Desperately Seeking Susan

Trip Start Sep 09, 2004
Trip End Ongoing

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Monday, December 18, 2006

Breakfast was highly entertaining. It was only a matter of minutes into our sitting that our fiery little friend came over. He was disgusted by our behaviour and gave us a full hands-on demonstration of just how to pour a pot of tea without making a mess. Asking for another sachet of butter generated even more pandemonium and planted hysterics that were to stay with us well in to the morning. All we know is that Antoñio will stay with us till the end of time.

Today was a case of place-hopping, visiting as many as we could of the towns and villages we missed en-route during 'operation outbound'. The old girl wanted to check out a few of the heavily peddled locations made popular by those 'buy your dream place in the sun' type of programmes shown on TV. Hardly surprising, they were nothing like the idyllic locations proffered on-screen.

After kissing the west coast goodbye we had a mosy on down to Portimão which affixes itself seamlessly to Praia de Rocha, another beach-side resort and clearly a hub for holidaymakers, showing significant signs of the summer madness potential found with many other parts of the Algarve.

We stopped just off Lagoa for a pleasant stroll around the local street market before moving on to the small village of Carvoeiro for ice creams and crepes. There's nothing I can really add about these two places as both visits were brief. But it's still worth pointing out the relaxed nature and laid back lifestyle that has become highly characteristic of Portugal throughout this whole trip.

Last stop was Vilamoura - another TV driven place - home to a number of pricey restaurants, designer shops and urbanisations that encapsulate a whole number of exclusive golf resorts. Huge isn't the word, and it seems that the whole area has been bought, turned upside down and marketed in a one stop-shop brand-name kind of a way. I lasted about five minutes before my interest fell in the mariner. Plastic, superficial, manufactured shite.

We hunted down our final hotel in Quarteiro, the next available town on the south coast. As much as it was a concrete jungle, it offered us a real environment with real people, real food and real prices - a monumental contrast to Vilamoura. Like the majority of other places we have visited over the last few days, Quarteiro was deathly quiet for such a sizeable attraction-filled commmunity. Not that this is a bad thing..

Eventually we found oursleves a proper little Portugese restaurant tucked away along one of the many backstreets close to the coast. It appeared to be occupied by a few family members and close friends of the people who run the place. We asked if they served something that wasn't on the menu. They said we could have whatever we wanted and the chef dashed off to locate his white floppy hat.

The meal was perfect: home made, cooked to taste and hand-delivered by the chef to our table. A whole chicken roasted with Piri-Piri spices and and a thick glistening fillet of fire-grilled bacalhao provided the perfect round-off to our Portugese experience.
For a small family of visitors spanning two (almost three) generations, Portugal has ticked a lot of boxes on a lot of levels. To the parentals it's a huge consideration for retirement life. For me it's got the simple things that warm my easy-to-please cockles: stunning scenery, a fantastic coastline, wonderfully sincere and engaging people, a chilled out carefree lifestyle and a doddle of an environment in which to be a part of.  My kind of place entirely..
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