PORTUGAL - THE ALGARVE TRAINS AND BOATS AND (for one of us )PLANES
Mar 14, 2016
|And so we headed for Portugal and The Algarve having been in Spain just under 2 months. The road from Spain to Portugal is lined with Mimosa trees in flower and the scent along the way invited us on into only our second country of the trip so far. We also noticed how much greener the area was, gone the dusty, dry barren land of Southern Spain. Of course green land means rain and Portugal has certainly had its share by comparison this winter.
We visited the eastern end of the Algarve this time as this is an area we hadn’t explored. Our first stop was Fuesta and we camped within walking distance of the beach. Fuesta is probably one of the least touristy beach towns that we have visited. It had a bit of a run down feel about it but had a particularly pretty harbour along the estuary and a superb white sandy beach. The area was surrounded by small “islands’ which in effect were simply sand dunes and you could take boat trips out to them and walk along an empty beach (as we did) or take your binoculars (as we did) and watch the birdlife. There is also a train which runs to Faro one way and the border town of Villa Real de S. Antonio in the other direction. We took advantage of the train and spent a day in Faro and another day in Tavira. Faro was a bit disappointing, the weather was overcast for most of the day and there really isn’t that much to see other than a cathedral and a museum. The remains of the old city walls had graffiti on them and the whole place was a bit depressing. Tavira on the other hand had a little bit more about it. Described in the guide book as one of the prettiest towns on the Algarve, we would question that, but it certainly had a charm about it. The best part for a walk was along the riverside with waterfront cafes and palm lined gardens. The ruins of the Castelo was worth a visit too with a beautiful garden in the centre and lovely views across Tavira.
We continued along the coast road to the well known tourist town of Albufeira. Despite its full quota of English bars, restaurants serving traditional “burger and chips”! we liked it. it had a good beach to walk along and you could walk up a cobbled lane which gave some good views across the beach and coastline. The whole area is geared up for holiday makers and its quite built up in places.
Onwards then to what WE think is one of the prettiest towns in the Algarve, Alvor. The journey was pretty uneventful until we arrived in the town. Our Satnav told us to turn right into what looked to be the shopping area of the town. Now although there was a sign that said “access for up to 3.5 tons” and despite my concerns, John thought it would be fine. It was far from fine!!! As we went up the road we soon realised this is not looking good. At the very top is the church and a dead end. John had to navigate our 4.25 ton van left into a narrow cobbled road. By now we had about 4 cars behind us and as we went down this tight road, satnav wanted us to continue but the amount of cafes and restaurants with their awnings out was a big hint that we would not get through. We were advised that we would have to turn left again on an even tighter corner. I had to get out and check we weren’t going to hit anything and we were very close to hitting “The Sunset Bar” sign which was protruding onto the road, fortunately we missed it. Our problems weren’t over, red faced with my head hung in shame as the locals stared at me, tutting and glaring, I walked up the road with John driving behind. We then came to our next obstacle, a parked white van and no way would we get past this. The guy (a local) came out with his daughter and said “don’t worry I will move it, and by the way did you not read the signs” I responded with “you better ask the driver that not me’ to which he laughed. This guy was our saviour because he said to follow him and he got us out of the narrow streets even taking us down a one way street the wrong way with his hazard lights on. Eventually we found the camping aire where we were heading and we thanked the guy for his help. I just about managed not to throw the satnav out the window and instead put the kettle on to have a coffee to settle our nerves. Later that afternoon we walked back into the town (I wore a wig in disguise) and looked at the road we had driven around, it was hard to believe we got our van around the corner without damaging anything.
We spent just over a week in Alvor and hired a car for a few days to not only explore the area but also to throw our inflatable kayak in the boot and go off and find a place to take it out as it was obvious there were some great places to explore. I think the photos show how fantastic our paddling around the limestone rocks and caves were and need I say anything other than its been the highlight of our trip so far. We took the kayak out twice, first time to Praia das Rochas and then Lagos. Lagos was not quite as much fun as the water was a bit choppy and there were lots of small tourist boats taking groups around the rocks and caves and obviously annoyed about us being in their way they caused quite a swell as they went by. Still we did paddle into some caves and go through arches which was exciting if not a bit scary for me.
There are plenty of restaurants and bars to choose from in Alvor and we had probably one of the best steaks ever in the Angus Steak bar. We also visited the Sunset Bar which is run by a young English lady who has been living in Portugal most of her life. We told her about how close we were to taking her sign out and she said we weren’t the first camper and wouldn’t be the last to pass her bar. It didn’t make me feel any better I gotta say. There was plenty to keep us occupied in Alvor, a 6 km boardwalk around the waters was one. We also walked along the estuary watching the local Skydiving Club drop parachutists out a dozen at a time every 20 minutes or so. Another day we cycled to Portimao stopping off at Praia da Rochas along the way.
Time to move on as we had nearly of a month of washing to do and therefore needed a campsite to make use of their facilities. We didn’t go that far, just past Lagos and close to Luz, we are currently at Turismo Camping. A large campsite with all the facilities and a very friendly group of neighbours, a bit too friendly for our liking but this may suit us for a while as you will find out in a mo.
Before we reached the campsite, we headed into the opposite direction to Silves, a Moorish town inland from Portimao with a castle. You could walk around the walls giving great views across the town. It has a vaulted thirteenth century water cistern which once served the town. Now it has an exhibition of the Lynx and some video footage of a mum and her young. A very nice town with suitable camping too, maybe we will come back another time and spend longer here.
So we are up to date, at the time of writing we have been here two nights and are quite comfortable. The campsite is in a small village called Espiche and isn’t that accessible to walk to Luz or Lagos but we can use our bikes. It has a buffet style restaurant and a comfortable bar plus everything you would expect at a campsite this size; shop, swimming pool, fitness centre and very clean and modern showers/WC. Which is just as well as I am shortly going to leave John here for a week on his own!! I am going back to the UK for a week to visit my dad who has been in hospital and is just about to be discharged. Friends tell me he is frail and a bit confused at times so I feel I better go back and check him out. John is in a good place to be on his own for a week and hopefully won’t get too bored. Apparently there is a golf course nearby too.
So that’s it folks, will catch up with you when I am back. We will be behind with our travels so will be pushing on quite quickly when we get going again. Hope you like the photos, I think they are some of the best …………………………………so far.