This is a large and pretty town full of Portuguese squares, esplanades and
sobrado houses (see below) - some of them collapsing, a few lovingly
restored. The streets are cobbled, the buildings are pastel with terracotta
tiles, and vegetation springs from pots on every fragile wooden balcony.
Bougainvillaea abounds and trees are a healthy size. The town could do with
some outdoor cafe's from which its architecture and the views of Brava could
be enjoyed. Until then, there is a promenade, adorned with busts of
Portuguese heroes, which lines the cliff tops and from which you can gaze
down the harsh drop to the black sands and the violent sea below. There's
also a large terrace on which to sit, half-way up the hill at the top of a flight
of steps (marked on the map).
Hotel Xaguate (tel: 811222; fax: 811203) is reached by heading up the steep road where the bank is until it leads you left on to a roundabout - the hotel is on the small headland about lOOm away. It has a swimming pool and a terrace overlooking the sea. Take a room with a view as some of the inner rooms and corridors have the air of a dingy boarding school in the holidays. Double 3,000$; single 2,600$.
Residencial Las Vegas (tel/fax: 811281) is in the middle of town, distinctive from a distance because of the huge satellite dish on its roof. It has a lively patio restaurant and bar and high quality rooms with fridge and television. Double 2,500-2,800$;
single 2,000$; triple 3,000$.
Restaurante Vulcao, halfway down the hill near Bar Teresa (tel: 811830) is cheap and very basic. Double 1,000$.
Restaurante Leila, opposite the noisy generator, has a hot basement dining room where the food is excellent.
Chacara is recommended. It is on the same road as the bank but higher up on the left
Restaurante Vulcao, part of the pensao of the same name, serves copious, recommended local fare.
There's a bakery, with no sign, open seven days a week, down a thin alley
along the coastal wall leading down to the church. A bag of warm ginger
biscuits is a great supply to take up to the volcano. It has no sign.
Fogo makes great cheese, coffee and red wine.
Chacara also has a popular bar. Bar Teresa is in the thick of town, a spacious and pleasant bar with seating, busy all day. There are several other small bars with impromptu dancing going on -just follow the noise.
What to do
Wander the streets admiring the sobrado architecture. About a hundred of these
houses remain - built by the rich and decorated with fine woods and tiles
imported from Portugal and West Africa. If you can peek into one of them take
the opportunity: a central courtyard planted with trees and vines gave coolness
and shade and around it, on the ground floor, were the working rooms. The
next floor was more beautiful, lined with an inside balcony that overlooked the
courtyard on three sides - this was the floor for the master and his family. On
the street side there was a balcony of carved wood. Slaves were not permitted
to ascend to the first floor except once a year, on the festival of Santa Cruz.
During the summer the town house was closed and the family went inland to
oversee the farming.
A walk down the grotty ribeira road to the black beach is worthwhile for
several reasons. This is a poor part of town, with people scavenging among the
rubbish on the hillsides and pigs tethered in makeshift shelters. Below lies a
strip of black sand under the ominous Fogo cliffs, lashed by Atlantic breakers.
To make the experience a really uneasy one you will be watched as you walk
by the inmates of the cliff-top prison: arms will wave from between the bars.
When there are no strangers to watch the prisoners gaze at the ocean to the
west, the dump below, and the cemetery across the ribeira to the south.
Take a swim at Hotel Xaguate (250$ for non-residents) which has an
enjoyable poolside terrace.
Bank, on the road that runs up the cliff-edge of town away from the esplanades; open Mon-Fri 08.30-14.30.
The post office is the large pink building at the top of town on the big square containing a sculpture of large candles.
TACV, uphill from Residencial Las Vegas, second road on the right, tel: 811228.
Transport -Aluguers leave from the market downhill from Pensao Las Vegas.
Ferry office, in the same place as TACV, tel: 811312.
Police, tel: 811132.
Utilities: Electricity is cut off between 06.00 and 07.00 every morning. Water sometimes cuts out too.
The end of April is the time for Fogo's big party, Bandeira (Flag) de Sao Filipe.
There is horse racing, dancing and processions and special dishes are made.
The island has a distinctive music known as pilao, a bit like batuko, a chanting
and beating of drums that forms the background to the grinding of corn in the
run-up to the festival.