Five days of heaven, a couple of hell A review of Riu Garopa
Landing on Sal, you've probably read is like landing on the moon, it is! You can't see any greenery, or buildings and you begin to think that this would have been a much more dramatic 'Lost', if you had to try and survive with virtually no natural resources other than Salt, they probably wouldn't have made it past the first episode - so I guess not...
Anyway I digress - don't get your entry visa before you travel you'll pay about £50 lose your passport for 10 days. When you arrive, go to the door on the left hand side by passport control and pay there - it costs €25 and took about 15 minutes.
Back to Sal -the rest of Sal is either sand, construction or a hotel...
Some of the hotels look like prison camps...
We were relieved to reach the Riu, the hotel is a gigantic moorish design, quite charming in an unusual way and after the drive past so much construction and scary looking hotels was a very welcome sight.
The cab from the airport to the hotel costs 12 Euros, but an extra Euro tip gets a BIG smile !
Entering the reception you are greeted with a delicious fruit punch and the reception itself is remarkable, a lovely fountain in the middle, sparklingly clean and the staff on arrival were the warmest I have met anywhere.
The rooms again were of a good standard, very comfortable beds and sofa, amazing amounts of storage space - no fighting for coathangers, a great shower and a nice balcony. The cleaners do a fantastic job as the wind blows sand absolutely everywhere and after they have been it's brand new again.
That night we had dinner in the Espargos restaurant - excellent salad bar, hit and miss on the hot food. Over the week we tried 3 of the 4 themed restaurants. Mandalay was like a cheap all you can eat chinese buffet, but it's redeeming feature was the sushi, Cabo Verde was the best - but only if you like fish and seafood. The Grill was ok, but meat in general is not as good quality as most Europeans are used to. All of the restaurants are buffet style which in itself gets a bit tiring - breakfast, lunch, snacks and dinner are all served this way and it could be a bit of a scrum to get the last piece of serrano ham !!!
Generally the evening meals were good, lunchtime was a bit like the leftovers from the night before, with toasted sandwiches, burgers and chips in addition...
The beach - the beach was beautiful, the sea was amazing. The WIND is far too strong !!! Everyone fashions their own wind breakers from the multitude of spare deck chairs and still you end up looking like a sand monster. Everything from the inside of your bellybutton to the tip of your eyelashes comes back thick with sand. On a less windy day you don't notice how strong the sand is - If you normally wear factor 15 choose 20 or 25, you won't feel yourself burn or even get hot and when you are walking round like a lobster in the evening you will wonder how on earth it happened - but you won't be on your own !!!
The pool, too many sunloungers really - they like to pack them in quite closely together and there is always someone walking around trying to get you to join in with Darts, Shooting, Aqua Aerobics, Gymnastics, Dance, blah blah a bit reminiscent of holiday camps as a child, but you never know with the power of the pina colada - you may enjoy it !
Evening entertainment - Barracuda was nice and relaxed a couple singing (- unfortunately the same set every night). The Cabaret was AWFUL, the poor animacion team who are up early and trying to get you involved in volleyball, football, ping pong etc throughout the day then have to put on a show and a different one every night, so it's no wonder that they have to mime and can't dance in time, they can't be expected to do everything ! The compere was the worst in the world - enough said. Schadenfreude is still a wonderful thing...
Anyway really, so far so good, we'd walked into town - we'd been hustled - nothing that you don't expect, but you still feel bad ignoring them ,so yes, we'd suckered for a dodgy purse made of coconuts and then learnt to shake our heads rather than say hello...
We'd also taken a fishing trip - which I've already written about under 'beware changeable weather', but on that day we had lost our visa card. I have also written about the importance of Euros under a separate entry so I won't go on about this here.
Anyway we had to use the hotel phone to cancel our visa card, we then realised we had no way of getting any money out. We checked with the hotel how much our phone bill was and were told €27, we were due to check out in 2 days and as the hotel was all inclusive we didn't need much else so we transferred €80 the minimum amount for Western Union and collected it.
On checking out of the hotel we were told that our phone bill was actually €268 and of course we had no VISA card to pay this extortionate charge. There had been no mention of the price of the calls on the phone or the literature and we had heard that mobiles were just as bad, so we were caught between the devil and the deep blue sea. The woman this time on reception was not so friendly, we explained our situation and she told us to speak to our rep. having booked through the internet we didn't have a rep, so she said that no-one could help us. She smugly told us that 8,000 escudos (€80) was nothing, I told her it was practically double what we had been told we needed and asked to speak to the manager.
Thankfully the manager was a really decent guy. we didn't have the time to arrange a western union transfer , due to flying out in a couple of hours and so I gave him my Visa card details - the card that I had left at home. They were unable to accept payment without the card present, they were unable to accept a bank transfer from internet banking, they didn't accept Maestro, Cirrus or American Express - the whole situation was a mess. We left taking their bank details so that we could transfer the money when we got back home. Of course now we are saddled with Escudos that no-one will change and we didn't need to get after all !
We were glad to leave in the end which was a shame because we had really had a great time for the first 4 or 5 days. Please don't let our experiences put you off visiting - but please make sure you take more than one method of payment plus euros, plenty of high factor suncream, a jumper for the evenings and be careful of the atlantic !!!