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Last week was a week of really loving being in Portugal, without a single wobbly “what have we done?” moment. The process of settling in has continued, helped by some beautiful weather especially over last weekend.
As we currently have a car, we took advantage of our mobility, and the sunshine, and went on one of our exploration weekends.
We headed west, initially in the direction of Albufeira – a holiday playground or hell-hole, depending on your point of view. The first
beach we stopped at was Santa Eulaila. This seemed a popular spot, with the trademark orange cliffs and a good mix of locals and tourists. We enjoyed a drink in the sun (overpriced – double what we are used to in the Eastern Algarve) and then went for a walk along the beach, climbing over rocks through sparkly rock-pools to get to quiet coves further east. This beach was a joy, and some people (more determined than us) were even braving the February water.
Continuing our tour, we had a huge selection of other beaches in the area to choose from. We went for Olhos De Agua, as I had seen a recommendation online somewhere. This was, to us, a disappointment. We really aren’t fans of the “Little Britains” that exist all over this part of the Algarve, and this was one of them. Menus entirely in English, lots of English bars and the depressing sight of people sitting in a darkened bar watching English football on the first truly beautiful day of the year. They could have saved their flight money and gone to Blackpool…
Moving swiftly on, as we did on the day, hunger led us to stop in the concrete jungle in the middle of Albufeira for a quick snack. Once again, we lamented the fact that a lot of our fellow Brits come all the way to Portugal and then opt to eat in McDonalds and KFC. This, coupled with encountering one too many of our fellow countrymen ordering food and drink without even attempting a “Bom Dia,” “se faz favor,” or “obrigada,” led us to escape this area and hit the road again, with a fresh understanding of why several Portuguese people have been surly towards us until it becomes clear we are attempting to learn the language. I really don’t blame them.
Heading further west, we made a beeline for a beach called Praia Dos Tres Irmaos, between the busy resorts of Praia Da Rocha and Alvor. We had found this fairy-tale beach over five years ago when we first visited Portugal, during a long cliff top walk. We had walked for a few miles from Praia Da Rocha, and found a lift built into a cliff which took us down to a small bar/restaurant built into the rocks, looking out onto a gorgeous sunny cove. The whole place has a real air of “secret beach,” and I have fond memories of body-surfing in the waves with a couple of other tourists of unknown nationality, united by our enjoyment of the sea and sun.
We had always said one day we would go back again. Our TomTom satnav proved next to useless and we had a couple of occasions of driving into tourist complexes we were pretty sure were out of bounds to us. After a while it seemed the beach was not accessible by car, so we ended up reluctantly parking at Alvor, determined to get the last couple of hours of sun on a beach, even if it wasn’t the one we intended.
At Alvor, we looked left and were pretty sure that we recognised where we were and that a determined walk would get us to the beach we had originally intended. We set off, walking through thick sand, so determined on our destination that at times we almost forgot to take in and appreciate the sparkling sea next to us.
After climbing some rocks to get over a cove, our excitement built as we approached the place that we had been looking for. We found the lift, or at least a wooden panel where we were sure it had been. We assumed the place must be closed, it being winter. We then found a gap in the cliff where we were able to peer down, and there it was….what was left of the restaurant. Whether by falling rocks, or bad weather, the place was destroyed. All that was left was a shell. It was rather sad after waiting years to find the place again. Having said that, we were still delighted to have found the beach we remembered so fondly, even if, due to the lack of the lift and the tide being in, we couldn’t actually set foot on it.
After a drink at a couple of friendly bars on Alvor beach, we headed back to the car, by now feeling the usual craving for seafood that a day on the beach brings on in us. We headed into Portimao and to one of our first Algarve discoveries and favourite restaurants, that has thankfully stayed put in the years since we discovered it: Dona Barca. You will find a review over on my Food and Wine blog www.foodandwineportugal.com
The weekend was only half way through and there was still more to discover…it follows in Part 2, which will be posted in the next couple of days.