Portugal 2015

About equidistant between Becky and my 40th birthdays lay the allure of some summer sun away from December’s wet gloom. Our budget stretched as far as Portugal, which turned out to be a great choice.

I had been to the Algarve before but remember little beyond the golden cliffs and a language that sounds like Spanish spoken by Russians. We chose a hotel that seemed to maximise its location, especially in the off season when many places shut down. The Rocamar in Albufeira was a delight — modern, clean, kid-free, and both right on the beach and next to the old town. This picture says it all, really:

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Albufeira from the Rocamar hotel

To the west of the beach was a little headland where we enjoyed our picnics of bread and cheese bought from the little convenience shop down from the hotel.

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Lunch spot in Albufeira

Albufeira isn’t the most broadsheet of resorts but the cobbled old town has plenty of atmosphere, good restaurants, and a great little museum of sacred art in which I found this great bust of S. Francis:

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S. Francis

One of the other religious sights in Albufeira is the statue of S. Vincente, whose missionary efforts in Japan saw him burned to death in 1632.

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The Algarve (from the Arabic al-gharb, “the west”) was once Moorish territory and a short drive away from the coast brought us to the spectacular Moorish castle at Silves. Mental note: revisit in the spring when the cafe culture and almond trees are in full bloom.

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Silves castle

Back at the coast we found the weird and intimidating rock formations at the remarkable Algar Seco. I have seen pictures of people snorkelling here in the tranquil summer seas; when we went, the sea was menacing and seemed likely to pull down the cliffs at any moment.

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Algar Seco

Four relaxing days went by far too fast but left us wanting to return. Unhurried trips are always the best and so I would simply offer this tip: When you fly to Faro, don’t be in a rush to zoom off to wherever you are going. Just out of the airport follow the sign to Praia de Faro. It’s about 5 minutes away and the chill pills are plentiful.

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Faro beach
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