Wow! It’s been 7 months since we returned from the Algarve in Portugal, but it’s one of those places that get stuck in your system and you find yourself frequently re-living moments, scenes, and tastes from that place. Pictures are great, but experiences that keep coming back to you day after day say a lot about the quality of that experience.
As our first foray into the European continent, Portugal certainly did not disappoint. We had originally planned a 7-day vacation to the Canary Islands but in the end, we decided on the Algarve region of southern Portugal.
We flew into Lisbon and since we had a few hours to kill before heading to our accommodations, we picked up our rental car, consulted Google, and found a hop-on-hop-off tour based at Parque Eduardo VII. We toured the city for a couple of hours and discovered some of the history of this beautiful city. We couldn’t have asked for a better start to our vacation, or a more perfect morning.
Instead of renting a villa as we normally prefer to do, we cashed in a few of our time-share points and booked 7 days at a lovely resort literally 5 minutes from the quaint beach town of Carvoeiro. Pestano Gramacho Residences has all the amenities you could ask for and is perched on an amazing golf course with commanding views of the Portuguese countryside. We enjoyed a spacious, 2-level studio with a balcony that provided equally amazing views. Although Pestano Gramacho is not all-inclusive, we weren’t at all worried as we planned to tour the countryside and sample as many local eateries as possible and immerse ourselves in the cultural cuisine.
With a drive of just under four hours from Lisbon under our belts, we were content to spend our first day on-site and only toured around the property checking out the grocery store, the clubhouse, and the pool area. I must say, the drive from Lisbon to Carvoeiro is much easier than the drive from Kingston to Toronto! No heavy traffic, four lanes all the way, fast-paced and well marked, it was a breeze getting to our resort. (thank you Google)
Day 2 had us up early for a freshly brewed cappuccino and a quick bite to eat at the clubhouse, and on our way to tour the coast. We drove to the town proper first of all and parked to walk the beach area, and then the shops in the area. Seeing images of Portugal in a book or watching videos both lead you to feel that you’re prepared to experience the visuals of your destination. Let me tell you, they don’t adequately prepare you for the sensory overload of the sights, sounds, and smells of the Algarve region. For our entire vacation we found ourselves surrounded by picturesque scenes and friendly locals who were always generous and accomodating in every way.
For the next few days we travelled up and down the southern coast of Portugal via secondary roads that took us into quaint seaside villages and some stunning cliffside scenery as well. No matter where we stopped for a meal or a cool drink, the food was always new and delicious and the beers were cold and refreshing. Wine can be had in the Algarve for as little as 1 EUR and I have to say i’ve spent a LOT more on wines far inferior to these. Seaside eateries, sidewalk cafes on the steep cobbled streets of a small town overlooking the Atlantic, beachfront bars, all present an amazing offer to the palate at very reasonable prices.
It was in these first days that my non-beer-drinking wife discovered Super Bock. I got to witness a real, live love-at-first-sip moment. She remains a fan to this day, and was ecstatic to discover it could be had in our home-town. It’s now a staple in the fridge.
The coming days would offer some amazing regional explorations. Walking around olive groves, cork factories, vineyards, ancient Roman ruins, fishing wharves, an open air market, a castle, and a Chapel of Skulls, and I’d have to say you’ve got a pretty full itnerary. It seems there is an endless list of things to see, do, and taste in Portugal. No matter where we went, the people were amazing and we never once felt uncomfortable. Had we more time, we would’ve explored the northern region of the country and taken in Porto and Figueira da Foz as well, but alas, our time was limited. This just meant we’d have to return!
I wish there were a way I could come close to achieving the impossible task of conveying what a beautiful country Portugal is, or how beautiful the people are, or how amazing the food and wine are. We have a hundred more pictures in our collection, but I don’t think that even seeing all of those will serve to do the region justice. All I can do is urge you to visit this incredible place and experience the wonders of picturesque Portugal for yourselves!