The second part of the summer holidays we spent in Albufeira, Portugal.
The perils of booking ultra last-minute… Besides plenty of options in regions with political instability and/or temperatures in excess of 40℃/104℉, the only reasonable and affordable option was a 10-day stay in an all-inclusive hotel in Albufeira (without a possibility to book half-board or just lodging).
After our booking at a travel agent, we read some recent ghastly online reviews about the hotel. The hotel had been taken over earlier that year and the new owner wanted to get rid of the all-inclusive option (even though booked by the guests). Hence, we were preparing for the worst, but it turned out to be not too bad. The apartment was OK, albeit a bit outdated, but the air condition worked and we had a balcony facing the pool. Luckily, it was not facing “The Strip” with all the nightlife and clubs, so we only had to endure the evening entertainment/karaoke sessions… Needless to say that all the food options (especially those from the chafing dishes) were mediocre at best.
In short, without any reasons to stick around at the hotel, we rented a car and started exploring the Algarve.
Foia, close to Monchique, is the highest point of the Algarve (902m): spectacular views guaranteed! Making a full day scenic drive over the R124 – passing through quaint towns like Silves, Alte, Salir, and Benafim – is also highly recommended.
Near Pêra, you have Fiesa, the world’s largest sand sculpture festival which is open from early March till late October. This years theme was music although some other movie characters were included in the mix. Quite some astonishing pieces! Do visit early in the day as there is little to no shelter from the sun.
In Albufeira, we did a 2-hour boat tour booked via Dream Wave. The first part is on the open sea: the kids loved it as the choppy sea made it a bit of a rollercoaster ride. Alas, no dolphins were spotted, but we did catch one wayward buoy and some nets and ropes discarded by fishermen. On the way back we traced back the 25km coastline from Carvoeiro to Albufeira to see some amazing beaches and caves.
We also did a day trip to Cabo de São Vicente (about 100km from Albufeira) which is also dubbed “The End of the World” as it is the most southwestern point of Portugal.
Beside many stalls donning curios of the lighthouse, “the end of the world” or commemorating the fact that Sir Francis Drake pillaged Cabo São Vicente in 1587, there were also 2 that really stood out:
Wasn’t there any anything eventful from a culinary perspective? Yes and no.
Portugal = pastry heaven: Pastel de nata (shortcrust cups filled with custard) and Bolo de Arroz (rice flour cupcake with a crispy sugar-coated top) are great. Obviously, wines and port are very nice too. If you are craving seafood, just go to the harbor-side restaurants for excellent seafood.
However, in the coastal Algarve, especially in Albufeira, tourism is massive, so it’s all-day English breakfasts, fish & chips and curry house galore. Pretty much all international cuisines are there too, many mediocre, so you really have to look for decent Portuguese cuisine. I couldn’t persuade the rest to go to a churrascaria for some leitão (whole spit-roasted suckling pig) or frango piri-piri (spicy roasted chicken), so below Piri-Piri pizza at Paulu’s Pizzeria (Edifício Oura Cláudios Estrada de Sta Eulália, Albufeira) was my closest encounter to frango piri-piri. This one was quite nice, but actually needed a lot of additional piri-piri sauce for a proper kick…
However, we did find a very nice local restaurant nearby the hotel: O Cantinho Português (Edificio Paraiso Da Oura Rua Jose Fontana)
Of course, holidays are not complete without having a proper look at the local supermarkets for interesting stuff. We came home with some different Piri-Piri sauces, wines and these 2 Portuguese gins and UK crisps: