For OZ – Another view of Portugal

The Algarve.  One good set of pics deserves another, OZ but I’m afraid these are predictable tourist snaps rather than any kind of indicator of what the Algarve is all about.   We were there maybe six years back staying with friends near Albufeira. Away from the touristy stuff and the beaches, we found cork forests, atmospheric towns, pretty villages, good restaurants, painted boats and a rich history of oceanic adventure and discovery.

Parts of Albufeira were crassly touristy but I liked the harbour. We had dinner in a restaurant perched up on the cliff overlooking the activity on the quay as the evening light dimmed and the few illuminations came on. It was a the kind of place where you chose your own whole fresh fish and they cook  it however you like.  I had Dorade – golden bream,  I think?   Succulent and tasty, falling away from the delicate bones.

Albufeira

Silves was a beautiful and historic town.  Astonishing to think it once had access to the sea.  There was a wonderful view of it on the approach – the 11th century castle battlements lengthy  on the hillside across the valley.  Interesting to stroll around some of the narrow steep, immaculately clean streets  discovering beautiful hidden houses, unexpected ancient doorways and everywhere pretty tiles.

Silves

I think it was in Silves that we noticed a restaurant where people waiting for tables sat in ordinary dining chairs set against the wall of the building on a narrow pavement next to the road.  Anywhere where business is that brisk deserves some attention. So we sat on chairs in the street until a table become available and discovered why it’s so popular.

Every table was taken, the place buzzing with conversation and ringing with the sound of mallets on carapaces! The first thing they bring to you at the table is not water, bread and the ubiquitous sardine paste (which I liked) but a wooden board, a mallet and a set of what at first sight appears to be a dissection kit but is actually every metal instrument you’ll need for hooking meat out of every shelly crevice.

My friends grappled with lobsters while I went for a crab. Served very simply – some lemon and a small pot of garlic mayo for dipping plus crusty bread. Perfect with the driest white wine.

Driving up into the mountains above Silves was Monchique, scented with wild herbs and lavender and misty blue spectacular views south to the sea.  A sad specimen of tourist outlet sold  peculiar paraphernalia  including a housewife apron with a pocket containing a stuffed phallus. Perhaps the Portuguese have a special fondness for practical jokes – or at least think tourists do!

World’s End or Sagres and Cape St Vincent was the other place we just had to visit.  Arguably, Cape St Vincent is where Henry the Navigator founded his school of navigators in the 15th century.  Lagos, not far away was the actual harbour where ships set sail for destinations unknown, discovering the Azores and pushing ever further on around the west coast of Africa until a ship finally founded the Cape of Good Hope, providing the alternative to the Muslim trade routes across the Sahara.

Magnificent cliffs drop vertically into the sea at Cape St Vincent and many a naval battle took place within sight of the lighthouse,  including a famous battle in which Nelson defeated the Spanish.  It’s also the place we spotted the exquisite pale sea daffodil, growing on its own in pebbly gravel.  The most extraordinary thing was the way men were fishing off the clifftop and from clefts in the rock – slinging their hooks into the waters scores and scores  of feet below.

Having gone as far as World’s End, we turned the corner to get a taste of the wild west Atlantic coast of Portugal.  What a difference.  Towering cliffs at the back of rough, wild beaches strewn with rocks of all sizes and real unpredictable surf compared to the pussy-cat calm of the waters of the Algarve. It was windy and the spray from the waves reflected in the evening sunlight and obscured the far views.  The water was freezing but the scenery was unrivalled.

The lifeguard had long gone home for supper when we were there so we didn’t swim.  Just as well, as two years on, my friend’s brother had a narrow escape in that very same place.

They were together as a family when he went out swimming. A capable, confident assured kind of bloke – airline pilot – strong swimmer – he struck out through the water until he was beyond the waves. The others stayed inshore, some remained on the beach.

When they saw him wave, they knew it wasn’t a jocular greeting. It meant he couldn’t get back. Someone ran to the lifeguard, who had already noticed and they got a board out to him to bring him in.

He had already swallowed a lot of water and he barely conscious but after copious vomiting, made a good recovery. But it was a grim salutory lesson;  a warning of the dangers of such frisky waters with unknown, ever-changing currents.

What did I take away from the Algarve? A sense of the history of the adventurous Portuguese explorers, an understanding of why it’s such a popular tourist place, a cork bowl, and a taste for piri-piri chicken.  I need to re-visit the Algarve to explore Lagos more thoroughly and to swim and snorkel again. I need to visit Lisbon too to carry out some in-depth research into the history of port, including extensive tastings.  Plenty to do.

Author: janh1

Part-time hedonist.

16 thoughts on “For OZ – Another view of Portugal”

  1. Janh – Absolutely stunning photography which puts my “Lope to the Cave” piccies to shame. Just as well you put a copyright on them because, for sure, they would otherwise be appearing in some official publication very soon. Great commentary too.

    OZ

  2. Oh, wow, glorious photos, Jan.

    I loved Portugal; well two days of my only visit. It rained for the other ten. I stopped believing the mantra that the locals kept pushing. You know the sort of thing; hadn’t had a summer like this in living history.

    I have been reluctant to chance it again. I read fourteen books and ended up doing the FT cryptic crossword.

    Oh, we had some amazing seafood; but intrepid “travel anywhere” husband ended up with a very bad attack of something or other. Wimp!

    Other than that, it was a beautiful holiday.

  3. Not at all, OZ. Good light works wonders. Sorry it took so long to dig them out! 🙂

    Fourteen books Araminta!!! Not all bad, then. Bad luck with the weather though. Bound to be better next time… 😉

  4. I’d like to see you published elsewhere, Jan, ie making some money from your interesting and entertaining writing. Lucky us though, enjoying it for free 🙂

    Haven’t had the pleasure of visiting Portugal, so thanks for the post and pics.

  5. Bilby – If you haven’t visited, Janh has captured the very spirit of the Algarve in her photographs – a wonderful and historic place if you ignore, as she did, the modern golf courses and sunburnt skins of the usuial tourist destinations.

    Araminta – The Cave is a considerable way north of Janh’s locations, but one of the things that attracted us to Portugal was the weather, which is often like Queensland – a summer phone call of, “Let’s have a barbie next Tuesday”, without any consideration of the possibility of rain because there will be none.

    OZ

  6. I think we were unlucky, Oz, so it hasn’t really put me off. We have just had other places to go. A friend has just come back from Portugal, about an hour from Albufeira, and the weather was perfect.

    You are presumably in the hills, but how far from the sea?

  7. Araminta – Much closer to Spain than to the sea. Way up in the hills and as far from os touristas as possible.

    OZ

  8. It looks beautiful, OZ. Your comment to Araminta is spot on regarding Qld; a trying climate at times though. I remember seeing storm clouds gather after a long dry spell and the wonderful sound of rain hitting the tin roof, the smell of water hitting scorched earth and watching the tanks fill; especially satisfying when I’d been agonising about whether to call the water carrier! I take rain rather for granted now, but it delighted me for a good few years. 🙂

  9. Thanks for the pictures and commentary Jan. Wish I had time to go and look for myself.

  10. What can I say that everyone else hasn’t; they are stunning Jan, just beautiful.
    Worlds end, it’s like I was there, I could almost feel queasy looking down into the water just looking at the image, great shot Jan.

  11. Fantastic pic’s Jan and a loverly commentary as well.

    We are off to Isla Canela on the Costa de la Luz, close to the border with the Portuguese Algarve early next month. Looking forward to seeing a bit more of Spain and a bit of Portugal as well.

  12. Jan I’d like to echo Bilby’s comment

    Bilby :

    I’d like to see you published elsewhere, Jan, ie making some money from your interesting and entertaining writing. Lucky us though, enjoying it for free :)

    Haven’t had the pleasure of visiting Portugal, so thanks for the post and pics.

    Lovely piece.

  13. Thats v sweet of you Bilby – and Pseu. Yes Bilby, do go and try it but, as OZ says, don’t touch the acres of super-green golf courses at Vilamoura – head for the hills, the headlands and the harbours.

    Thanks Boadicea. Enjoy your trip over here!

    Yes, Val imagine how queasy I felt seeing the fishermen climbing down to try
    their luck wedged in rocky clefts!! Utterly bonkers.

    Have a lovely time in Spain and Portugal, Tocino. Bring back pics!

    Thank you, Zen.

  14. Araminta :

    Oh, wow, glorious photos, Jan.

    I loved Portugal; well two days of my only visit. It rained for the other ten. I stopped believing the mantra that the locals kept pushing. You know the sort of thing; hadn’t had a summer like this in living history.

    I have been reluctant to chance it again. I read fourteen books and ended up doing the FT cryptic crossword.

    Oh, we had some amazing seafood; but intrepid “travel anywhere” husband ended up with a very bad attack of something or other. Wimp!

    Other than that, it was a beautiful holiday.

    When I went to Taiwan it was nice, sunny, and warm. Kaohsiung, which is in the tropics, was especially lovely. During my first full day in Tokyo is snowed and I was wearing nothing but a light t-shirt, a pair of thin jeans, and sandals.

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