27 March, 28 March and 9 May 2022
With our residence cards tucked safely in our pockets, knowing we didn’t need to leave Portugal anytime soon and wanting to make the most of it we took some time in March and April to explore a little more of the Algarve before tourist season started.
And just before their sailing season we invited our wonderful winter friends, Zoë, Martin and Ralph to join us on a road trip to that infamous cape we have now navigated three times, Cabo São Vincente.
The bleak cliffs that herald the end of Europe, and which we had anchored under just a year before on our attempt to get back to the UK, looked just as austere from the top. We visited the lighthouse that had marked our turn away from the Atlantic coast and towards the Mediterranean back in September 2016.
Turning inland, we stopped at the tiny village of Vila do Bispo for a coffee and then went in search of another neolithic standing stone. This one, the Menir de Padrão, was just beside the road.
But then we headed back to the sea to find something even more ancient. Leaving our own footprints in the sand (not to mention some Ralph shaped holes!) we walked along the crashing surf
to follow the footprints of a type of dinosaur called an ornithopod, Greek for bird foot. It wasn’t hard to imagine this giant web footed creature wandering around the coast.
Day two of our roadtrip was, frankly, less successful. With Zoë and Martyn busy getting ready to leave the marina, we decided on one of our now traditional forays into the tourists resorts much loved and frequented by the Brits. If nothing else we are guaranteed to find a decent English breakfast! Having ticked off Benidorm, Magaluf and Malia, we headed east out of Portimão in the direction of Albufeira and Vilamoura. On this blustery and overcast day, still out of the tourist season, we didn’t find much to inspire us. We breakfasted in an Irish bar at the desolate marina at Albufeira, just us and a hungover group of stag doers. We knew then that we had made the right decision in choosing Portimão as Pintail’s Portuguese home. There was barely a soul about.
Further east along the coast, through endless golf courses, we got to Vilamoura. Like us, the locals were wrapped up from the chill with just a handful of shorts wearing tourists and surfers braving the conditions. This seaside town’s only redeeming feature was its market where we stocked up on some fruit and veg!
Rather uninspired, on our way back, we stopped at the town of Porches, famous for its potteries. Unsuccessful in our mission to find some new coffee cups, we drove down to Praia da Nossa Senhora da Rocha where a tiny 16th century chapel sits on a cliff that juts out into the Atlantic. It’s fair to say that this atmospheric spot was the clear highlight in an otherwise extremely disappointing introduction to the central Algarvian coast!
With the weather much improved by May and the loan of a car (thanks Rainy!) we decided to venture further east along the Algarve and revisit Faro. We had been before with Ursula and Alex but it was so forgettable that Stefan denied ever having been before.
Insistent that we had been, I took us for a walk, retracing our steps from six years ago to see if it jogged his memory. Passed the small boat harbour and round the high walls of the old town,
we entered its cobbled streets through one arch and out the other just 10 minutes later. Perhaps we have just been too spoilt but, despite being the capital of Algarve, Faro remains underwhelming.
Determined to find somewhere to peak our interest we somewhat randomly picked São Bras de Alportel, a medium sized town north of Faro. There we found brightly tiled and muraled streets and cafes with tables spilling out onto the streets.
But our best discovery was the Museo do Traje (the costume museum). Housed in the exquisitely tiled home of one of the areas cork magnates
the museum tells the social history of the region through its original costumes.
We learnt a little about Portugal’s part in World War I despite its attempt to remain neutral.
In the outbuildings of the house we found a collection of traditional carts and coaches used by merchants in the cork and other industries.
Buoyed by this unexpected gem of a town we decided to take a risk and revisit a tiny Algarve town that we have fond memories of from our Roadtrip with the Munchingers back in 2016.
We remembered Alte as a quaint little place tucked in the Serra do Caldeirao mountain region and it didn’t disappoint the second time around.
Its vibrant murals on its bright white had been joined by a lovely new addition of a wall of blue and white tiles painted by the local children.
But the fontes which run through the town are what Alte is famous for. Once used as a source of water and a laundry for the village, they are now the perfect place for paddle on a hot summer day.
We lingered in Alte for a lunch of espetadas (pork for Stefan, squid for me) before winding our way back down through the hills and back to Portimao…