Trip Start Nov 27, 2009
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Portugal  , Algarve,
Wednesday, February 17, 2010

After two and a bit great weeks, we left our Alentejo hosts and headed back down to the Algarve, taking the west coast route. We spent two nights in Brian.  One night we ended up back at Carrapateira beach as access to a couple of other potential wild camping sites were flooded.  The second night we were on the Algarve where wild camping is very difficult and not tolerated. We tried to head out to a free camping site on an island but were turned back just before the causeway crossing by a policeman who leaped out of his car to wave down us and the rest of the traffic.  Our Portuguese sign language skills gave us the impression that there was a worry about the storms blowing us off the causeway crossing.  So we spent a night in a campsite at Olhao. Quite an experience! Every inch of ground was covered by motorhomes in enclaves by nationality and it was clear that most had been there since the start of winter last year, using hanging baskets and permanent satellite dishes to make it all a home from home. But we did get a good shower!  

We also stopped off to witness the advertised carnival at Faro, hoping for a colourful, noisy and very Portuguese fiesta! We even opted for Faro over and above the carnival taking place at Loule, having already spent a lot of time at Loule and none at Faro, the Algarve's largest city. We later found out to our dismay that Loule's carnival is pretty much world famous, and that Faro's is more of a small village carnival.  
Everyone looked like they were having a good time as they circled the town square for the umpteenth time and a lot of effort had obviously been put into the costumes and floats but it wasn't quite the fiesta we were hoping for! 
We were heading to the Algarve to meet up with Alex's Mum, Sheila. She had come out for a week in search of some southern European warm weather and was happy with the above 10 degrees temperatures and occasional showers.

We had a really lovely week doing lots of 'touristy' activities and seeing the sights the Algarve had to offer. This included staying in the Algarve's rival to Blackpool, the spectacular Albufeira where everyone spoke English and every cafe offered a full english breakfast for 4 euros! 
 Portugal's answer to Benidorm? Albufeira aside, the Algarve has some sights worth visiting, particularly if you head inland a bit. We visited fortresses, old towns, remains of a mostly Moorish village (Castro de Cola - well worth a visit), tiny pretty villages, the towns of Sagres & Silves as well as taking up an offer to have a nose round some old buildings in Olhao that are being saved by an artist, Piers De Laszlo, grandson of Philip De Laszlo. He set up "The Crumbling Foundation" to save some of Olhao's buildings. 

Visiting the Moorish ruins at Paderne involved a long walk with several detours due to flooded paths and the place was blinkin' closed when we got there but it was still worth a visit, particularly if a member of your party has no scruples about climbing the walls to take a look inside!

Sagres Point is nearly the most south-westerly point of continental Europe. We visited on a surprisingly calm day, with lovely skies, and paid a few euros to enter the fort at the very tip of Sagres. However, get to the tip of the promontory, and boy was it windy!!! (In case you're wondering, we didn't take the aerial photo below).

It was easy to imagine the explorers heading off round the point during Portugal's glorious age of discovery, Sagres being pretty much the last land they saw as they headed for unknown seas. Years before that, many thought that the world ended at the magnificent horizon to the south and west.

Silves is a wonderful walled town with the remains of a Moorish fort to be explored, and we spent a very enjoyable couple of hours there lapping up the atmosphere. The only down side was the 'atmospheric' classical music being played to the entire site through speakers sticking out of the ground, and the fact that the CD kept jumping....

 All in all, we had a thoroughly enjoyable time with Sheila, who spoiled us rotten the entire week! We have not eaten so well for quite some time, and it was a great luxury staying in a hotel with a proper bed. It was also great to take time out from volunteering and have a real 'holiday', so thank you Sheila.

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