two nights at Makaira Lodge before realizing that is on the other island, Principe – whoops. Better planning next time). Nicer to be out of town, but it was interesting to see the town, and easy to do daytrips out. The town is a bit rundown, but cleaner than Accra (no open sewers, less plastic garbage) and there is a lovely waterfront. Old buildings, faded colours, and such nice people.
Of course we went to the market: vegetables, fresh fish, used clothing, plantains and bananas. São Tomé imports a lot of its food, but the local produce looked nice.
What we were looking for: peixe fumado, smoked fish. We’d had a delicious feijoada for lunch one day, bean stew but with smoked fish rather than smoked pork, and we had three Norwegians coming for dinner once we were back in Accra. So we wandered round the market looking for smoked fish: super friendly people, lots of fresh vegetables, no tourists. We found dried fish, and the dried fish seller took us over the smoked fish lady. I do not speak Portuguese, so was trying to explain in terrible Spanish/Italian/French that we needed enough for five people: we bought seven pieces in the end, to have a bit extra, and it was really nice quality. The lady on the next stall was drinking palm wine, which looks a bit milky, and she really wanted us to have a taste. Obrigada, no, I said, but was thrilled to have found good fish. Then we went to a cafe and drank some Sumol, ice cold Portuguese soda (pineapple, orange or passionfuit) which was wonderful. It did get get hot wandering around town.
We also went to Pico Mocambo, a rum bar recommended by a friend, for a glass of cocoa rum on ice. Not well signposted (Google Maps saved us) but well worth a visit. We were wandering around on 1 May, most places were closed so this was a nice break.
We also went to Claudio Corallo for a chocolate tasting. Very interesting: an Italian chocolatier, bean-to-bar chocolate and coffee. They do tastings three times a week, not easy to find out when but our hotel helped. Look for Chocolate Factory on Google Maps: it’s in a small restored house on the waterfront. Four euro for a ticket, get there by 1620 to get your ticket for the 1640 tasting – not room for many, and we really enjoyed the visit. The cocoa is grown on Principe, and the chocolate was just wonderful. We bought lots to take back. 😉
Definitely worth a visit: TAP flies Lisbon- São Tomé via Accra 3x a week, and direct from Lisbon once a week. Very friendly, nice place to visit and we experienced no begging (another nice change from Accra). I wish I spoke a bit of Portuguese, but we managed. Beaches and plantations, wonderful fresh fish (Papa Figo, 5 Sentidos, Mucumbli) and very relaxing. Green and lush, sea breezes and quiet.
Bring cash, there were long lines at the ATMs, and foreign cards did not always work. We brought USD and euros, and 100 USD changed to dobras (2.5 million dobras) was plenty in local currency. Many places have prices in euros and dobras. I got my visa online, many countries do not need one.
Grilled barracuda for lunch at Papa Figo. Wonderful!
Leve-leve, they say on São Tomé: easy easy. It was a great weekend.