The Algarve is perfectly Portugal. Bright breezy and beautiful, the Southern Algarve coast is fringed with caramel cliffs, golden sandy beaches and petrol blue sea. The frisky Atlantic ocean makes this a popular coast for watersports and surfing in particular. For those of us who are not such water babies, it is just so pretty to look at anyway!
The coast of Southern Portugal is a seemingly endless belt of some of Europe’s finest beaches, over 150 of them in fact. There are pretty towns, delicious sea food and extremely drinkable wine too. It is a very popular holiday destination for both families as well as the more adventurous sort of traveler.
The Algarve – Perfectly Portugal – the city of Lagos.
Lagos is a very attractive town which is about one hour’s drive on the new road from the region’s airport at Faro. The town has its own port and a thriving fishing industry. Lagos is full of nice restaurants,bars and shops, together with some lovely squares, buildings and a lot of history. It is home to what is thought to be the first slave market in Europe. The first African slaves entered post-medieval Europe through this small building that dates back to 1444. The shopping is pretty good and the fish market is also worth a visit!
To the south of Lagos is the Ponta da Piedade headland, a series of cliffs that have been eroded into spectacular grottos, arches and sea caves. Great for exploring, they are regarded as the finest natural feature of the Algarve. Extending to the east of Lagos is the 4km long Meia Praia Beach, the largest sandy beach of the western Algarve, while within the Ponta da Piedade headland are the picturesque cove beaches of Praia da Dona Ana, and Praia do Camilo. A brand new series of boardwalks make exploring the cliffs easy and safer as the crumbling edges of the cliffs were becoming unstable.
The Algarve – Perfectly Portugal tiling
Portugal is famous for its tiling. You will see tiles everywhere outside on houses, churches, schools and civic buildings. You will see them inside on floors, walls and fireplaces. These tiles are often quite beautiful and display gorgeous patterns and colours or in panels of illustrations telling stories about the history and culture of the country. Azulejo is a form of Portuguese and Spanish painted tin glazed tile. These tiles were not only used as an ornamental art form, but also helped with temperature control in homes.
I love the Portuguses tiling, so much more attractive than brick and plain plaster. Portugal is also full of delightful pottery and ceramics – another source of pleasure for a ceramic addict such as my self.
The Algarve – Perfectly Portugal – food
The main highlight of Algarve cuisine is of course sea food. Portugal is a seafaring nation with a well-developed fishing industry and this is reflected in the amount of fish and seafood eaten. In fact Portugal has Europe’s highest fish consumption per capita. Fish is served grilled boiled fried roasted or even steamed. Cod (bacalhau) is very popular in Portugal and is often served dried and salted which was an early way of preserving the flesh. I had the nicest mussels I’ve ever eaten in white wine, cream and parsley sauce here. Served with chunks of rustic bread and green Sangria it is a simple but delicious dish. Green Sangria by the way is made with Portuguese Vinho Verde which translates literally as ‘green wine’ or ‘young wine.’
While you are in the Algarve you must sample a real fish platter. You can get a huge plate of varied seafood at the restaurant on top of the fish market itself for a very reasonable 15 euros per person.
You can’t get much fresher than that! Cod, golden bream, octopus, prawns, swordfish – a positive seafood smorgasbord and quite a feast. Sardines are also a popular here and are for sale in trendy designer tins in the souvenir shops. I still love our traditional British traditional fish and chips though!
The Algarve – Perfectly Portugal – Where to stay
There is a wide range of accommodation to choose from on the Algarve. Options include plenty of family friendly hotels, and good value TUI package holidays for example. An increasing choice of independent options in available too. We stayed at the charming Villa Gracisoa which was about a 20 minute walk outside Lagos. Beautifully painted apartments with a crystal clean outdoor pool and relaxing couched area surrounded by lovely gardens were very much appreciated. Our room had an apricot tree outside the door which left fresh ripe apricots at my feet every morning after a gust of wind or two, which I very much enjoyed eating! This adults only accommodation also did a great optional breakfast including fresh eggs, porridge and croissants. Perfectly Portugal – despite its economic difficulties, the Algarve has lost none of its bright and breezy charm.