Back in Time

Trip Start Sep 09, 2004
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Portugal  ,
Friday, December 15, 2006

'The Portugese speak very good English don't they?'
'How d'you know?'
'Well, they're singing those English songs...'

This morning we packed a few changes of clothes and headed for the border. It was all very spur of the moment and as we'd been discussing our options, must do's and the timescale left to play with, it really was the only option.

It took us just over an hour to reach Seville and not much longer again to reach the Portugese border, which basically consisted of a huge bridge spanning the inlet between Spain and Portugal. No officials, no passports, absolute doddle - a bit different to the old days..

We stopped briefly in Tavira. The words 'dead on arrival' spring to mind as I write this but as we're approaching mid-December, a quiet little spot on the beach wasn't all that surprising. The majority of places were closed and we were the only ones kicking around on the beach. Odd but pleasant.

By late afternoon we'd made it to Albufeira, a small dot on the Portugese map and a positively uplifting seaside village on face value. To me it was St Ives in Cornwall, with a twisting network of cobblestone pathways and whitewashed buildings, all of which helter-skelter down to a beautiful bay which arcs out along the south coast back towards Spain. We were lucky enough to get ourselves a good deal at the Rocamar, an immaculately modernised hotel with views right over Peneco beach and the old historic town - utter luxury for a scruffy nomad.

We dumped our excess, hit the town, met a few locals and learned (much to our surprise) that we'd placed ourselves back into the GMT time zone, rewarding us with that nice little extra hour of supping time.

Although it's clearly a tourist spot, Albufeira has a very friendly laid back air to it that we were particularly at ease with, especially the parentals. The language barrier is considerably more manageable and people are outwardly friendy, a trait not so common with the average Spaniard. We got talking to a dutch guy called Fritz, who'd previously sold his internet business and moved out here to a beautiful location overlooking the bay. He took us down many steps and showed us his whitewashed pad before pointing us in the direction of a superb restaurant right on the beach in front of the lapping waves. The food was fantastic. I opted for the local soup-based seafood dish called 'Cataplana' - famed for it being served in a small ancient looking cauldron pot with a hinged lid. The jewels of the ocean were of tingling freshness and made for one banquet of a feed. To me the Cataplana is the Portugese take on a Bouillabaisse, this one exceeding my expectations by far.

If the words 'karaoke tonight' hadn't have been spotted on a blackboard and easel outside a brightly lit bar on the way back to the hotel, we'd have most likely got to bed at a reasonable hour. Instead we got to experience the full deck. The old fella was in his element and it wasn't long before the big guns came out: Neil Diamond, the Travelling Willbury's and all the old belters. The locals once again were incredibly forwardly friendly. It was a blinder of a night. As far as locations go, so far, Portugal's got the big thumbsup. From all of us..

Tapas count:- 79
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