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We had an eventful weekend in the Algarve. It started off with a wonderful walk around Tavira looking at the Christmas lights. When you think about some of the awful “too cool to actually be any good” displays that have adorned London’s Regent Street is recent years it is fantastic to see Christmas done right. As I mentioned in a previous post (http://www.movingtoportugal.org/?p=175) they really go for Christmas in a big way here in Portugal and the lights in Tavira, along with a natural setting that is already pretty stunning, makes for the kind of Christmas display dreams are made of. To add to the atmosphere, outdoor speakers have been placed strategically around the town piping Christmas music out as you walk around the pretty streets. (Although hearing “I’m dreaming of a white Christmas” when it’s 18 degrees Celsius and sunny is rather surreal!)
On Sunday we went for a drive west to visit some cove beaches around the Carvoeiro area. All of the guidebooks advise you to steer well clear of these areas during high season as they get absolutely mobbed with tourists, leading to perfectly justified comments that these areas have been “spoiled” by tourism. Out of season though, you get to appreciate the incredible natural beauty that led to these places becoming over-run in the first place. To start with we visited Benagil – a small cove beach with the trademark stunning cliffs behind it. Despite being mid-December there were a couple of hardy souls sunbathing and, protected from the wind by the cliffs, and in the direct sun it was actually pretty warm.
We stopped for a quick drink but were unfortunately served by a young lady for whom the term “moody little cow” would be quite flattering. Having encountered plenty of nightmare Brits who don’t even attempt a “Bom Dia,” I can understand a bit of negativity but we do try our best with Portuguese and were, as always, very polite. The locals in the cafe were getting friendly smiles from the same person, so the grumpy behaviour was reserved for us. A shame. Still, if she ever fancies moving to the UK I’m sure she has a great career waiting for her in the call-centre industry.
We then headed to Praia Da Marinha. A stunning spot with amazing cliffs and rock formations. We went for a short walk east along the cliff-tops, and again, once warmed up from scrambling down the rocks, could easily have been fooled into thinking it was a warm spring day, despite it being nearly Christmas. As with many places in Portugal, it is hard to describe in words the beauty of some of these cove beaches, and we never seem to take a photo that does them justice. There is, however, one below that should give the general idea.
After our walk, we decided to check out Algarve Shopping, a huge shopping centre in Guia, near Albufeira. It was at this point that the weekend got less pleasant. A couple of posts back I was extolling the virtues of shopping centres here in Portugal and how they make a good day out destination. Well, this place for me was the exception. It was frantically busy, not surprising with it being nearly Christmas, but the whole atmosphere of the place just wasn’t the same as Tavira Gran Plaza or Algarve Forum in Faro. This really did feel like “spoiled touristy Portugal,” and I imagine it being equally unpleasant for all of the Summer season. It felt like being back in London, and we couldn’t wait to get away. To top it all, as we were leaving, I had to face my biggest fear – a large black rodent running across the car-park. We won’t be going back to Algarve Shopping! The only saving grace for this part of the day was the sunset as we left (see photo below.)
Now, with only a couple of weeks until Christmas, we have to take a quick trip back to the UK. I think it is a good sign of how we are settling in that, other that being excited about seeing friends and family, it is truly the last thing we want to do. It is strange to start yearning to be back here before we have even left. Having said that, when we get back it will be the first time we will have “come back home” to Portugal. That feels exciting.
I will leave you with a trio of other photos of Christmas, Algarve style. Boas Festas!