Charting a couple's move from London to Portugal, tales, adventures and moving advice

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Archive for the ‘beaches’


East Algarve Paradise – Fábrica 3

Posted on September 15, 2014 by Ben Algarve
Meravista

When you’ve lived in the same location for several years, it’s easy to get stuck in a rut and continue to visit the same places.

Often this is because you’ve found places you love, such as bars, restaurants and beaches, and see no real point in branching out. However, from time to time it’s refreshing to try to view your area with fresh eyes, and attack exploring it with the same zeal as when you first moved there.

Fabrica - Algarve Paradise

Fabrica – Algarve Paradise

With this in mind, when I decided to go for a quick Sunday moped ride, I opted against my usual cruise across the saltpans and around Tavira, and instead headed East along the Algarve Ecovia route, in the direction of the tiny coastal hamlet of Fábrica.

I’d been to Fábrica plenty of times before. In fact, the picture below was once a contender as the cover for our book.

Fabrica - Nearly the Moving to Portugal book cover!

Fabrica – Nearly the Moving to Portugal book cover!

However, this time around the tide was lower than I had ever seen it, and as I sat and had a drink, I noticed that people were able to make it on foot all the way out to the main beach and ocean, across the Ria Formosa.

It was clear that there would be some wading involved but I couldn’t resist. I hitched up my shorts and set off.

Within a short ten minutes I had found a route through the low water and arrived at the rear of the beach, which is technically the far eastern end of Cabanas Island. At high tide, this is a mere strip of sand (accessible by boat only), but I arrived at a vast paradise, populated by just a few people and some kite-surfers.

Fabrica - East Algarve - Portugal

Fabrica – East Algarve – Portugal

With the best will in the world, you do start to take for granted the beauty of where you live, but this was a real “wow” moment. I lingered and took a quick video clip that you’ll find on the Moving to Portugal Facebook page.

As I headed back, the previously warm shallow pools seemed considerably deeper than before, making a trip across this seascape perhaps a little foolhardy without watching the tides carefully to avoid becoming stranded. But that’s exactly what I intend to do over the coming years, as I can think of no better seaside paradise for my new son to play in once he begins to run around.

Wading across to Fabrica Beach

Wading across to Fabrica Beach

As I neared the shore once more, I noticed a couple staring intently at the sand before them. Unsure of what they were looking at, I paused a moment, and in all directions noticed an array of tiny scuttling crabs in all kinds of outlandish colours. Any human approach resulted in them disappearing down the hundreds of small holes in the sand, which I’d also failed to notice.

And that seems a fitting way to end this post. Just as familiarity with an area can stop you noticing its charms, failing to slow down, look and think can stop you noticing what is (and was in this case) right before your eyes. It’s time to redouble my efforts to explore this extraordinarily beautiful part of the world.

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Portugal Photography 2

Posted on January 20, 2014 by Ben Algarve
Meravista

Towards the end of last year I posted some wonderful Algarve photos that my brother-in-law, an aspiring photographer, took during his extended stay here in Portugal in the summer.

Today, I am following up (as promised) with a second collection of his photographs. I must confess that after a weekend filled with wind and rain, they are making me badly yearn for the summer, but sorting through them lifted my spirits – I hope they do the same for you.

Tavira by Night

Tavira by Night

Clear Algarve Water

Clear Algarve Water

Relaxing at No Solo Agua

Relaxing at No Solo Agua

The rural Algarve

The rural Algarve

Summer Golf at Vale de Milho

Summer Golf at Vale de Milho

Algarve West Coast Cliffs

Algarve West Coast Cliffs

Summer sunset

Summer sunset

Castro Marim Medieval Fair

Castro Marim Medieval Fair

A Pensive Algarve Goat

A Pensive Algarve Goat

Meerkat at Lagos Zoo

Meerkat at Lagos Zoo

Kittens by the sea

Kittens by the sea

The Alentejo Coast

The Alentejo Coast

All images (c) Robert Herring, all rights reserved.

Want to hear all about real life in Portugal? Please buy our book!

Moving to Portugal: How a young couple started a new life in the sun – and how you could do the same

US readers can find it here: Moving to Portugal – the book.

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The Simple Life – Lou’s Update 8

Posted on November 18, 2013 by Ben Algarve
Meravista

It’s a time of change for us at the moment. With summer behind us and a baby on the way, life is looking rather different than it did three months ago.

Autumn is the time for perfect sunsets

Autumn is the time for perfect sunsets

The change in the weather has meant we are enjoying long walks now that the sun has lost the ferocity of its mid-summer heat. We have been stretching our legs around our local villages, towns and beaches, relishing the peace that the Algarve offers now that the tourists have gone home for another season. Our walks have treated us to beautiful sunsets, desolate beachscapes and the reward of coffee and cake in near-deserted cafés.

Walking around the Algarve at this time of year has reminded us of the simple life that we came here for in the first place. We swapped a London commute for strolls in the sand and, while we do sometimes miss the convenience of life in the big city, the Algarve is now our home through and through. I can’t imagine any circumstances that would cause us to swap back.

Deserted beaches abound at this time of year

Deserted beaches abound at this time of year

This week also afforded us the chance to test out our blossoming language skills, when we were invited to a friend’s birthday dinner. The guests were half English and half Portuguese and it’s fair to say that we held our own in terms of conversation during the meal. It was a real triumph compared to how we would have managed even six months ago. It finally feels as though we are really getting somewhere with the language, which has given us a lovely confidence boost. Of course I’m also hard at work learning all sorts of pregnancy and birth-related words in Portuguese at the moment!

Perfect walking weather

Perfect walking weather

Our friend’s birthday dinner was a chance to enjoy life in Portugal at its finest. A huge table of us sat outside in the (extremely chilly) evening, feasting on prawns, grilled meat, bacalhau com natas and other savoury treats. The food was simple and delicious and followed by some fabulous Portuguese desserts. I confess I used the ‘eating for two’ excuse to consume a giant slice of tarte de natas. The meal was lengthy and packed with entertaining conversation and laughter – a truly wonderful experience and exactly the kind of thing we moved here for in the first place.

Enjoying the solitude

Enjoying the solitude

The next few months are going to bring even more changes for us as ‘the bump’ gets bigger and we prepare for the arrival of the newest member of our family. The pregnancy has refocused us and, despite the hateful hours spent on medical administration matters, made us realise that we are precisely where we want to be to bring up a child. The year ahead is going to be a rollercoaster, but I can’t think of anywhere else that I would rather be.

If you would like to know more about our move to Portugal to enjoy the simple life, why not check out our book?

Moving to Portugal: How a young couple started a new life in the sun – and how you could do the same

US readers can find it here: Moving to Portugal – the book.

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Moving to Portugal – What was your Inspiration? 8

Posted on October 07, 2013 by Ben Algarve
Meravista

For us, moving to Portugal was something we decided to do for a number of reasons. We had holidayed here several times and loved the scenery, the food and the sunshine. We are both beach people, so we loved the idea that we could live close to the sea. We were also tired of the ‘work till you drop’ pace of London and were ready for an improved work/life balance – one where we had time to hold hands and curl our toes in the sand.

Life in Portugal - time to notice prints in the sand

Life in Portugal – time to notice prints in the sand

Four years later, we still love our life in Portugal. Yesterday we spent the day at Praia da Rocha, the beach that first inspired us to think about emigrating. Despite it being October, the sun was beating down and the sea was shimmering with a million tiny sparkles. A handful of late season tourists were scattered across the sands and a few brave souls (my brother included) ventured into the sea, which last week’s bad weather has served to cool considerably. It was the perfect lazy Sunday and exactly what we had in mind when we moved here.

Given our love of Portugal and our own personal adventure of moving here, we were intrigued when approached last week by Meravista – the largest online portal for Algarve property – to support the promotion of their survey on why people have moved to the Algarve. The Meravista survey delves into why expats have selected the Algarve as their destination of choice, as well as examining topics such as their experience of working here and how they like to spend their free time.

The team at Meravista are looking to hear from a wide range of expats, of all ages and nationalities. The survey takes just a few minutes to complete and participation will help to improve understanding of just what it is about the Algarve that draws so many of us here to stay. As if that weren’t motivation enough, entrants can also elect to take part in a prize draw, where three winners will be selected to receive a case of wine after the survey closes on 9 November. Those wishing to take part can access the survey here.

Praia da Rocha - those sparkles never get boring

Praia da Rocha – those sparkles never get boring

As we’ve somehow arrived at Monday again, we have another long week of work ahead of us before there will be sufficient time to go out and play in the sun. Still, I’m sure we’ll find time to squeeze in a lovely, relaxed mid-week barbecue with a few family members who are currently here on holiday. Compared with what we would have been doing on October evenings if we had remained in London, sitting out on the balcony with a glass of wine while the smell of sardines drifts across to us from the grill really doesn’t sound too bad :-)

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The Algarve’s Five Best Kept Secrets 7

Posted on September 09, 2013 by Ben Algarve
Meravista

Anyone visiting the Algarve for their holidays won’t find it hard to locate wonderful beaches, beautiful scenery and fabulous, cheap restaurants. All you need is a guide book or a quick Google search of your chosen area and you are set to enjoy a great holiday.

FIESA - easy to find and enjoy

FIESA – easy to find and enjoy

But those who are staying longer, or moving permanently to the Algarve, have the option to discover some of its hidden treasures – places that don’t make the guide books or that have to be sought out based on local knowledge.

Here we go off the beaten track and share five of the Algarve’s best kept secrets, which we have discovered during our years of living here.

Foia

As the Algarve’s highest mountain, Foia isn’t exactly ‘hidden’ but surprisingly few people make the journey to the top. Those that do are rewarded (on clear days at least) with incredible views of a huge stretch of the coastline, with tiny towns and villages dotted around in picture postcard perfection.

Foia - pick a sunny day for a better view

Foia – pick a sunny day for a better view

You can scale Foia on foot with the hand of a local walking guide, though in the height of summer the intense heat means driving may be a more practical approach. Partway down the mountain is a tiny spring of clear water, where you are likely to find locals filling their empty bottles to take the pure, cold water away with them.

No Solo Água (Praia da Rocha)

At the far end of Praia da Rocha in Portimão, near the fortress, is the No Solo Água beach club, as recently reviewed on our sister blog, Food and Wine Portugal. While the Algarve has a few beach clubs, most are expensive, with cover charges in place before you can even sit down. No Solo Água at Praia da Rocha, however, is something of a locals’ secret. You can turn up, grab a day bed or giant sofa, and access the private beach – all for free. All you have to do is buy drinks while you’re there. There is the option to buy food as well and everything we’ve tried from the menu so far has been very tasty.

No Solo Agua - delightful

No Solo Agua – delightful

As an aside, we have visited other No Solo Água establishments, such as the one at Vilamoura, but none even come close to living up to the one at Praia da Rocha.

Alcoutim

Tucked away in the middle of nowhere near the Spanish border, Alcoutim is a small town with a tiny yet beautiful river beach. The water is clean and delightfully warm and offers the chance for visitors to float around for endless hours, disturbed only by the occasional sparkling fish jumping out of the water.

Alcoutim - a blissful hideaway

Alcoutim – a blissful hideaway

Even in the peak of summer, Alcoutim remains relatively quiet, in stark contrast to the Algarve’s coastal beaches. The little bar on site serves drinks and hot snacks, or you can take a picnic and each it on the sandy riverbank. Lifeguards are on duty and the shallow, still waters make this a lovely spot to visit if you have young children.

Tavira’s Secret Beach

Ilha da Tavira beach is a popular tourist destination all summer long and deservedly so. It is beautiful. However, Tavira also has another beach, accessed by following the signs to Forte de Rato through the Ria Formosa nature reserve. If this beach has a name, I’ve yet to discover it.

The secret beach at Forte de Rato

The secret beach at Forte de Rato

This delightful spot offers a way to escape the tourist hordes. There will be people there, but far fewer than on any of the other beaches in the area. Protected from the open sea by the curving coastland, this tidal inlet offers shallow, crystal clear water in which to frolic or simply float on a giant rubber ring. The ruined Forte de Rato, which you have to drive past to get to the beach, makes for a lovely diversion on the way.

Pego do Inferno

Accessed via the backroads leading out of Tavira and tricky to find, Pego do Inferno is one of our favourite spots. Anyone who has been kind enough to purchase our book, Moving to Portugal, will recognise the waterfall on the front cover when they visit Pego do Inferno.

Ravaged by the extensive wildfires that burned across the Algarve in 2012, Pego do Inferno has now reopened and begun to return to its former beauty, as vegetation and wildlife have returned. The waterfall and the pool at its base range in colour from perfectly clear to muddy brown/orange, depending on the time of year.

Pego do Inferno - worth trying to find

Pego do Inferno – worth trying to find

In mid-summer, the water is clear enough to see fish swimming around the pool in shoals, which scatter when locals plunge into the depths from the tattered rope swing or the top of the cliff from which the waterfall pours. I should add that both activities are extremely dangerous!

Later in the year, after the autumn rains have begun, the water becomes silted with mud from the surrounding hills, making swimming a rather unpleasant idea. It’s still a wonderfully quiet spot for a picnic, but is definitely far better when visited during the summer months.

So these are our favourite ‘secret’ Algarve destinations. I’m sure we will discover more as our explorations continue over the years ahead and I look forward to adding to the list.

What’s your favourite tucked away Algarve place? Let us know by leaving a comment in the box.

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Summer in Portugal – why the Portuguese don’t sleep 4

Posted on August 12, 2013 by Ben Algarve
Meravista

Summer in Portugal is a wonderful time and particularly so in the Algarve. Entertainment offerings crank up during July until they reach fever pitch in August. For holidaymakers evenings can be spent enjoying relaxed meals sitting outside restaurants, followed by shopping, drinking or dancing for endless hours at a range of venues, local festivals and travelling markets. Days are for tanning by the pool or swimming in the sea of one of the Algarve’s many stunning beaches.

Summer in Portugal - hot sushi and sangria by the sea

Summer in Portugal – hot sushi and sangria by the sea

For those of use who live here, fitting in the countless summer activities around a fulltime work schedule and a calendar of visiting guests can be tricky – and very tiring! In the past couple of weeks we have spent the day at a waterpark, visited a casino, listened to an amazing sunset DJ set, swum in the sea, been out for dinner, danced the night away at the local nightclub and attended numerous BBQs. All while working 8-10 hour days.

With this many activities to pack into the schedule, something has to give. In our case, it’s been sleep that we’ve passed up on in order to fit everything else in. So it was a treat last night to get our first full night of deep sleep in about two weeks – despite the noise from a late night football game in our village.

This week, with a couple of beach visits, a night out with friends and attending the Olhão shellfish festival already on the cards even if nothing else comes up, I suspect we will be straight back to cutting out sleep in order to enjoy everything the summer has to offer.

Summer in Portugal - beautiful bars welcome you at sunset

Summer in Portugal – beautiful bars welcome you at sunset

It’s a routine that has taken us some years to adjust to and we debated yesterday why it is that the Portuguese don’t seem to sleep. Our conclusions, based purely on personal observations since we’ve lived here, are that our Portuguese friends are able seemingly to stay up all night every night during the summer months because:

1)      It’s too hot to sleep, even if you wanted to

2)      There’s so much to do that the frenetic energy of the Algarve continues to pulse through your veins when your own stock of energy runs out

3)      The Algarve is so quiet during the nine non-summer months of the year that everyone enters into a state of semi-hibernation to prepare for the following summer, when they do it all over again

Summer in Portugal - balancing work and play

Summer in Portugal – balancing work and play

After four years, we are beginning to adapt to the routine, with snatched cat-naps here and there giving us the energy for long days of work and even longer evenings and weekends of play. It might be tiring at times, but come October when we are sitting indoors and watching the rain pour down for days on end, we will be glad to know that we squeezed every last drop out of the Portuguese summer.

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Algarve – East v. West 14

Posted on July 29, 2013 by Ben Algarve
Meravista

As with any area of Portugal, the Algarve has its own particular flavours, sights and sounds, which combine to give it a wonderfully distinct regional makeup. Yet numerous differences exist within the Algarve region itself. If you are looking to move to the Algarve, or just come here for a holiday, this post should help you decide which area is right for you.

Algarve beaches - head west for stunning cliffs

Algarve beaches – head west for stunning cliffs

Beaches

The Algarve unquestionably has some stunning beaches. Those in the eastern Algarve (between Faro and the border with Spain) tend to be long, flat expanses of sand, which are perfect for lazy days soaking up the sun or lengthy beach walks. They include a number of delightful sand-spit beaches, which are accessed by crossing the tidal rivers and saltpans that make up the extensive Ria Formosa nature reserve. Crossings can be made by boat (for a small fee), by water taxi (for a slightly larger fee) or – in the case of Barril beach near Tavira – by a miniature train, which is particularly popular with small children.

The train at Barril - eastern quirks

The train at Barril – eastern quirks

West of Faro, the beaches tend to be backed by crumbling red and yellow cliffs, with tiny coves and eye-catching rock formations dotted about in the sea. They are arguably more scenic and are perfect for cliff-top rambles. On the Algarve’s western coast, from Cape St Vincent northward, the winds and giant Atlantic waves make for some great surfing spots.

For those who like to bathe in the sea, it’s worth noting that the sea water is significantly colder west of Faro than east. The warmest water in the Algarve is said to be in Monte Gordo, close to the Spanish border.

Stay east for a cheaper life

Stay east for a cheaper life

Cost

There is a notable price variation as you travel along the Algarve coast. The eastern Algarve is (very roughly) 20-30% cheaper than the central and western coast, for everything from accommodation to a glass of beer. We notice this price change every time we venture west and, though it doesn’t make much difference for the occasional day out, it soon adds up when we spend anything more than a day or two away from our eastern Algarve home.

Cuisine

The heavily seafood-influenced diet of the Algarve is available across the entire region, with specialities such as cataplana and arroz de marisco found in restaurants from one coast to the other. However, non-Portuguese food is far more readily available towards the west than it is in the east. We can get Chinese and Indian takeaways in our local area, but for decent Thai food or proper English fish and chips we have to head westward in order to be sure of both availability and quality.

Algarve cuisine - seafood is available from coast to coast

Algarve cuisine – seafood is available from coast to coast

Authenticity

The eastern Algarve is more authentically Portuguese than the central and west. Although we still get our fair share of tourists in the east, there is something more traditional about life here. It’s hard to define precisely how this is evidenced, as it’s really a range of small factors which combine to provide a more genuine experience of Portugal.

As an example – if you order food and drink in Portuguese in the eastern Algarve, the waiter will reply to you in Portuguese. Head west and the waiter will reply in English, no matter how good your attempt at speaking Portuguese might have been. In the central and western Algarve, particularly in places such as Vilamoura, the majority of restaurant boards will list their specialities in English first and Portuguese last (if at all). In the east, it’s the other way around.

Although these are subtle variations, the combined effect is that the eastern Algarve provides an experience of Portugal that just somehow feels much more genuinely Portuguese.

Eastern Algarve - more Portuguese

Eastern Algarve – more Portuguese

Weather

While the Algarve enjoys an alleged 300 days of sunshine per year, there are notable temperature differences as you travel along the coast. The sea is at its warmest off the far eastern coast by the town of Monte Gordo, where a sheltered bay means that the water is always more tempting than elsewhere. Lagos, towards the western end of the Algarve, tends to be windier and cooler than many of the other coastal towns. On the western coast, the winds sweeping off the Atlantic mean lower temperatures and beaches more suited to surfers than sunbathers.

Generally, we find that as we drive westward along the Algarve coast, we lose around 2-3 degrees of temperature the further we travel. Of course there will be times when it’s the other way round, but this is our general finding based on the years we’ve lived here.

East Algarve - there's no place like home

East Algarve – there’s no place like home

So these are some of the reasons we ended up living in the eastern Algarve. We enjoy visiting the west and Praia da Rocha, as the first place we ever stayed in Portugal, will always be close to our hearts, but at the end of a long day out we’re always happy to be heading home to the east.

Let us know which part of the Algarve you prefer by leaving a comment in the box below.

 

Image credits: Flickr, Wikimedia Commons

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Expats in Portugal: 5 Tips for Summer 6

Posted on July 22, 2013 by Ben Algarve
Meravista

Expats in Portugal tend to have a love/hate relationship with the summer. While we look forward to the arrival of sunshine, atmosphere and things to do, we usually start to complain by mid-July when the roads get busy, restaurant service becomes shambolic, and timing a trip the supermarket badly can mean queuing like it’s Christmas Eve!

Crowded Praia da Dona Ana - Lagos

Crowded Praia da Dona Ana – Lagos

So, in honour of the fact that we’ve now arrived at the time when we all begin to complain, here are five lighthearted tips to help residents in the Algarve cope with the summer.

 

1.      Time trips to the supermarket carefully

The worst possible time to arrive at the supermarket is when everyone’s on their way home from the beach. Sunday afternoons can be pretty hateful too.

All you have to do is think outside the box. Go early, when the tourists are sleeping off their hangovers, for minimal queues and maximum choice. Late doesn’t work quite so well, as although there may not be many people there, there’s probably not much stock either. Right in the middle of a hot day can work too – if, of course, you don’t have to work!

Sunshine - it's here all summer

Sunshine – it’s here all summer

2.      Get out of the expat mindset

It’s hard to get used to the fact that the sun is guaranteed to shine every day in the summer, and break out of the expat mentality that makes you feel compelled to get outside so as not to “waste the weather.”

Four years on, we’re still struggling to break our conditioning, but we’re getting there. We just have to get our work done and trust that the sun will still be there tomorrow.

 

3.      Go off the beaten track

There’s no getting around the fact that you may resent the thousands of people on “your” usually-near-deserted beach, but the tourists are the lifeblood of the Algarve economy.

Solitude - it's there if you know where to look!

Solitude – it’s there if you know where to look!

Instead, you must learn to go to places that the tourists haven’t discovered. We know a river beach that is never thronged, and also plenty of busy beaches where solitude can still be found after a 15 minute walk.

Best of all though, get to know some people with a house in the hills and ideally a pool. Then, spend your weekends there and save the beach for mid-September. We’re very lucky to have relatives in the country!

 

4.      Put water under the air conditioning

We always thought that putting a bowl of water in an air-conditioned room was an old wives’ tale. It’s not. If you spend a lot of time with the air conditioning on, the extra humidity from the water will prevent the worst of the peeling lips and sore throats.

Summer festivities

Summer festivities

5.      Remember you’re not on holiday

If you’ve retired then go ahead and enjoy yourself. If, like us, you still have a hefty Monday to Friday workload, you’ve still got to get it all done, and doing it with sunburn, heatstroke or a hangover is no fun at all.

 

So, sad though it is to accept, you must get your head down and get it done – and what better incentive is there to hammer through it than a beach at the end of the road – even if it is really bloody crowded!

 

Image credits: Wikimedia Commons

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Holidays in Portugal – Aldeia da Pedralva 2

Posted on May 21, 2013 by Ben Algarve
Meravista

It’s sometimes hard to convince friends that just because we live in a holiday destination it doesn’t mean we are on holiday all the time (it’s Lou here, by the way). We still have to work, pay bills, go to the supermarket and complete all those household chores which are a part of daily life. So a couple of weeks ago we decided to take a break and go on an actual holiday in Portugal, to the idyllic Aldeia da Pedralva.

Holidays in Portugal - Aldeia da Pedralva

Holidays in Portugal – Aldeia da Pedralva

Aldeia da Pedralva is a tourist resort located approximately halfway between Vila do Bispo and Bordeira, on the Costa Vicentina area of Portugal’s west coast. Popular with surfers, the west coast is more wild and unspoiled than the beaches on Portugal’s south coast, so we were excited to be exploring a different part of Portugal than we are used to.

Aldeia da Pedralva has an interesting history. It was an almost entirely abandoned village when the owners first discovered it. They spent two years gradually purchasing the dilapidated houses and another two years renovating them. The sympathetic renovation work was designed to maintain a traditional Portuguese village feel, complete with winding cobbled streets, mismatched house sizes and white-painted walls. The atmosphere is one of tranquil relaxation – often the only sounds we could hear were the birds singing and the tinkling of the sheep bells as a small flock grazed on the village’s grassland.

Cobbled, winding streets

Cobbled, winding streets

The houses themselves are a delight. Each one is different and has its own character and charm. We stayed in a one-bedroom house with delightful views over the open, hilly countryside, which is dotted with trees and flowers as far as the eye can see. Our house was quaint and rustic, yet spotlessly clean and with all the facilities we needed for a weekend away. It had a small yet perfectly adequate kitchen and a good-sized living space, as well as a large bedroom with an extremely comfortable bed. The bathroom was particularly charming, with a stone-walled shower very much in keeping with the whole feel of the village.

Unique houses in a tranquil setting

Unique houses in a tranquil setting

Aldeia da Pedralva is designed as a base for active holidays, yet it also makes a wonderful, peaceful retreat for those looking to escape modern life. WiFi is only available in the reception area, which was at once refreshing and a little unnerving (I am a massive iPhone addict). There are no televisions or radios in the houses. The emphasis is on enjoying the wonders that nature has to offer, along with fresh, clean country air and good food.

Quaint touches abound

Quaint touches abound

There are two restaurants in the village, which I will review in detail on our sister blog Food and Wine Portugal, but suffice it to say here that the food in both was excellent and the service extremely friendly. Both are worth a visit on their own merits and we will definitely eat at them again next time we are in the area, even if we are not staying at the village. Breakfast was also included in our stay and consisted of a good continental spread, along with gallons of coffee and freshly squeezed orange juice (so fresh that it was actually squeezed in front of us).

The pretty blue house

The pretty blue house

We spent our weekend at Aldeia da Pedralva exploring some of the west coast, as it is an area with which we are largely unfamiliar. Driving through the winding hills, we visited a number of windswept beaches, splashing around in the huge Atlantic waves coming rolling in. The highlight had to be the beautiful Praia do Monte Clérigo, where we lazed about in the sun for several hours, treating ourselves to a drink and a cake from the (horrendously overpriced) local café.

The rugged west coast

The rugged west coast

Praia da Amoreira, a stunning and desolate beach accessed by driving down a mountain, also deserves a mention. The scenic drive makes a wonderful approach to the sands, while the beach is backed by flower-covered dunes which are host to a variety of wildlife.

Overall it was a delightful weekend. We came away feeling refreshed and reinvigorated, which is exactly how a holiday is supposed to leave you feeling. The combination of the local attractions and the village itself, with its hidden nooks and crannies for curling up with a book in the sun, makes the perfect break – it’s definitely somewhere we will be heading back to next time we take a mini holiday in Portugal to escape the stresses of modern life.

Beautiful countryside

Beautiful countryside

In the interests of full disclosure we were invited to spend the weekend at this resort. However, be assured that all views are our own and that our opinions cannot be bought!

If you enjoy reading the blog and want to hear more about how our life has changed since moving abroad, why not check out our book: 

Moving to Portugal: How a young couple started a new life in the sun – and how you could do the same

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A Delightful Discovery 8

Posted on April 23, 2013 by Ben Algarve
Meravista

We headed further west along the Algarve coast this weekend, for a minibreak in the lovely town of Lagos. Lagos is a fabulous town to explore, with cove beaches, a marina and a huge variety of shops, bars and restaurants.

Lagos Marina

Lagos Marina

While further along the coast, we took the opportunity to revisit one of our favourite Algarve beaches – Praia da Rocha, by the city of Portimão. This was the first place we ever stayed in Portugal and it has remained close to our hearts ever since. The huge expanse of golden sand is backed by stunning (and steadily crumbling) cliffs and the seascape is peppered with rock formations of all shapes and sizes, inhabited by noisy, squabbling seagulls. If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you’ll know this is a place we speak of a lot!

Praia da Rocha - the rocks for which the beach was named

Praia da Rocha – the rocks for which the beach was named

The highlight of the weekend, early on Sunday afternoon, was a trip to the lovely, quiet beach of Alvor. It was here that, some six or seven years ago, a clifftop ramble led us to discover a tiny restaurant built right into the cliff, facing the neighbouring beach of Praia Dos Tres Irmãos. Accessed via a dingy-looking lift from the land-side, this restaurant and its little area of beach felt like a hidden gem when we first discovered it.

In February 2010, shortly after we moved to Portugal, we set off to find this secret beach once more. After some hours of searching we finally found it, only to be devastated when we saw the restaurant had been destroyed since our last visit. We could only assume that the winter storms or falling rocks had caused its destruction.

The Secret Restaurant

The Secret Restaurant

It was with utter delight, therefore, that we discovered on Sunday that the restaurant is up and running once more! It has the same, secret feel that it did when we first chanced upon it and we were happy to be among those few individuals splashing in the sea in front of it. We had eaten shortly before finding it, but now that we know it’s there again, it won’t be long before we return to its sun-drenched terrace tucked into the cliff, to feast on clams whilst looking out over the sparkling sea.

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