I visited The Algarve in Portugal in late December 2015/early January 2016 and I must say, it was a fabulous time! I visited with my sister and her family. I was super excited as it was a new country for me. I did A LOT of research on things to do prior to the trip. But then guess what this genius did? She left all the immaculately detailed research on the laptop she did not bring with her on holiday and it wasn’t on any online storage platform aka the cloud! So what to do?
Well, rely on my terrible memory and wing it :).
I’d heard/read that winging it could also be fun so I wasn’t too worried. I vaguely remembered the highlights of my research though- at least the names of some of the towns and the must see beach so I wasn’t totally clueless. I had a starting point in case I wanted to consult with google all over again.
Without further ado, here’s a summary of what I got up to during my trip.
Day 1: Travel Day. Woke up extra early, left the house at 5.30am for a 2+ hour drive to Leeds airport. Got on plane to Faro, Portugal (~3 hours). Landed in Faro, got in shuttle for ~45 minute ride to hotel. Checked in at hotel, gave the hammock a ‘test drive’, explored the grounds, took Portugal Day One picture, had a snack at hotel’s bar (Calabash Cafe), figured out wifi situation (a girl’s gotta have steady internet), went to bed.
Day 2: Beach Day. New Year’s Eve. I thought the bus was taking us to Praia Marinha (the best beach in the Algarve, according to my research) but we ended up at Carvoeiro village which luckily had a beach too, although small, in my opinion. It was definitely not summer bikini weather. I had on denim capris and a sweatshirt but I managed to get my feet a little wet. Four of the five of us got in the water- the one who didn’t took a fun picture of the four and it ended up being the Portugal Day Two picture.
The town was really nice with their little shops and restaurants. The houses were pretty to look at and up on the cliffs overlooking the beach. I went up the hill on each side of the beach with my nephew- just to experience the view from both sides, and each was different and worth it. We even spotted a one-legged bird! We tried to check if it had the other leg tucked in, but as far as we could tell, it was one-legged.
There were also these curious looking boxes all around the town. Each one with a pretty painting on it and the hashtag #carvoeiroboxes printed on it. Not sure what they are though.
Went back to the hotel and had quite a lavish NYE dinner. There was going to be something special at about midnight but we didn’t attend- we watched some fireworks from our bedroom windows instead and then went back to sleep.
Day 3: New Year’s Day. Started the year with a run making this a new place I had run outside. I took some pictures of the nice countryside and the pretty houses during my walk breaks (it was very hilly- not like flatland Indiana). Stayed indoors most of the day, talked to family on the phone and Face Time. Had my semi-annual (as I like to call it) alcoholic beverage at dinner (Portugal Day Three pic) in honor of it being a new year and all.
Day 4: Spa Day. Had a BNS (Back, Neck, and Shoulder) massage at the spa in the hotel, then went in the turkish bath (which was basically a room with steam- very hot but I endured). I just sat there mostly, I’m not sure what I was supposed to do or what was supposed to happen. lol. Then I went in the sauna- I didn’t last as long in that one ;). After that, I went in the Jacuzzi for a bit (Portugal Day Four) and then ended up in one of the comfy lounge chairs. Just as I was falling asleep, time ran out and I had to go back to the villa. Overall very relaxing day with my sister.
Day 5: Tour Day aka most eventful day. We participated in a Historical Algarve Tour and it was a full day affair. From Carvoeiro/Lagoa to Silves (pronounced Sil-vesh) which is the old Moorish capital- we visited the cathedral and the castle. First, we stopped at the top of a hill- kind of a lookout point to see the whole of Silves. I was able to take a picture with the castle in the background. Nearby, there was also a sign with the city name so I took a picture with that too- ignore the grafitti :).
It was a Sunday and they were getting ready for service so we just took a quick look around the cathedral and took pictures. I personally found it weird that we were allowed to go in to tour when there were people there sitting and waiting for the service to start. It reminded me of my visit to Notre Dame in Paris- tourists were literally having photo shoots in there as mass was going on! There was a small fee to go in the castle. It was a nice visit and we had a great view of Silves. I took Portugal Day Five pic in front of Silves Castle- There was an impressive statue there- I just had to have the picture taken.
From Silves to the Monchique (pronounced Mon-shik) mountains; Foia (the highest point in the Algarve- 902m). While here, we participated in wine (really, liquor/porto) tasting and bought some souvenirs. Then we had lunch- the specialty of the area, piri piri chicken, another shot of alcoholic beverage, and some funny tasting coffee in a tiny coffee cup.
Then we went to the beautiful town of Lagos, (pronounced Lah-goe-sh). I was really excited about this because I am from Lagos, Nigeria. There we saw the indoor slave market which was the first in Europe (but it was closed for renovations), saw the old town, looked around in the shops, got wet a bit (it rained), and saw the statue of a man who lived 500 years (at least according to the plaque on the statue). It wasn’t an error/typo but I forget why they had that on the statue as he clearly didn’t live for 500 years. I also learned that Cristiano Ronaldo is from Portugal- his name was on practically every soccer jersey in stores!
Next, we continued to Cape Saint Vincent, the most southwesterly point of Europe, known as “the end of the world”. There we saw the strongest lighthouse in Europe, Baleeira. The area was really beautiful and I really wanted to go closer to the water (to get as south westerly as possible- haha) but my sister wasn’t having it- “too dangerous”, she said. “Yolo”, I replied :P. On the way back, we passed by the town of Sagres (pronounced Sah-gresh) the home of Prince Henry’s School of Navigation and the beach town of Luz (pronounced Looh- sh) which was very pretty- I think this was the fanciest place I saw in the entire Algarve.
Got back to the hotel, had dinner, went to bed.
Day 6: Travel Day. I also went for one last run on Portuguese soil. Thankfully, it wasn’t such an early flight back to England so I had the time to run, pack, and even have breakfast.