The Algarve on the Atlantic
Susie got us hooked up with another pet sitting gig in Portugal for the end of September,
but we had some time to fill after leaving Amsterdam. (couldn’t stay there much longer – was getting chilly!) So after looking around she found a great place, for a good price in the Algarve region on the southern coast of Portugal. We moved in on September 5th.
Albufeira likely started as a tiny fishing village, and was inhabited by local tribes, Romans, Moors and finally conquered by Christians. The devastating Lisbon earthquake of 1755 created waves up to 10 metres that destroyed most buildings along the coastline.
During the late 20th century Albufeira was transformed from a typical Portuguese fishing village to a major tourist destination, as the sardine schools diminished, and more Europeans were looking for a seaside vacation spot. In recent years the local population of 15,000 swells to 300,000 or more during the summer and winter holidays. Colorful old buildings along the coast, now called the “old town” have been surrounded by large hotels, groceries, restaurants, and souvenir shops. The narrow streets and alleys of the old town were dressed up with colorful shutters, doorways, plants and tiled street names inlaid in the walls.
Our modern apartment was on the 4th floor in a building a short distance from the beach
– but up a moderate hill. The large windows, which opened up completely, afforded a gorgeous view of the beach over the nearby rooftops, and the blue Atlantic running into the horizon. One of the buildings below us began playing very loud music during the middle of the day – some type of Latin hip-hop - that went on about 4 or 5 days. But shut off before bedtime!
From our building, 30 steps led down to the road and another 30 steps to a wide promenade that overlooked the beach below. To the right was the Elevador do Peneco, a 28-meter lift carrying folks down to the beach. To the left were shops and cafes, and a walkway winding down to the sandy beach. At sea level a boardwalk snaked around, hugging the cliffs, and a beachside cafe with food & cool drinks.
We enjoyed warm weather most days we were there, and the beach was busy, with young and old and large families. Vendors rented beach chairs under umbrellas for €15 per day, of which we availed ourselves. Highly recommended! The water was cold, but there were still plenty of people in the water swimming, on paddles boats, jet skis and parasailing. A large floating “aqua fun center” was anchored just off the beach for the kids. €10 per hour.
After many busy days in Paris and Amsterdam, we were happy to just relax in the apartment, whiling away the hours reading or writing; enjoying the views. A 10-minute walk brought us to a medium size Intermarche (a chain of grocers) where we could get most foodstuffs, and more importantly, a cup of cappuccino and a Pastel de nata or two (an egg cream tart that is a Portuguese treasure!) Yum!
A couple of times we walked about an hour uphill into the newer area of Albufeira to reach bigger markets and get fresh fish. (don't buy fish on Monday - the boats haven't come back yet). I totally goofed up buying a kilogram of dourada (which was delicious, by the way, props to Susie). Asked them to fillet it as we had to way to do it, and didn’t ask the price beforehand. Apparently, they weigh the whole fish – not the fillets. We ended up with $45 worth of fillets!
One day we rode the Tourist Train , a small set of 3 cars that putted around the town from
one end to the other, where you could hop on and off at will. The first car we rode in was playing some fun music – Chili Peppers & Guns’n’Roses. Go figure.
“The strip” was similar to tourist strips in many towns – souvenir shops all selling the same Chinese trinkets, some nice local art, small and large cafes and restaurants. There were people from many European countries, but the majority seemed to be from Portugal. Few Americans.
Just west of us was a harbor where many fishing boats were anchored. Some of them went out squid fishing at night where we could see their lights far out offshore. A long, narrow channel led from the harbor to a yacht basin full of docks, with colorful shops and apartments along the sides. A steady stream of vessels was coming and going: pleasure boats, sightseeing cruises and parasail boats. There were a few beautiful sailboats and a couple of cruisers.
The cliffs of Old Town Albufeira, overlooking Praia do Peneco are home to a colony of cats that have been looked after by the Amigos dos Gatos do Algarve association, which feeds them and keeps their health in check. These felines are plentiful around the west end of the promenade, and their scent is pervasive much farther that that!
As always, we are sorry to have to pack up and leave, after thoroughly enjoying our time here. It would be very easy to lose track of time and just exist day to day, but the dogs & cats of our next stay are calling, so…. off to the bus station!
Até à próxima!