Hello again! Long time no see! As you may know, I worked for TAP Air Portugal for two years, as a flight attendant, a job that ended (temporarily, I hope!) last April because of the pandemic. From traveling every week, to having to stay in the same place for so long, made my longing to fly, to have that sensation of discovering the unknown, increase exponentially!
Fortunately I still have some good friends in the airline and I finally managed to coincide with a layover of one of my best friends, since availability, to destinations that accepts Portuguese people, to acceptable Covid test prices… This way we went to the island of São Tomé for two days!
Each destination has its rules, I usually consult IATA‘s website, which is constantly being updated and is very easy to understand. So to travel to São Tomé you need a negative PCR test. Then, to return to Portugal, coming from some destinations, including the island in the equator, a negative test is also necessary. So, on my first morning I got tested, which result I received the next day, the day of departure. The layover was so short that it was almost possible to use the same test for the return trip…
Having explained the bureaucracy involved in traveling now, I will tell you about my third visit to this paradise. First of all I wanted to talk to you about mental health and the boost that these two days gave me! It was not just knowing that I was finally traveling again, it was feeling the warm air on my face, driving in the back of a van, closing my eyes and listening to the birds, swimming in a perfect temperature sea, photographing happy faces, oblivious at all this concern that our day-to-day has become, eating different and wonderful food, all in the best company! There was only one thing that cost me, especially on the first day, during the flight: watching my ex-colleagues doing my dream job and not knowing when or if I will be able to return!
TAP flights to São Tomé always include a stopover in Accra, where I had the opportunity to land in the cockpit – perks that I also missed! In São Tomé, it was someone else’s turn, but the view from the window seat was not bad, although it was already in the twilight, more difficult to photograph.
On the floor, still on the apron, there was temperature control, Covid test check, hand disinfection (yes, they installed washbasins at the exit of the plane and forced everyone to wash their hands) and luggage delivery – all outside. We entered only for passport control. It was on arrival that we discovered that it was the cabin chief’s birthday and we all decided to go to Papa Figo for dinner, one of the best restaurants in town, where TAP crews usually have dinner. We ordered several fish kebabs (which also brought shrimp and octopus, everything was tasteful), fish moqueca, fruta-pão, banana-pão, mata-bala, a local delicacy served along very fresh Rosemas, the local beer, and good conversations!
Finally, after three hours driving, we reached the beach! I had been there in April 2019, with sun and high tide. This time the low tide perfectly showed the reason for the beach’s name and the cloudy sky did nothing to reduce the beauty of the place. It was time to take a dip in these equator warm waters, take pictures, smile and turning back north, as we were getting hungry.
Also on this day we were celebrating a birthday! We jumped in front of Pico do Cão Grande and ate with a beautiful view at Mionga restaurant that I did not know, and got me very impressed! At the beginning we were entitled to a dish of aubergine in the oven, rice balls and octopus. The main dish was Bonito grilled fish, accompanied again with banana pão, rice, potatoes and fruta-pão and for dessert we received a baked banana and jackfruit, which I had never eaten and loved, although the smell is not very pleasant.
We ended the day at the hotel’s terrace, exchanging photos and lots of good conversation!
On the second day we only went out with one car, we were only five, and I wanted to go in the back of the truck anyway, this time with Susana. Leaving São Tomé, we collected the result of my Covid test, to be able to return that night, and we headed north towards the Blue Lagoon. The plan was to visit this beautiful beach and then head to a sandy beach, so that we could lie under the sun for a while, before heading to Neves, where we were going to have lunch at Santola restaurant.
The first time I visited the island, I passed by the Blue Lagoon, but that time it was cloudy, so this time, with sunshine, the place was much more beautiful! We were alone on the beach, the absence of tourism due to the pandemic is clearly noted. We were in the water for a long time, happy to have this opportunity, sad that we had to return that night. So we wanted to change the beach, we just needed to go up the hill which has a beautiful baobab tree, to take some pictures before proceeding. It was on the way back to the car that Melanie and Joana gave us the news that the car key broke, with almost all of our belongings inside. Fortunately we had a cell phone to call Vanderlei, our contact in São Tomé who rents us the car, to save us. So we had to stay for another hour, inside the water, waiting for the copy of the key to arrive, how terrible 😛
Already hungry, we decided to go directly to Neves, standing in the back of the truck, feeling the wind on our face, saying hello to everyone we overcame, a feeling that I will not soon forget. Lunch was great, in spite of something laborious: a crab for each one, toasted bread and fruta-pão, in a space as authentic as possible!
Back in São Tomé, we passed by the chocolate shop Diogo Vaz, a beautiful space but with too high prices, even for Europeans. Being with the crew, and because they were going to work all night, we returned to the hotel so that they could rest before the flight.
Night flight, landing in Accra on the way, I slept most of the flight. I woke up in time to land in the cockpit in Lisbon, where we arrived at sunrise. I had two days of travel “hangover” left, that suffering of weaning from so much happiness, to go into confinement a week later… I wish lot of health for everyone and hopefully soon the opportunity to travel again!
If you liked this post and want to read more about my trips to São Tomé and Príncipe, you can visit the following posts: