|Subject: Portugal Trip Report - 2003 The Algarve Coast|
It just occurred to me that I failed to send the finale to our wonderful Portugal trip, other parts of which were outlined in earlier reports. Here it is:
THE ALGARVE - 100 Miles of Beach stretching to Spain (often called the #garden of Portugal#)
History has it that neighbors in this southwestern most part of Europe vie for the best and most unique chimney style atop their homes making for some colorful and interesting sights; hence the reason that Algarvian Chimneys grace many postcards and they are a popular souvenir item.
Temperatures average about 60 F in winter and 74 F in summer; vegetation abounds: almonds, lemons, oranges (which we often stopped to buy from roadside vendors), figs and more. The area is an important golfing destination with some outstanding courses.
My intention to drive the coastal route south was vetoed and we drove the boring four plus hour highway route, seeking out the super-store Continente, which we were told was in Portimao. Upon arriving, we learned that it actually was nearer to where we would be staying. Taking advantage of the diversion, we toured the much changed (from my visit twenty years ago), somewhat commercial but very beautiful PRAIA Da ROCHA BEACH area and lucked out at a great (cataplana and sea nail caldeira) restaurant, Cervejaria e Marisqueira ( #17 on the Rocha map), highly recommended.
After finding Continente, we loaded up on groceries and were ever so anxious to settle in for the week and get some rest.
ALBUFEIRA - in town and out-of-town
Incident: - our RCI Timeshare reservation was a 6 P.M. check-in at Club Tropicana in Albufeira. Unfortunately, since we had made the last minute booking while traveling in Portugal, we had not received the fax confirmation to have papers in hand. Lesson Learned: in the future, do not leave our hotel without receiving such!
Alas! upon arriving in the area and following directions on the Net, we could find no such establishment! After asking more than six people, we came upon Club Ouro, another timeshare, whose staff was more than hospitable # they called the Algarve phone operator .. no such listing # they checked the RCI book # again, no such listing # they tried calling the RCI Portugal office which just happened to be closed on check-in day!
I note this just as a reminder to us of this exasperating and almost frightening experience at the end of a long day - enough already of the misdirections!
Finally, after a desperate call to RCI in the US, we were told that Club Tropicana was actually located in the popular Cerro Alagoa Hotel! Upon arrival there, about 10 minutes away, our reservation was in fact intact and the explanation was given that the few remaining units under Tropicana name were being phased out # just a bit of information which would have lessened our mood and difficulty that day. However, we were now in The Algarve and looking forward to a wonderful time! And we were not disappointed!The unit was fine; the hotel location at one end of the main street, terrific and the indoor jungle pool, outstanding. The hotel has a casual pub and an excellent restaurant featuring the best, generous buffet; the evening entertainment ranged from a complimentary welcome wine reception to local folkclore dancers and karoke. A gratis hotel jitney is available for shopping or other local sights such as the Tuesday morning Gypsy Market where we bought sweaters.
Albufeira is a busy area with an indoor shopping mall featuring Modelo supermarket, gift/clothing stores, restaurants and the cafeteria style LA#Emcasa within walking distance (one hardly needs a car if staying here); across the street was an Internet Café and a fabulous hairdresser. Timeshare Ondimar Hotel down the street was very modern with a lovely outdoor pool area; its rooms featured lovely décor and arches.
Very near Ondimar is the highly recommended Plato Ouro (golden plate) Restaurant which was closed when we planned on going. Lesson Learned: call first.
An area known as #The Strip# is where more restaurants and the best garafeiras (bottle shops) are located. Yvette Ceramica had a wonderful selection of hanging Algarve half chimney decorations.
We were within walking distance to Fisherman#s Beach just down past the square in the Old Town area, particularly active at night. At the Bravotour II office we met Valerie (2)28-587-389 who can also arrange Faro airport transport. We were interested in a Best Tour to see Alhambra in Spain but none was available.
The upscale 4 star Hotel Baia Grande (351-289-583-500) was on the outskirts of town in a peaceful setting, the ideal spot for a quiet getaway. (www.hotel-baia-grande.com )
We checked into the 114-room Hotel Vila Gale# Atlantico (same hotel chain as the larger 310-room Cerro Alogoa in town) in a quieter area about 20 minutes from downtown and closer to the beach. We had Studio 30, a lovely spacious and comfortable main floor unit with balcony offering a sea view, tho 300 meters away. The indoor pool was fine but not unique like the jungle pool at CA, but the water aerobics were great.
We often walked to the expansive beach where huge rocks en- ticed people to climb atop for a closer view of the waves and surfers. We opted for a safer distance in Restaurante O Galeao (which became a regular stop) where we enjoyed the best grilled sardines with boiled potatoes, salad (5 E!) and wine#. wonderful memories still linger of the aroma, delectable taste and outstanding scene! Sunsets here were magnificent as well.
A café atop steps down to the beach had an interesting contraption on its deck which looked like a flame coming out of a stand. We ventured closer wondering if it was used for grilling and how it managed to be safe near the wooden structure and deck.
Once upon it, tho, we saw it was just four orange light bulbs in an open container with a piece of cloth blown by a motor of some kind which made it wave upwards in the air. From down on the beach it looked like a real flame - very unique and quite effective!
Vila Gale# had great entertainment, particularly Rinaldo (Milano married to a Portuguese) who put on an outstanding performance, music with a good beat # he promised to and did email me words to Chera Bem, Chera Lisboa (aroma good, aroma Lisbon).
One night featured a Lotto Dance contest - lists are passed out naming 8 different dances with a box next to each. Purpose: Select the 3 you feel will be most danced tonight. Then the music began and people danced to the various beats and at the end points (1 per dancing couple) are added up. Had I not interfered, we would have won the bottle of wine since Dom had picked the correct ones: waltz (12) twist (12) and disco (14). Even Virgilio and Hilda, a cute little older couple we met, danced away. Unexpected and enjoyable fun!
Another evening highlighted Tony on guitar and when we left at 11, he hadn#t taken a break # terrific entertainer as well.
Albufeira, which is just about half way between the westernmost Sagres and the eastern most Vila Real de Santo Antonio, proved a convenient location for exploring both the east and west coast. We visited a variety of towns and fishing villages as noted on the following pages.
We managed to get in and out of this airport locale and decided not to stop due to heavy traffic and congested streets. A very impressive funeral procession was beginning at a church with a spillover crowd and two cars just loaded with flowers # must have been someone important
This charming fishing village was just over an hour#s drive and ever so well worth it! We walked the parklike cobblestoned edge of the sea to the docks and then headed into the fish/fruit mercado loaded with fishmongers at their abundant stands. Dom was overwhelmed with how fresh the caldeira mix looked and convinced the motherly vendor to pot and ice up a kilo for us to take back to the apartment; next, to the adjacent market to buy fixings and delicious bread right off the baker#s truck.
Back #home# Dom cooked up a delicious fish stew! With spinach, tomatoes, wine and the great bread, it was feast! # not a bad life!
We took a drive out to this little village with its main focus of fish and fruit markets along the water; some flea market vendors were about. Enjoyed the best pastry, codfish cakes and lattes as we walked both the new and old town squares. We returned another day to buy the best ever bread at the Padeira!
Features an impressive tree-lined boulevard entry to the village with lovely condos and golf cources on each side # seems like a golfer#s paradise! The Marina beach area had over a dozen surfers battling the waves and several fishermen on shore. We walked to the fine dining Marina Restaurant then drove by the Casino (closed) and around town. This is very clean, orderly and the most upscale area we came across.
On the way back to Albufeira via N125 we came upon #O Leitao Da Pata#, aka Antiquarios dos Leitaos located at Pata de Cima, BOLIQUEME, phone 289-362-283. We had spotted crowds here previously and made a wise decision to stop and enjoy the very best suckling pig ever #the visible kitchen featured the chef carving up one after another! This certainly was the place to be on a Saturday afternoon among the friendly locals. A Must!!
SILVES, the original Algarvian Capital (via LAGOA, not much of a destination)
Reminiscent of Guimares with multi balconied houses greeted us on our walk thru town; a highlight is the old Se sitting above the City along the Old Wall and the most interesting Slave Sculpture Square. Many restaurants had patios on which were linguisa and chicken filled grilles.
ARMACEO de PERA
About twenty minutes away, is small, but really being built and overbuilt with condos, many too close together. Down winding roads, the town square sits overlooking the ocean and the beach area below is dotted with cafes, restaurants and colorful boats. We found a good pastelaria here.
Prince Henry the Navigator set up a school of navigation here five centuries ago which played a crucial part in the Portuguese Discoveries. Set high on a cliff, one looks down to the roaring ocean below and the surrounding cliffs make for a majestic panorama.
The approach to the Prince Henry Forteleza is cobblestoned (and much improved from my visit years back); the whole complex is being updated and expanded. We saw the statute given by the U.S. to commemerate the Navigator#s voyage¸ visited the Chapel and shops within the fortress area, and studied the Rosa-dos-Ventos, the well known stone compass. Most interesting to me was the stone statute of a lady whose layered dress was also carved out of stone.
The Sagres Pousada sits across the way and, again, is being expanded with ultra modern décor within. The town itself is very neat, orderly and compact. Within walking distance is the Hotel da Baleeira on the coastline which would be a convenient location on a future visit, much less expensive than the Pousada.
Returning, we passed many artesian and pottery shops and purposely got off the main highway to see a church with ceiling to floor tile in VILA De BISPO; alas, it was closed, as was the highly recommended Café Correia down the street.
This is a lovely spot with a marina right along its main palm tree lined boulevard which is bustling with shops and restaurants.
Fortunately, we were directed by a local to Adega da Marina which is quite a busy place and looks like a huge beer hall; the service and fish selections were excellent.
It was a wonderful trip during which we met many sincere and friendly people, enjoyed sights in a variety of cities and towns, not to mention the delectable treats and meals which were a plus!
Portugal continues to be a Favorite!
Happy Travels! Lucille Gioello, West Hartford, Ct.