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.
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
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
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.
The climate in Portugal at this time of year is unpredictable – there was even a mini tornado in the local town of Cabanas last week that damaged boardwalk sunshades and sent tables flying. Last week’s rain and strong winds have left me yearning for the sunshine so that we can get back out to the beach and enjoy days of basking in the sun and splashing around in the sea. It got me thinking about my favourite beaches, so here are my top five beaches in the Algarve.
Praia da Rocha
Praia da Rocha – sunlight sparkling on the sea
Located by the city of Portimão, Praia da Rocha (‘beach of the rocks’) is a beach of contrasts. The beach itself is in two halves – Praia da Rocha is a huge flat expanse of man-made beach backed by a boardwalk with small cafes and restaurants. Around a large outcropping of cliff, is the adjoining Praia dos Três Castelos – a long stretch of rock-strewn coves. It’s all backed by some stunning, dramatic cliffs. The top of the cliffs are crowded with hotels, gift shops and bars, some nice, some not so nice. The ‘strip’ is hellish in summer, crowded with drunk tourists and men selling fake watches, cheap ornaments and worse. All of that is forgotten though the moment you step onto the white sand after walking down the (many) steps from the cliff top.
Praia da Rocha was the beach we stayed at during our very first trip to Portugal and was one of the reasons we moved here in the first place, so it will always hold a special place in my heart. The light sparkles on the sea there in a way that I have yet to see anywhere else.
Praia Dona Ana
Praia Dona Ana
Praia Dona Ana is near the town of Lagos. It’s a fairly small cove beach, accessed by a clamber down the cliff via a steep staircase. It’s one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been. The water is crystal clear, with deep blues and greens – perfect for swimming in. Small boats can be hired for cave trips along the coastline, which are well worth doing. I will always remember our 90 year old grandmother braving the steps down to the beach and then insisting on going on one of the cave trips, much to the astonishment of the boatman.
There is one restaurant on Praia Dona Ana and it’s well worth a visit. Prices are very reasonable and the food is really good – much better than you would expect from a beachfront restaurant. We always include a stop there when we visit this beach, although it can involve a bit of a wait during busy periods.
Exploring the caves at Praia Dona Ana
Praia Verde (‘green beach’) is a lovely, flat beach of soft, white sand that seems to stretch on forever, backed by a dense, green forest (hence the name). It’s located a few kilometres east of the town of Tavira, about 10 km shy of the Spanish border. Praia Verde is a great beach to visit if you have young children, as when the tide goes out it leaves long, shallow tide pools behind that are perfect for splashing around in and offer greater safety than playing in the sea.
I haven’t tried the restaurant at the beach for anything other than drinks since it was renovated a couple of years ago. Before the renovation, it was a rather charming ramshackle place, serving good quality seafood at reasonable prices. It is now much larger and smarter and although I haven’t eaten there recently I suspect that its prices have gone up along with its size, if the drinks prices are anything to go by.
Praia da Cabanas
Praia da Cabanas is in the fishing village of Cabanas (meaning ‘huts’), in the eastern Algarve. It is accessed by a short boat ride (lasting about 60 seconds) across the river and then a walk along the boardwalk up and over the dunes. It’s a delightfully pretty beach, which boasts endless flat sands and usually a few kite surfers to watch idly while you laze in the sun. Although it attracts large numbers of tourists, it seems to absorb them better than most of the Algarve’s beaches, making it a haven for residents during the summer months.
Forte de Rato beach
Forte de Rato beach – perfect for boating
This last one was a difficult choice. Although Ilha de Tavira is unquestionably one of the Algarve’s most beautiful beaches, with sparkling waters and sugar-soft sand, the beach near Forte do Rato in Tavira has to be my final choice. This is essentially a small, tidal river beach on the edge of the delightfully pretty town of Tavira. I’m not sure what it is actually called, as it’s not signposted and everyone I know who has been to it just calls it, “the beach near Forte do Rato.” If you want to find it, just follow the signs to Forte do Rato from Tavira.
The sand itself is nothing to shout about, but the water is where this beach really comes into its own. Shallow and clear, it is perfect for paddling, swimming, or (if you are as young at heart/just plain childish as we are) buying an inflatable boat in the nearby Gran Plaza shopping centre and rowing around in circles for hours on end. It has no facilities whatsoever, so be sure to take a supply of snacks and drinks when you visit.
Forte do Rato from above – plentiful shallow water to play in
This beach is backed by the Ria Formosa nature reserve, which is lovely for walking across and seeing the salt pans and wild flamingos (in the winter months) and also has the tumbledown Forte do Rato (‘fort of the mouse’ – also known as the Fort of Santo Antônio de Tavira and Forte da Ilha das Lebres) which is fun to explore and pretend you are fighting off marauders. Or maybe that’s just me
This is not the most beautiful beach on the list, but nonetheless it’s one of our favourite places in the whole of the Algarve.
And a quick mention for…Alcoutim
Alcoutim – don’t be put off by the green water!
Although it didn’t make the final cut, I have to mention the river beach at Alcoutim, a small riverside town facing the Spanish border. The water is clear but with a greenish tinge, though there is a reassuring blue flag flapping merrily on the beach. The water is warm and still and although the beach itself is tiny, we found space to relax there even in mid-summer. It has a rather hippy-ish vibe, which makes a lovely change from the intense tourism of the Algarve’s coastal beaches during the summer months.
So while the climate in Portugal continues to frustrate us this year, these are my all-time top five favourite beaches in the Algarve. Do you have one to add to the list? If so, we would love to hear about it – please leave a comment below.
Life in Portugal doesn’t always involve sitting on the beach and drinking cocktails, although of course I do try to do that as often as possible (it’s Lou here today, by the way). This week, with high winds and torrential rain, we have hibernated indoors with the heating on full blast.
The miserable weather has given me a chance to spend some time furthering my studies of the Portuguese language, to watch a few movies and to spend some time in the kitchen, the results of which can be seen on our sister blog, Food and Wine Portugal. It has been a chance to regroup and relax in our lovely home.
So much rain, even the plants are suffering
However, a full week of this weather has led me to reflect on a fact often overlooked by holidaymakers and those considering moving to Portugal – there is really very little to do here when the weather is bad.
Once you have exhausted the shopping centres and worked your way through the cinema listings, the Algarve quickly runs out of bad-weather attractions. Strolling around pretty little towns, lazing on the beach and sitting outside a café for a coffee are all activities that quickly lose their appeal when it’s pouring with rain. The result has been – in our village at least – that locals have either stayed indoors or flocked to the village’s bars, seemingly content to simply sit and drink until the sun comes out.
Winter life in Portugal – the beach isn’t so inviting in the rain
Thankfully we both work fulltime, so the bad weather hasn’t had the chance to lead to too much boredom. Once you add in the usual domestic chores, which sadly don’t go away when you move to another country, the day fills up pretty quickly. So for the moment it’s a case of battening down the hatches, working hard and saving up for the dreaded annual Portuguese tax bill. Still, it will all be worth it once the sun finally comes out again and we can begin to enjoy all the wonderful activities that summer life in Portugal has to offer.
I have something a little different for you today – a musical post.
For a while now, I’ve been intending to put together a list of the songs we’ve come to associate with our move to Portugal.
Most of the time, our home runs on music. Sometimes many days can pass without the TV being switched on, but the iPod dock is in constant use.
Some of this music isn’t necessarily to our normal taste, but certain songs have become intrinsically linked with our move to Portugal – to leave them out would mean failing to tell the whole story – so don’t judge us on all of them!
Emma Bunton – “Free Me” (Album)
Yeah, yeah, let’s get all the “Ben loves the Spice Girls” giggling out the way. As my closest friends will know, I’ve always had a soft spot for a little girl power.
All joking aside, if I had to choose one album that makes me think of our early weeks in Portugal, it would be this. It may seem odd that someone who knows about all kinds of obscure house, soul and hip-hop places this in his top ten albums of all time, but it’s true.
It’s a beautiful chunk of Motown-tinged pop that never gets dull. It reminds me of sunny afternoons driving around the Algarve, and long days of cooking in our first house in Tavira, where over a decade of London tension first began to thaw away.
Marvin Gaye – “I wanna be where you are”
OK, I’d better find something a little more highbrow and credible for my next choice, so here we have Marvin Gaye.
This is from a quite obscure B-sides album, and is a simple groove as much as a song – but what a groove it is, with strings and brass that I could, quite literally listen to all day long.
This is my “work done, wine poured, time to peel the prawns” tune. My wife, who doesn’t really do soul music, merely tolerates it.
Odyssey – “Native New Yorker”
My life would be incomplete without this track. I associate it with having visitors staying in Portugal with us and have been surprised by how many friends were already familiar with it.
I also (girly moment) remember shedding a tear upon hearing the line “where did all those yesterdays go” in the hours after my mum had left to return to England after her first Christmas visit to Portugal. Hearing it now, I’m reminded that this time next week I will actually be on my way to New York!
Mambana – “Libre”
I could easily write a separate post listing all the Latin house tunes that I associate with our life in Portugal, but that would bore everyone to death, so I consulted my wife as to which to include.
To me this song is all about driving down the Algarve’s N125 road on the way to a beach, often with a couple of mates in the back of the car. Hearing it now is enough to give me goose bumps in advance of this summer.
Thick Dick – “Insatiable”
This is a house tune that I remember from my clubbing days. A couple of years ago this Balearic-tinged version appeared, complete with its laid-back Spanish guitar sounds.
It’s a track that’s equally as perfect through the headphones by the pool as it is blasting in the car on the way to a night out. It featured heavily in our summer last year. It’s basically summer distilled into five minutes – which is a good thing.
The Milk – “B Roads”
Right, time to man up with something a little more guitar-based. The Milk’s album, “Tales from a Thames Delta” was one of my highlights of last year and our car soundtrack for several months.
It’s a track that tends to come out when we’ve got too much to do and feel a bit up against it: “you gotta live on the run, or you’ll die young” is quite an inspirational message!
Jay-Z and Kayne West – “Clique”
This tune makes me think of my young mates in our local town, and of a few mad nights out. Lou (my wife) loves it too, earning it a place on this list.
Over-the-top swag hip-hop, complete with lots of sweary lyrics. Parental discretion is advised.
Oddisee – “Hustle Off”
Oddisee is a hip-hop artist I discovered last year. His album “People Hear What They See,” was the iTunes hip-hop album of the year for 2012.
This track isn’t actually on the album, it’s more of an obscurity, but the “sometimes you just gotta turn your hustle off” message is very resonant for those of us who’ve decided to slow down our pace of life.
The Nextmen – “Whisper Up”
A list of songs related to our move to Portugal wouldn’t be complete without some poolside reggae. “Whisper Up” is a quirky little number that I doubt many people are familiar with – but it’s instantly appealing and often causes people to ask “what’s this?”
Fierce Collective – “Baker Street”
This is Gerry Rafferty’s “Baker Street” turned into shameless handbag-house. I was never a massive fan of the original (other than always whistling it whilst walking through Baker Street tube station).
This version, however, I discovered during a particularly crappy week of work in London, and it came on my iPod while I was on the Gatwick Express en route back home to Portugal. I’d never previously realised the lyrics were all about swapping city life for something rather more like ours. By the time I pulled into Gatwick train station and reached the “you’re going home” line, I was nearly crying for joy with the certainty that we’d done the right thing by moving to Portugal.
Michel Telo – “Ai Se Eu Te Pego”
You may know this one. It’s a Portuguese (Brazillian) song that has reached number one in 16 European countries. However, it’s not so well known in the UK, where, as recent events prove, they don’t really like joining in with everyone else.
This song reminds me of summer days and nights out, and it always delights me when I hear English expats sing it…in Portuguese.
The Quiet Boys – “Everybody Loves the Sunshine”
I had to include this song. The dilemma was which version, as I seem to uncover a different one every couple of months. Any one of them is perfect for playing quietly in the background whilst floating in the swimming pool (made from a converted irrigation tank) at our family’s place nearby.
I’ve gone for this acid jazz flavoured version, but I apologize to Roy Ayers for not choosing his. I have, however put the Roy Ayers version here as my choice is the one item on this list too obscure to find on YouTube.
Compiling this list of twelve songs has been a really enjoyable (and at times emotional) experience. I have no doubt that over the coming days I’ll think of countless other tunes I should have included. But I still feel that this list provides a good representation of the soundtrack of our life in Portugal. I hope you enjoy it.
Hi, it’s Louise here with my first Moving to Portugal post. Happy New Year to you all
There’s a feeling of Spring in the air today – a feeling of fresh starts. As I sipped my morning tea on the balcony, the sun seemed a little warmer, the birdsong a little louder. Perhaps it’s that I’m adjusting to my new freelance lifestyle, but something about being outside this morning took me back to when we first moved to Portugal – to a time of uncertainty over the future, but one full of excitement, hope and possibility. A new start, in a new country.
Living abroad – winter sands
I noticed it yesterday too. We went for a quick stroll along the beach to build up an appetite for dinner. On the way, I noticed blossom on the trees beside the road. At the beach, I was captivated by the view, the sound of the sea and the countless tracks of little bird-prints crisscrossing the sand.
When you’ve been living abroad for a while, it can be easy to forget to take time to stand and stare. Real life gets in the way – the apartment needs cleaning, the shopping needs to be done or the endless paperwork needs yet more attention. Yesterday though, we ignored it all and went to the beach, reminding ourselves of why we moved here in the first place.
I love Portugal’s beaches at this time of year. They stretch for miles with only a few people in sight, mostly locals looking to catch something for dinner. The waves shimmer in the sun and in the late afternoon the shore turns pink as the day begins to fade. A stroll along the beach feels therapeutic and the sand and sea stretching into the distance provide space to think.
Living abroad – January beaches
I have a tricky year ahead. Unlike my husband, I’ve always worked ‘for the man’ and right now the vast possibilities of working freelance feel a little overwhelming. I need to change my mind-set and embrace uncertainty, something I’ve never been particularly good at. It’s an exciting time, of course, but also an anxious one. Still, as I stood on the balcony breathing in the scents and sounds of Spring, I couldn’t think of anywhere I would rather be in order to face it.
Last week was great. My family came to visit, and as they had already been to the East Algarve on two occasions, we all decided to seek out a change of scenery and rented a beautiful villa “up the other end” in Lagos.
The weather was mostly beautiful all week with temperatures that hit the mid-30s several times. I was delighted that my mother got to experience true Algarve heat, having previously only visited in winter.
Enjoying the Water at Praia da Dona Ana
Accompanying my mother was her partner and his 90-year-old mother, who wowed us as well as serveral passers-by with her determination to experience everything the holiday had to offer. This included walking up and down dozens of wooden steps in the midday sun at Praia da Dona Ana, climbing onto a small fishing boat for a sightseeing trip and enjoying the water in both pool and sea.
Lagos is a favourite destination of ours and somewhere we were tempted to move to before we settled on the Tavira area. As always, we thoroughly enjoyed being in the town with its happy blend of tourist tat and authentic Portugal. This was, however, the first time we didn’t feel any temptation to move there, which gave us a pleasing sense of having fully settled where we are.
Lagos pre sunset
We fitted in several barbecues and enjoyed homemade coconut shrimp, presunto wrapped asparagus, sirloin steak, chargrilled salmon and stacks of sparkling fresh local sardines. When we weren’t eating, we did plenty of sightseeing including a trip to Silves castle and a tour of local beaches.
As ever, with our family visits, time passed all too quickly. Before we knew it the end of the week had arrived, complete with tearful goodbyes and a sullen reloading of the car. Things were rather quiet at the villa when everybody had gone and we spent some of our last day looking for cheap flights in the hope they can come again before the end of the year.
On the bright side, however, the sad end of an Algarve holiday is far easier to deal with when you still live there. Within an hour of driving away from the villa, we were back in Tavira, enjoying an espresso in the square by the Roman bridge. We really can’t complain.
Enchanting Views in Silves
As ever, our travelling companion was the “Rough Guide Directions” series, see below:
When blogging about our new life in Portugal, I am always keen to be completely honest and to share the lows as well and the highs. Regular readers will know that I often highlight the fact that life in the sun is far from being one long holiday.
It’s important to mention this to deliver a reality check to those who may have been on holiday in the Algarve, returned home and impulsively typed “moving to Portugal” into Google. Nowhere is a complete paradise and real life follows you everywhere.
Sometimes, however, all the stars come into alignment and everything feels perfect – and last weekend was one of those times.
Sunset over Santa Luzia Algarve Easter 2012
It started with a visit from some guests, consisting of one of my wife’s colleagues and her partner. As I have now told them this in person, I can be honest and say I had a mild sense of foreboding about their arrival, as they weren’t people I really knew.
Anyone who has lived in a desirable location for any length of time will know that “guest politics” can be fraught with difficulty. When you live abroad, seeing friends and family usually means spending multiple days and nights under the same roof – doing everything together.
This is not the normal course of events. When you live in your home country, people may stay the night here and there, but they rarely stay multiple days or weeks. These long periods of closeness can either cement true friendship or signal its destruction. While plenty of enjoyable “cementing” has gone on since we arrived in Portugal, there has also been one “destruction” incident, about which I shall say no more at this point! Suffice to say though, that guests who we haven’t lived in close quarters with before now cause me concern!
Algarve Easter - Praia do Barril
I needn’t have worried. Our guests were a true pleasure to have around and we bonded against a backdrop of good seafood, soul music and Grey Goose vodka. A good time was had by all I think, and despite a grim weather forecast, the sun appeared at least a couple of times each day, allowing for some unexpected beach time and a couple of fun drives on our electric mopeds.
We finished off the Easter weekend with a day of fishing, walking and biking near the coast of Tavira. Our day was complemented perfectly by my mother in law’s homemade pasta salad, plenty of pink wine and a fresh crab that we bought at the supermarket and cracked into on a rock by the shore. If there’s a better way to enjoy shellfish I have yet to find it! Before returning home we stopped for an espresso, caught the last few minutes of the hot sun and felt more relaxed than we had done in some time.
Fishing spot near Tavira Portugal
All in all, it was a perfect, low-cost, feeling thankful kind of day. The kind I moved here for. Sometimes being here DOES feel like a holiday.
If you’re considering a move to Portugal, take a look at this book:
Anyone who knows me personally will know that these had to get a mention. After all, they are my current favourite toy (move over iPhone, you’re no longer the new kid on the block).
A few weeks back we took delivery of the two shiny electric scooters you will see in the photograph. These are the perfect transportation between apartment, café and beach (but not bar – you wouldn’t want to wobble too much on these little things!)
Electric Mopeds in Portugal
These electric mopeds seem to be becoming increasingly popular in our area. Restricted to just 25km/h, they have pedals and are legally treated as pushbikes. You don’t need license, registration or insurance and, best of all, you can ride them on the lovely network of Algarve cycle paths.
Above all, I’m now a southern-European; I could hardly NOT have bought a moped now could I?
N is for Nobre (Hotdogs!)
OK, so my choice for “N” is perhaps a little weak. But these inexplicably popular and rather nondescript hotdog frankfurters were the first thing that sprang to mind – and, if I’m being honest, I couldn’t think of anything else!
All Portuguese supermarkets have a surprisingly large section of tinned hotdog sausages. While we often go months without eating them, there is usually a tin of this Nobre brand in our cupboard ready to be thrown in a burger bun with fried onions and mustard when a particularly troublesome hangover rears its head.
Nobre Hotdogs in Portugal
We have also encountered Nobre hotdogs at tourist attractions such as Zoomarine Algarve. These come with little thin potato chips inside that make for a surprisingly agreeable, crunchy addition. So, there you have it. N is for Nobre.
O is for Olhão
I have chosen Olhão for my “O” for two reasons.
First of all this town in the East Algarve is quite unique in that it is still essentially a working town that remains stubbornly untouched by tourism (although a very posh hotel and spa at the western end of the seafront is doing its best to change that).
Olhão is a down to earth kind of town with lots of restaurants and shops, and also an agreeable place to walk along the waterfront. From here, ferries run to the beautiful beach islands of Armona and Culatra – where a five minute walk can provide you with peace and tranquility, even in the peak of the summer season.
Ilha da Armona - Accessed from Olhao
My second reason for choosing Olhão is that the word itself separates the men from the boys in terms of Portuguese pronunciation. While phonetically, an English speaker may be tempted to say “Ol-how,” “ão” with the accent over the “a” in Portuguese make a “yaow” sound (“yaow” as in “how,” not as in “sow”).
So, what you are looking for is “OL-YAOW” – go on, practice it!
Now you’re in the mood for Portuguse, perhaps it’s time to learn a bit more? Here’s how we started off!
This post continues from where I left off with my last post, describing our visit to Lisbon and the surrounding area. If you haven’t already seen it, it’s probably best if you read this first, then come back here.
Sintra is a beautiful hilltop town on the outskirts of Lisbon. Luckily our hotel was located near a station with convenient trains. The journey surprised us with the sheer density of housing in the suburbs between the city center and Sintra. After 30 mins of travel past countless tower blocks, we suddenly arrived in Sintra, a total contrast to everything we had seen on the way there.
Beautiful Sintra, near Lisbon
Sintra is a UNESCO world heritage site and boasts a range of palaces and museums. The town is beautiful and the architecture really different to the Moorish influences we are used to where we live in the Algarve.
We really visited to get a general sense of the place, rather than visit specific attractions, but unfortunately, our failure to properly read the guidebook resulted in us visiting on the one day that the main Palacio National that we did wish to walk around was closed to the public. We did have a good look around the outside though, and were a little surprised how poorly maintained it seemed to be – certainly not the bright white Disneyesque building shown in our guidebook!
View of Sintra Portugal
After visiting a pasterlaria and stocking up on seriously delicious queijadas (super sweet cheese-based sponge cakes), we strolled around the “semi-tropical” gardens and up through the town, visiting a range of tourist tat shops, and a fabulous antique shop specializing in scientific instruments and old fashioned technology. We then headed to the wonderful toy museum.
I’m not a great one for museums, but I loved the toy museum, although it was quite depressing that so many things I had as a child are now considered museum pieces! The museum has everything from vintage Hornby train sets to Barbies, Action Men and 3000 year old stone toys. It is well worth a visit – my only piece of advice would be that all male visitors should perhaps start on the top floor and work down. After getting very excited about Star Wars figures and toy cars, I was quite disappointed when I got to the top and only had dolls left – I should have saved the best till last!
Sintra Toy Museum - Hornby Trains
We headed back to Lisbon by train, stopping for a quick expresso and pastel de nata before heading across town on the metro to Cais de Sodre, ready for the train out to Cascais.
The train to Cascais is a “must-do” for visitors to Lisbon. The views are incredible as you leave Lisbon, initially right next to a major road, which delivers the strange sensation of travelling on a road whilst on a train. The train tracks then hug the shore, nearly close enough for waves to break against the train carriages.
We passed through some far more upscale, and no doubt very expensive, suburbs on the way to Cascais, the beach resort of choice for Lisbon residents.
A lot of people had recommended Cascais to us, and it did deliver, in all but two respects: beach space, and sea water temperature, which was bloody freezing compared to the Algarve, which itself isn’t really all that warm!
After a quick walk round the town, which included a stroll around an antiques fair and a stop for bifanas (pork sandwiches) and beers, we walked around the marina, which was preparing to host the Americas Cup. As such, it was also hosting a large collection of ostentatiously wealthy Europeans and their spoiled and noisy children, so we quickly got away and searched for somewhere to have a rest.
Cascais - Our Secluded Beach Spot
We found just the place, a tiny “beach” on the edge of a park on the way out of town. It was really just an inlet, where the sea was still flowing into the land between the parts of the marina, but it was an oasis of calm that seemed undiscovered by the tourists. We finished the rest of our quiejadas and had a dip in the water.
With our energy restored, we found the main seafront and joined the hundreds of locals in the early evening promenade tradition, stopping for a drink en route to Estoril, a couple of miles away.
We didn’t explore much of Estoril town, other than to buy an ice cream and sit on the pretty park in front of the huge casino, said to be the inspiration for many of Ian Fleming´s James Bond tales. We then rejoined the prom back into Cascais, which by now was packed with people looking for somewhere to have dinner.
We were lucky enough to grab the last table at a low priced grill restaurant and tucked into some very succulent piri piri chicken, chips and salad. The clearly very wealthy English family who came to sit at the next table towards the end of our meal provided some entertainment, and their embarrassing, squabbling behavior while we drank our coffees gave us something to talk about on the way home!
We boarded quite a late train back to Lisbon, with surprisingly few people on it considering the number of people in Cascais. A late night underground train then dropped us almost at the door of our hotel.
Our stay is Lisbon was over when we awoke the following day, so we checked out of the hotel and headed out of the city, this time choosing to drive over the stunning, seven mile long Vasco de Gama bridge instead of joining the horrific traffic for the 25 de Abril bridge.
On the way back to the Algarve we stopped at Freeport, a huge outlet mall for designer goods, which proved to be a huge waste of time, with nothing seeming to be particularly good value. Promises of shirts from 10€ and jeans from 15€ on the windows never seemed to materialize in the shops themselves-we wouldn’t bother with a repeat visit.
After this stop, our journey back was over very quickly, with a planned detour to the west coast of Portugal proving unsuccessful when we realized our borrowed satnav didn’t contain beaches as points of interest. So we headed home, tired but content after our break in Lisbon, and ready to get back to work.
As I mentioned in my previous post, our chosen guidebook was really accurate and helpful on our trip to Lisbon and the surrounding area. You can find the book we used here:
Only time for a quick post today as it’s changeover day for us here in the Algarve. Some friends of ours left here yesterday and my niece arrives in just a few hours – so all hands are on deck to sweep the sand from the floor and restock the fridge and wine-rack ready for round 2!
One thing that surprised us when we moved to Portugal, was that over a year into the experience we still hadn’t once experienced that deeply happy “I’m on holiday” frame of mind we felt when we used to come here on holiday. It’s not quite the same when you live in a holiday destination as, for one thing, you are not protected from daily sightings of bills, emails and credit card statements!
Approaching Ilha de Tavira Beach
When we have guests here, it’s the closest we come to that wonderful holiday vibe, as we get to piggy-back on their holiday mood. On that note, the last week or so has been fabulous, with gorgeous sunny weather and plenty of good times.
There have been some real “Wow, I LIVE here, I’d better pinch myself” moments over the past days. Here are some of the highlights:
1. Seeing the sun set over the river whilst driving back over the bridge to Portugal after a day in Spain.
2. Seasoning vast piles of meat and fish to share with our friends and three generations of extended family.
3. Making mojitos outside late at night with the temperature still comfortably into the 20s.
4. Escaping the beach on Monday due to exfoliatingly high winds to find the waterfall at Pego do Inferno almost deserted, and swimming in the crystal-clear pool below.
5. Falling into bed each night and sleeping almost instantly with the type of tiredness that only comes from long days swimming through the waves and throwing a Frisbee around a hot beach.
Pego do Inferno Waterfall Portugal
Sometimes I post on this blog and complain about various things: bureaucracy, poor quality meat or having to travel to London too often. Sometimes though, I get reminded why all of it is worth it—this was our dream, and every now and then we have enough time to realize we are living it. We have plenty of blessings to count.
The arrival of my niece heralds an active week ahead—long-term readers of the blog may recall her last visit involved us going kayaking. This time we’re climbing mountains—just what’s needing to shed the last week’s excess barbecue weight—expect a mountain-walking-related post very soon!