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Alive on the Algarve

Wednesday 28 August: Our first big drive. Nearly 300km but just 2 ½ hours on a major toll road with a speed limit, regularly and spectacularly exceeded by many, of 120kph. We have a toll story but will save that for the Portugal wrap up.

So the Algarve is kind of Portugal’s Riveria, all beaches and sun; G-strings and bikinis. We went mainly for the beaches!! We’d found a reasonable place on Air BnB that looked nice, so booked it for four nights. Liked it so much we stayed a fifth.

Just wonderfully extraordinary hospitality from Peter and Sylvia! And an marvellous property to go with it. No doubt if it didn’t appear to be in the middle of nowhere it would have been well out of our price range. Huge room, with huge en-suite bathroom. We’d seen the double shower before, which gives you a choice between the spray from the wall/handheld and a rainfall but this had a double – double. Storage for Africa, a gorgeous and much-used pool, huge shared kitchen etc etc. For those, especially in Europe, looking for a place for an Algarve break, have a look. Normally only advertised for July, August and the first half of September Peter indicated they’d consider opening up at other times for specific requests. You want one of the rooms with private baths, not the shared ones. Here it is.

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Peter was a great guy, and not a above using a photo of his son with playboy looks to attract interest to the listing – not that it influenced us in any way! We got a grand tour of the house and were assured nothing would be too much trouble. It never was! Message after message responding to queries about the best reasonable restaurant, the best beaches, and the best destinations on departure and en route north etc etc.
Thursday 29.8: A lovely day on the main beach at Faro; hot as, water great, followed by our first big supermarket shop on the way home. Major panic on exit. Spent 20 minutes walking up and down the enormous car park, in the heat, panic quietly building as the possibility it had been nicked began to suggest itself. Then out of the corner of my eye, cars moving up a ramp to a another deck! Wrong place. Again! Relief and embarrassment, again.

Then home to cook some nice looking, and very cheap, Hapuka at about $12/kg and a second night in our - to us - palatial accommodation.
Wednesday 30 August: Our 39th anniversary. We drove to Olhao, a resort about half an hour away. Busy and touristy with all the beaches on adjacent islands requiring a 30 minute ferry trip, in our case to Faro Island. Pleasant enough, and may have been more enjoyable if we’d had the time to take a cruise round the islands. Mary Clare felt she’d just as well be at the local beach but it was all very pretty. A nice cold Lisbon Red IPA on the waterfront on return (craft beer is definitely universal) then home for something a bit special.

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Perhaps the best Peter story concerns the cataplana. Phil had queried the purpose of a strange looking copper kitchen utensil – basically a wok with a lid forming a neat oval. So this is the traditional Algarve cooking method; it basically seems to involve making a flavourful sauce in the base, then adding any manner of fish or meat ingredients with herbs, spices and vegetables – tightly reclosing each time with the integral clamps.

This thing

Phil, with Peter’s very great assistance, had decided to try cooking a cataplana for our anniversary, using as a main ingredient, ‘carabineiros’, seafood about halfway between a prawn and a lobster. Not cheap, but hey, 39 years!

Peter provided Google Map directions to the fish market, an experience in itself, and in the end provided some key ingredients, personal step-by-step cooking instructions: Bacon, then sequentially a couple of onions, garlic, mushrooms, red chilli, red & green capsicum, fresh coriander. Finally carabineiros. Serve with plain potatoes. Yum.

Peter and Sylvia provided, gratis, a bottle of white wine, a candle-lit table on the pool deck, dessert wine PLUS homemade brandy and sweet treat to finish! Spoilt as! Here you go:

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Sat 31st: We’d intended to drive west to Lagos (pronounced Lagosh) but we didn’t end up making it. Peter (again) had recommended a lovely beach on the way, also in our guides: Praia da Marinha. Lovely. Surrounded by cliffs and a steep walk down; well worth it.

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Bit of fun, though with the tide. The beach comprised several coves and as the tide came in, it was apparent, not only that the position of many was about to become precarious – think Tuvalu and climate change – but also that the coves would be cut off from eachother. Old salt Mary Clare observed early the significance of the boundary between the wet and dry, hard and soft sand and insisted on some early strategic re-positioning. Then we watched the fun. Beachgoers, Neptune-like, scuttling and scurrying like disturbed crabs as the water relentlessly undermined their positions. Some decided, not always successful to remain on chairs, feet in the water. Others scrambling after rapidly departing chilly bins, jandals and what-have-you. Great fun watching from our morally superior position  Another simple home-cooked dinner with MC doing the honours – Pork and salad.

Sun 1.9: Split shifts. MC keen on another stint on Faro beach, which she gratefully enjoyed. Phil decided it was time to have a holiday around the pool, and catch up on some trip planning and blogging. Well, 2 out of three….. Grilled salmon and salad back at the house.

Mon 2.9. Our last day and Peter’s final flourish saw him delaying his arrival at work to take Phil to a local Cataplana source to buy one to take home. “That’s your birthday present” said MC!!

And so a memorable 5 days came to an end. We’ll remember the fabulous weather, the beaches, the food, but most on all the palace that was The Suite Blanco at Casa Mar and the stupendous hospitality of Peter and Sylvia. From here, a drive through the historic centre (Evora, Coimbra, Castelo de Monsarat, Tomar) and thence to romantic Porto!

Posted by philandmc 10:21 Archived in Portugal

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